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Interested in playing the Harp – Advice?

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  • #77671
    brian-hix
    Participant

    Okay, so I am extremely interested in learning the harp and I would like any advice as to what kind of Harp is good for a beginner? And I have no idea where to start. What should I look for when choosing a Harp? Also are there any good websites to look at that would be helpful? Normally I would do my own research by googling, but I want to make sure that I am getting legitimate information. Are there any relatively cheap Harps?

    What kind of harps are these? How much would they go for
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QFlKx3YPL5I&list=FLOXgDJoi6DDGPzoKwX-URwQ&index=2

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7-PjXStbQ8

    I am extremely interested in this smaller one though:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UoNb3_6TvqU&list=FLOXgDJoi6DDGPzoKwX-URwQ&index=5

    And I am not new to music, I am a pianist. I am just ready to learn something else.

    Thanks for any information you can provide!

    #77672
    e-nb
    Participant

    Hi Brian,
    Welcome to the world of harping!

    The first two links show harps which would come under the umbrella of “Modern lever harp” either gut, nylon or carbon fibre (Kevlar) strung. The third shows a wire strung harp.
    Confusingly, both types are liable to be called a “Clarsach”, but require different styles of playing.
    Wire strung is usually played with the nails and usually used for medieval and older celtic style music – I say usually as harpists are an innovative bunch and bend the rules to suit themselves ;-).
    Lever harps are usually played with the pads of the fingers and suit all styles of music, although highly chromatic tunes can be difficult.

    If you already play piano, you may have high expectations of the music you want to play so I would recommend getting as many strings as you can afford – or else you may find the lack of bass frustrating. If you decide to go down the lever harp route, I would recommend you don’t choose anything with less than 34 strings.

    Harps are not cheap, so I would also advise renting before you buy – that way you will have a better idea of what you like before committing yourself.

    Good luck!

    #77673
    Allison Stevick
    Participant

    Hi, I’m sure you will love playing the harp! Welcome!
    E NB has good advice, so I won’t repeat it, but here are a couple additional things:
    I also played piano before beginning harp, and I think that musical knowledge helps a lot in the learning.
    The second YouTube video you posted has a Stoney End harp. I personally like their harps, and think they are a good sound and good value. http://www.stoneyend.com ! That being said, there are MANY great harps out there, all over the world, in every price range. I play a Heartland Harps Delight, but I started on a Mid East Heather harp (that’s not widely recommended, but it worked for me) and have played Stoney end and a Lyon and Healy Ogden for short seasons as well. I have enjoyed all of them, but the Delight is the one I will never give up. 🙂
    So, shop around, try to find a place to try as many harps as you can so you know what you like, and have fun!

    Some sites I like to look at for harp dreaming:
    http://www.blevinsharps.com
    http://www.stoneyend.com
    http://www.heartlandharps.com
    http://www.celticharps.com

    #77674
    lyn-boundy
    Participant

    Hello Brian – here beginneth your most fascinating journey! We’ve been discussing lately the differences between pedal harps (those big, usually gilded, ones you see in orchestras) and lever harps (the smaller ones like those you have linked to on YouTube, aka Celtic harp, Clarsach, Folk Harp) and I’m delighted to see a post from someone who is attracted to the latter. The lever harp is a wonderful instrument to play – large enough to feel solid but still small enough to move around and take to gigs or lessons without too much hassle. Also, the way you play it – by effectively wrapping yourself around it, makes it feel very intimate and personal.

    As E NB says, the more strings you have, the more versatile your instrument but don’t forget this should also be weighed against the extra size and weight of the harp – the more strings, the less mobile. That won’t matter too much to many people but if you have any back or joint problems you will be limited by the amount of weight you can move by yourself. I have found it impractical to go for more than 34 strings for this reason but you may have a wider choice of anything up to 40 strings. Incidentally, in most cases the additional strings should come at the bottom of the harp – ie the bass strings.

    Beware the cheap rosewood harps from parts of Asia – many of these look very good but they are primarily ornamental (see one buyer’s experience here (http://www.ebay.co.uk/gds/Buying-a-HARP-from-abroad-Far-East-a-friendly-warning-/10000000002155526/g.html). A good-looking harp witha great tone is what you are aiming for but if you ever have to compromise then it’s voice rather than looks every time. Generally speaking, carving and decoration is not cheap so if the harp you are looking at has elaborate ornamentation but is cheaper than you would expect, there’s a good chance you are looking at a mass-produced ‘gift quality’ instrument and the money hasn’t been spent on playability.

    When I was looking for my first harp I found huge amounts of advice on the web and I would recommend you take a look at the websites of some of the better-known harp suppliers (Lyon and Healy, Clive Morley etc) and some of the harp societies like http://www.celticharper.com, and http://www.enjoytheharp.com. Try to play and listen to as many harps as possible and be prepared to wait for the right one to come along. The search can, and should be, as much fun as the purchase. Good luck!

    #77675
    Tacye
    Participant

    The first link is a Pilgrim Clarsach, the second already identified as a Stoney End and the third by MacDonald harps on Skye. Three very different harps!

    Which country are you in? A cheap harp in one place can become very expensive once international shipping is added.

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