Dusty strings Ravenna vs Teifi Siff Saff

  • Participant
    Claire B on #254867

    Need advice which would be a better choice. Looking to get a harp for my 12 year old girl who completely fell in love with harp at her new school but can only practice 2x a week at school and sometimes even cancelled due to other school activities. She wants to be able to practice more often. We live in Singapore and the harp community is very small. Options to buy here is only Camac showroom. And another seller on Harpsicles and Aoyama and that is it!

    She listened to a lot of soundclips online and was drawn to the Ravenna and the Teifi. We already checked with both companies on shipping and price includes shipping and taxes here will be comparable in price to the “cheapest” Camac sold locally here (Hermine, i think) which unfortunately she is not drawn to the tone. She is drawn to strong base. Likes pop and lively music. Not so much on classical – though she like Pachelbel Canon in D a lot. She has no intention to moving to Pedal Harp and wants to build her compentency on Lever. Pedal does not appeal to her at all.

    Can anyone give feedback which would be better for her given her likes and concerns? I know there is a lot of Ravenna owners and fans here who have spoken about the rich tone. =) We know no one locally who has these harps. Here are her thoughts based on what she has seen and heard only online….

    RAVENNA
    – what she likes: the tone is rich; strong bass; plus point in the looks department that it can be in black,
    – what her concern are: seems broad at the neck; worried it might not be so comfortable; sustain is longer than what she would have liked. (She prefers the tone and shorter sustain of the Boulevard actually but she doesn’t want a stronger tension. She said her fingers get sore already playing the school Aoyama Lever harp. We have already asked Dusty if we can either use Silkgut (as we heard lighter tension vs gut) on Ravenna -they said the tone will still not sound like the Boulevard plus they haven’t tried Silkgut on their harp)

    TEIFI SIFF SAFF
    – what she likes: seems like rich sounding mid and bass (anyone can share how the mid and bass of Teifi vs Ravenna is in realy life?; plus point in the looks department is that it can be black and the fancy looking semitone lever (not to mention what seems to be very good reviews on the teifi levers)
    – what her concern are: the upper notes sounds like plunking piano – (but some youtube clips it sound ok. some the high notes doesnt sound pleasant but she is not sure if it is due to the harpist or the song being played)

    We are also going down the Camac Showroom to listen to Aziliz and Janet but I think this will set me back at least S$2k more….. eeep….

    Participant
    wil-weten on #254868

    I’m a great fan of Camac harps, because of their balanced sound, great levers, sturdy construction, as well as great service in case you might need it. Frankly, I know the Dusty Ravenna, and the higher end of the Teifi harps, but not the Siff Saff. In the USA, where the Dusty harps are made, Ravenna’s are great value for money, but outside the USA, they cost a lot more, and then the Camac harps might be very interesting.

    Your daughter may like the 34 string Camac Telenn, a lever harp for starters, which has lever gut strings on it, so the strings won’t feel as tight as those of pedal gut strings, with which the Camac Korrigan has been strung with. Gut strings sound warmer than carbon strings, but carbon strings have their own strong points.

    She may also like the Camac Isolde Celtic, which is strung with celtic tension carbon strings.

    As to the highest notes still sounding real nice. I know only one lever harp that does so, and it’s rather pricey: it’s the Camac Excalibur and it has a string tension between celtic and pedal strings. I have a Camac Excalibur myself (as well as a L&H Prelude and an old Salvi lever harp).

    As to bass strings, I prefer sound of the bass strings of the Camac lever harps above those of Dusty or Teifi, but this is partly a question of taste.

    You may like to listen (and look) to the playing list of Camac lever harps at: https ://www. youtube .com/playlist?list=PLPQsClxaZW8ceG4qdK4Upm1Znb3urjg1J (I’m sorry I had to put some space in the link, because unfortunately, this forum nowadays automatically deletes messages with links in it.

    You may inquire at the Camac shop after the possibilities of renting a harp. In Europe these possibilities are sometimes very attractive, especially when one decides after half a year or perhaps a whole year to buy a Camac harp (not necessarily the one you rented) and then get a real nice discount of the new harp. You would need to inquire the possibilities your local shop may be offering.

    Participant
    chas.thomason on #254869

    Hi Claire,
    I echo wil’s thoughts on Camac harps. I tried several of them at our Northern U.K. shop and although they had some discounted in a sale I knew I wanted a harp that would stay with me beyond learning the basics. I tried Hermine and a couple of other ‘higher end’ models, but the Telenn had a real depth to it.
    I may have got a particularly good one (all wooden harps are slightly different as they’re made of a natural product which will have variations) but the one I bought has a wonderful depth and resonance to it. String tension is good for ‘new fingers’ and I’m very happy with it so far. Structurally it is very well made and the levers work perfectly.
    Best wishes to your daughter and joy on her journey.

    Participant
    Biagio on #254871

    All the models mentioned here are very good and frankly one cannot tell a great deal definitively about tone just from recordings. Many people new to the harp complain about a “plinky” treble for instance until they learn how to use their hands and fingers up there.

    I could babble on at length about different levers, strings, construction and etc. but under the circumstances and given your excellent choices I would suggest that you get the model that costs the least where you live. At 12 years old your daughter has a long harp career ahead and will undoubtedly settle on a different (and more expensive!) harp at some time in the future.

    Best wishes to you and her,
    Biagio

    Participant
    Claire B on #254882

    Appreciate all your responses and suggestion! =)

    Participant
    chas.thomason on #254892

    Hi again
    Something that came to me after I’d posted my first reply…if you buy a harp from a local store you’ll always have a point of reference for any issues (not so easy if you buy from overseas?). Plus building up a good relationship with a local expert will work well as your daughter progresses.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #254894

    I agree with chas.thomason. Also, when you’ve got a problem with a harp bought overseas, it will cost you a lot to send it to the shop there and get it back again. So these could be costly repairs. And you would probaly be out of a harp for several weeks…

    As to Camac, which has a shop where you live, it will be much easier, quicker and cheaper to get some maintenance or repair done. On a Camac lever harp, you get 5 years of guarantee. Camac visits Singapore bi-annually for regulations, etc. Have a look at: https :// sg . camac-harps.com/en/services/
    (remove the spaces from the link)

    Participant
    Claire B on #254911

    Ohh, thanks for pointing these out and the links, too! May I also know what are the common problems that will need a harp to be brought back in for repairs?

    Participant
    wil-weten on #254912

    Usually, you will only need regulation of the levers, let’s say every few years. Camac does (or did?) this for free when they visit the shop and then you can book a slot in advance.
    Sometimes wood warps or tears. It seldom happens, but when it does, it’s great to have a good repair service at hand. Camac harps are very sturdily built harps, though, so I wouldn’t worry about these harps.
    But if any harp falls down the stairs, or someone bumps into it, you may need professional help to repair it.

    Edit: as to Dusty Strings, I seem to remember the shop has a set of tools to regulate the levers for yourself (but I would very much prefer a professional to do it for me).

    • This reply was modified 5 months, 1 week ago by wil-weten.
    Participant
    Biagio on #254914

    No offense intended but I must comment on Wil’s statement. First, lever “regulation” simply involves at most loosening a screw or two, moving the lever up or down a fraction if needed, and tightening again after checking the tuning meter. At the least: sometimes all you need to is move the bridge pin in or out a small amount. And of course replacing an old string if needed.

    This is not difficult; in fact it is one of the most basic in the harper’s list of skills. If someone finds that intimidating they can of course pay a technician to do it and people have asked me to. I reply that I will be happy to teach them how to do it for free or charge them $50 per hour if I do it for them.

    You do need the correct screw driver (less than $10 US or the equivalent at any hardware store) and possibly a wrench – that’s it. Sure there are cute little tool kits out there and if it makes the player feel good about themselves they are welcome to waste the $200 that might otherwise go toward lessons or music scores.

    Or pay a tech to do something that should be one of the first things they learn if they want to play a harp.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #254916

    Dusty Strings says on their website as to regulating: “every handy person can do it”. And that’s just the point: I’m not ‘handy’.

    You can find some general information on the regulation of the Loveland levers that Dusty uses here: https :// manufacturing.dustystrings.com/application/files/4215/6764/1892/General_Lever_Harp_Regulation.pdf (remove the spaces in the link).

    and here a more elaborate version: https :// manufacturing.dustystrings.com/harps/accessories-hardware/tools-maintenance/levering-guide

    And this is their toolkit: https :// manufacturing.dustystrings.com/harps/accessories-hardware/tools-maintenance/tool-kit

    There’s also an inexpensive version of it: https :// manufacturing.dustystrings.com/harps/accessories-hardware/tools-maintenance/a-la-carte-tools

    But frankly, when would have a lever that’s troubling me, I would much rather go to the local harp shop where I bought the harp and have them fix the problem for me. As you said your harp community is very small and that might mean that is would be hard to find a local harp tech outside your local Camac harp shop.

    A final point of advice: always try a harp before you buy. Even completely identical looking harps can sound quite different as all trees, even branches of the same tree make different sounding tonewood. Some harps you will love, others you won’t care for. Therefore, importing a harp is quite an adventure, especially when you even didn’t get a chance to sit behind the same model and feel the tension of the strings, and the wood of the harp touching one’s knees and shoulders.

    Participant
    Claire B on #254928

    First off, again, thank you for all the lovely responsive folks here at this forum! You are all awesome! We were able to go down to Camac today and indeed the tone sounds completely different from all the Camac soundclips we heard online. Now I understand what you guys meant! And, indeed, it helped being able to touch the tension difference between the harps. My daughter is liking the tone and feel of the Korrigan. The Telenn they had didn’t sound as good. We did find another lady who brings in Brilliant Harpsicle and the Ravena so we will check that out next week before we commit just to be sure that is what my girl wants.


    @Biagio
    , on self-regulation, I think i can be handy with a tool as long as directions are clear. And with covid still prevalent and with travel bans still in place, might as well try to learn how to do self -regulation. Would you know if the general lever harp instruction on the Dusty Strings website, applicable more or less to all lever harps?

    @Wil, you mentioned earlier that you prefer the bass sound of Camac over Dusty and Tiefi. I know this is a matter of personal preference, but, if you can share to describe the differences between the 3 harps?

    Much thanks!

    Participant
    wil-weten on #254929

    Hi Claire, here: https :// shop.camac-harps.com/en/product/tool-for-regulating-camac-levers/ you find the tool for regulating Camac-levers yourself, plus a bit of explanation how you can do it. On youtube you will find additional helpful videos how it is done, like the one of Josh Layne.

    It’s hard to describe why I prefer the bass strings on Camac lever harps above the bass strings of the Dusty Ravenna. It’s partly a question of sound and partly of feel. Camac uses Galli wire strings for almost all their lever harps and to my ears they sound balanced, full, lively and ‘clean’.

    The Dusty Ravenna comes with lower strings that are in the upper part of them nylon wound around a nylon core and in the lower part nylon wound around a bronze core. I’ve got very limited experience with them, but I didn’t like their feel and to my ears they tend to sound a bit too long to my taste. But still, I do think the Dusty Ravenna is a very nice harp which sells in the US for a very nice price.

    As to the Teifi Siff Saff, as I said above, I never heard this entry level harp myself. But I really like the sound of other Teifi harps and the quality of the workmanship.

    In your latest message you also mention the Brilliant Harpsicle. I don’t know it, but once a Grand Harpsicle (which has 33 strings) was played next to me at a day long harping event a few years ago. It might be that one harp (all harps sound unique), but I found the string tension rather low and I missed a sparkle in its sound, perhaps because the harp weighed less than 5.5 kilo. But what a joy to carry that harp around!
    I just looked the Brilliant Harpsicle up at the internet and saw it looks a lot like the Grand Harpsicle, has 34 strings, comes with a pick-up and pre-amp and weighs a bit less than 7 kilo. It’s probably my personal preference that I tend to like heavier built harps above lighter built harps. So, that says little or nothing on the quality of the harp.

    Anyway, if your daughter remains enthousiast about the (38 string) Korrigan, it’s a sturdy harp, as always set up with the fantastic Camac levers, and it has a full and lively sound, partly due to the pedal gut strings. Camac also sells nylgut strings for this harp. These strings are much cheaper than natural gut and, especially in the higher register, sound almost as rich.

    Finally, as first harps seldom tend to be the last harps in one’s harp journey, as the Korrigan is a popular harp, you won’t have much trouble in reselling it for a nice price later on. But, frankly, the Korrigan may be the harp that will bring her many years of joy.

    I hope you will share with us which harp will eventually be the harp of her choice.

    Participant
    Biagio on #254930

    @Clare The principles for lever regulation are the same for any lever on the market (and for the old fashioned blades too). Specifically: shortening the vibrating string raises the pitch and of course vice versa.

    In theory to raise the pitch 1/2 step (a sharp) that means between 0.055 and 0.058 times the vibrating length. The exact amount will depend on factors such as the angle from board to bridge pin but that is not something one needs to worry about with an accurate tuning meter. Which should be one of the auxiliary items one buys along with tuning wrench, spare strings, etc.

    That is not very much if you think about it and the maker will have already placed the levers and regulated them when new. Because harp necks and sound boards continue to flex over time and strings expand and contract with temperature periodic regulation is necessary – how often depends on the individual harp but the amount of adjustment is quite small (unless the harp is old and has sat around unplayed).

    What tool(s) one needs depends on the specific lever design. For the Lovelands and Camacs you can find them listed here at Dusty Strings:

    https://manufacturing.dustystrings.com/harps/accessories-hardware/tools-maintenance/a-la-carte-tools

    For Truitts you need only a size T-4 Torx driver (one of many reasons I prefer this lever type) and the appropriate bride pin driver(s). Ask the maker or seller about that. Since use Dusty pins all the same size that is easy although I find a 4mm socket head works just as well as what they sell, if not better.

    [Interlude: There are two books I highly recommend for any harper as well: “The Harper’s Manual” by Laurie Riley and “Trouble Shooting Your Lever Harp” by David Kolacny. Both are widely available and not expensive.]

    [Note to Wil: Bronze core nylon wrap bass strings are only on the FH series, the Ravenna and Crescendo use steel core bronze wrap. This is due to the physical limitations imposed by vibrating length and desired tension. Dusty likes the rich color and relatively long sustain in the FH bass (so do I) but that’s a topic for a different thread.]

    Blessings all,
    Biagio

    Participant
    wil-weten on #254932

    I just discovered that, according to a message of the Singapore Harp Society of 30 October 2018 that “Salvi Harps and Lyon & Healy Harps finally have a showroom in Singapore! House of Harps keeps an impressive inventory of harps here in Singapore for us to try and purchase, from é smallest 27-string Juno to the 47-string gold concert grand Iris!”

    Now, frankly, I tend to prefer most Camac Harps above most Salvi Harps, but I do love Lyon & Healy Harps too.

    The 34 string Ogden or the new 34 string Drake may be interesting to your daughter too.

    The L&H Ogden has pedal gut strings, just like the 38 string Camac Korrigan, but the Korrigan feel easier on the fingers (this has mainly to do with the soundboard, but that would be a technical discussion. Also the bass strings of the Ogden are pedal tension, while the bass strings of the Korrigan are lever tension).

    The L&H Drake is a brand new model and has celtic tension. I know the L&H Korrigan pretty well, but I have never seen or heard the Drake. The levers of the L&H harps are not as advanced as that of Camac’s, but they work nice enough (I’ve got a L&H Prelude with those levers).

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