Hello, I never played harp before, although I have played piano for years and clarinet for a few years, would a Sharpsicle be a good first harp for a beginner in harp? Also is it better to just buy a Fullsicle? Although I live outside of the U.S. so shipping would make the Fullsicle sort of expensive for me considering I still need to buy the other accessories like a bag, strap, etc. I just wonder if not having as many levers such as how the Sharpsicle only has some levers, would make playing songs very limited.
The lever situation with harpsicles and sharpsicles and flatsicles and fullsicles is a bit of a personal peeve with me-
The harps are nice for what they are- very light and playable harps- a little limited by the small size of the sound box, but they make the best use of the materials within that configuration. The levers are another matter though.
As a small aside it was almost a year ago that I put an order in for an “open box” sharpsicle on Amazon- (Don’t look for one now- you’d be lucky to find one and the finality of my experience told me something of the current small harp market.) Anyway it was at great savings- I’ve had good luck buying blems and even classical guitars in need of saddle reglues, etc, so I didn’t hesitate. A survey of the then current retail prices led me to believe that the prices were on the verge of rising and that proved true.
I think the open box return price was about $360, and the retail on Sharpsicles just crossing the $500 mark otherwise- but I made a fatal flaw.
Seeing what I believed was an actual Camac Bardic harp at a great price- they hadn’t stpped making them a year ago- I cancelled the Sharpsicle before it shipped and got involved in a large scam with a fake Pakistani “Camac” harp that took me much frustrating resolving that lasted into January. Some of the folks here may recall my plight with the chintzy fake.
Anyway when that resolved, I returned to looking at Rees harps again- and already having other harps, I still leaned toward the Sharpsicle with levers on the C and F strings. Now the retail prices had risen to $560 or something similar, and no open boxes or returns at any major retailers. I finally gave in and paid a couple hundred more for the same harp I had on order open box and cancelled a few months before.
I’m happy with it- not thrilled beyond words.
I’ve kept a loose eye on cheap harps since the early 2000’s and liked the place the Harpsicles had – it is changing though the instruments are much the same. I find it irritating that the Harpsicle with no levers goes out of its way to make them impossible to add later. When I bought this Sharpisicle, I had intentions on adding more levers if I could- at least three or four, on the G’s to get Key F, but two s=lengthy internet searches now have failed to produce satisfactory results. Rees doesn’t list them on their site- although I haven’t queried them directly, but you’d think they’d be available for breakages and for those who want to add more. Then realized that the levers would have to be inordinately priced to account for the vast retail price differences between the models, Sharp, Flat and Fullsicles. So I think for that marketing reason they are sort of ignored. And I think there may have been a recent change of lever, though not certain yet. Still researching.
Most retailers describe them as “Modified Robinson ” levers, and trying to compare them to tiny pictures of Robinsons levers at Robinsons Harps appears to confirm that they are somewhat different. I now have a bunch of levers off that horrible Camac fake, but they appear not only too large- I’d have to reposition all the strings at least 1/8″ further out they operate the opposite way than the Rees harps- so instead of adding several, I’d have to replace them all probably. I’ll keep looking into finding the right levers, but they don’t seem readily available.
The harp is otherwise probably good for a first harp, but the lack of levers on anything but the Fullsicle- over $1000- is limiting, and it’s a lot of money for a small harp- They are nicely designed and the assembly and set-up is precise in my own experience- I sure wish I hadn’t cancelled that open box a year ago. Once a cheap alternative they are getting higher than a lot of beginners might want to pay- but apparently the demand is plentiful and they are in business to make money
Oh that is too bad about your missed opportunity to get one at a more reasonable price because of a Pakistani harp scam, I was thinking about getting a harp a year ago myself as well but put it off for a year, so I feel a bit regretful not purchasing a harp last year, since you mention that harps well at least the Harpsicle/Sharpsicle/Fullsicle series have rose in price since then. I am very hesitant when making an expensive purchase such as a harp so I am trying to be careful not to end up buying a Pakistan made harp. I was thinking of getting a harpsicle or sharpsicle and adding levers, but now that you mention it is not possible to add levers and how frustrating that is, it’s a disappointment there is not that posibility to add onto the Rees harps. I will still think about the possibility of a Sharpsicle anyway, but now that you mention levers cannot be added to the Harpsicle which has no levers I will not think of it as a possibility. I might just have to think about the Fullsicle, it’s too bad about such a rise in price but I fear the price could keep rising and be much more expensive next year if I wait again.
The sharpsicle and the upper line models are designed so that levers can be added. The difference in price between the sharpsicle (8 levers), flatsicle (11 levers), and fullsicle (26 levers) is exactly $14.67 per lever. From Robinson, the parts alone cost almost half that. I wouldn’t install and regulate them for the difference. It is amazing to me that even in a production situation that Rees can produce the harps for what they sell for.
Far from being a high price, this is cheaper per lever installed and regulated that just the parts alone for almost any other lever.
The harpsicle is specifically marketed as not being upgradable. It has no bridge pins (26 more holes to drill, 26 pins to purchase, 26 pins to regulate). That accounts for about $100 of savings in the harpsicle versus the upper line instruments.
All of the harps with any levers at all can have levers added, and are specifically marketed as such on their website. The key is: to have any levers, you must have bridge pins on all strings. If you’re going to ever want the levers, buy them up front. You will never get them at $14.67 each if installed after the fact.
As Charles noted, if the harp has bridge pins you (or a luthier) can add levers when you want them but I’d suggest that may be some time in the future, after you have grown accustomed to good harp technique. That can take a good while, depending on whether you have a harp teacher or not.
Most beginner harp “teach yourself” books and DVDs illustrate technique but relying on that alone requires a lot of diligence on our part. Further, these beginner books usually assume that the harp will be tuned to C major (no levers required). I’ll just mention that some levers cost more than other and some are easier to mount. Rees now sells their own (at $11 US) which are very good (Lovelands sell for about $6 if you buy them directly from the maker).
About cost – while Lovelands cost less than others they also take more time to mount – so harp makers generally charge about $20+ US per lever regardless of what kind it is.
You can see how that adds up in a hurry: if the other materials cost the maker about $250-$500 for a 26 string harp (pretty typical here in the US) a full lever set will add at least $150 to his or her cost not to mention labor. Or roughly half the total manufacturing cost (ignoring stuff like depreciation, labor, overhead, profit margin, etc.).
So let’s table that part of the question for now.
A Sharpsicle or Fullsicle is fine to buy as a first harp, especially if you are not sure how far you want to go with the instrument. If you find you want to really get into it you can keep the ‘sicle” as a travel harp and get a larger one down the road. (Some books/DVDs also assume a lower octave than the Harpsicles but with your music background you should be able to just move everything up and octave easily).
I don’t see much need for all the accessories (strap, case etc.) but you should get an extra string set as well as a chromatic tuner and wrench. I’d also strongly recommend the “improved” string set with wound strings in the bass. That is standard on the Fullsicle or you can ask them to put it on the Sharpsicle.
One other thing would really be helpful: some sort of stable stand while you learn technique. This can be as simple as a board that you sit on and balance the harp, a box or stool up to and including some pretty fancy custom made stands.
One very simple approach is the Harp Stick sold by Rees which clamps through a string access hole and rests on your legs. Another more stable approach is something like LeStik by Blevins. He has retired but the concept is simple: a (yes) stick about 60cm long that clamps though an access hole but instead extends to the floor. Both are easy to make yourself.
In sum, I’d say a) try to find a teacher b) go ahead with the Sharpsicle for now and c) also buy a Harp Stick or LeStik-type device. If you can’t find a teacher the Play the Harp Beautifully instruction books/DVDs by Pamela Bruner are excellent.
- This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by Biagio.
The Robinson levers on the site of the Robinson harp shop (under $7) do not look like the same levers on my Sharpsicle- yet I may try to order one to see if it would fit- several sizes. That’s what I was saying that I think Rees may have more recently changed from “modified Robinson levers) but I haven’t been back to their site for this answer- I don’t think it is there-perhaps a query? time, time time!
My own feeling is that for over a Grand, one can start getting into some serious used harps if you are wiling to take a chance online usually, where at least most vendors may offer a return- so if you got burned it might only be for shipping costs.
The Harpsicles are a really nice practice harp, and with ultra portability, but my own feeling is that the sound is more akin to a 3/4 sized classical guitar- just a little thin and lower of volume at the sake of size and lightness.
On ebay, a 1000 or slightly over can get you something like this in the 26-29 string category if you’re patient
or occasionally a Ravenna or Blevins- you might have to replace strings but you’ll be doing some of that anyway. Anyway these are more traditional full sized harps. My 27 Mikel Celtic is nice- full levered and good sound I’m still tweaking, but a little bit heavy to be a lap harp- definitely a floor harp
Kolacny in Denver (I think) usually has a god listing of used harps as well
and then there is the classified section right here
anyway- enough of me, GOOD LUCK.
- This reply was modified 2 years, 9 months ago by hearpe.
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