I was a newbie a year ago, and I love to play the harp. I am going to give you advice that you will not want, but it is the very best advice that anyone can give you. If at all possible, rent first, don’t buy.
I was in your shoes a year ago, almost to the dot. I’m short, back and neck problems, small hands. The makers you’ve mentioned are great, and there are other great makers about whom you will learn as you get into your lessons. If you can get to a regional harp fair, go and see and play other harps as well as the ones you’ve spoken about.
You will be amazed and pleased with how your tastes refine as you study, and with experience you will have the opportunity to make an informed decision about what works for you best. There are many harp dealers who do rentals, and several give you the advantage of renting-to-own or being able to trade a rental for its value when you purchase.
A lap harp is much tougher on a beginner than a floor harp, because you will be able to find a comfortable position without struggling against gravity.
I would definitely advise against a lap harp. A floor harp of 32 to 36 strings is the minimum I would recommend, and definitely get full levers if you can. Although you might not need them right away if you are looking for a harp that will be able to use for a long time as you progress then the two things that will most impede your progress will be too few strings and missing levers.
I am not familiar with Hearland harps so I can’t comment on them. However I have tried several Blevins and have been uniformly impressed with their harps. They seem to be very high quality instruments for a reasonable price.
I would also recommend looking at the Lyon and Healy Ogden. 34 string floor harp with full levers, concert tension and spacing, and a nice sound. One of the best buys for the dollar in the harp world in my opinion.
Renting is a great idea. Going to harp exhibits is also a good idea. The suggestions here have been good. But………..don’t forget some of the smaller harp builders. I was just at the AHS conference, and both Timothy Habinski and William Webster make exceedingly beautiful instruments — both in sound, touch and looks.
Floor harp with full levers sounds great!! Take into cafeful consideration the weight, however, as you want to start therapy harping. I have found in my harping expeditions that the added aggravation of dealing with a bigger harp is more than compensated with the happy faces of the people when you can play all of the songs that they love so well.
Don’t discount second-hand–that’s a good way to go, too!
I am an Italian newbie: I’m playing the harp from four months as a self-taught person… and I’m a short girl too!
I purchased a Dusty Strings Ravenna 26, and I highly recommend this harp: it is light and portable and it has a very nice sound.
But if you haven’t money restrictions (like me…), I think the best harp for a tiny person is the new Salvi Prima (34 or 38 strings)… it is wonderful: you have to try it!
One thing that is very important in choosing a smaller harp is to TRY THEM. They are all vastly different. I was looking for something with very close to pedal tension and with great integrity in the build. I refuse to consider anything with little brass rings where the string comes out of the soundboard. The brass rings
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