Some background: I took up the pedal harp several years ago while doing my undergrad.
Posted In: Amateur Harpists
I certainly think you can teach yourself- I did, and started out on lap harp. However, be very certain you are using the correct hand position, or you won’t be able to coax that ethereal tone out of your harp. I recommend the Pamela Bruner Play the Harp Beautifully! instructional books & DVD. She is really thorough, especially in regards to hand position. If you have previous experience with pedal harp though this may not be such an issue.
As far as Stoney End Harps go, I don’t have an opinion since I’ve never played one. Best thing would be to test-drive a few different models and see what fits you best. I can’t recommend the Loveland levers though. I’ve had them break on me before (the plastic part). I prefer Truitts. See if they have a replacement policy at your music store should this happen to you.
I have had my Stoney End Eve for 13 years. After 11 years I changed all the strings because someone said I should. Up to that point I had only broken one string. I did not notice any difference in sound quality (and all along people – my teacher included – said the sound was lovely and full for a harp of its size). It has been lots of places, and has some dings to attest to that, but it has been very reliable. Mine has no levers and my larger harp has Camac levers. A friend has the Stoney End Lorraine with Loveland levers and likes the fact that if he has to have them regulated, it is relatively easy and he does it himself.
I have played mine by sitting it on an overturned bucket in front of me, but the newer ones come with “buttons” to which a strap can be attached.
Hope this helps,
I have all of Pamela’s books, and I love them. Were you referring to Midsummer Meadow? That one has quite a few beautiful original pieces. I had no idea you helped her with the first two teaching books. I refer to them often with my student. I know what you mean about inverting some chords. I started out on a lap harp teaching myself with the Sylvia Woods book and had to transpose quite a bit, to the point where I wrote “Aaaargghhh! I need a bigger harp for this music!” by the time I got to The Ash Grove. Quite frustrating at times, even though I laugh at my notations now.
Thanks to you (and everyone else) for the great replies! Unfortunately I am rather far South in Oxford, so Edinburgh would be a hike but I might consider it. Of all the responses are you the only one that seems to be REALLY keen on getting a floor harp instead of a lap harp. Can I ask why? Is it worth sacrificing the portability for a 22-27 string lap harp for, say, a 30 string floor harp (much more and we’re getting into prices I DEFINITELY can’t pay).
I looked up many of the makers on the exhibition link (basically the ones within a short train ride so that I could see/play/take delivery of a harp). Of those, what do you know of Camac harps? They seem well made. Unfortunately, I could definitely not afford anything more than a Bardic 27, which is a lap harp but has a fair few strings for such a harp. What is their quality like?
The most affordable harps still seem to be the Stoney End, even when moving up to the floor harps. I am actually American and still hold a fair bit of my money in US dollars, so the exchange rate is actually a bonus =) Any thoughts are appreciated!
Yes, I did help Pamela Bruner with ALL 3 of her self-teaching books. I edited all 3 of the books (my name is inside the book’s cover) and provided itemtized content for the 2nd book and the 3rd book.
The book, “Midsummer’s Meadow”, is the book that I was what I was thinking, when I suggested Pamela’s book for lap harp, mid-sized, and 36-string harp. I think it is a wonderful book to utilize for learning pieces for various sized-harps and/or levels.
Tom – regarding harps .. I have had the opportunity to learn on pedal harp and own 2 L&H pedal harps.
I agree with Tacye (and am also in the UK, in Nottingham). Lap harps have the advantage of being cheaper, but are far harder to play, because of the difficulty in balancing it properly. Students can end up with cricked necks and stiff backs, because you tend to get into a tense position to prevent the harp slipping. Floor harps are far easier to balance, as you’ll know from your pedal harp experience.
However, if you are interested in folk music, and want to take a harp to sessions, a lap harp is definitely more practical. My ‘small’ 29 string is my usual session harp, and although it’s gorgeous, it’s a complete pain in the backside, both in terms of transportation and finding somewhere comfortable to play it in a pub. Recently, I’ve found I may as well just take the 41 string out to sessions, take the car and just sacrifice the beer.
The Camac lap harp (the 22 string, I’ve not seen the 27 string, but I’d be surprised if that would fit on the knee of anyone other than Goliath) is OK. It’s better if you unscrew its little legs, as it then sits between your knees quite well. In terms of sound, it’s only reasonable, but on the plus side, is is utterly bombproof, solid and reliable. The Camacs are stocked by the Early Music Shop in Saltaire, though they also trade on Ebay.
Re. buying harps from abroad, I don’t know if you’ve imported stuff before, but no matter how tempting, I just wouldn’t bother. I ordered a new pick up from North America recently, and although it should have been cheaper, by the time I’d been fleeced by Parcelforce (who have a big fee they whack onto items for basically doing nothing) and HMRC, it was probably twice the price that I’d have paid in the EU. I also had to deal with the general incompetence of Parcelforce and HMRC, which led my parcel to go missing… the whole thing was a nightmare of stress and costs, and I’ll never make that mistake again…
Also, with something fragile like a harp, if there is a problem with it, you’ll end up massively out of pocket if you need to pay to return it. A harp seller in the UK will be far more convenient to deal with, both before and after sales.