Please Help – Which Model to Rent/Buy?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

  • Participant
    Sarah Brooks on #158685

    Hi I’m a newbie and I’m looking to rent a harp for at least 3 months before buying. I know nothing about the sound/quality/longevity of the different makes and although I’ve listened to some being played on youtube etc. it’s very hard to work out what would be best for me. I’ve had various makes recommended (by two professional harpists and a beginner), but feel utterly confused and would appreciate advice from anyone who has played or owned these makes:

    Telynau Teifi Gwennol or Eos
    Camac Hermine, Melusine, Cambria, Korrigan, Stivell
    Lyon and Healy Troubadour
    Salvi Prima 34 (or a more professional model)
    Triplett signature 36

    I want at least 34 strings and my musical tastes are very broad so I hope to play a mixture of traditional songs (Celtic-style pieces and early music), modern ‘chart’ (easy listening kind of things), hymns, and possibly some classical pieces. I’m going to have lessons to start me off, I’m 5 foot 5 inches tall and will be an adult learner.

    I’m based in the UK and hope to attend a harp festival to see some of
    the brands mentioned later this month, but the Troubador and Triplett
    models won’t be there.

    Any advice about type of strings (nylon or gut), levers etc. would be most welcome, but especially opinions on the makes mentioned above. Thank you.

    sherry-lenox on #158686

    Be sure to play the Eos. Some of us newer players were really impressed with its sound when it was advertised here a year or so ago. I haven’t played it, but the sound of it playing a Welch national song (don’t know the name) would wring your heart.

    Your list doesn’t have a bad harp on it. Play as much as you can at the festival and let your ear and your heart be your guide.

    As to levers, there is a certain amount of disagreement among us gentle spirited harpers. I have harps with Camac levers and harps with Truitt levers. Before I had cataract surgery, I used Camacs more because they were easier for me to see.
    Now I can see more clearly and could probably use Truitts, which are smaller and daintier than Camacs.

    I personally think that practicality should prevail- a lever that is beautiful to look at but doesn’t work for you musically will be frustrating.

    You are VERY wise to rent. Perhaps after you’ve narrowed down your choices to a few, you’ll be able to rent with option to buy. Then there will be less lost if you change your mind when making a final purchase.

    Enjoyo the journey!

    Just remembered one thing about strings- I had some concerns about string tension when I started, and I bought a harp with nylon strings. My concerns were groundless because my fingers never hurt while playing. I would have probably gone for pedal tension gut strings if I’d taken a little more time deciding. Folk tension gut didn’t work for me because I would overpull too much and distort the tone.

    Sarah Brooks on #158687

    Thank you so much for your advice Sherry, especially about the levers and tension, which, as a novice, I hadn’t really paid much attention to.

    I’ve just discovered a festival on in Wales at the end of August and although I wanted to get a harp before then I think I’ll wait and go to the festival, that way I can compare the camac, teifi and salvi harps together. Unfortunately, I won’t be able to see the Lyon and Healy or Triplett so if anybody could tell me how they might compare with the models I will see, or if anybody has some other advice to add to Sherry’s I’d be really grateful. Thanks

    jennifer-rehfisch on #158688

    I haven’t tried any of the harps other than the Teifi ones.

    Sarah Brooks on #158689

    Jennifer thank you for your advice. My teacher mentioned Starfish, but because she said a starfish would be her next ‘dream’ purchase I thought they would be beyond my means. I will have a look at them though and see if they have something comparable price wise with the others on my list. Nobody has mentioned Mark Norris harps, so thanks for alerting me to those as well. I’ll also ask my teacher about the tension she uses. I suspect it’s pedal harp because she is a professional pedal harp player.

    I did look at Pilgrims but I wasn’t too keen on the look of the legs to be honest and I wasn’t sure about having to put them on a stand or legs to add height to them. To begin with portability isn’t something I’m necessarily worried about, but I guess it would be useful to be able to move it easily if I needed to.

    Tacye on #158690

    Also be sure to ask about immediate availability: Norris and Starfish harps are lovely (so are many more a not quite exhaustive list is here: but I am not as aware of them having stables of hire harps which you could get hold of immediately.

    deb-l on #158691

    if your interested in Celtic you might want to try a low tension harp with closer string spacing as well.

    Sarah Brooks on #158692

    Thanks for the list Tacye, I’ve had a look at the UK based companies listed and I had most of them, but hadn’t seen the smaller harp makers. It’s a shame they are all
    scattered at different ends of the country, but I suppose I can have a
    few trips out during my rental period to check out those like Norris and
    Starfish that don’t have readily available rentals.

    Deb, thank you for the advice about the music, I’ll bear that in mind when I start trying them out.

    I really appreciate the help everybody has given me so thanks again!

    rod-c on #158693


    I think you are wise in renting a harp in the beginning. You will learn so much by doing this. I started nearly four years ago…I rented a Lyon Healy Troubador. I kept it for several months..then bought a Lyon Healy Prelude (a lever harp). As I became more and more “hooked” on the harp…I graduated to a pedal harp.

    Good luck to you! You’re starting an exciting, enriching journey.

    Rod C.

    patricia-jaeger on #158694

    Since Starfish harps have been mentioned here several times, be aware that they recently (at the big Edinburgh Festival) showed a model that has the mid-section tuned chromatically (every half-step). I have not seen or heard it but if you go to their web site you can probably get more information. It would seem to me that this would enable a larger repertoire than the usual diatonic tuning.

    jennifer-rehfisch on #158695


    Sarah Brooks on #158696

    Thanks Rod, Patricia and Jennifer. I’ll certainly look into the starfish that you mentioned.

    Rod, how would you say the troubadour compares with some of the other makes mentioned. I understand it’s very big size-wise, but what about sound etc.? Is it set up more as a lever harp that allows progression to pedal or does it work/sound just as good as a lever harp?

    jessica-wolff on #158697

    Sarah, the Troubadour was designed as a transition to pedal harp, and the tension is that of a pedal harp, but that’s not to say you can’t play folk music on it. I do. I also like to play classical and can’t afford a second harp. If you search out “Loreena McKennitt” on YouTube, you’ll see that she’s playing an original Troubadour I, which is what I have. It has only 33 strings, but that includes the C two octaves below middle C, and is 3″ shorter than the Troubadour of today.

    As for the sound, it is a mistake to say “as good as”: it depends what you want. There are many good harp sounds. I just had mine regulated and completely restrung two days ago and it sounds wonderful. (Several people on these forums, as well as the harp technician, have given as their opinion that the Troubadour I had a better sound than the Troubadour II-III-IV-V-VI.) It’s also built like a brick you-know-what.

    In your particular case, though, I think you might be happier with a folksier harp. Your interests lie so completely in that direction.

    Sarah Brooks on #158698

    Jessica, Loreena has some beautiful music, so glad you sent me in her direction! I’ll probably stick to hiring a ‘folksier’ harp to start with and take it from there. Really glad I’ve found this forum because I’ve had some fab advice, so thanks again for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    jennifer-rehfisch on #158699

    Hi Sarah

    I have just noticed that you are based in the north of England.

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