Pedal v. Lever Harp

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    Rachel Redman

    I just wrote a blog article on this subject (, but I was curious–what do you harpists think–would you, money aside, pick a lever or pedal harp, and why?


    Hmmmm . . . my first harp was a lever and the choice was made for financial reasons only.


    Limited to one, I’d choose pedal so I could play orchestral and more chromatic pieces, but I keep my lever harp for other purposes and am glad to have both. Sometimes simpler is better.


    I thought for a while I wanted a pedal harp but I have come to appreciate lever harps more and more.

    Elizabeth L

    Pedal for me.


    Ideally, I’d go for both, a small pedal harp and a lever harp. The pedal harp might be a single-action.


    I love my lever harp but prefer playing pedal more. I like the smoothe, big, rich sound and have used the low bass wires, especially in octaves, more than I expected. And I don’t like flipping levers but the pedals came easily when I finally got my pedal harp.

    Sometimes I do like the lighter, bright sound of my lever harp and of course it’s easier to take places.



    What kind of pedal and lever harps do you have?


    I have never looked at pedal and lever as a ‘vs’ thing. To me they are tools, and it is a matter of using the right tool for the job at hand.

    If I could only have one I would go with pedal only because I play a lot of highly chromatic music that would be very hard to impossible to play on lever harp.

    However, I still often play lever harp because some music is more suited for it. Both in terms of appearance (playing Celtic music on a pedal harp just misses that general ‘Celticness” of the visual), but also practical reasons.

    There is some music that, on a lever harp, requires one lever change but played on pedal harp requires repeated pedal changes. Some music is simply easier to play on lever harp, and some easier (or only possible) on pedal harp.

    That said, there isn’t anything I play on lever that is impossible on pedal, but there are things I play on pedal that are impossible on lever. But still, when given the option I will chose the right tool for the job, and sometimes that is a lever harp. No point using an axe to drive a nail when you have a hammer in your tool box.


    Are you asking as a bride or as a harpist?


    I’m curious how many people started out with no intentions of going into pedal harp but changed their minds?


    Yes, I started with intentions of playing only lever harp. I was primarily interested in Celtic music.

    I found a harp teacher near me that could teach me to play, although she didn’t play Celtic music, but I figured I could learn the fundamentals of playing from her, and I knew the music itself from growing up with it.

    Thing is she happened to be not only a great classical harpist but also one of the earliest jazz harpists on the East coast. Since she was a classically trained harpist she used the examples and teaching materials she was familiar with, although always happy for me to bring her Celtic music I wanted to learn.

    But as a result my interests broadened and I developed an interest in classical, and more significantly for me, Jazz. As I started to delve more into that I realized I needed pedals.

    I used to rent a pedal harp. Then due to circumstances I had to make due without a pedal harp for a long time. I started doing what I could with both classical and Jazz with just a lever harp for many years. I believe the challenges of that helped me understand both the instrument and the music better.

    Eventually I got me a small pedal harp, L&H 85P. It’s big enough for me to do what I want. I wouldn’t want to go play in an orchestra with it, but for the music I got it for it is perfectly sufficient, and it has a surprisingly nice and full tone for such a small harp.



    You left out the cross-strung harp as an alternative – its just as viable an instrument (and entirely capable of the full range of western music) as the pedal or lever harp.



    Tony, my appreciation for Jazz has developed over time as well.



    I have a Venus Diplomat and a Thormahlen Cygnet. I play in a community symphonic band and in church.

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