Maybe a harp is not the instrument I need, but I’ve always had this dream of playing a small harp.
If you are going to have lessons, I’d start by finding a teacher. Lots of teachers have harps to rent inexpensively to students and once you’ve been playing a bit you’ll have a better idea of what you want in a harp sound, and whether you even like the sound of any small harp.
Yes, I prefer (generally) the sound of gut over nylon. However I do string both my lever and pedal harp with nylon in the upper octave. Not so much because of breakage issues, but I find I get more sustain and a clearer tone with nylon on those very thin strings. But for the rest I’m gut all the way (except my electric which uses carbon strings).
Some harps have no problem going from nylon to gut and others can’t do it. Gut produces more tension so it depends on how the harp was built. Always check with the maker to see if it is possible to switch out without danger of hurting the harp.
As for breaking I’m not sure how much of a problem that is. I so rarely break a string no matter what type. The advantages of living in a fairly constant climate.
Welcome to the wonderful world of harps and harp music! You will enjoy this ride very much.
I also prefer darker, fuller tones. My harp is an Aberdeen Meadows from William Rees Harps in Rising Sun, Indiana. This harp has 36 strings and the low note is C two octaves below middle C. The tone is dark and rich in the lower strings without being muddy, and the upper range just sings……never with a ‘plinky’ sound. (Is ‘plinky’ a word???)
I also *really* like the 32 string Irish harp from Craig pierpont at Another Era Lutherie in Edmonton, Kentucky. It hyas 32 strings, the lowest is the E,
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