April 13, 2015 at 2:34 pm #187148
If you want (with permission from the owner) to colour the wire strings on the harp you are borrowing then Simon Chadwick sells paint markers for the purpose – and the colour can be removed. http://www.earlygaelicharp.info/emporium/accessories/April 15, 2015 at 11:28 am #187167balfour-knightParticipant
Fied, I could not bear the long finger nails, either. I studied classical guitar as a child and later as an adult, and went NO WHERE with it. The nails interfered with my keyboard playing, so I concentrated on the harp. The calluses you get from playing the harp are also on the sides of your fingers instead of the tips, so harp playing is entirely compatible with keyboard playing. I play classical guitar pieces on my pedal harp, and they are very nice!
BalfourApril 16, 2015 at 1:03 pm #187185AndelinParticipant
If you are looking for game of thrones music, check out musescore.com. There seems to be a lot of that kind of music there. In case you are unfamiliar, it’s a site where you can download free notation software (download not required, unless you wish to make changes to a score, very easy to change the key it’s written in, for example), upload your own scores, and download/print others’ downloaded scores. I have used the software to build a score from scratch…I found it to be very good. I haven’t used any other notation software to compare. But as an amateur musician, it is more than adequate.
Just a thought from a fellow harpist who prefers sheet music. 🙂April 20, 2015 at 5:19 pm #187262
Yes, I use Musescore already.
The lever harp is here! It has 25 strings, going down to E below middle C, and is on the bigger side for a harp of that range. Definitely not a lap harp. I think it may have been quite cheap originally, and it’s been sitting in a sunny window. The levers are plastic and very bleached from the sun, and a bit iffy here and there. There’s a crack on each side of the soundbox, near the bottom. It’s a light wood, and the soundboard is sort of horizontally striped medium/dark. I tuned the whole harp using an app, and five minutes later had to tune it all over again. Bit worried about that. Is it likely to settle down?April 21, 2015 at 5:16 pm #187270
Is it by any chance the smaller version of one of these? http://www.amazon.co.uk/Sherwood-Shannon-Harp-30/dp/B000VPHCNW
The Border 25 string harp, I believe no longer made, sold quite widely in general music stores as the Sherwood Brian Boru model. If it is, and you need to change any levers they may well be Pilgrim’s £2.90 ones http://www.pilgrimharps.co.uk/145-Components/View-all-products.html
Exactly where and which direction are the cracks?
Repeated tuning is standard for a neglected harp, give it a month or two. Assuming the cracks aren’t getting wider! If the tuning pins are slipping back after tuning ask here as this can be sorted fairly easily.May 18, 2015 at 11:09 am #187890
Both harps are now here! I was feeling a bit low about the lever harp at first, I was tired and it was going out of tune faster than I could tune it, but I am keeping on tuning both harps and they are settling down nicely. The Ardival is scrumptious, though it needs to have a couple of strings replaced and the colour put back on the strings. I have some beginner wire harp books which I am starting to work on.
The lever harp may well be that one, yes. Here it is. It’s a bit darker than it shows in the photo. I think it might be beech, it looks darker and pinker than maple. The bottom E is trouble, because unless I play it really softly, it buzzes against the lever. You can see the crack in the soundbox, and the other crack is the same on the other side. I suspect the soundboard may be pine, judging by the colour.
I was playing a bit last night and my hands were getting rather painful, so I think I really need to sort out my posture. At 4’11, the dining chair I was using is probably a bit too tall for me, my feet weren’t firmly planted on the floor. I’ll try the sofa, and that means working out a different thing to stand the harp on (previously it was the cat carrier). Hopefully, once I can get the posture right, my hands will find it easier, and I’ll find that I’m resting my arms on the harp less. I am starting to mess around with music and see what I can play. Can anyone recommend some music books in the UK that will fit this range (bottom note is an E)? I don’t need them to be really basic, I’m not at the Three Blind Mice stage. I’m interested in getting more into folk music, and as all my experience is of classical and I can’t improvise or play by ear to save my life, some books which walk you through traditional celtic ornamentation and such would be great.
I’m wondering if and when I should consider getting a decent quality 34 string harp. Part of it is down to finances, part down to my relationship (we’ve been together nearly two years, and his flat has the space for a floor harp whereas mine doesn’t), but mainly it’s about whether I am going to continue the harp. I just tried playing briefly while seated on the sofa and with the harp on a games box covered with a folded blanket, and that felt better than the dining chair and cat carrier setup. Unfortunately I’ve got sore finger pads at the moment. Is there any solution to that, or do I just play a small amount a day until they toughen up?
In terms of getting a floor harp, if I do, if at all possible I should hold out until the next Edinburgh festival, which is the best part of a year, so that I can try them out properly once I am playing better and know more about what I need. I could focus more on the wire harp to begin with, in the meantime. Of course, there’s something to be said for learning on a good quality harp with a good range, and it seems that if it turned out harping wasn’t for me, selling it on wouldn’t be difficult. So if I wanted one sooner, Edinburgh seems to have a thriving harp community, so I could possibly try out local folks’ harps if they don’t mind. I’ve just been chatting with some lovely people at Telynau Teifi, who say that I could have one of their harps strung with silkgut or another synthetic string, and that they’ve done it for other vegetarian harpists before. Their Siff Saff looks rather lovely. I think I’d prefer a round back or stave back harp, the square boxy ones are uncomfortable, so that seems to rule out Dusty Strings. I’d also have a look at Starfish and Pilgrim, though Pilgrim seem to be more about making lever harps that are really close to pedal harps for people who want to “move up” (grr). I could be wrong about that, though. I don’t know how those harp makers would feel about stringing a harp with anything other than gut. How do people here find that silkgut and fluorocarbon feel and behave? I wasn’t wildly struck by the Camac harps, though that could have been due to poor posture (I was in my wheelchair, which probably meant the heights were all wrong), getting double vision, sensory overload from the crowd and so forth.May 18, 2015 at 1:23 pm #187891
Elletaria, my take on strings: silkgut has the tone and to a large extent feel of real gut to me; fluorocarbon made by Savarez Alliance less so and a bit brighter in tone down to 1.01mm diameter. Below that they are multi-strand and feel more like the real thing. Different people will have different takes on this.
I does not take much to throw a string out of tune; I’m wondering if that crack may be the culprit. String tension tends to pull the sides in so some slight “give” at the crack may be the problem. I gather that this is one that has been loaned to you; it may be easily repaired though.
There are lots of books for Celtic music – I particularly like those from Kim Robertson. A really good introduction to techniques and ornaments would be the DVD “Secrets of the Celtic Style” by Laurie Riley; you can probably find both over there.
Dwight Blevins (Blevins Harps) makes something he calls LeStik that many like as an extension for a smaller harp. A bit expensive it seems to me, but the principle is easy: it is simple a nicely shaped board that clamps in a sound hole. If the harp has a base with a lip the Stik may have to be custom made.
BiagioMay 18, 2015 at 2:12 pm #187892jennifer-rehfischParticipant
Depending on where you are, you may be close to a branch of the Clarsach Society. The contact details for the branch secretaries are on the Clarsach Society website. Most of the branches meet fairly regularly and it can be a good opportunity to meet other people and try out harps. I belong to the Edinburgh branch and there is quite a variety of harps. Pilgrim make both harps with tighter and looser tension. Both are popular. Just let me know if you want to attend the Edinburgh branch meetings – the building does have wheelchair access but the doors are quite heavy. I’d be happy to give you a hand.May 18, 2015 at 3:17 pm #187894
Thanks, that’s very kind.
I’ve seen Tim Hampson’s harps mentioned elsewhere on this forum. Does anyone know more about them, and in particular the cost of a student model? They look beautiful and are very lightweight.May 18, 2015 at 3:31 pm #187897patricia-jaegerMember
There was a question here about possibly getting sore fingers from harp practice. Here is a tip from Mildred Dilling, called “The First Lady of the Harp” when she was concertizing in the the mid 1900’s. She used “Tincture of Myrrh” available from a pharmacy, to toughen her fingertips. She mentioned this in a workshop I attended in 1978, ten years before her death. I took copious notes and if anyone wants more tips from her (four typed pages) they could e-mail me privately.May 18, 2015 at 4:57 pm #187899
I would expect any harp maker to be willing to put non-gut strings on if you bought it, and most could advise on how successful the restringing would be. But the harp would sound a bit or even very different with a change of string material. There might be an added cost of the new set if they were changing strings, rather than putting the artificial ones on when it was made.
As Jennifer says, Pilgrim do lighter tension harps too – the Skylark and Ashdown. Tim Hampson’s harps are beautiful – there is a 2nd hand Ossian 34 advertised at the moment for £2400. There are lots of great harp models, it is a matter of choosing one you love.
Is the folk harp holding tune by now? I had one of that model which acquired the name Ethelred as it took so much tuning before it behaved itself.
(Oh and if you are playing a lever harp as a practical and affordable matter knowing that you want to play a pedal harp later ‘move up’ is to my mind a perfectly reasonable description as it is the direction you want to go. Grring at that annoys me as much as the opposite assumption that smaller harps are not fine instruments in their own right. Why not enjoy the variety of harps and harpists?)May 18, 2015 at 6:55 pm #187901
Indeed, and an American company, Heartland Harps, now sells a pedal harp made of carbon fiber, only about 40 lbs./18kg. I’ve heard good reports; that might be an option for someone who is disabled.
BiagioMay 19, 2015 at 12:59 pm #187919
Oh, I was only growling at the situation where people assume that you must automatically “move up” to pedal harp. Aspiring pedal harpists starting out on lever harps does indeed make sense. Maybe “moving across” would be a better term?
Heartland harps look very tempting but cost a bomb, alas.
Myrrh is sound stuff, I might source a tincture and give that a try.June 3, 2015 at 12:03 pm #188151
The wire harp now has all its strings! My attempts to sort this out were pure bunglement, but a friend dropped by who makes chain mail jewellery, so she did a fabulous job of getting the wire onto the toggles and I eventually worked out how loose it should be before starting to turn the tuning key (four attempts, including one broken string, resulting in two strings done). Then we got out the paint markers, which were red and royal blue, rather than pink and light blue, on my optometrist’s recommendations. Bless him, when I asked which would be more visible he asked if the strings would be vibrating and advised me based on that. We have enough wire left to do one more string, if need be, at least in the 0.44 gauge which covers more than half the harp. For some reason, the friend who loaned it to me has wire in gauges too thick for the harp, as well as the gauges it needs.
So now I just need to get back into playing it. The top strings are going way out of tune in quite an uneven way, does anyone know what that’s about? Could it be because I was only really playing the lower strings at first, between the book covering those strings and also not really being able to play the top range with two strings missing?
We had a go at playing with my partner on the dulcimer the other day. The lever harp works better, with me playing the tune in both hands an octave apart so that you really hear it. It seems rather basic, after years of playing far more complicated stuff in piano duets, but it does suit my current skill level, and it’s great to be able to play together, after nearly two years together as a couple. The wire harp wasn’t too playable, this was before we sorted out the strings, but actually it was more because a) it sounded too like the dulcimer (steel strings) to stand out, and b) it was out of tune compared to the dulcimer. We’d both tuned using the same app, but he had a capo on to put it into E minor, and it seems that the first fret is slightly out, so he’s in tune with himself but a bit off. It’s a mystery why the lever harp didn’t sound out of tune with it.
One of my old duet partners is still in town, I think, and I saw on Facebook that he’s just married a lovely-looking chap, so I should dig him out and find if he has time to come and molest my piano again.June 3, 2015 at 1:47 pm #188153
Elettaria, without knowing the design details it is a bit hard to say what might be causing those wacky trebles. But let’s assume that the design is sound (sorry, bad pun) and take the usual reasons.
First – on a wire strung a small change at one end of the harp can cause large changes in other places – this will sort itself out on it’s own as the instrument settles in.
Second – those thin treble strings are often quite close to the neck, especially if the neck is centered on the body rather than offset. So it is not uncommon for the pegs to protrude further out to compensate and the final windings are out near the tip. This causes a “wobbly” tone and frequent tunings – the peg actually vibrates. Or they are at a steep angle which makes them longer and therefor higher tension than one might think. The solution to this, alas is to keep fiddling with it.
Third – wire harps are notorious for being unhappy with changes in the weather. It is more noticeable in the bass, usually, but when those are “right” the others may now be “wrong.” That’s just the nature of the instrument.
Hope that helps!
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