MusicMakers Smartwood harp kit?

  • Participant
    Katia on #144489

    Has anyone ever heard/played one of these in person (or, for that matter, built one?)? I find them intriguing, but I have to admit the recordings I’ve heard sound rather twangy (I know, what do I expect for that price, right?). But, I also saw a couple reviews from people who say they sound better than you’d expect… not sure which to believe (though I suspect the latter are just trying to sell the thing).

    I also kind of like the idea of building my own, assuming I can work out the logistics (apartment + power tools… hrm. Also, stringing might be a nightmare??).

    (The thing I like about these is the range. I considered a Harpsicle, and still am seriously thinking of getting one of them. I also noticed Marini makes an “affordable” Minstrel, which may be nicer than the Harpsicle, has more strings, and doesn’t cost much more… but then I noticed that the lowest string on both of those is still the C below middle C {and my Pakistani 22-string goes to there}. I can’t think of any reason I need more strings on the *top* end. The Smartwood, however, goes *lower* than that C, which is attractive to me…)

    My mom makes faces and says both Harpsicle and Smartwood sound awful. I’ve heard neither *in person*, so who knows. They’re certainly not wonderful, but they’re within my price range and they should be fine for just messing around for my own fun. Just wondered if there was any general opinion out there about the Smartwood and whether it’s worth the effort to build. I’ve not found too much about them on the site here.

    Thanks. 🙂

    Participant
    Allison Stevick on #144511

    I’ve never seen or heard one of these harps in person, so I’m no help there, but I can say that stringing really isn’t so bad. It may take a couple tries at first to get the hang of it, but it’s not hard. Last year I built a Waring harp and it went really smoothly. That’s a cardboard soundbox harp with a wood frame, so it’s a big step down from an all-wood instrument as far as difficulty goes, but I did all of it except the clamping completely on my own. It even sounded good! Anyway, I bet you could build a harp if you want to. 🙂

    Speaking of MusicMakers kits, I’m wondering if anyone here has made and/or played a wire-strung Limerick. I’ve got my eye on that one for the future… 🙂

    Participant
    randal on #144512

    Allison–someone who has built a wire MM Limerick posted about it over on the new “wireharp.org” forum, on this thread:

    http://wireharp.org/forum/viewtopic.php?f=10&t=6&sid=a509e660955f6009c07c48296584be85

    Participant
    Allison Stevick on #144514

    Thank you, Randal, I will check it out!

    Participant
    Katia on #144515

    Interesting! I love wire harps. You’ll have to tell us about it if you build one!

    I feel like i’ve seen that harp before… he has also posted on MusicMakers’ own forum, maybe? http://www.harpkit.com/phpBB/index.php

    (I’m pretty sure, too, that I could manage to build the Smartwood… but I’d hate to put in all that effort {I’d have to rent an orbital sander or router, find a place to build it that wouldn’t have my neighbors killing me, etc.} and then find out I hate the sound of it…)

    Member
    jennifer-buehler on #144517

    I’m not familiar with how the Smartwood Harp sounds. I do have a Harpsicle and love it. No, it doesn’t sound like my other harps but it has a voice of its own that is sweet and bright. Harper Tasche teaches in his workshops to “play the harp in front of you”. Figure out what sounds good on that harp and don’t play the stuff that doesn’t 🙂

    Member
    mae-mcallister on #144532

    I’ve played a Smartwood harp, it’s ick.

    No, seriously. But from what you’ve said about them you know that already, it’s pretty much as you’d expect from the price in terms of sound, feel and look.

    I would also suggest, on a more sincere note, that you shouldn’t buy or build a harp that you are not going to love, but if you’re at peace with the fact that it’ll sound twangy and cheap (sorry, I’m not very good at not being very opinionated:) and you think it’ll make you happy and won’t disappoint you then you should go ahead, though that is something only you can answer.

    If you’re interested in kits, Stoney End do some that are fairly reasonably priced and I think are significantly better quality. I’m about to start building on now, so we’ll see how that goes…

    Member
    Lorelei on #185955

    Hello. I’ve got one of these Smartwoods and I love it. The sound is so bright and clear and it feels like the notes just leap out of the strings and sound like magic. I upgraded from a 22-string Heather harp, which is a reasonable first harp, but having tried the 29-string Minstrel back then, I wouldn’t have had it because the lower notes were so heavy and clunky. The Smartwood traditionally goes down to G but I restrung mine so that it goes down to F which helps with a lot of repertoire and has worked really well (maybe mitigates just a bit of the brightness). I wouldn’t make it myself as I’m hopeless with woodwork but the stringing I did wasn’t too tough (as long as you can tie good knots!). They seem to be really good value and quite tough and apparently there is a reasonable trade-in market. In the future I may want something that goes down to bottom C but given my bad back and small car I wanted something light and easy to lift which it is. I hope you’ll get chance to try one out and maybe fall in love like I did!

    Participant
    Biagio on #185956

    Several harps in question on this thread…

    Smartwood and Harpsicle: The strings are quite loose especially in the lower range so unless you play with the nails they do sound twangy. Upgrades are available for both which will not put excessive tension on the boards and definitely improve the tone. But you are not paying for a professional’s concert instrument so don’t expect them to sound like one. I do know pros however who are quite happy with either or both of them for session playing, rentals, practice, travel, etc. MusicMakers offers a trade-up to one of their better instruments; the Smartwood does not require power tools.

    Wire strung Limerick: You can either use the steel strings that they supply and keep the bridge pins or drop the range a few steps and use phosphor bronze. In the latter case, ask them to mark but not to drill the bridge pin holes and use #4 tapered pegs where the bridge pins would otherwise be located. Steel has a very different sound from bronze or brass.

    My two cents,
    Biagio

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