Double String Debate

  • Participant on #213388

    I inherited a gorgeous Lyon & Healy Style 15. I love it but realize it’s limitations due to a small crack in neck that might lead to its retirement.

    I am therefore investigating lever harps for the following reasons;
    1. portability
    2. cost of repairing current or buying new
    3. Ease of REgulation

    I’ve been introduced to Double Strung by Stoney End; Lorraine 29 with 58 string total.

    I WANT TO HEAR ALL THE POSITIVES AND NEGATIVES as to why I should or should not buy this harp.

    Tacye on #213389

    I hope the L&H does continue its life!

    A negative to double strung is fewer resources – fewer other players, books, teachers and buyers if you ever decide to sell. My view is that there is a strength in going for the more common unless you definitely want the unusual instrument.

    Biagio on #213395

    I hate to disagree with my friend Tacye but here I will. A double is played with the same techniques as a single, so there are plenty of resources. It has also in recent years gained significantly in popularity although it is true that there are fewer players, still.

    Where I DO agree is in that there are fewer teachers for the double specifically: Laurie Riley and Cynthia Shelhart are the best known. Both have videos on Youtube; Laurie has a DVD out as well and also teaches via Skype.

    The main issue you will run into at first: retraining your eyes and hands for the double row. This may take a few weeks. On that particular harp the strings angle in to the SB rather than being equally spaced, which some players find takes a little longer to get used to. Those are the Cons.

    Here are the Pros: your hands will not run into each other so you can play in the same octave; there are a number of additional effects that are not possible on a single (e.g. doubling aka echoing). I’d suggest that you watch Laurie’s Youtube tutorial which may give a better overview of the possibilities.


    wil-weten on #213396

    Hi Gail, you write that you “inherited a gorgeous Lyon & Healy Style 15. I love it but realize it’s limitations due to a small crack in neck that might lead to its retirement.”

    Did you have a reputable harp repairer have a look at it? If not, depending on the kind of crack and its place, having the small crack repaired may be very well worth while. Before you transport the pedal harp to a repairer, you may take pictures of it and ask their opinion.

    Biagio on #213412

    I do agree that it would be a good idea to look into repairing your L&H rather than buying a new harp. That said, moving over to a few more comments about doubles:

    Cost – a double will cost more than a single mainly due to lever cost. Regulation is the same as any lever harp.

    Design – construction is actually easier than a single: string torque is equal on both sides of the neck.

    Structural – the design for an existing single model can be easily modified; the neck may have to be somewhat wider and/or be reinforced and the sound board about 40% thicker (an in some designs wider), but that is trivial. Repair (hopefully not needed for a long time) is the same as for a single

    Weight – the double will be somewhat heavier, especially if the tuning pegs are tapered rather than zither types. Smaller doubles can use zither pegs.

    Range – while you can change an arrangement so that the bass is an octave higher, perhaps you really want those low notes – more costly, obviously.

    Arranging – if you are not comfortable with arranging scores (ie are paper trained) that could be an issue.

    Portability – I’ve seen no issue there; of the 20 or so harpists that show up at our annual retreats, three or four play the double. It is wise to have a soft case, as with any harp.

    Availability – does demand drive design or the other way around? At present in the US there are only five or so makers: Rees, Blevins, Stoney End, Dusty Strings, Argent Fox. Rees has the widest selection. Some smaller shops will make a double on demand: Sligo, Thormahlen, probably Blessley for example.

    Best wishes,

    Tacye on #213413

    I think we are agreeing here, Biagio, except on how much we value things like books of published music that does not need arranging.

    Biagio on #213418

    Looks like it to me too, Tacye. Given the choice I’d favor repairing the Style 15 over buying a new harp, whatever that might be.

    Participant on #213424

    I am so grateful for all the responses—thank you!
    I will be looking into getting the Lyon and Healy Repaired, however I think I still want a portable harp I can bring to church.

    Last question; how hard is it to switch between concert tension to medium or low?

    Thanks again.

    Biagio on #213425

    I would guess that depends on experience. I sold a medium tension FH26 to a priest who used to be harpist for the Chicago Symphony – she picked it up right away. You cannot use the same force, obviously.

    There are however a number of lever harps that are strung at concert tension: some of the Camacs, Salvi/L&H, and the Dusty Boulevard for instance. Perhaps you could try various lever harps at a showroom?

    wil-weten on #213430

    I learnt concert harp technique on my concert tension lever harp. I’ve got no problem with medium tension harps, but on low tension harps the bass strings tend to go bungee jumping.

    Beware that the full, warm sound of a pedal harp is quite different from that of a little harp with low tension.

    When you do go the route of a lever harp, pay attention to the levers as well. Some operate considerably faster and with less sound distortion than others. I’m a big fan of camac levers. Salvi has new ‘start-and-play’-levers. They look impressive, but I have not been able to try them yet, but I do hope to do so somewhere this Spring.

    What do you mean with ‘portability’ ? The ease with which it fits in the back of your car (or in fact ‘transportability)? Of the ease with which you can walk a mile or more with it, holding it in your hands?

    goatberryfarm2010 on #213434

    You might speak with Carolyn Deal at She used to play 2 harps in concert, together, but moved to the Stoney-End Lorraine due to nerve damage. However, she truly loves it & has become an “evangelist” for double strung. Even before speaking with her, I was convinced I wanted a DS to learn on. I’ve changed my mind, however, about the model. Instead of a lap harp, i.e. the Brittany, I’ve out in an order for a Lorraine with full levers, both sides.

    wil-weten on #213435

    Hi Jennifer, I just found your thread of October this year at:

    I just wonder what made you think of a little double instead of the ‘main stream’ lever harps you were considering then.

    phs on #213439

    Hi Jennifer,

    I hope your Lyon and Healy can be repaired. And I must say, double harp is wonderful for all the reasons others have mentioned, and the resources listed above are great. I have a double Brittany made by Stoney End, and while I love it, probably would have gotten the 29 string double had I tried them out.

    If the budget allows, I’d say repair the L & H, AND get a double. Stoney End does rent to own, a great program to assist those wanting to play.

    All the Best,


    Biagio on #213441

    Hi Gail,

    It occurred to me that the Dusty Boulevard gut strung (which I mentioned earlier) might be a better choice for you that the double Lorraine. It has gotten rave reviews even though it is pretty new on the market, and the price is very tempting.

    They are clever folks over there at Dusty Strings: the Boulevard is essentially the same body at the Ravenna34 (they probably beefed up the SB and neck a bit). Frankly, if I wanted a nice portable harp at concert tension as “harp number two” I’d look at this very seriously!

    Best wishes,

    wil-weten on #213442

    Prices may vary depending on where you live.

    In the Netherlands at the moment the
    * Dusty Boulevard (34 strings) costs: € 3,365.00
    * L&H Ogden (34 strings) costs: € 2,990.00
    Both have pedal gut strung tension.

    If I wanted a 34 string harp (I don’t: I want a lever harp with preferably 38-40 strings), I would be very much tempted to buy a L&H Ogden…
    Have a look at:

    Edit: I did not look properly, so I edited my post

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