Double Strung Comparison

  • Participant
    Molly K on #244413

    Hello all! You were all so helpful when I was settling on a nice single strung harp, I ultimately chose a Ravenna 34 and am completely in love.

    This lockdown has me itching for something new, however. I would love a double strung harp, but am having trouble choosing. My budget is hopefully around 4000, 5000 at the very highest. The Lorraine 29 from Stoney End fits nicely in that range, though I am concerned with the touted “low tension”. I’m sure it’s lovely for others, but I’m one of those who found the harpsicle annoyingly loose and twangy after getting used to my Ravenna.

    Another option is the Rees Shaylee with 30 strings. I am concerned that the low F might not be quite enough. I’d like to be able to play single strung repertoire as well as double on this harp; those three low notes don’t come up often as I’m learning. But I’m a beginner playing a beginner’s repertoire. I’m also concerned about the Rees’ all wood construction. I’d actually prefer ply; I live in Nebraska where the temp fluctuates wildly, and I’d like to be able to play outside without worrying about structural damage to the harp.

    The third I’m considering is a 34 string from Argent Fox, Lady E’s double strung harp. It’s the perfect size, it uses laminate. It seems like a great option, but I can’t find much about this maker and am hesitant to make such a big investment in something that doesn’t have word of mouth support.

    Help!

    Participant
    Deette Bunn on #244415

    Have you considered a Dusty Strings Double Strung? If you have a Ravenna, you would probably like it a lot. Same tension, same spacing, and in your price range. I have one and I love it! Mine is Maple with a Koa board. Anne Crosby Gaudet just bought a cherry one and has put up a recording of The Ash Grove with it on YouTube and on the FB Double Strung page. Cynthia Shelhart has also posted videos on the FB page with hers. I have recently ordered a double strung Blevins Skydancer – there is a video on their website. I have a Blevins 26 string that I use for harp therapy work and like quite a lot so I wanted a double for the same thing. That being said, the Stoney End doubles are very nice, but be aware that their string set up is different than the other harp makers. Their strings are much closer together at the soundboard than the other makers and angle out to the tuning pins. If you look from the pillar side toward the neck, instead of parallel, you will see more of a V. That is NOT a bad thing at all – and in fact some people think it’s easier to see the strings. I, personally, have a harder time going back and forth between my pedal harp, my Dusty single strung and the Stoney Ends because of it, but many people don’t. Carolyn Deal has YouTube videos playing just about every model Stoney End makes (with good instruction as well). Laurie Riley has recorded extensively with her double Rees. All of the makers are reputable and make good instruments – it’s pretty hard to go wrong!

    Participant
    charles-nix on #244416

    As an instrument builder, I would not be concerned about solid wood vs ply for durability. Yes, solid wood may have flaws, but they are generally visible to anyone who knows what to look for, and Rees certainly knows. Ply will guaranteebly have flaws in one or more layers, but hidden and strengthened by the other layers.

    Solid wood is much more resistant to humidity changes than people think. It takes weeks for wood to adjust to a new humidity. Building in the tropics shipping to an owner in the desert is asking for trouble, but being outside is often closer to a nominal 50% RH than inside. You wouldn’t take either harp out in the rain, I assume, and I would avoid strong direct sun, but otherwise wouldn’t worry about taking one outside for a few hours. If you are reasonably comfortable, the harp will be fine.

    However, if you plan on the harp being stable in tune with changes from inside to outside, I would lean strongly to flourocarbon stringing. Nylon particularly absorbs and releases moisture and changes tune in response to humidity. Gut changes pitch some, but less than nylon, and also weakens when damp. Fluorocarbon hardly absorbs moisture at all. But then it sounds different, because a smaller gauge is often used to keep the tension comparable to nylon or gut.

    Participant
    evolene_t on #244417

    Hi Molly! Great seeing someone else being interested in the double-strung 🙂
    (There is a section dedicated to the double and triple strung harps here on the forum, too, where you’ll find resources!)

    Below is a list of all of the double-strung harps and harp-makers I have been able to find. I had not heard about the Argent Fox, so I can’t really give you an input there! (I’ll admit the soundbite didn’t convince me, but that doesn’t mean anything).

    ——————

    DOUBLE STRUNG HARP MAKERS :

    Stoney End :
    Eve, 22 strings doubled, Gothic look
    Britanny, 22 strings doubled, Celtic look
    Lorraine, 29 strings doubled.

    Dusty Strings
    FH26 26 strings doubled.

    Rees Harp :
    Morgan Megan : 27 strings doubled
    Shaylee Meadows : 30 strings doubled
    Mariposa : 34 strings doubled
    Aberdeen : 36 strings doubled
    Blevins Harp :
    Bella 56S : 28 strings doubled
    Mountain Glenn : 2 models, 26 et 27 strings doubled

    Waring Harp :
    A maker of cardboard harps! I believe he offers one 19 strings doubled model

    Sandpiper :
    3 models : 30, 32 & 36 strings doubled. They look like pedal harps.

    Thormahlen harp, with 2 models :
    the Gemini Swan 72  with 36 strings doubled.
    Gemini Cygnet 72, with 36 strings doubled.
    → Last I heard, they had discontinued these models, but perhaps second-hand versions can be found

    Hayden Harps : carbon fibre harp

    Triplett Harps…..? It would seem that only one Triplett harp was ever made in double-strung.

    —————————————-

    What I can say, however, is that you seem to lean towards bigger harps, but part of the appeal of the double-strung is the fact that you can easily play 34-strings harp repertoire on a smaller, 26-strings or even 22 strings harp. You juste have to move your hand up an octave, and you end up creating really nice effects!
    I have played a lot of single-strung harp repertoire on my double-strung, if that’s any help.
    Just something to consider if you’ve ever been tempted into having a portable harp to play outside with but were hesitant to sacrifice strings for this purpose.

    Like Deette, I would also recommend you look into Dusty String’s FH26 double-strung. It is the one I have and I could not be happier : it is a beautiful instrument, with good tension and an amazing sound. Mine is Bubinga wood and the richness of the sound is great.
    However, it is solid wood, which is part of the appeal for me, but maybe not adapted for your needs.

    Check out Laurie Riley’s website : she sells second hand harps, often double-strung, and could give you advice.
    You can also subscribe to Carolyn Deal (Smilingharp)’s newsletter : every month or two, she compiles a list of second-hand harps to sell at a very competitive price. Since it is all US-based I haven’t been able to take advantage of that but I would definitely take a look there too.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by evolene_t. Reason: Edit : presentation
    Participant
    Biagio on #244421

    Hi Molly,

    If I could afford a Rees, I would by all means get that for myself. I have made several doubles (and other sorts) but no longer build harps of any kind. This is not to denigrate other makers but just to say that I think Rees makes the best on the market, and has been making them the longest along with Stoney End.

    Herewith my unbiased (more or less) comments on these makers:

    Stoney End: I usually agree with Charles but not in this case. The “ply” used there for the SB is better termed “aircraft grade laminate”: there are no voids. It is trtue however that one usually needs less frequent tuning with a laminate board in a variable climate. What I dislike about Stoney End’s doubles is the way the strings angle in to the center as opposed to being parallel.

    The DS is OK but personally I do not like the string choices and tension; their characteristic bright treble and mid, which works so nicely on their singles, echoes too much in the double to my ear.

    Argent Fox primarily is known for supplying hardware to the harp community. I am only familiar with their cross strungs.

    Many independent harp makers will make a double if requested; I think that was the case with Thormahlen as they no longer have it shown on their website.

    Laurie Riley does indeed broker used harps and has two doubles advertised, both Rees Mariposas (34 strings). https://laurierileymusic.com/double-strung-harps-for-sale-used/

    Happy harping!
    Biagio

    Participant
    Molly K on #244423

    Thank you all so much for your input! I am very hesitant to get anything less than 29 strings – I appreciate the doubles capabilities, but I do love those low notes. It does make me less worried about a 29 string though 🙂

    Biagio, I am inclined to agree, I love Rees harps. I will probably end up going that direction. I would love to have the less expensive of the used Mariposas, but I have sent an email a while back and have yet to get a response. I have been used harp hunting the past couple weeks and have unfortunately had a lot of non-responses! It would be great as I have the thought of waiting several months, haha!

    Participant
    Biagio on #244443

    Molly, I sort of hinted at the idea of asking someone to make a custom double for you if they would do so in your price range. A double is actually easier to make than a single but it’s a Catch 22: not a lot of demand, partly because few make them! Here’s what I would do though.

    I would decide on specifics, then contact Rick Kemper at Sligo Harps, with whom I have had great experiences. As to specifics (aside from price) I would want from Rick:
    -Minimum 4 octaves (range your choice though at least G-g)
    -Aircraft laminate board
    -Round back box (Rick supplies those to several pros who do not want to make their own)
    -Tension medium, possibly Savarez strings
    -Loveland levers (to keep the price down – alternatively Truitt, but Betty is in either Hawaii or Ireland at the moment, I forget which)

    -Zither pegs for preference (Rick might advise through pegs for some of the bass strings)

    Rick’s Seang and Luchair are big hits with the Celtic music crowd; if you specify the laminate board and round back shell you might be pleasantly surprised by what he says.

    Or maybe not, of course but I would definitely give him a jingle. He lives in Silver Springs MD and with the DC area lockdown probably has time on his hands.

    Cheers,
    Biagio

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Biagio.
    Participant
    Molly K on #244447

    And I’ve just sent him an email !We’ll see what the price is like. Thank you Biagio!

    Participant
    Biagio on #244450

    No problem, Molly! Rick is a great guy and much admired in the luthier community. I would trust his guidance on any question.

    He is usually very prompt so if you do not get a reply soon give him a call. The last time we were in contact (I bought a custom spruce SB) there were two email addresses on the website; one was from when he still was working as an engineer and is no longer valid.

    BTW if Rick asks about dimensions I suggest parallel string rows about 1.5″ apart at the board, with the highest treble having at least 1″ free vibrating surface to the outside; that would make the width at the neck about 4.5″ to 6″. If you use a round back shell the bass width will be determined by whatever that is at the neck.

    Please let me know how it turns out!

    Cheers,
    Biagio

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