Harp addiction and 22-string lap harps

  • Participant
    unknown-user on #74098

    Hello everyone!

    Before I ask the questions I am writing my post for, here is some

    information on myself so that you are actually able (if you

    want/choose to help me) to be as precise in your answer as you wish.

    I have been wanting to learn the harp for a very long time already. I

    grew up to a lot of Irish songs and folk music and when I finally got

    accepted at our local music school to learn the harp, to say that I

    was delighted would not be enough. However, the harp I was introduced

    to playing was much bigger than I had anticipated (30something-string

    lever harp). Nonetheless, I liked the sound very much, no harp can

    possibly sound bad when it is in tune, so I kept on learning. I then

    moved on to the pedal harp. Yes, I know, this is not exactly a “moving

    on” but that was what it was portrayed to me at that time.

    Theoretically, I could have lifted the first harp I used, the pedal

    harp I was then to play was brought to my parent’s house by a company

    specialising in moving furniture with two strong men struggling to

    carry it. I kept on playing, the sound was marvellous, but even seeing

    pictures of smaller harps somewhere made my heart ache for playing one

    of them and send this monster of a pedal harp back to where it

    belonged. My very nice harp teacher retired and I chose to quit the

    harp. That was four years ago.

    Playing the harp has been somewhat out of my mind since then, it has

    been an extremely busy period of my life, but it has never been out of

    my heart, if I may use this rather pathetic expression. It is true, I

    am addicted to the harp, I cannot help it and I do not see why I should.

    The situation now is this: I have moved to Wales and I am currently

    studying at university. I have found that I cannot ignore my desire to

    take up the harp again any longer. It started to grow stronger one

    year ago and I am now at the point at which I would buy just about any

    harp for just about any price as long as I could hold it in my hands soon!

    I have e-mailed the music department of my university a month ago but

    I have received no reply yet (I was asking about lessons, and if I

    could hire a harp), I have been to our local music shop yesterday and

    had a go at an incredibly out-of-tune Stoney End 22-string harp. The

    fact that I thought it sounded celestially speaks volumes about the

    severity of my harp-addiction’s symptoms.

    Question 1)

    It is absolutely clear to me that nothing bigger than a 22-string “lap

    harp” can be the right choice for me, firstly, because a light-weight

    small harp has always been the harp of my dreams, and secondly,

    because my cramped study-bedroom will not allow for anything bigger

    than that, even if this was not so. The harp must fit in my (even more

    cramped) wardrobe to keep it out of direct sunlight and as far “away”

    from the heating as possible within the available dimensions so there

    is little choice there.

    So, taking into account my harp-addiction, would you advise against a

    22-string lap harp? If so, on which grounds?

    Question 2)

    Assuming, a 22-string lap harp was a prefectly reasonable and fine

    choice, which one should I choose?

    If I am to buy one at the local music shop it must be a Stoney End, as

    they have no others. I am not particularly happy with their knowledge

    about harps, though. They put them in the front bay window and the

    owner hadn’t even heard about loveland levers. The alternative to the

    Stoney End (which is priced at 1000 British pounds, complete set of

    sharpening levers included, I suppose) would be a harp from a Welsh

    harpmaker, Alun Thomas. According to “celticharper” he is “long

    established” and I found him via a link from that site. Does anyone

    know about him or his harps? The smallest of his harps would be a

    22-string Telyneg at a comparable price to the Stoney End. If I should

    indeed go for a Telyneg I could (if he has one available) hire another

    Telyneg while he is making my harp. Is that good practice?

    Question 4)

    The Telyneg has a range from third octave A to top A. By your

    experience, is that a good range to be confined to?

    I am also not yet used to the English terms for certain music-aspects,

    so if anyone has the leisure and the will to describe “third octave A

    to top A” to me very briefly, this would greatly help me as my

    dictionary is not quite forthcoming in this and I am not sure if my

    notion of the terms is correct.

    Question 3)

    Assuming I have a 22-string lap harp (hired or bought – the latter of

    which would be ultimately cheaper for me), is it true that it is more

    difficult to learn than other types of harps?

    So far I have read about problems regarding position, the harp keeping

    to slide down (I noticed that when I tried out the Stoney End) and a

    limited sheet music repertoire to draw on. Is anyone out there who

    plays a 22-string lap harp who could share his/her knowledge with me

    on these matters?

    These are the most important questions I can think of so far, and I do

    apologize for this very lengthy post, Thank You Very Much in advance

    for your answers!

    Participant
    unknown-user on #74099

    HI Enja,

    Your “addiction” to the harp is not a hallucination nor a far-off dream. You have realized your desire to own a small lap harp, and that is commendable. You have also tried the larger harps and know in your heart what you truly want. You sound particulary strong about your desire to own a 22 string lap harp and I say go with it.

    First I have to say that it is not hard at all to play the lap harp.

    Participant
    unknown-user on #74100

    Hi there!

    Participant
    unknown-user on #74101

    Thank you for your answer!!

    First of all, I’m relieved that you have no grave concerns about a

    22-string lap harp. I’ve done some internet research and what I read

    was mostly not very encouraging – complaints about too few music to

    play on it and this “how do I sit with it”-problem. I have far less

    doubts now (the one remaining is the price, heh). Oh, by the way, a

    Clarsach is a bit bigger than a lap harp, or am I mistaken?

    As for learning how to play it: Well, yes, I did learn how to play the

    pedal harp, but that was 4 years ago. Some of what I learnt is slowly

    coming back to me, but there will be many things lost in my grey cells

    forever. Because of that, I think I won’t attempt a cross-strung harp

    yet, maybe after I have graduated or so. I wonder what the difference

    in learning to play gut- or nylon-strung harps could be. Sure the

    placing and all that remains the same?

    Gut-strung or nylon-strung. Yes, that’s actually the one thing that

    I’m not sure of as of yet. The Stoney End “Eve” is nylon-strung and

    has zither pins and a range from G to G, the Telyneg (the harp I’m

    actually more fond of from what I know about it) is gut-strung, has

    got through pins and a range from A to A. The price is roughly the

    same. I certainly do plan to visit Alun Thomas (as soon as/if he

    answers my e-mail) and have a try at the Telyneg. My problem is that I

    have never heard a gut-strung harp before. My harps had nylon or metal

    (for bass) but no gut, and the Stoney End has, (as I mentioned) nylon

    strings as well. Could you or anyone else compare the sound of nylon

    as compared to gut, or do you know an internet site on which I can

    find sample music of both types?

    My “harp sickness” got so bad today, that I went back into town early

    in the morning before my lectures and waited for the music shop to

    open to have a go at the harp there. I tuned it and played arpeggios

    for two-and-a-half hours. Tuning took up by far the most time of that.

    I was late for my lectures because I couldn’t bring myself to leave. I

    then returned and hired the harp for a week, I cannot afford more than

    that unless by dipping into my savings, and I guess (hope!) I’ll find

    a better use for it soon. Hopefully I’ll know which harp I’ll

    eventually get myself by the end of next week. Is that a reasonable

    period of time or should I look longer? I have done extensive internet

    research over the last two months.

    Playing the harp. One of the reasons why I like a small lap harp is

    the feeling of unconventionality that comes with it. I know for sure

    that I never improvised or did anything not written in the notes when

    I played the harp in Germany. Today, when I started with Sylvia Wood’s

    book and played “The Water is Wide” (I told you I have forgotten

    nearly everything!) I invented some accompanying notes for the left

    hand. It’s just great! The lap harp is my thing, I just know it.

    Thank you for the wonderful expression to look for the harp that

    “sings to” me. I’m sure I will find it, I must. 😉

    Thank you again for your kindness and support!

    P.S.: Do you know this feeling when you exactly know what a song

    should sound like and your fingers are just too clumsy to keep the

    rhythm? Anything one can do about that or is patience and training the

    only answer?

    Spectator
    alice-freeman on #74102

    I have heard the same pedal harp strung at different times with gut and then with nylon strings. The only way I can describe the difference is that the gut sounded warm and mellow and the nylon sounded brighter and more penetrating. Whether this is typical of all harps, I don’t know.

    —– Alice in windy Wyoming, U.S.A.

    Participant
    unknown-user on #74103

    Gut is, playability wise, really no different feeling than Nylon. My Livia has wire wrapped lower octaves, gut in the middle, and nylon at the top range to help with sound tone but feeling wise there’s not a huge differance. The sound is a bit warmer off the gut strings

    🙂

    ~Lana

    Participant
    unknown-user on #74104

    I know that gut strings and nylon strings have a slightly different sound, but I am also told that gut has a higher tension on the harp than do nylon strings. On most harps the strings are not interchangable because of the tension. You might also want to try a wire-strung harp before you set you heart on gut or nylon strings. I have a friend who wanted a harp so bad she was ready to buy one, much like your situation. She tried a wire-strung harp at the last minute and now she will never go back to anyting else. It is a beautiful 22 string harp, wires and all.

    Participant
    unknown-user on #74105

    Check out William Reese’s website FAQ section.

    Participant
    Heba Mostafa on #74106

    Dear Harp lover,I also am a harp addict and I really had to fight for my harps..very long story.My advice would be this:small is always good.you can’t go wrong with a lap harp,since they are really the only harps you will ever be able to travel with easily(you can’texactly ship your 36 string harp for a week at the beach!).I have been playing for a while now and nothing is as nice as being able to take your lap harp with you on a trip..really.If you practice regularily you will find that a few days away from your harp is often hard to bear!so go for it!You will also enjoy being able to share your harp with others.I find that I reach morepeoplewith my lap harp because it gets to go out more often!.I have some comments for you that may help as well.There is an excellent book called the lap harp companion published by Lyon and Healy.It is a delightful book and a great place to start.It has so many lovely songs and you will really enjoy playing them.the one drawback that lap harps have is that they feel a little different of course when you play them..spacing maybe a bit different,but I agree.a harp is a harp.It’s small size will also mean that the tension is lower,so it will build up your finger strength less aggresively than a larger harp with higher tension.With a little adpatation you will be able to also play on a bigger harp if you feel the need.Larger harps satisfy a different aspect of harp playing and it is true that all harpists usually aim to own a range of harp sizes,it’s a different feeling.I tend to like harps on the large side,but that does not mean that smaller harps do not give an enriching experience.I do have one word of advice though:you may be tempted to teach yourself,or rely on your past experience and resume your harp playing.I would strongly suggest that you get started with a teacher..no matter how good the teaching

    Participant
    unknown-user on #74107

    A 22 string would have a range similar to a violin – the only restriction is the lack of bass. I think it would be well worth your while to investigate other harps than Stoney End. Out of all the harps I have ever tried I am least impressed with these.

    When I first started hunting harps I rang around all the Hobgoblin shops. The advice I got was 1, buy the best you can, 2, if you buy something less than ?500 it’s not likely to keep it’s value.

    Have a look at http://www.harpfestival.co.uk/exhibition.htm. This is the Edinburgh Harp Festival exhibitors list. It’s got the details for a harp shop in Cardiff with a wide range of instruments, and also a number of established harp makers around the country.

    You mentioned cash flow might be a problem – a bigger makers like Camac let you pay a deposit and then pay in monthly installments. Shops may also let you do this.

    If you could wait until next April then I’d say take a trip up the Edinburgh Harp Festival and see their exhibition – you’d get to try so many different instruments close up that you’d get a much better feel for them. That’s the most important thing – try as many harps as you can!

    Participant
    alexandra coursen on #74108

    Hi: I recently bought an John Thomas 22 string Welsh harp. John revived the dying art of making harps in Wales, and

    Participant
    Dwyn . on #74109

    I have dealt with Alun Thomas in a long distance purchase of a variety of parts for my antique pedal harp.

    Participant
    Dwyn . on #74110

    We seemed to have revived an ancient thread.

    Participant
    jessica-wolff on #74111

    William Macdonald on the isle of Skye makes lap harps ranging from 22 to 29 strings, but they are clarsachs in the proper sense: metal-strung Gaelic harps with no sharping mechanism. The sound is silvery, like a zither.

    I notice that no one mentioned those lap bar thingies that have become available and that prevent the lap harp from slithering all over your lap.

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