Please help. Aziliz or Melusine Concert?

  • Participant
    kiwibelle on #197215

    I would love some much needed advice please.
    I live in New Zealand and there are few harpers and very little choice in harps.
    I have been researching as much as i can and watched many many youtube clips. After much deliberation am now deciding between the Aziliz or the Melusine Concert. Have any of you played both, or if not one or the other and if so why you like it or not please.
    There is no dealer in New Zealand , i cannot see or try before purchase so your opinions will help in my decision.
    I realise they are quite different from each other. There are certain things i want they both have but as for the size Im 167 cm tall. Will the Aziliz be tall enough for me to play in a good position sitting on a lowish stool. I worried it would be too low at 116 cm but from videos Ive seen it looks to be fine. I Would love a Fisher harp but the waiting list is closed so cant acquire one of those. Is the Aziliz somewhat similar. Can anyone compare the tone and tension?
    And the Melusine, a bigger harp, nylon strings, more strings, is the tone very different? Richer and fuller? “Better”? I believe it has firmer string tension? Does it have more resonance and sustain?
    If you have seen both “in the flesh” so to speak, is the workmanship and materials etc anything to compare between the two. The appearance/beauty/quality of the harp is important to me along with the voice. Is there a colour way that really shines, it is a daunting decision without seeing them in person!

    This will be my first and only harp, I am only hiring one at present, a budget 29 string model made here in NZ and after a few months am already very frustrated with it.

    Thanking you in advance for your time for any and all replies
    Jenny

    Participant
    wil-weten on #197226

    Hi Jenny, how exciting to be on a journey of finding one’s first own harp!

    As to Camac harps I saw, heard and tried a lot of them. Just not the few new ones I am very excited of because of the very positive reviews I heard of other harpers… I love Camac harps (though not all models).

    So, yes, I saw both the Aziliz and the Melusine (though not the concert one) and they would not be for me. The Melusine de concert seems to be little different, except for the price, from the standard one.

    Once I even thought of buying the Aziliz, as for a 34 string harp, it is very suitable for travel. There are a few things to keep in mind though. It does sound quite different from a 38 string harp with rather heavy tension. It sounds a bit ‘folk like’. This is because the string tension of the carbon strings is quite a bit lower (you might change it into gut, but it then it needs to be gut of rather low tension) and the soundboard is much smaller. Just forget about using a low stool: It may hurt your back a lot (this is what happened to me with a rather low 34 string harp and I am 10 cm smaller than you are…). When you choose a small harp, you’d better want to put it on a kind of stable low table or something.

    The Melusine 38 string harp has nylon strings, so it has a rather low tension. You really need to hear (life!) the difference between a 38 string harp with gut or carbon strings or with nylon tension. I never heard a large nylon strung harp with the fullness of tone of a large gut or carbon strung tension. I once heard a Melusine, but it did not steal my heart…

    So, ask yourself what kind of sound you like: classic or folk (or in between) and what kind of tension feels good for you.  There are several factors contributing to the sound of a harp.  I am more inclined to choose for a lever harp that sounds more or like as a pedal harp, but as you mention the Aziliz and the Melusine, I think your taste may be quite different from mine…

    Did you know the quite affordable Camac Isolde in folk tension has great reviews?

    I myself am dreaming at the moment of the rather new 38 string model Camac Excalibur with a middle high string tension. I get the impression it is suitable for all kinds of music: both classic and folk. Of course one can play classic pieces on a folk tension lever harp and the other way round, it’s just a question of ‘feeling’ and taste.

    Anyway, I would never buy a harp unseen. Even two exactly the same looking harps of the same model and wood sound different. You may like one and not like the other…

    Also, some harps don’t feel nice in one’s arms. This may have to do with the angle the harp makes or with the width of the soundboard or the soundboard being square instead of round etc.

    O, and  by the way, I would definitely also want to try a Lyon & Healy harp as well…

    So, in short, I know it is very hard for you to go to a  harp shop, but it is definitely worth while. So, perhaps you could combine a vacation with visiting a harp shop?

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    Member
    Elettaria on #197227

    Is there a way you can network with other local harpists and try out as many harps as you can? Can you talk to whoever is selling the harps and ask if they’ve sold to anyone local to you, and if so whether they’d be able to put you in touch? What about local harp teachers? Even if you’re not trying the models you’re eyeing up, you will still learn about what does and doesn’t suit you. I’ve looked up the New Zealand Harp Society, they look worth talking to, and they mention some local luthiers.

    Putting harps on boxes is pretty normal. I’m 150 cm and have finally rented a harp that’s a bit too low for me, a Starfish Student, so I’ve stood it on one of those wooden laptop tray things you’re meant to use in bed, with folding legs etc., that was languishing in a cupboard. That gives me about 6cm,which is what I need.  I’ve also figured out that an upturned wooden cutlery drawer would work for me. Starfish mentioned that it’s common to use upturned furniture drawers, which also gives you resonance from the wood. Camac harps are on the tall side, as I recall, so you probably won’t need much of a stand. I doubt you’d need one at all with the taller models.

    (By the way, yes, I have heard a 34 string nylon harp with a good, full sound, Jon Letcher’s Silver Spear harps, but as far as I can tell, that’s less usual. Mind you, Dusty Strings harps are popular, and they’re often strung with nylon. I see those are available in New Zealand.)

    I previously rented a Camac Hermine. I liked the sound of fluorocarbon strings, and when Mark Norris makes my harp next year it’ll have fluorocarbon (I’m vegetarian,which is the main reason). I didn’t like the tension, once I progressed past the beginner stage. The Hermine has very low tension, and in spots my fingers were practically falling off the strings. (Uneven string tension shouldn’t be happening,  but I was renting from dodgy people at the time who didn’t maintain their harps, so I’m not sure whether it was the harp at fault there. ) Fluorocarbon doesn’t have to mean low tension, but I think it usually does with Camac. The Starfish Student is miles better than the Hermine, by the way. You pay more for import costs and for large companies. I’m getting a harp made by a local luthier, a one-man-business, so I am getting a much better harp for the  money.

    Camac are lovely, so could you email or ring them and ask for advice?

    Participant
    kiwibelle on #197228

    Thanks very Wil-Weton, your reply has given me a lot of food for thought! From what you have said I realise you are correct and that I’m unlikely to be happy with the Aziliz and am better off getting a bigger harp with  36 or 38 strings. I do not want to have to put my harp on a stool etc to get to a good playing height. I have to do that now with the 29 string hire harp and find it far from ideal. And yes I do want a big rich sound. I looked up the Excalibur and yes it sounds fantastic, I can’t imagine how anything could sound better.

    I have no option but to purchase a harp unseen as it will have to come from overseas.I can order one though the Austrailian dealership. Even they only have a few models in stock at any time so have to get it sent to me from France. I certainly cannot go to France, I wish.

    There is no such thing as a harp shop in New Zealand, we don’t have the population the warrant it.

    I do love the sound of the dusty strings and like the look of the fh34 but I’m worried that the width at the top of the soundboard may be too wide. It looks very bulky.

    As for the sound that stole my heart , I’ve only heard online, but that would be the Larry Fisher harp and the Mark Norris. I don’t think either are an option for me though.

    thanks again!

    Participant
    kiwibelle on #197229

    Hi /Elettaria,

    thanks for your interest and comments. I had written a long reply to your message but it disappeared on me, arghh.

    I live in a small country town and travel to my teacher once a month. She plays an electric Camac and I’m learning on an Aoyama. The Aoyama is available here but it’s not what I want and as you have said I could get a Dusty Strings as the only other store that sells harps can import them. They have a fh36 in stock at the moment but although I live the sound it’s seems very bulky at the top of the soundboard. I thought I may like a fh34 but they will only bring one in if I commit with a 30% deposit. I’m worried it may be just as big and chunky. The price they gave me for a cherry with Camac levers and pickup was $12,500 NZ which is a huge amount for me to fork out.

    I do like the way the camacs taper off and have the round back. For some reason they seem reasonably priced compared to others.

    I defiantly want a harp tall enough not to need a stool or plinth of some sort. The 29 string I have now needs a stool and I find it a nuisance. As you have said though it does sound much better when raised up on the wooden stool than straight on the carpet. It’s made by a harp maker 8 hrs drive away but he doesn’t she stock to see or try his models as he only makes to order. To be honest I don’t particularly fancy his harps anyway.

    I think your very lucky being able to get a Norris harp, that and the Fisher are the nicest I’ve heard online.

    I have taken onboard what you’ve said re the Hermines tension as the Aziliz would be the same and I certainly wouldn’t like that either.

    Thanks again 🙂

    Participant
    wil-weten on #197230

    I think it is important to know which aspects of the Aoyama you would like to be different (and how you would want them to be different). This would help you to select the harp of your dreams

     

    I googled a bit and it seems like Branddon Lassells in Australia is selling Camac Harps (and other harps). I heard he is very nice to work with. In your place I would call him and explain your situation. He may have some ideas which can help you  further. Some harp shops offer the possibility that when you order a specific harp that they  expect to sell anyway, you don’t have to buy it, when the harp sounds different from what you were looking for. You could also ask him to give you a call when a certain new harp arrives at his shop. All harp sellers I know (I don’t know him) are willing to play for you through the phone. This could help you find out if you like the harp enough to decide and go to Australia to put your hands on it, before you make a buying decision.

     

     

     

    Participant
    MandyB on #197231

    Hi Kiwibelle.

    Where are you in New Zealand?  I live in Palmerston North, and I have quite a few levers harps if you want to try these.  I have a Lyon & Healy Troubadour which has a stunning sound.  I am 173cm tall and this harp is a perfect height for me.  I have a Lyon & Healy Ogden which is currently rented out.  I also own a Mark Norris harp this is also rented out to a very good friend.  I may be the only person in NZ with one of these.  If you are a member of the New Zealand Harp Society, you can get in contact with me through the members email list.

    Mandy.

     

     

    Participant
    Biagio on #197232

    Regarding the FH: many people around here (the Puget Sound region where Dusty “lives”) have them, naturally enough.  The top is wider than some other harps in order to provide more vibrating surface and therefore a richer tone in the treble.  Dusty compensates for this with their 36S model which has faceted corners at the top – it is a real favorite for it’s shape and slightly fuller bass.

    One cannot tell a harp’s tension just on the type of strings alone.  A nylon strung harp may be as high or higher tension than a gut strung harp – vibrating length is the determining factor much more than material.  Gut strung makers tend toward higher tension because the intended market are those who might otherwise prefer a concert pedal harp but that is the reason for it.  My own (nylon strung) 34 is as high tension as a Troubadour.  Nylon does however have a brighter tone than gut – the reason for that is it’s hardness relative to gut.

    Brandon is very well respected and will give you an expert’s advise.

    Good luck!

    Biagio

    Participant
    kiwibelle on #197237

    Hey MANDY, that is great that you are in New Zealand!

    I live in Huntly not far north of Hamilton. Google says I’m about 5 or so hours drive away.

    That’s amazing you have a Mark Norris! Is it in New Plymouth or does your friend live else where.  I’m a bit concerned from what I’ve read re the Ogden and Troubadour that the tension and that they are gut strung they may be a bit much for me as a beginner in that they take more to play? Am I wrong that they are more for those that have played pedal harps or plan to one day?  I really am now thinking more and more I may be better with med tension nylon .

    Do you have just the Troubador at home with you? We could come down one weekend. I’m not a member of the harp society. Did you find the Norris a bit short for you? I realise it is the same height as the Aziliz I was so keen on.  Does it have a big full sound?Im assuming you prefer the Troubador for yourself? Ive now been pretty well convinced Im better of with a bigger harp.

    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

    Thank you for your valued input BIAGIO, I did wonder if that’s why I so enjoy the sound of the Dusty 36 so much. I just said to my husband yesterday about that width at the top end if maybe that is why it sounds so jolly good, and you have confirmed that. Now I dont really mind now I know its for good reason, and I would get the S model. I see that Brandon from Harp and Harps in Sydney has a very nice looking Bubinga one in stock so I will give him a call. The Auckland store has one in walnut. Thanks for heads up re Brandon WIL-WETON!

    You’ve all been most helpful, thank you! 🙂

    Jenny

    Participant
    MandyB on #197238

    Hi Jenny.

    Harps are a very personal choice, no one can tell you what you are going to like or what is going to suit you.  My tastes in the feel and sound of harp have changed with my playing, so the harp you want now may not be the one you want in the future or even in another years time.  So keep an open mind, and be prepared for this.  I can remember struggling with high tension gut in my first year of playing, but now I love the tension, its feel, and responsiveness.  Levers are also extremely important and what I want out of a lever has changed over time, so this is also something very important to consider.

    My Mark Norris harp is in Palmerston North and is one of my prize possessions.  My friend loves this harp.   It is a small harp and needs to be placed on a low stool. I love my Troubadour due to the above, and I the sound.  I find myself migrating to this harp to play and not wanting to stop when I am.

    Mandy.

     

     

     

    Member
    Elettaria on #197239

    Height  isn’t the only factor with producing a big sound, believe me. That Camac Hermine was the tallest harp I’ve played, but the better harps I’ve since played from Mark Norris and Starfish had a much  bigger sound. You mentioned hating putting the harp on a stool. Could you tell us more about what you don’t like about  it? It may be something  with a solution, and it would be  a pity to rule out half the lever harps in existence for that reason. Some harps have optional legs to raise the height, for instance, and some stands are a lot better than others. Starfish has brought out new stands for their harps, for instance, which attach to the harp. Dusty Strings do stands/legs for their harps. </span>

    And hey, you’re lucky, that problem is fixable! I can’t play harps which are too tall for me because I do a lot of fast lever changes during pieces, and have shoulder injuries to boot. I couldn’t reach the bass levers comfortably with a 122cm Camac, I had to hold onto the neck of the harp to flip them, which took too long. Sitting higher up is not an option, for the sake of comfortable and proper posture.  So that does rule out all the taller harps for me, including Dusty Strings and the lovely Silver Spear harps.

    Don’t make decisions yet, if you can. Find your local harpists, visit them and play their harps, learn everything you can about what you like and don’t like in a harp, and make sure you check for solutions to any problems. Play even the ones you don’t think you’ll suit.  I can’t even start to tell if I like a harp until I and the harp are both at the right  height for each other. It’s the first thing  we sorted out when I saw a harp teacher. I went to the Edinburgh harp festival this year with a folding storage footstool that I know is a good height for me strapped to the back of my wheelchair, and adjusted cushions on it according to each harp. The previous year, when I hadn’t played a harp in twenty five years, I didn’t think to get out of my wheelchair, so I was way too high for the harps, and none of them were comfortable except the pedal harp I tried on a whim.

    Is there any option of renting a better quality harp for a spell? You can’t figure out what you need in a harp if you’ve only been playing a poor quality one you don’t get on with. I initially borrowed a rather awful harp in poor condition from friends, and there’s very little you can do with that.  It tells you that you like the harp and want to keep going, so it’s useful for that at least, but that’s it. There’s a good reason why people rent harps to begin with, and it’s not just about seeing whether child learners will stick at it. Have you spoke to the New Zealand harp society? They may know of people renting decent harps, rent them theirselves, or even know of someone with a harp sitting unused which they’d be willing to rent or loan out. I had no idea about taller harps being out of the question for me until I was doing proper practice on pieces which involved a lot of lever changes, for instance. Like many people, I liked the feel of one type of tension at first, but found that changed. (I went from low tension to medium tension, I think. It varies,partly depending on what type of music you play.)

    Edited to add:

    Dusties have a good reputation and following.  I haven’t spent much time looking at them personally once I realised that I need small harps, plus the import costs make a huge difference when you live in Scotland and have local luthiers who are significantly cheaper.  I’ve been googling a bit and ye gods, New Zealand seems a desert for harps!  The hybrid Dusties seem like they may suit you,  I know the facets on the upper soundboard are meant to make a big difference.  (By the way, were you and the harp at the right height for each other when you tried it out?  We<span style=”font-size: 16px;”>re you relaxed and playing with a flexible body?)  I’m currently renting a harp with a five-stave back, the student Starfish I mentioned, and while I prefer round-backs too, or at least stave-backs  with enough staves to be nearly rounded, I’m not finding it a problem in the slightest.  Once I had the harp on the right height stand and myself on the right height stool, I found that I barely feel the weight at all. </span>

    <span style=”font-size: 16px;”>Buying sight unseen from overseas is probably not a great choice, but Starfish currently have a twelve year old Glencoe, their flagship model, going for a lot less than a Dusty Strings.  It’s a shorter harp but includes a stand and their stands are good, attaching solidly to the harp.  I’ve seen a ten year old maple Starfish and the wood had aged to a beautiful gold.  They’re top of the line harps, very popular worldwide.  They were my second choice after Mark Norris, and I held out for renting a Starfish locally, which meant being harpless for a month or so longer as most of the local stock is Pilgrims.  If you can get that checked out, and can figure out whether it’s likely to suit you, then as far as I know it’s a far better harp than the Camacs.  The back has eleven staves, so it feels the same as a round back and is very comfortable.  No idea about the Loveland levers, they’d switched to Camac levers by the time I tried their harps, but they’re reputable levers and I think are meant to be easier to fix if need be.  Their waiting list is around a year for a new harp, I believe.  Beautiful harps, amazing sound, lovely to play.  The tension is on the firmer side of folk tension, I think.</span>

    Where are your thoughts on string materials, and is it particularly humid or dry where you live?

    Participant
    wil-weten on #197240

    It may depend on the harp itself and other factors whether sitting higher up is a solution for large harps or not. I am very small and for me it is, with both my harps (a Camac with 38 strings and a Salvi with 34 strings). I play much more comfortable sitting higher up than on the hight I am supposed to sit on.

    Member
    Elettaria on #197242

    Well, I meant that for me it wasn’t an option to sit so high that my feet weren’t flat on the ground. How tall are you, and what height do you find works best for the stool?  I’m 4’11/1.50m and currently really like using a 38cm storage footstool with a thick foam cushion on top, the rather hideous sort you get from occupational therapists, so it probably ends up at 40cm by the time the foam has squished down a bit.  A dining chair, which is 45cm as standard, is too high, I can’t get my feet solidly on the ground.  Funnily enough, the height I prefer my walking sticks at is much higher than the height I’m supposed to use!  Yet another reason why it’s so important to figure this out for yourself, as we all have different bodies and use them differently, and what works for one harpist may not work for another.

    Edited to add: any chance you were offered one of those really low stools to sit on?  I’ve had people offer them to me, and they are way, way too low.  I suspect they’re a good height to stand smaller harps on for taller harpists, and a good height for small children to sit on, and they offer them to shorter adults because they never have the right height chair around and don’t know what else to offer us! Taking my own stool to the festival when I was travelling by bus using my wheelchair was a right nuisance, but I rang every exhibitor plus the organisation running the festival, and no one had a harp stool the right height for me which I could borrow.  I’m not sure anyone had a harp stool the right height for me on the premises.  Apparently I’m the height of an average twelve year old, so eh, I get that it’s a minority thing, but it’s still frustrating.  The Clarsach Society were very interested in my folding stool when I brought it along to check out the harp I’m renting before taking it home, so it seems to be a gap in the market.

    <span style=”font-size: 16px;”>Jenny – I ended up editing my previous post, it’s a fair bit longer now.  By the way, I have been trying to work out what harp you’re renting, and if it’s the one I think it is, yep, that doesn’t look inspiring. </span>

    Member
    Elettaria on #197244

    P.S. Further second-hand harps in the UK, if you end up deciding to risk that.  Including a Mark Norris, though perhaps not in a style that will suit you (concert tension, not everyone likes that style of lever).  The Teifi Telor harps are good, and there are a couple of Salvis you  might like, quite tall harps as I recall.  (The Salvi Juno range is liked by some but a lot of people think it’s poor quality, I’d be wary of those.)

    A thing to think about if you are looking at a harp of more than 34 strings: firstly, 34 strings is standard, it’s  what lever harp repertoire will generally assume you have.  If there are extra strings, think about which end of the harp they’re at.  The top two strings on a 34 string harp don’t get used much as it is, so going higher may not be worth it.  If you get into Latin American harp music, that goes down to a bottom A quite often.  I’ve ended up ordering one of Mark’s slightly bigger harps with 36 strings because the size suited me better, the price was the same, and the extra strings were at the bottom where they’re more likely to be useful, and will sound lovely (whereas the top strings tend towards pinginess).  But I suspect they won’t see a lot of use, and I’d have been perfectly happy with a 34 string.

    Mark said he was making 32 (or was it 33?) string models for a while because people so rarely use those top two strings, but ended up dropping them because people expect 34 strings as standard. I rented a 34 string fluorocarbon-strung Camac for six months, playing at intermediate level, where the top G kept breaking and taking months to settle down again, and it didn’t matter because I didn’t need it once.  Since then, I’ve come across one piece using the top two strings, possibly because Andres is determined to get the most he possibly can out of harps.  So yep, I expect that top A to be there, but I am not interested in going up to a C.

    I personally wouldn’t pay hundreds extra for two more strings at the top going up to a C, if we are talking about the Dusties for instance.  I don’t know if there’s any particular type of repertoire where extra strings at the top are likely to be useful.  If there are other factors, such as a better sound and/or shape, that’s probably more important.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #197245

    I’ve got a sensitive back that I can keep happy by sitting much higher than everybody advises. I just sit at the edge of the  (well padded!) stool, so that I can keep both feet firmly on the ground. I know there’s even a special chair on the market with a place to put one’s feet on while harping on a lever harp.

    As to Camac harps: I love them, though I don’t like all models. These harps are sturdily built and have a great price/quality ratio. These models sound all different because of their design, their construction, and their stringing (some harps can even  be bought with different stringing).

    I understand that you think of harp strings with intermediate tension. In that case try to find out whether you prefer the sound of nylon, carbon or  gut strings with (folk)tension on a certain kind of harp. By the way, I don’t think hard tension is a no no for beginners on the harp. I do think that one needs to have proper harp lessons in order to avoid injuries.

    I do think one needs to try a lot of harps in one’s own hand before deciding which one is the harp of your dreams.

    Edit: As to the number of strings: even when you don’t often play the highest or lowest strings, they add up to the richness of tone, as you can hear them sound in harmony with the strings you do play.

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