First, I can definitely relate to wanting to play the harp that much. Before I actually started to play it was such a strong desire that I often had dreams about it.
And I can also relate to having a hard time finding someplace to try or even see a harp in person. I’m among the many here who started before nice things like the Internet made finding about harps relatively easy. Back then the main resource was the phonebook.
I remember calling every music store in the phone book and none of them had anything they could do to help me. Finally I got the idea to go to the library and look in the phone books for other counties and areas and that was how I found International Music in Manhattan. I called, made an appointment with Mr. Henry, and that started it all. He helped me find a harp that was right for me and helped me find a teacher.
These days you can just go on line. Technology can be wonderful.
As for which harp, if you have your heart set on the Ravenna then go for it. What different people like in a harp is very personal and individual, so one person may not care for the tone of one harp, but another will love it. So that means that if we remove the more subjective aspects from judging a harp and do it based on more objective things, like quality of construction and reliability, overall good projection, decent volume etc… Then anything by Dusty Strings ranks extremely well.
As others have said, definitely get a harp with a full set of levers. It may seem like a good compromise to not get levers, or to only get them on selected strings, but I think most people will eventually get to the point where full levers will be necessary to play all the things they want. It is better to get them right off the bat than to try to have them put on later.
Lessons are great, but there are plenty of very talented self taught harpists out there. Not in the world of classical music perhaps, but hobbyists who play just for fun but are very good at it. What I recommend is to take a few lessons at first at least to lean good basics, and then take a lesson every now and then to make sure you aren’t developing bad habits.
I find that if you can’t take regular lessons then taking a few now and then is better than taking none at all.
Good luck and feel confident that you are not alone or the only person to go through this stage.
You know its almost funny. Like you I play other instruments, but it was the harp that captured my imagination more than any other. I can play other instruments but if I had to give up all but one I would choose to keep the harp without needing to give it a moments thought. And I really can’t explain why.
Every now and then a person comes across an instrument that is just for them for whatever reason. Some take up an instrument in an almost casual way, but because the harp is still relatively rare compared to many other instrument those who learn it tend to be those who are strongly drawn to it for some reason. People often learn guitar because they are so common, of flute because that was what they needed in band the year they started in school. But people tend to take up the harp because something about it draws them and compelled them.
So if I can take a moment to be a snobbish, elitist harpist I will say that makes the harp a very special instrument, and those that choose it also special in some way.