I'm going to buy my first harp, but I can't decide which one I want.

  • Participant
    HarpQuestions on #183513

    Hello, I am almost completely new to everything music and I was looking for opinions of more experienced musicians. As stated in the title, I can’t decide if I want to by a cross strung or double strung harp. I’ve researched both types of harps fairly extensively and I know some pros/cons of both of them.

    Both of the harps I want are on this page: http://stoneyend.com/specialty-harps.php
    (Double Strung Brittany and Cross Strung Esabelle)

    Alright so, I want to know the following:
    1) Which harp would you buy and why?
    2) Why wouldn’t you pick the other harp?

    Thanks everyone!

    Participant
    Allison Stevick on #183514

    Hi, welcome to harping!

    Here are my personal preferences, which will certainly differ from other people’s, because we all have different needs from our harps.

    1) I would choose the double Brittany, no question. I am considering that very one as a possibility in the future, in fact. 🙂

    2) The reasons I would choose double over cross are:
    A–I like the diatonic nature of the harp (meaning I am not interested in a fully chromatic one). I love that once I set the levers, I don’t have to worry about remembering if it’s an F or F# and having to find a different string. I’ve played piano since childhood and I’m just not interested in having my harp mimic that chromatic setup.
    B–I already have a large single-course harp, so I would be using a double lap harp for traveling or harp therapy, since it is smaller and easier to carry (just strap it on) than my big one. It would be a different harp for different use than the one I have…
    …Which brings me to a couple questions that may help us help you:

    1) Do you know what type(s)/genre(s) of music you want to play? How you plan to use the harp can make a difference in your choice.

    2) Have you had a chance to play any harps yet? Even just plinking around and getting a feel for the instrument can help you figure out what you like/dislike.
    (Now, I say that as someone who bought her first harp without ever even touching a harp, so it’s not like you have to try it out first. It is a good idea though, if you have access to any harps. I didn’t.)

    Stoney End makes good, solid, sweet-sounding harps so I don’t think you can go wrong with them. I borrowed an Eve last summer, and it was quite nice. 🙂

    Good luck, and have fun! It’s so exciting picking out a new instrument!

    Participant
    HarpQuestions on #183515

    Hey Allison, thanks so much for your response it’s exactly what I was looking for.

    1) Do you know what type(s)/genre(s) of music you want to play? How you plan to use the harp can make a difference in your choice.
    I’m not sure what kind of music I want to play, which is a large part of why I’m thinking about getting a cross strung harp (it can play more types of music right?).

    2) Have you had a chance to play any harps yet?
    Unfortunately, I haven’t had a chance to play any harps.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #183523

    Hi Harpquestions,
    If you like to play a lot of chromatic music, e.g. you love jazz, a crossharp Esabelle maybe the way to go, as it is suitable for travel and has a nice price. In its 6×6 version the lowest note is D below middle C. In de 5×7 version the lowest note is G below middle C. As most music for small harps goes at least a whole octave below middle C, this means you will have to be able to adapt from the start. This is a sure recipe for a very steep learning curve.

    I can imagine people who need a travel harp choose for the double strung Brittany as a second harp. But I understand that this will be your only harp (to start with). In that case, I think you need to wonder whether you are prepared to pay quite a lot of money because of all the (expensive!) levers you need on a double strung: namely twice as much as on a single strung.

    When you would choose a levered single strung harp, it still is very possible to play some accidentals in the music (though this takes some practice).

    In fact, if I would do things all over again, I would buy a single strung harp with at least a whole octave below middle C, but preferably two octaves below middle C.

    In the United States this would be a well built, nice priced harp may be the Ravenna 26 (lowest note a whole octave below middle C) or the Ravenna 34 (two octaves below middle C). In Europe you would have other nice priced choices.

    A Ravenna 26 may suit you later on as your travel harp (when you will have come to the conclusion that a 34 string harp gives you much more possibilities to play from sheet music meant for lever harp.

    By the way, I would consider to hire a harp for at least half a year, in the meantime you can find out what sound and string tension you like (or don’t like).

    Participant
    Biagio on #183524

    A couple of other thoughts to consider:

    There is a (sometimes rather long) learning curve to playing any kind of harp; technique is vital. Doubles are for the most part similar in technique to singles, a cross is a different beast. In either case it is best to learn the basics (at least) from a teacher and there are fewer teachers of the cross.

    You can do a lot more with a double strung than a single course harp, although in my observation many double strung players don’t take full advantage. This is not an obstacle though: it is not more difficult although some will tell you that it is.

    There is less music written specifically for the double than for the single and even less for the cross strung. I happen to live near (and study under one) of two master players of the double and cross respectively: Laurie Riley (double) and Harper Tasche (cross strung). It might be helpful to visit their websites and see what each has to say.

    Finally there is the financial question: you may find – and probably will – that down the road you will want a larger and better instrument. A double may be easier to sell than a cross, depending on where you live. On the other hand, for a fully levered double those little sharping devices are almost half the cost of the instrument!

    I know of one student who started right out on a double strung 23 string (in fact, I made it for her) and after three months she’s doing great. So great in fact that she just bought a Rees 2×29 as well.

    When you first start to learn the harp you may not for a long time be concerned with accidentals – just learning good technique is enough for quite a while.

    All this said, I personally would buy the double strung and not even fully levered. You can always add more.

    Biagio

    Participant
    Biagio on #183525

    Just to add: I do agree with Wil Weten – if at all possible rent a harp first and decide later what to buy. I’d go with the Ravenna 34.

    Biagio

    Member
    Janis Cortese on #183535

    I’m another harp beginner, but have been a pianist since I was very young and play/compose. Ultimately, being able to modulate freely is a huge plus for me, so I remain fascinated by cross-strungs especially since the 7/5 ones are laid out similarly to a piano keyboard, enabling me to leverage that experience. Pedal harps are marvelous but money, money, money, money, expense to maintain, money, weight, inconvenience, and money remain obstacles.

    However, the vertically strung lever harps have a more developed pedagogy, which would enable me to grow a more stable technique. Hence as Biagio recommends, I went for the Ravenna 34.

    If you’re new to music, it might be a good idea for you to get a Ravenna as well. Use it to develop your technique and learn the ins and outs of music; harps seem straightforward and are, but there are gotchas lurking on them. (You will spend 90% of your time trying not to sound like a bug-zapper.) Also, learning the basic grammar of music takes some time.

    As your technique firms up, you can always unload the Ravenna and get yourself a x-strung. Ravennas are popular and well-liked, and snapped up quickly on craigslist, so you shouldn’t have any problems selling it on when you’re ready.

    Participant
    Tacye on #183581

    Another question touched on above is what musical background do you have and how confident are you about arranging your own music?

    Why are you looking at those types of harps and not a single row one? Whose playing do you like to listen to and what are they playing on?

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