Moving from lever to pedal harp

  • Participant
    erinlawrence15 on #245404

    Hi everyone! Has anyone moved from a lever harp to a pedal harp, as an adult? I have some questions about your experience. Do you still play your lever harp? Did it make a big difference for you? If it did, how?

    I’m an adult (41, ugh) pianist. I’ve been playing a Troubadour II for 3 years, and love it. I’m a public school music teacher and a part-time church choir director, so I don’t have any grand plans to be an orchestral harpist. I’d like to play at church regularly, and maybe also for some small events. I don’t know that a pedal harp is necessary for any of this, and it would be quite an investment – but gosh who doesn’t want a beautiful pedal harp!

    So, I’m just wondering if anyone else has consciously taken this plunge, and if it was life-changing, or not exactly, and how it affected your harp life. Thanks for reading!

    Participant
    wil-weten on #245405

    I think the most important question would be: why would you be willing to move to a pedal harp? Is it the kind of sound? Is it the easier chromatic possibilities? Is it the looks? Or something else?

    As for playing in church and/or some small events, you don’t need a pedal harp. There are lots of professionals performing with a quality lever harp. Also, a pedal harp is not as easy to transport as a lever harp.

    As to sound: is it the kind of sound or the kind of volume?
    As to chromatic possibilities: if you’ve got quality levers which are well adjusted, you may be surprised how versatile a lever harp can be.
    As to looks: have you thought of a L&H Prelude?

    Your question: who doesn’t want a beautiful pedal harp?
    I don’t want one: It’s pricey to buy and to maintain (the mechanical parts need regular adjustment). It needs a spacy living room to sound really well at home. It’s heavy to transport.

    Besides, the music I like to play can mostly be played on a lever harp.

    On the other hand, if the pedal harp really speaks to you, I would go for it, no matter its disadvantages.

    Participant
    charles-nix on #245406

    I have–and many others will have as well. I was 52 when I bought the pedal, and it is mostly used publicly for church, where I used the lever previously.

    I do still keep the lever harp, which is smaller than yours, but it is played less and less. That is primarily because I am a strong male with large vehicles, and I don’t mind moving the pedal If it were a problem to move, I would use the lever much more. However, in your case, moving a Troubadour is already a pretty big deal.

    Most of the hymn accompaniments I played worked fine on the lever. Some required creative (and fast) use of levers. Whether it works depends a lot on what music your denomination uses.

    My particular pedal has a far greater dynamic range — both softer and louder — than my lever, while retaining a “musical” sound. That will vary GREATLY from harp to harp. Fast changes of key signature between pieces are also much easier–but you will have to learn to use the pedals on tempo and accurately, so it is another skill to learn and practice. Every accidental on pedal means a pedal change; sometimes on lever one might set octaves in a different way and have no changes in a piece even with accidentals.

    One thing you will probably find is that a well-regulated pedal will have more accurate intonation and less damping than your Troubadour II. Those levers are not great nor easy to use quickly. On the other hand, you will also have to PAY for strings and regulation. More strings, more wires, more gut strings (are yours nylon?) plus regulation at least every few years will add considerable expense, not to mention if (when) you need major work done. Buying the harp is only the beginning.

    In response to your last question, I would not go back for anything, because the literature I love is the great French harp composers. It was written for double-action pedal (or chromatic), with that sound in mind. However, many extremely excellent harpists do amazing things on a lever harp. Look at videos by Ray Pool, Frank Voltz, Kim Robertson, Deborah Henson-Conant, and many others. Some lever harps can also have an amazing large sound: current builders like Pratt and Rees come to mind, besides some of the L&H, Salvi, and Camac models.


    @wil-weten
    and I posted about the same time. I agree with every point he makes.

    • This reply was modified 2 months, 2 weeks ago by charles-nix.
    Participant
    harpist123 on #245420

    My reasons will be far from technical 🙂 I also started later in life (my mid-50’s) to learn the harp (have college music degree in clarinet) and really no piano experience…I thought I could teach myself having a background in music, but I needed some “hands on” private lessons to get the basics down. My teacher was an excellent pedal harpist, who also played a lever harp. When I went to my lessons I played her pedal harp. Then went home and practiced on my lever harp. Let me tell ya, when you are a beginner, this was a challenge to sound like I had even practiced at all during the week before my lessons!!! So maybe getting a pedal harp was influenced by playing hers, and having difficulty going back and forth, not a very good reason at all, if it had any bearing…I really don’t remember contemplating that thought…As time went on, I went from my 36-string Blevins lever harp to a L&H Prelude. The Prelude had many similarities of a pedal harp (types of strings, tension of the strings and spacing, and appearance) all without pedals, and relatively affordable at the time. I played the Prelude for almost 5 years and decided to apply it to the L&H “Bounty” program, which allowed for trade-in toward a pedal harp if you did it within 5 years of the purchase (of my Prelude). By the time my special order Style 100 L&H concert grand pedal harp was ready to deliver to me, I needed a car 🙁 So all the money I had saved over those years went to a down payment on the Jeep, and then I had to work toward saving and making payments on my pedal harp. Now I know everyone’s experiences vary dramatically, and reasons for doing things as well. But I guess when I look back at the decision to buy it, the reason was mostly because I could! And of course I always loved the sound and beautiful lines and appearance of a pedal harp, but also loved lever harps! Well, I then purchased a Pratt Chamber harp which has fabulous sound for a lever harp, and found I was playing it more than the pedal harp. I wondered why…And in the end, it just plain fit me better physically than the very large pedal harp. A couple years ago I bought a Triplett Eclipse. And NOW guess what? I only play the Triplett!!! I am torn about selling the Pratt and pedal harp. I do keep them tuned all the time, and run a few songs and arpeggios on them. But in the end, I enjoy playing the Triplett the most. Of course the music I play on the Triplett is more conducive to that harp, which is probably why I play it almost exclusively…So, all this being said, the timeframe from when I bought the L&H pedal harp (2008) to when I bought the Triplett (2018) is only 10 years. But I guess you could say I have been around the block in choosing and playing each of these harps, and in the end, this entire scenario becomes that of simply “personal choice”. It has been very enjoyable along this crazy path. So do whatever you want!! Whatever moves you. You don’t have to rationalize your choices. There are no reasons you SHOULD or SHOULDN’T buy a pedal harp, except for your own particular ones 🙂 And personally, I would leave the words “should” or “shouldn’t” out, and instead use “want to” or “don’t want to” buy a pedal harp. ENJOY!

    Participant
    Biagio on #245425

    Here is a story in reverse. I sold my Dusty Strings FH26 to a priest who before her ordination had been a concert (pedal) harpist. She had never played a lever harp before but after getting it she only played her L&H for major services, arranging, or her own pleasure, in the sacristy where it was usually stored.

    Lisa told me once that she was glad she had the pedal instrument training but was thrilled to have something portable. She often used the FH26 for services rather than lugging out the L&H.

    I’d say if you can afford a pedal harp, by all means go for it.

    Happy harping,
    Biagio

    Participant
    Danamarie on #245438

    In my late 50’s, I decided to go after my dream, of playing and learning the pedal harp, even though I started out on a Triplett 30 string lever harp.
    Even with a music degree, I found it a challenge to adjust to having my feet make the necessary ‘lever changes’ with the 7 pedals instead and pressing the pedal up for flats, natural, pedal left in middle notch, and then for sharps, pressing all the way down. I did 2 RCM exams on the lever and hope to do the Gr.6 on a pedal harp someday 🙂

    It is very satisfying to be able to play a pedal harp, once you have adjusted to pedals, and it can be tricky at times, but regardless of your age, you CAN make the change even though you may have to take a break from your pieces and go back to easier repertoire for some time, to learn the pedal technique. Have fun!

    Participant
    billooms on #245454

    I started playing 4 years ago when I was 65 years old (formerly played classical guitar). I started with a Troubador I rented from my instructor. After about 6 months I bought a Chicago Petite 40 pedal harp. My reason for the pedal harp was because I wanted to get into more contemporary music that had a lot of accidentals. Just this past summer I took advantage of the L&H bounty program and upgraded to an 85CG. The main reason is that I wanted a greater dynamic range. I really love the volume of sound, the dynamic range, and the longer sustain of a full sized pedal harp.
    The disadvantage, of course, is it’s harder to haul. When the neighbors ask me over for a “jam session” it’s a chore to move the larger harp.
    I don’t regret my decision and I would do it all over again. However, it really depends on what kind of music you want to play (and whether you can afford it).

    Participant
    duckspeaks on #245565

    I did as well. Started at 50. Going real chromatic is really good and the sound is more of what I like. I still keep the lever harps because on the back of mind mine, I know there will be time when my body goes down hill (anything like arthritis), the lever harps will be the thing to hang on to. I had Dusty string, then Camac Bardic and Madmoiselle for sounds increasingly closer to the pedal harp before getting it. I kept all except the Dusty String. The Bardic is kept because it is really small (22 strings).

    From time to time when I got into difficult situations, I switch to Madmoiselle to see if my fingers can be persuaded there first under lower string tension. To be honest at other times the smaller harps are idle.

    For “young at heart” category of player, there is a genuine need to plan for the “decline” path.

    Participant
    nbaugher on #245755

    I started playing at 50, on a Lyon & Healy Prelude. I went through the ABRSM program to push my progression through level 5, within about 4 years on that harp. I wanted to play a pedal harp because it sounds sooo beautiful and there is so much music I wish to play that requires the range and the sound of a pedal harp, though I love the portability of a lever harp. Within 5 years I used the L&H bounty program to get my first pedal harp. I was nervous about pedal changes, but trust me it comes and it opens up so many doors to playing music. I am managing with intermediate and advanced pieces. I find I can manage them by moving with the music (a reach for a bass note helps with the momentum of a foot change, if that makes any sense). I have a L&H Chicago expanded, and a beautiful 100-year old L&H 17 (belonged to a professional harpist). I also have an electric 36 string DHC to take on vacation because I hate to be without a harp, but it is the sound of my pedal harps that bring me the most joy, and the folks at church love to see and hear the pedal harps (I play at church on holidays). I’m now 63. I am working on a piece now: Phillip Glass’s Metamorphosis 2, Lavinia Meijer. Not the same on a lever harp.

    Participant
    karen on #250587

    I am an adult learner. I started with a lever harp, and when I took the plunge to pedal harp, I wondered why a teacher had not guided me to do it sooner—it is so much easier. I am not even sure I could play a lever harp (with ease) at this point–pedals are so much easier, and understanding music theory is far more clear on a pedal harp. Enjoy..you’ll never look back!

    Participant
    Jerusha Amado on #250625

    In my case, I did the opposite. I jumped from pedal harp to lever harp as an adult! I love my pedal harp, but I became so engrossed with pursuing pop and jazz on my 36 string Dusty lever harp that I have no time to go back to it. Everything that I do professionally is now on the lever harp.

    Participant
    carm-zephyr–2 on #250626

    Hi Erin,

    If and when you do get a pedal harp, keep your lever harp too. Even if room may get tight in your house!
    I have 3 harps of different sizes and they all serve a purpose.
    I have found that I’m unable to move my pedal harp without help.. It’s too big for me to manage alone. So I can only take my Big Baby out when I have a “roadie” which is not always practical. That’s when the small harps come in and save the day!

    Participant
    balfour-knight on #250646

    I agree, keep your lever harp, too! I play both lever and pedal equally, but find that I take the lever harp out more often than the pedal!

    Best wishes and harp hugs,
    Balfour

    Participant
    jzydek on #251252

    I started playing at 55 on an old Troubadour I. I lasted 3 weeks on it after having lessons on my teacher’s pedal harp and bought a pedal harp. Interesting, that you and I have so much in common. I am a school music teacher, part-time director of music at a church and also a pianist/organist. I now have retired from public school teaching. I studied 12 years with a very good harpist/harp teacher here. I still have the Troubadour which has gotten new Camac levers and is now strung in wires and gut. In the meantime I bought a Webster lever harp too. The Webster has a more Celtic sound to it. The Troubadour is really good for teaching students who are starting out or who don’t have a lever harp. I keep the Troubadour at church for a lot of the time in the winter when the heat is more consistent. I take it home in the summer because it gets too hot in the choir room where I store it. I move my Camac Athena CG when I want to play pedal harp repertoire at church or to play an occasional gig. (I have tried to keep harp as a fun thing for myself so don’t do a lot of gigging with it. I’ve done enough of that as a keyboard artist and singer.) Keep your lever harp. You never know when it will come in handy. What kind of pedal harp are you getting? I say get a nice pedal harp with the most strings you can afford.

Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.