harp in an apartment?

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    hpn on #213057

    Are harps very loud? For example a pixie harp? Like too loud for an apartment with thick walls and sturdy floors that you can never hear voices, toddlers screaming, music, tvs? Just wonder if anyone has ever had a harp in an apartment.

    wil-weten on #213061

    Many moons ago, I did have a lever floor harp in an appartment where I could hear the radio and tv and the loud quarreling of my neighbours. No one ever complained about any noise, though I am sure they must have heard me, as a floor harp does create contact noise.

    Regarding volume, there are large differences between harps. Smaller harps may produce less volume, but this is not always the case. E.g, the Camac Bardic 27 strings has a great sound and rather large volume, especially for its small size, but it’s way too large for one’s lap.
    Standard lever harps have 34 strings or more. The Salvi Juno 25 https://www.salviharps.com/harp/juno-25/ is suitable for playing on one’s lap. The European edition goes only to E below middle C, but there seems to be a US edition going all the way to C below middle C. There’s also a Salvi Juno with 27 strings, but they are too large for the lap.
    There’s a 24 string County Kerry harp that may fit on one’s lap.

    Though floor harps do create a bit of contact noise, they are much easier to handle than (large) lap harps. I don’t know where you live (e.g. in Europe, the US or Australia, but there are a few small lap harps that actually can sit on laps, but most of them are too large.

    You can play from very softly to very loudly on a harp, partly depending on what you wish, your playing technique and the harp itself.

    There are also electrically amplified harps. Some of them are rather quiet when you use them when they are not plugged in.

    What kind of music would you like to play on the harp? Would you like to take it with you in bus or train? Do you want a warm and full sound? Or do you prefer a clear and intimate sound?

    You mention the Pixie harp. When you mean the 19 string Roosebeck harp, I’m afraid this is a Pakistani harp. Just google and you will understand why lots of people are less than enthousiast about most Pakistani harps.

    When you need a harp to be rather quiet as well as rather cheap, you may consider a 22 string Fireside harp of Backyard music at: http://www.backyardmusic.com/Harps.html It’s soundbox is made of corrugated card board, but listen to some youtube clips. It may be a great and cheap way to start your harp journey. You could even order it as a ‘apartment- friendly folk harp kit” on http://www.backyardmusic.com/Harps/no-mess-fireside-folk-harp-kit.html

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 7 months ago by wil-weten. Reason: Some adjustments and additions
    Biagio on #213077

    If you listen to music – CD or the radio – at a reasonhable decibel level, that is likely louder than any harp except an amplified one, or a concert sized harp played as loudly as possible.

    Some some Paki-made harps are OK, some are not, most often the levers are junk in any case. You would be better off with the Backyard harp that Wil mentioned for a 19 string harp. One of the Rees Harpsicles would be a better investment.

    wil-weten on #213078

    The Backyard harp has 22 strings, the lowest being a G below middle C.

    I agree with Biagio that a 27 string Harpsicle, preferably with levers (and then called a ‘sharpsicle’, ‘flatsicle’ or’fullsicle’) would be a great alternative to start one’s harp journey.

    An even better alternative, I think would be a 26 string Ravenna.

    Both harps have a full octave below middle C and this makes a lot more music to be played without having to be creative to play the dots.

    harpist123 on #213079

    I recently lived in an upstairs apartment of a house (1 neighbor downstairs). I played a L&H pedal harp, a Pratt Chamber harp (36 strings floor harp with big sound) and a Dusty Strings FH36S (36 strings floor harp with a big but different sound from the other 2 harps). I also periodically practiced with a hammered dulcimer player and sometimes a Chapman Stick player (which needs a small amplifier to produce the sound). My downstairs neighbor, though a bit hard of hearing, NEVER complained. And actually told me that I could play 24/7…because sometimes I enjoyed sitting at my harp to improvise my racing thoughts away that kept me from sleeping, and he said it was like a lullaby for him…That he felt fortunate to have a harpist of any kind living upstairs and playing any time. Also, in the summer when my windows were open, my next-door neighbor said they used to eat their supper while listening to me play in the background. Perhaps I was lucky to have such neighbors…But I think you find this more the case than finding neighbors that were quiet enough for you to enjoy your own practice on ANY size harp 🙂 I asked my neighbor if I ever bothered him, and he told me these things…You could always ask first…

    hpn on #213089

    Biagio- That’s comforting to hear that is not as loud as listening to a cd or radio at a reasonable decibel level. It reassures me that it might be a good instrument choice for an apartment rather than a guitar, flute or any other loud instrument. I cannot hear the tv, music, or any sounds from the neighbors above or on either sides of me, all my neighbors have little kids, toddlers and babies and I never hear a single scream, cry, voices, music, machines running, etc. from any of the neighbors. Toddlers, little kids and babies cannot possibly keep quiet 24/7, one of the families has 3 little boys on the side facing my bedroom, the walls and floor have really good soundproofing in this apartment because I never hear the boys. So hopefully a harp cannot even be heard by the neighbors.

    wil-weten Thanks for the link to backyard music harp kits, I think I am going to order one of those harp kits (currently the apartment kit one is out of stock) so I might have to wait a bit to get the apartment kit, or order the Celtic harp kit instead but I think most definitely I am going to buy one of these harp kits. What kind of music would I like to play? Well a range of types of music like classical music, Celtic songs, and video game songs (ones that have harp music songs or classical influence, specifically Castlevania, Zelda, Final Fantasy and Lufia). The 27 string harpsicle from Rees Morgan Meghan is stunning and so is the Ravenna but both out of my budget at 1,000-2,400 dollars, I really wish I could afford the 27 string harpsicle, well maybe in the future but my first for now will have to be a more reasonable one.

    harpist-123 You are lucky your neighbor was so kind and enjoyed your harp playing, not all people are that nice about other neighbor’s noise.

    Biagio on #213092

    If you have access to some minimal tools you might take a look at one of the Musicmakers kits. For your concerns about volume, price, versatility and size I might recommend the Belle:


    This is a popular kit harp for Celtic and jazz players with it’s light tension but of course not limited to those.

    Good Wishes,

    wil-weten on #213095

    The ordinary Fireside harp harpkit seems to be normally available:
    It’s rather easy to build it. There are about 7 youtube clips starting here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HLaHDd9M_bQ where you can see step by step how to proceed.

    I agree with Biagio that https://www.harpkit.com/belle-harps.html may be a great first harp!

    Beware that harps without levers can only play in the key they are tuned to. So if there are any accidentals, you need to creatively circumvent them. When you have a levered harp, playing accidentals is much easier, but still you won’t be able to play fast chromatic notes after another.

    When you really want to play very chromatic tunes, you may think of a chromatic harp, sometimes called X-harps, because their strings cross.

    Stoney End builds harps and sells harp kits and harps-in-the-white. I’m afraid I have two left hands, otherwise I would have built myself a cross strung Esabelle lap harp… http://www.stoneyend.com/specialty-harps.php (see for prices: http://www.stoneyend.com/_downloads/stoney%20end%20harp%20price%20list%20April%202016.pdf The prices for kits are a lot lower than for finished harps, but beware, it takes a lot of technical insights and skills to build a harp from a kit.

    I would only trust myself with building a Fireside cardboard harp kit…

    As an alternative, the Harpsicle harps still may be a suitable alternative: http://harpsicle-harps.com/6-harps. I would not buy a harpsicle, as it will be impossible to later add levers on, but you can get a sharpsicle from 659 dollars.

    If you live in the neighbourhood of a harp shop, you may find a cheap, but very playable and affordable second hand harp.

    Biagio on #213115

    Wil wrote:

    ” it takes a lot of technical insights and skills to build a harp from a kit.”

    No offense, my friend, but I think that depends on what the kit is like and how clear the instructions. Musicmakers’ are all pre-fitted and pre-drilled, you just have to “glue and screw.” Building your own harp can also be very satisfying.

    If in doubt whether a kit is for you, read the instructions before ordering. Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with Musicmakers LOL.

    Regarding the Backyard and Harpsicles: they are fine but I feel I should note that these are lap sized harps – it is a lot easier to learn how to play a harp with a floor sized model.

    Fitting levers runs from time-consuming to easy depending on the kind of lever you choose; stringing a new harp can also take some time and practice. There are plenty of instructions and videos on both.

    On the other hand, sooner or later the harper will have to regulate levers and replace broken strings, so those are things they might as well learn right at the beginning.

    OK, that’s my “pitch” ha ha.


    wil-weten on #213117

    Hi Biagio, I agree that a lot depends on “on what the kit is like and how clear the instructions.”

    I saw the instructions for the Bell Harp Kit at: https://www.harpkit.com/mm5/pdf/Instructions/BellKit.pdf . And for me, this would be way above my admittedly very limited technical insights and skills, but it may be very doable for someone who likes Do-It-Yourself-projects.

    I very much agree that a floor sized harp is a lot easier to play (and it usually has a more rich and full sound) than a lap harp. The point here is that the OP thought of buying a 19 string Pixie harp of probably less than 300 dollars. Most other harps cost a lot more. That’s why I thought of a Fireside kit harp with a cardboard soundbox. This would create the possibility of starting to learn the harp almost right away and taking one’s time to find out what kind of harp would be great in the long run.

    Biagio on #213118

    Hi Wil,

    Indeed, putting together a kit harp is not for everyone. Especially if someone lives in an apartment with limited tools and limited interest in crafts! I just meant that the technical aspects of harp design are already taken care of (fitting critical joints, figuring out string design etc.)

    If the choice were between a Fireside harp and the Pixie…well, you know my opinion of these Pakistani built harps. To whit “blah”. On the other hand, the Fireside is not only easy to put together, just doing it teaches a lot about acoustics and how harps “work.”

    On the subject of cost, it might be helpful to “hpn” to know that up to 40% of that is due to levers alone. Wow. If expense is a big issue I always suggest that a beginner go with only a few or no levers at first – add them later after technique is comfortable.

    Returning to the OP: one can learn a good deal with a small harp (19-22 strings) but it is pretty limiting. Comparing cost to size, I would go out on a limb and say that a 19 is really only suitable as a wire strung harp, for camping, or as a curiosity.

    hearpe on #213120

    Put a sock in it!

    actually, Throw in the towel!

    What I mean off course is to put some cloth in the sound box to dampen the sound if its a problem. My first harp, bought while I was still writing my script The Hearpe The Hearpe– was an unleavered Pixie 19 – before they became “Roosebeck” . And it wasn’t very loud- most haros aren’t very loud.

    I lived long in this life in L.A. a city of apartments and the ever growing future- I had a piano and no one ever complained. Idiots with loud amps and horrible non-music are generally more prolific in urban war zones. While Southfork would take your Kkazoo if Southfork could! Another one bites the Dusty…..

    • This reply was modified 3 years, 7 months ago by hearpe.
    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #213125

    We moved from a house to a condominium two years ago, and were very careful to find one that had good sound insulation. I practise in a room that has no adjoining walls to another condo, and the sound does not seem to travel upwards or downwards at all. I have had no complaints from anyone. Our building is zoned for live/work, so I can teach in my home. If I practised right next to an adjoining wall, perhaps the other condo-owners might hear me. We had a noisy neighbour for a while, and his sub-woofer carried bass notes right into our living room. It is best to look for a concrete building. When we were looking, we had to give up on some otherwise lovely places that were not as soundproof as this one.

    patricia-jaeger on #213231

    HPN: After reading all of the posts submitted here, I realized no one has told you about the Harp Mute that was sold by Lyon and Healy in Chicago,
    USA some years ago for $3.50. I bought 2: one to keep, and one to lend temporarily to any student to try. These were narrow lengths of heavy red
    felt such as used in pedals on their harps, that the buyer would weave in and out of strings to block much of the sound and resonance in a place where you do not want your sound, and mistakes, to be heard beyond the room your harp
    is in.The length of one mute will be just about half of the width of a large concert harp when woven into those. So buying two would be useful for muting that size harp but not everyone plays that size so many customers simply bought one mute. I live in a single family house, not an apartment so I do not often use the Harp Mute. Most musical instruments have some form of muting their instruments to practice more softly.

    Alison on #213255

    Well whoever thought of that, I was asked politely if I could mute the harp when in a Luxembourg apartment with a wooden floor, so the tenant beneath me wrote a polite note and I couldn’t figure out how to. In my experience people can get used to harp in the background but newcomers and visitors notice repetition, so be considerate and if it clashes badly with another’s taste you’ll get aggressive behaviour which interferes with everything and your own piece of mind.
    When I was working on the Danses, I think the bass notes reverberated enough to annoy a neighbor to the side when past bedtime and I’d get an angry telephone call.

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