Pedal harp considerations when buying

  • Participant
    Barbara Henniger on #220134

    I am considering buying a pedal harp and looking for some tips and things to consider. I live in Western Canada and have been playing and studying the harp for 9 years. I am 65 years old and almost 6 feet tall, but not particularly strong due to some arthritis.

    My current harp is a Prelude 40,which I love. I love playing my teachers LH Style 11 which is infrequent but a thrill even though it is also a bit intimidating because of its size. I am feeling a little anxious about all the choices and not sure if I am a little crazy to be buying a pedal harp at my age. I am a strong intermediate player but it does take me quite a long time to perfect a piece compared to a young player.

    I am going to Lyon and Healy’s event in Portland in a couple of weeks and hoping they are bringing harps to try. The price of a new harp is especially daunting as the Canadian dollar is low compared to US dollars. My preference is a new harp as repairs would be complicated given where I live. There is a certified LH technician who has regulated my Prelude every 3 years but he has to travel all the way from Idaho to BC. I don’t know if there are size considerations, different brands, tone between brands etc. I am sensitive to good sound and have completely restrung my harp twice in the past 3 years and notice what a huge difference it makes.

    This post is a bit rambling but I would appreciate any advice. All comments are welcome.

    Gretchen Cover on #220135

    If I was in your situation, I would certainly want to try as many harps as possible. Also ask about which ones hold their re-sale best. As a tall person, a concert grand would be best. Personally, the best value on a concert grand harp harp is the Salvi Apollo. I have one and it is a super all purpose harp. However, it is heavy to move but l can move mine by myself. With arthritis, I don’t know if the harp, in general, would be too heavy. Mine is very easy to play. Salvi harps are also strong and very consistent in sound. I went through harp buying six years ago and looked seriously at Lyon Healy, Camac and Salvi. Good luck to you in making a difficult decision.

    Barbara Henniger on #220139

    Thank you for your suggestions. It is indeed a big decision and it is hard to know where to start. I was wondering if I should be looking at a concert grand. I plan on playing mainly at home and usually have someone to help move my Prelude and will make sure I buy a harp cart if I buy a pedal harp.

    harpist123 on #220146

    I, too, owned a Prelude, which I purchased in about 2003. I had a Blevins (36-string lever harp) before that. When I took lessons I was able to see and play the Prelude because my teacher knew someone who had one. I also loved that harp. Beautiful sound! As the years went by I decided to buy a pedal harp, and chose the L&H Style 100 in walnut finish, with a beautiful iris soundboard decoration. Gorgeous sound…beautiful harp! At that time, L&H offered trade-in of your L&H harp for full price (if in excellent condition) toward the cost of the new pedal harp (not sure if they still do, but check into it). So, I ordered one, and did the trade-in. Really helped me with the price, though I saved a bunch of money over those 5 years to make the purchase easier. I got it in 2008, and still have it. However, in 2013 I had a surgery, which makes it quite difficult to reach toward the lower octaves with my left hand, and overall makes me sore and tired to play it in general. Though I can’t seem to part with it, I rarely (if at all) play it anymore, and resign to my smaller 36-string lever harp (a Pratt Chamber harp, and a soon to arrive Triplett Eclipse). BTW: I am 66 years old, and had I felt physically like I do right now back in ’08 when I bought it, I probably wouldn’t have. I am not trying to talk you out of the purchase, but maybe you could rent one for awhile and see how you actually felt physically. It may not be that much of a concern for you physically, as it is for me…Wishing you all the best and joy as you pursue your purchase.

    Barbara Henniger on #220148

    Harpist123 your story is a cautionary tale for me. Renting sounds like a good idea as that is what I did for a year before I decided to buy my own harp. I live in BC in Western Canada and wonder if there are pedal harps available to rent in this part of the world. I think it is a good idea. I think I need to be patient and not rush into my purchase of a pedal harp. I had a chance to play a LH 100 in Vancouver at the World Harp Congress 5 years ago and it is indeed one of the harps I am considering. It also sounds like I better do some gym work and not just play harp in my retirement years! You must be excited waiting for delivery of your new Triplett Eclipse! Thank you for your thoughts of things to consider before purchasing a new instrument.

    Gretchen Cover on #220149

    If you want to get in shape for harp playing, I suggest watching Jen Hilman yoga videos on YouTube or join a twice weekly yoga class. Also, go on YouTube and watch the clips on finger fitness. I further find doing downward arpeggios every day really keep my fingers limber. You can use The Little Fountain for downward arpeggios and have a showy piece to play, too. I try to do Salzedo conditioning exercises but I get lazy about that.

    Renting would be a good idea if you have any doubts about buying a pedal harp.

    Participant on #222407

    I doubt Lyon & Healy is still doing the retail value trade-in. I recently asked for an insurance appraisal on my 17 and was told they recommend replacement value for a new model, since it is now virtually impossible to get a used harp in good condition. So I doubt they’d take a used one in as new, either.

    Your height won’t make much if any difference between getting a semi-grand or a grand. They are both big enough for a tall person. I have both sizes, am also tall and there is no difference in playing either one.

    The consideration for grand vs semi-grand is determined by how loud you need it to be. The 17 is a bit softer, having one less bass wire. The width of the soundboard also figures in. If you’re playing in a loud orchestra or opera, as Emmanuel Ceysson does, or a big noisy restaurant, a soundboard the width of the Salzedo is necessary. In any orchestra, you’d better have a concert grand in order to be heard. However, in quiet settings or chamber music, I’ve found my semi-grand 17 is just fine.

    Bear in mind, buying a grand just in order to get a taller harp, you will be spending several thousand dollars more than for a semi-grand.

    I’ve been impressed by the new “Chicago series” by Lyon & Healy and they are reasonably priced. On the 17, 23, etc. you do pay extra for all the carving. It is all done by hand.

    I don’t see age as determining so much. There are many harpists still playing strong into their 80s. Alice Chalifoux played and taught, retiring at age 90. And we all know young harpists getting injuries early. So age, dexterity, injuries are an individual thing.

    How did you like Portland Harptacular? Isn’t Sasha Boldachev amazing?!

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