I am looking for a therapy harp and keep coming back to the infinity – light, rugged, and versatile. I can’t find much information or sound samples online, so I thought I would post this. If you have one, or have played one, could you please share your thoughts with me (especially if you have used it as a therapy harp): overall sound, volume, ease of use (to wear and play), tension and spacing, etc. I normally play a pedal harp. I’m looking forward to a smaller travel/therapy harp – it would be great! I also have big hands, so I’m reluctant to look at small wood lap harps (which are also not as versatile as CF).
I tried one when they were brand new. I like the 36 strings in such a compact package. I preferred the sound of an unpainted harp with flourocarbon strings. The pins are made of aluminum to keep the weight down so some people have had trouble with bent pins.
Not sure if you’ve already decided, but: IIRC, Heartland Harps has some sound samples on their website (called “taste test” or something). There are some examples on Youtube as well.
As a (still relatively new) Infinity owner (Nylon strings) I’ll try to answer some of your questions: The overall sound is quite bright. I’m used to gut strings, so that might be part of it. My wooden, gut strung lever harp (a little taller, but slimmer) sounds different. Not different good or different bad, just different. But to most non-harpists, the difference is minimal and until now, everybody liked the sound (I have yet to use it for a public performance).
As a (rather ham-fisted) pedal harp player, I like the string spacing and tension (my pedal harp is a Salvi Aurora). Ease of use, well…. it’s a harp. Plays like one, sounds like one. Only, doesn’t weigh as much as one. It has been reliable so far, I play it almost daily. Has also survived two or three falls (children…) without complaining.
It’s quite loud, and it seems to react differently to volume changes (I need to play softer to get a soft sound).
I usually play it sitting down, with the harp on it’s “leg”, but have also played it standing up. Both work well, but since it’s so light, it moves around more. You get used to it, I only notice it in fast, loud passages. Even then, less than when I just received it.
Hope that helped some, feel free to pester me with more questions.
Lightweight is good- does anyone have some video link of this harp?
And does anyone have any links to some video comparing gut to nylon?- I’m no where near any harp outlets that I could personally peruse such comparisons.
Got flooded out of Bloomington IN area awhile back or I could see the harps at Vanderbilt.
My new Mikel Celtic 34 broke a string last week, so I’ve been researching replacements a bit- and finally got one from Dusty Strings- the same number and note as a Ravenna 34, and it fit perfectly-
Other than that, the Dustys appear to have slightly beefier(one or two more nylon wound and one or two more steel wound strings on the bass end), so I may want to replace some strings there eventually.
By contrast the Roosebeck Meghan 36 has many less wound strings on the bass, so I’m not unhappy with the setup on the Celtic 34, especially considering it was less than half the cost of a Ravenna 34, and a whole nylon replacement set would put it up to about half.
Totally unfamiliar with gut though. Expensive, no? Are they worth it?
And would one typically replace only part or all of them?
Of course, I own a Ravenna 34 and love her! Mine is nylon strung, but I would love to play a gut-strung one to compare. I love the gut strings on my Lyon & Healy pedal harp, and I have one octave of lever gut strings on my Large Gothic 36 Music Makers harp. This harp stands five feet, six inches tall! (Starting from the bottom, the first five strings are wire, CDEFG, then the next eight are lever gut, ABCDEFGA. The rest of the strings are nylon.) To me, this makes a real difference in the warmth and beautiful tone of this harp. Biagio could tell you what you can and cannot substitute on your particular harp. I found by experimenting that I could not go any higher with gut because they broke very soon on the Large Gothic. I suppose they are too long and have to be pulled up too tight to be at pitch. And yes, they are expensive, especially when the experimental ones broke!
Hope this helps!
Ha ha, Balfour my friend I might be able to say what gut strings Hearpe could use but I cannot say whether that would be a good idea on her Mikel 34, as I am not familiar with it. In general I would say it is probably not worth the cost, but she could always contact a string maker to do an analysis. It would worry me somewhat if you, Hearpe, do not have the string design for it. Here though are some gratuitous generalities from my perspective.
With the tensions typical of many lever harps, gut is mostly used in what we call the “transition range.” That is where nylon strings will start to sound poorly (the reason being false partials) but heavier metal core strings are either impractical or would sound too – well, metallic. In the Gothics case that is the range that Balfour indicates. It will be different in another design such as the Music Maker Voyageur.
In the treble gut would be quite thin and therefore impractical there as well. You certainly could replace all the nylon strings with smaller gauge gut (keeping the tension approximately the same), if you wish to spend the money.
These remarks again bear to the tension of a typical medium to light tension harp say 24 lbs average over a 34-36 string range. Those with higher tension such as the Troubadours, most Camacs, Teifi, etc. it’s a different story – those harps are designed to accommodate gut and probably sound better with it than with nylon.
I’m a bit of an iconoclast when it comes to the higher tension lever harps, in that I claim a laminate sound board can sound as good (almost) as a spruce one IF the strings are designed for that board. With those designs, gut may be preferred over nylon, depending on the player’s preferences. Personally I like the brighter ring and longer life of nylon compared to gut.
Most harps with laminate boards are not designed that way however. I don’t know about the Mikel but if it is a medium – low tension with laminate board as I suspect, I would not replace with gut – it would be to me a waste of money.
Hope that helps!
Following up: I made a few comments that could stand a little explanation.
It would worry me somewhat if you, Hearpe, do not have the string design for it.
Nylon strings are graded and sold in terms of their diameter, whereas gut is typically with reference to their position and implied tension. So you have for example “nylon 0.025” which is straight forward. A gut string might be “1st octave concert gut C” or “lever gut C”. This is not very helpful in determining what to choose to replace the nylon string! Take a look at Dusty’s gut replacement chart – some is concert gut, some lever gut, and the notes are all over the place. Hence, you should employ a string designer who can wade through the jargon.
That is where nylon strings will start to sound poorly (the reason being false partials)
This harks back to a discussion that Tacye and I had a while ago. It gets pretty technical – at the core we are talking about the string tension with respect to its vibrating length and how the nodes (partials or harmonics) behave – which acoustic types label “inharmonicity”. Rather than going off the deep end here I’ll just refer interested parties to Paul Dooley’s discussion (Paul is referring to wire harps but the same principles apply to nylon or gut).
I’m a bit of an iconoclast when it comes to the higher tension lever harps, in that I claim a laminate sound board can sound as good (almost) as a spruce one IF the strings are designed for that board.
It is important to understand that a designer considers the harp as an integrated whole, rather than each structural component in isolation. Most if not all start with the string band but that is done with the intended sound board in mind, and to a lesser degree the acoustic properties of the sound box. If you change one of those it will change the relationship to all the others; and obviously if the harp is already constructed the strings are the only thing you can change. Easily, anyway.
If I decide to use a laminate board it will probably be at higher tension with longer strings than if the board were spruce, cedar, or a composite but otherwise the same. Taking this further with respect to the box, I have two wire strungs – one maple and one sapele – and while the strings are essentially the same, boy do they sound different!
Ain’t it fun?
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