Just wondering what the majority of us harpists prefer: lever harps
vs. pedal harps, or vice-versa.
I’m 12 and when I was 7 I started on the lever harp. When I was 9, my parents bought me a Lyon and Healy Prelude and 3 months ago I got a Lyon and Healy Model 85 Concert Grand (we kept the Prelude because my sisters plays). Overall, I like pedal harps best.
When I started playing harp, I rented a lever harp, a Lyon & Healy Troubador. I haven’t had my pedal harp that long, I got it in January 2000, but I have gotten so far with it! I have a Salvi Aurora, and I went with my teacher to Chicago, to pick it out, after we’d ordered it of course:) It was great fun:)!!
I think most of us started on a lever harp – I did – because it’s smaller. I spent barely a year on it, though. Personally I prefer pedal harps because the most complicated most gorgeous pieces out there are impossible if you only have levers. I feel that levers are limiting. It’s one more thing your hands have to do and one more place for your eyes to look. And I think if you want to go as far as you can go with the instrument, you need a pedal harp. But it’s a good thing to learn both so we all know where pedal harps came from. Levers are a little bit easier to understand – it’s not exactly intuitive how pushing down on a pedal makes a string sound different. But my vote goes to the pedal harp.
I actually prefer lever harps. Sure, you can play very complicated works on the pedal harp, but harps didn’t START with pedals. I like to think that I’m playing the same instrument that men and women played hundreds of years ago, in Ireland and Scotland. Pedal harps are almost TOO fancy – I tend to think of them as ostentatious. Plus they’re very heavy and it’s not something you can carry around easily. If you’re not performing, I don’t think pedal harps are really necessary. Right now, since I’ve only been playing for 7 months or so, (but I’ve had chances to play on numerous harps), I’m renting a little celtic (some very insulting people called it a ‘toy’ harp) one that doesn’t even have levers. lolol – the guy I”m renting it from says that it’s totally useless and he thinks he’s ripping us off 🙂 You can, however, play pieces that are in different keys by working it out. Look at the first note in the piece, see where it is according to its ‘doh’ (third note to doh, fourth note, whatever) and then all you do is count up the number of strings from whatever your harp is tuned to and start playing there. Ok, I dont explain things well. Here’s an example..
you have a piece that’s in g major. The first note is a b. Your harp is tuned to c major. b is the third note in the g major scale. So, on your harp, count up three from middle c (or whatever c you want lol). Lands on e. e is the note you start the piece on.
Levers make it a whole lot easier. Pedals are even better than that. But isn’t it fun to imagine that you might be playing the same harp played a long, long time ago by some bard in a king’s court? I’m a bit of a romantic.. lol.
Both have their pros and cons. For example, One thing I will miss about the lever harp is how easy it is to move. They are two very different, and which is “better” is entirely relative to you, your tastes, your circumstances and your needs. In my case, i made the change to Concert Grand Pedal Harp when I wanted to move on to more advanced pieces and when i wanted to play in my school orchestra (you really can’t play a lever harp in a full symphony orchestra). As a result of making the change, i have found i prefer the sound of the Pedal Harp over that of the Lever Harp, but again, this is but personal preference.
I myself prefer pedal harps. I do because more advanced music is available- when I first played in an orchestra(it was a t NEC), there were only 2 weeks of practice before the only concert- and the first week I played my Troubador IV until a pedal harp was availble at NEC!
It wasn’t very pleasant. The other harpist (who just so happened to have a pedal given to her at NEC) was playing everything while I was yeilded to the 2 peices without many chromatic changes- so in a sum up- i prefer pedal because it has a much bigger sound- but lever is much easier to transport.
I play lever harp and have almost completed the purchasing process of my first pedal harp — and I can hardly wait. I’m totally psyched by what I’ll be able to do with the pedal harp, but I can already see one advantage that most lever harps have (in my opinion, and after playing tons of different harps in the buying process, I do finally have an opinion!): lever harps almost always sound reverberant, echo-ey, and just plain sweet and sustaining in the treble register. But whereas pedal harp bass and mid-register are usually lovely (and I find them much more powerful than a typical lever harp), the treble register of most pedal harps is often quite dry; the final octave and a half are especially that way — often sounding like a xylophone, or “plinky.” I don’t enjoy that sound very much, but it seems to be a fact of the instrument, probably due to the heavier (and hence stiffer) soundboard, which itself is necessitated by the higher pressure.
So there’s my vote — I still intend for the pedal harp to become my primary instrument, because of its beauty, and because of the repertory it has!
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