Newer student harp vs older larger harp

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    MusicMom on #196901

    My 11 year old daughter is ready to move up to a pedal harp.  We are very limited by budget so I’ve narrowed it down to an L&H Chicago Petite 40, Salvi Daphne 40, and Camac Clio 44.  We’ll either go used or take advantage of the bounty program with L&H.

    Given everything I’ve read on many of the helpful threads here, it seems the conventional advice is to buy the best harp you can for the money. My daughter is a bit on the tall side for her age, so I would hate for her to grow out of one these student harps and then not be in the position to get a larger instrument.  In our price range, I know a few older, but slightly larger harps might be attainable as well.  Her teacher advised against an older harp, but I’m not sure we would be in the position to move up to a larger harp should that situation arise.  Moving up to a modest student pedal harp is a stretch even now.   So I am curious what are the pros and cons I should think about in considering an older harp vs going with a new or newer student harp?


    Gretchen Cover on #196902

    You may want to ask around in your harp community to see if your daughter can rent a pedal harp for a while. Perhaps because the harp would not be moved and is rented to a young student, you could be given a discount.   Then you will not be rushed into making a very expensive decision.

    Personally, I prefer Salvi harps and would consider the Daphne over the LH Chicago harps.  But, the Camac has an advantage of having 44 strings.  Camac is a quality harp and your daughter is less likely to outgrow that harp.  In the long run, you may even end up using as her school orchestra harp and buy a second concert grand. But that is way in the future.  In the scenario your presented, I would go with a harp with more strings.

    Another option is to take out a small loan and put down as much money as you can on a concert grand. I ended up keeping my first harp, a Salvi Aurora, for 35 years.  A concert grand will keep its value better than the harps you are considering.

    You may also want to consider a used harp.  There is a lot to think about, though, because you cannot be certain how well someone took care of the harp and what repairs could be needed. There are a lot of excellent used harps but you would definitely want guidance from your daughter’s instructor or make sure that a harp tech checked  the harp prior to purchase.  Make sure you factor in the price of a new set of strings and the cost of a regulation if you decide to go with a used harp.

    I am sure others will have a lot of good advice for you on making such a big decision.




    catherine-rogers on #196903

    Probably buy the most harp you can afford as long as it’s good quality. Don’t buy anything without having it checked out by a good harp tech or experienced harpist. Advantage of new is the warranty, but those are good for only a few years. A new harp will not have developed its sound yet, but an experienced harpist can hear if it has a good sound and potential for better. A used harp will likely already have the sound it’s going to have. If your daughter’s tall, I wouldn’t go with the 40 string harps; they’re definitely small. But the Clio or another semi-grand should be fine unless you think she’ll be above 5’7″. Consider if she’s tall enough now for a larger harp; if not, playing and practicing will be difficult for her until she grows into it. Nothing personal, I don’t know your teacher, but some teachers get rewards from harp companies for new harp sales to their students. Most teachers want their students to have the best harp for that student, new or used, as long as the instrument has been carefully checked out. It’s a lot like buying a car: new or used?

    Gretchen Cover on #196904

    Out of curiosity, I just checked the Camac, Lyon-Healy and Salvi harps.  I noticed the Camac Clio comes with a straight soundboard or extended sound board. You definitely want the extend soundboard. It does add $2,000 to the cost.   I noticed Salvi has the Arion model. It is $2,000 more than the Clio but it has 47 strings.  In full disclosure, I have 2 Salvi harps that have the “new concept” soundboard mentioned in the Arion description.  Both my harps have incredible sound.  I am not familiar with the Arion, though. Perhaps someone else who plays the harps you are considering will add his/her opinion. The Arion is the lowest priced of a full size harp even though it is advertised as semi-grand. If you are interested in the Arion,  I would ask the Salvi rep if the string spacing is the same as a concert grand.  The same Lyon-Healey Chicago model as the Arion is, again, $2,000 more than the Arion which is why I would consider the Arion over LH.  In addition, Salvi uses a polyurethane finish on their harps while LH uses lacquer.  Poly is much more durable and easier to clean – something to factor in with a young student.

    BTW, I was 5’6″ when I was 12 so a concert grand was a must for me (although I did not start to play until I was 18 and in college).

    Andelin on #196907

    I am coming from much the same place as you are; looking for a pedal harp and wondering many of the same things.  Here are some of my own thoughts.


    I think it depends on a lot of things.  What are her goals?  When you say “older harp”  how old are we talking?  Think also about what will fit in your vehicle.  Also, will she be able to move it herself?  How advanced is she now, and how much difference will those 4-5 extra strings make for her at this point?  As a tall 11 year old, a bigger harp may be too big for her…subtle differences in size and balance can make a big difference.  What does she want?  I think she is old enough to have a say, maybe not the final say, but she’s the one playing it.


    An older harp is not necessarily bad, but  I personally don’t want to buy a 15 year old harp just to have to put a few thousand into repairs a few years down the road.  my cutoff isn’t set in stone, but if it was more than 10-15 years old, it would have to be a pretty special harp for me to seriously consider…unless I had a harp tech standing next to me saying it will  most likely be another 20 years before it needs a new neck or re-riveting (Which he couldn’t guarantee anyway)  or if it had already had those repairs beautifully done.  It really depends on the individual harp, how much it was used, if it was kept regulated and in good order, how well it was cared for, etc.


    on the other hand, I’m really picky about how it sounds. A LOT depends on that for me. In some ways I’d rather buy a harp that’s 3-5 years old over ordering from the factory, because then you knew exactly what  you’re getting.


    Have you seen the salvi Arion?  It has 47 strings I believe, and it’s not as expensive as the traditional concert grand harps.  I can’t remember the exact price, but you csn look it up.  I haven’t ever seen one but I’m super curious about them.  (Maybe someone else can chime in on this.)  I don’t know if it will fit your bed get, but I that I’d throw it out there anyway.

    I know a high school girl who plays on a 40 string harp and, last I heard, she was doing just fine with it.  I’ve also heard of harpists “getting by” with an older harp until the time they can afford to buy new.  I don’t see it as a definite “right or wrong” choice here.

    My best advice is to let her sit behind as many harps as you can, and see how she feels playing them.  You can do as much research online as you want, but going hands on will be far more helpful in knowing what’s best for her.

    Sometimes what it comes down to it, you have to follow your gut.   Sometimes you have to trust that the future will work itself out, and do what is best for you right now.  Harps which are well cared for hold their value  quite well, so selling/upgrading in her future is not necessarily out if the question.  Especially if she decided to save her own money for a harp, when she eventually is able to earn money.


    well, I’m done rambling now.  Hope this is helpful for you. :). Good luck!  Let us know what you eventually decide to do. 🙂

    Tacye on #196911

    If you buy new, you take a hit on the second hand value as soon as it leaves the showroom.  If you buy second hand you are more likely to be able to sell it again for what you paid.  Of course you aren’t planning to sell soon, but I really value having changed instruments as I matured as a musician and my instrument preferences changed.

    Older harps need to be assessed as individuals – some are great, and some aren’t – but if you are able and willing to hunt out a good one there are some great bargains.  As said, getting a technician’s opinion is very worth while.


    Sylvia on #196912

    I’m here with a dash of cold water.  When I bought my first harp, I wanted the LH Princess Louise because we had one at my school.  However, all I could afford was the lowest-priced one at that time, a LH 15 (straight soundboard)….a nickel down, a nickel a week, as the old saying goes…LH financed.

    I am SO glad I could not afford a bigger harp!!!  … many years, many miles, and many moves….playing gigs, orchestra, opera, band….  not to mention having to have a vehicle large enough to hold a harp.

    So my question is…who will be moving it, and do you have a vehicle large enough for it?

    BTW, I would have been thrilled to buy a used harp from LH at that time, but back then, they always said they had a 3-yr waiting list.  A used harp is already broken in, and coming from LH, it would already be regulated.  A new harp definitely is “green”…. it takes a while to develop the sound…..

    MusicMom on #196913

    Thank you so much for all the responses.

    There is not much of a harp community where we live and I have had no success finding a used harp to rent.  I even checked surrounding states with not much luck.   I’m in no rush to buy a harp but I’ve enjoyed shopping and I have learned A LOT.  I am being very strick about our budget.  I’ve already worked out what we can afford in a monthly payment, and how long I’m willing to carry a payment.  If the price of the harp doesn’t fit within those parameters, then it is a no go.

    I certainly appreciate the comments about getting a used harp and the comparison to used cars.  I am definitely a used car kinda girl, for some of the same reaons, so that doesn’t bother me.  In fact, the only way we would end up with new is if we traded in on the bounty program.  Otherwise I’m shopping for used.

    I’ve tried to include my daugther in which type of harp to go with based on her goals, but she is not helping me out.  She and her teacher have discussed her playing in a local student ensemble which at first she seemed to want to do.  I asked her about it recently and now she says she doesn’t really want to.  Grrr…  But she definitely says she wants to keep playing.  She doesn’t have plans to study music in college, which is totally fine with me, but she’s not really telling me anything.  Keep in mind she is 11.  There are many days she would rather play with her dolls than practice.  I’m pretty much deciding on this.  The closest place to be able to try out more than one harp is 8 hours away.  I don’t think I’m up for making that drive, with two other kids in tow when there might be 2 maybe 3 harps in our price range to try out especially when her biggest concerns are the color and whether or not it has scroll decoration!  HA!

    My husband drives a Ford Expedition which has been easily roomy enough to carry her Ogden, so I’m thinking we’ll be fine with all of the harps I’m considering.  It even fits in my car, a Mitisubishi Outlander, with one seat folded down and room to spare.  We’re good on harpmobiles.

    I am the one who ends up taking her and her harp to most recitals and performances so it would be me handling it most of the time.  I’m average build, 5’6″.  When looking at some of the semi grand models mentioned and their weights, we might be better off with something smaller for the time being.

    My gut is leaning toward a used Camac Clio, but I am still very much open to other possibilities.  The Salvi Arion is gorgeous, but out of our price range, even used.  Any other things I should take into consideration?


    Thank you again for all of the replies, they have been quite helpful.

    MusicMom on #196914

    Andelin, I wanted to respond to some of your questions.

    I’ve been considering harps older than 10 years old.  I will have to rely on a harp technician to check things out as I wouldn’t know what to look for to make sure I wouldn’t have a mountain of expensive repairs ahead of me.  My daughter is probably lower intermediate or so in terms of her level.  I’m not sure how else to quantify that.  We will be working on her moving this harp more by herself once we get it.  But initially, it will probably be me or my husband moving it most of the time.  I want to make sure I can handle it myself though.

    She would definitely be uncomfortable if the harp was too heavy.  She sat behind her teacher’s harp a few months ago (not sure of the specific model, but sure it is an L&H concert grand)  and dramtically indicated it was too heavy.

    Alyson Webber on #196925

    If it was too heavy on her shoulder, then she wasn’t positioned correctly behind it. Of course, correct positioning takes a lot of trial and error. You may want to ask her teacher to allow her more time behind the CG and more time to figure out how to have it at the balance point instead of leaning on her. Then she may be in a better position for pedal harp shopping.

    So, does SHE really want to change to a pedal harp? Is it the type of music that she wants to play, since she no longer is interested in ensemble work? I just ask because a pedal harp is not necessary to progress… it merely opens up more repertoire and ensemble work. If she doesn’t need one right now, perhaps it is best to put that money aside for a little while longer and have more options once she’s grown a little more.

    Aside from that, here are my thoughts:

    I would double check with L&H about their bounty program, as their website now lists the upgrade going from a lever harp to pedal, no longer mentions the Chicago 40… If you were going to bounty the Ogden, keep in mind it is a relatively easy harp to sell.

    Camac harps have a 10 year warranty vs 3 for small L&H or Salvi. If buying used, double check with manufacturer if warranties are transferable, but I don’t believe they are.

    Never buy a harp you haven’t tried. Even if you are allowed to return it, you may be hit with shipping and restocking fees. Make sure you love the harp before spending money on it. This will require both time and patience as well as the fortitude to move on a purchase when the opportunity presents itself.

    Look into financing with your own bank – not just the harp retailers. I got a much better APR through a personal loan with my credit union than the instrument loans.


    I wish you luck!




    Sylvia on #196926

    Well, this is a forum, and everyone has his/her opinion.

    To me, not having the harp rest on my shoulder would give me a feeling of no control when I moved  pedals, even if I felt secure enough to play the strings…which I wouldn’t.

    As for buying a harp without trying it, I bought two without trying them.  My LH 15 in 1971, and my Aoyama Etude in 1989.  Both were made for me.  There weren’t any ready. Both took a while to develop the sound.  I think a harp has a combination of two sounds…the one it is born with, and the one the player gives it.

    Times have changed, of course.  When I went to my bank to ask about a loan for a harp, the loan officer laughed at me.  Seems he thought that was the funniest thing in the world.  I promptly took my meager amount of money out of his bank and put it in another one, explaining to his manager why….not that they really cared they lost my account….  Anyway, LH was happy to deal with me.

    Alyson Webber on #196927

    Oops! I didn’t mean to give the impression that the harp shouldn’t be on the shoulder! Of course, everyone has their own comfort levels and I know some people play with more weight of the harp than others on their shoulder. I suppose I should rephrase and say it is possible to play with very little of the weight of the harp actually pressing down on you if your chair and body are in a position to accept the harp near its balance point.

    Gretchen Cover on #196928

    I had the same thoughts as Alyson.  If your daughter seems to be more worried about how the harp looks, isn’t committed to practicing or moving forward to ensemble work (which forces her to play at a higher level), complains about the weight of the pedal harp after only a little bit of trying,  I would be holding off on buying a pedal harp. Her resistance and reluctance, as you describe it, would give me pause.  She needs to beg to move on to a pedal harp, IMHO. At the ages of 11-14, that is when children either lose interest or make the move to become accomplished on an instrument – just an observation.

    MusicMom on #196929

    For the reasons you mentioned, Gretchen, that is why I am not in a hurry to purchase.  I’m shopping and educating myself now for if/when she does decide she really wants to do this.  Then I feel I would be in a better position to help her in making an educated decision about the best harp for her while still sticking to what we can afford.  I really wish I could find a reasonable local rental.  I think that would give us all the best picture of what she really wants to do.  Sadly, I haven’t been able to locate anything.

    She loved working in harp ensembles, but the orchestra ensemble is what I am referring to that she seemed to flip flop on.   I agree that it would force her to play at a higher level, but she has to want to do that.   She auditioned for the student orchestra ensemble with her lever harp.  The judges seemed impressed with her, but said she would need to be a bit more advanced and playing pedal to be able to join.  All that is totally up to her.  She knows she is not moving up to a pedal harp just because her teacher said so.  My husband and I both told her we have to see in her actions (practice, commitment, etc.) not just her words that she really wants to do this.  I’ll admit that I want her to want this, but I am resolved for her to show us before moving on this.

    When she sat at her teacher’s harp months ago, it was really quickly, so she probably was positioned incorrectly.  She got to experience sitting behind more pedal harps this summer at a camp so she probably wouldn’t have the same issue now.

    Alyson, I appreciate your thoughts about putting money aside while seeing how all of this shakes out.  That is an excellent idea.

    Gretchen Cover on #196937

    Why don’t you let this forum know where you live. Perhaps someone may contact you privately. You may also want to put a notice in your area chapter of the American Harp Society newsletter or ask if a notice can be sent out on your behalf seeking a rental harp.  You could also try the Harp Column classifieds.

    Also, there is a huge difference between harp ensemble and orchestra. Thank you for clarifying that point. I can understand your daughter feeling overwhelmed by orchestra.  It would be a good idea to encourage her to play with a  student taking lessons  on another instrument such as flute or violin.  Discuss that with her teacher.  It may give your daughter more confidence and motivation if she has a music buddy or two, or three.  She could get started now to play Christmas music.  It’s great you were able to send your daughter to harp camp.  I hope she enjoyed the experience.

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