Possible purchase

  • Participant
    mmezest1997 on #197799

    Hello! I am a new harp parent to my 11 year old. She has been playing for one month and we are currently renting a lever harp from her instructor. My daughter LOVES it so far and will practice for 1-2 hours each day without prompting. She is working on the piece that her teacher has given her, but has started figuring out (without music) other songs such as church songs, Christmas songs and a popular song or two that she really likes.

    I’m wondering how long we should wait before considering purchasing her her own instrument. There is a used L&H Troubadour VI that is available for purchase about an hour away and my daughter’s instructor said that from her understanding, the instrument is in great shape (third hand information given to the instructor by one of her older students that went to look at it). I’m not sure if I should even consider a used harp (newbie here) or just buy new. If she sticks with it and she eventually moves over to a pedal harp, will she want/need a lever harp? Is this a purchase that she will be able to continue to use?

    What else should I be asking as a new harp parent? I was a music major in college (20+ years ago), but I was a brass player (tuba) and didn’t have to deal with strings and wood and harp stuff…

    Thanks in advance and I look forward to “meeting” and learning from everyone!

    Sincerely,
    Mariah P. LeBlanc

     

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    Participant
    Biagio on #197815

    Many professional harpists have both a lever and a pedal instrument (at least!) so I do not think that is of much concern at this point in your daughter’s learning.  If you should decide to buy her a lever harp here are a few options and ideas:

    -If possible, buy a floor size one – 4 to five octaves and if your budget can afford it, fully levered.

    -Have both her and her teacher try any out.  There is a very wide variety out there, from a high tension “pre-pedal” like that Troubadour to medium tension ones like the Dusty Strings, to light tension ones designed for rapid Celtic style.  Size and shape also have a great deal to do with ease of playing.

    -Whatever you may consider, include in your thoughts how easy it might be to sell later.  You will be amazed as you follow this community how often players sell their harps: maybe they are moving up or down sizing,  or see one they just have to have.

    -Sometimes excellent harps show up in the used market, so I would not rule that out if her teacher is willing and able to evaluate one.

    -Levers are probably the largest expense of harp – about $15-$25 each – followed by the type of soundboard.  There is a feeling in some circles that only a solid spruce board will do – but one of the most powerful harps I’ve heard is the Boulding Oranmore with an aircraft laminate board.

    That seems a long way around of saying, “If you have no need to hurry, then best not to.”  Look around, go to harp gatherings, vendor shows and the like, get involved in the community.

    Best wishes,

    Biagio

     

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #197816

    There are many good reasons to buy, or not to buy an instrument. It all depends on your particular circumstances.  Since you and your daughter are brand new to the harp, I would suggest waiting at least 6 months or a year. The reason? You know very little about harps at the moment, and even less about what your daughter wants to do with it.  If you wait to get into the harp market, you will be going in with much more information and general knowledge about harps, and your daughter will also have much more specific ideas about what she likes or doesn’t like.  It could be frustrating to buy an instrument that your daughter is going to quickly outgrow, or which doesn’t meet her needs.

    Participant
    balfour-knight on #197823

    Very good advice, my harp friends!  Biagio, I have been clinging to my resolution to only own one pedal harp and one lever harp, and so far it is working out beautifully.  With the same string-spacing on my L&H 85 and my Dusty Strings FH36S, I can go from one to the other seamlessly.  Of course, the lower string tension on the Dusty makes for more effortless playing than the L&H, but no problem!  I have four Christmas concerts coming up on the pedal harp, so I will keep in practice, ha, ha!  At least, Christmas Eve it is back to the Dusty, my “Cherie”, for a pre-service “mini-concert.”

    Mariah, thanks for posting this thread.  I am so glad that you care about your daughter’s harp interests and that you have joined us on the Harp Column forums.  You will learn a lot about harps and harpists here, no doubt, on an International level.  It is so much fun!

    With best wishes and harp hugs,

    Balfour

    Participant
    Tacye on #197824

    On the other hand if you are comfortable buying and selling things, you might find that buying a sensibly priced used harp and later selling it saves you money compared to the hire costs you now have.  But only if your daughter likes the harp to practice on as much as the hire one.  I think it worth considering – just because you buy a harp doesn’t mean you can’t change it if it isn’t the right one for your daughter, just as you would if you decided you had the wrong car.

    Participant
    balfour-knight on #197825

    I totally agree, Tacye!  Some of us have gone through quite a few different harps, both lever and pedal, in our lifetimes!  I have always lost money on the trade, but the benefits of having each harp to enjoy during the time I owned it totally outweighed the unpleasant loss of money.  No harp has to be “forever,” when it is time to move on to the next one that is perfectly suited to one’s needs at that point in time.

    Participant
    Biagio on #197841

    Not to hijack the thread Balfour, but it is pertinent to Mariah’s questions…..

    Several pros around here combine a pedal harp and a Dusty 36 in their “stables” for the reasons you mention; those who are also instructors often have student rentals which may be other Dustys, Tripletts, Music Makers Voyageur or Jolie, Rubarth Merlins, the Boulding which I mentioned,  and a few even Witcher or Ardival wire harps, or Rees doubles.  Camacs, Teifis, and other European makes are not so frequent around here but that’s more due to geography. Some or all of those are also their choice for gigging or playing outdoors.

    So much out there that I do want to strongly emphasize Carl’s advice – wait a year or so at least, when you will both understand a lot more about the direction she may wish to go.  If however you really really wish her to have a secondary one now, consider a Dusty Ravenna for portability, price, and easy resale.

    Biagio

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #197842

    You are so fortunate to have a daughter motivated to learn the harp.  I agree with all the comments above. It would be helpful to look at harps and become familiar with them keeping in mind you will buy the right one when it comes along.  You do need to balance the cost of renting or owning.  A lever harp is not hugely expensive so don’t feel like you have to wait forever to make a purchase.  But as Biago suggested, keep re-sale in mind.

    You may want to give thought to attending a harp festival as part of the process. The two that come to mind are the Somerset Folk Harp Festival and the Harp Gathering. Both have numerous harp vendors.  You could do an internet search to find others that might be in your geographic area.

    Your daughter will probably be growing a lot in the next two years so starting with a lever harp is a good idea. If she continues to play, you would be better informed about buying a pedal harp.  But, she might also decide there is enough she can play on a lever harp, or she can play both. Certainly a lever harp is more portable and could give her more playing opportunities.

    For fun and motivation check out harp clips on youtube. At her age, she might enjoy watching the Harp Twins. They play lever and pedal harps.

     

     

    Participant
    mmezest1997 on #197853

    Thank you all so much for the suggestions and advice. It is extremely helpful!

    The L&H that is available for purchase is a 2012 Troubadour VI for $2400. From what I am seeing online, that seems like a good price, but as suggested, we may just wait a bit to see if she is going to stick with it. I know that it’s all new and she is still in the “honeymoon” phase, but she’s been practicing for hours each day. As unusual as it is to come home to someone playing the harp, I must admit that it is nice to hear the soft, melodic sounds emanating from her room. She will practice for a little bit, come out and chat with us and then go back in and practice some more. She told me that she just wants to play all day long!

    Thank you for the suggestion to watch videos. We have been doing that since she decided to take lessons and she just loves watching and listening. We are already learning a lot.

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #197854

    Sounds like a good buy on the Troubadour. Heck, if was my daughter, I would buy the harp and hide it at her teacher’s house.  Then make this the biggest Christmas surprise ever.   PS/ If you buy the harp, get an ergonomic tuning key as a stocking stuffer.

    Participant
    Biagio on #197855

    Hi Mariah,

    It does seem like a reasonable price, so if you are tempted here are the things you should look for in evaluating a used lever harp:

    Structural

    Is the pillar (aka column) straight? Some slight bowing is OK but there should be no more than a maximum 1/4″ deflection from the vertical. Personally I would consider even that much excessive.

    Are there any signs of cracking in the neck?  Is there any separation from where the neck meets the body or at the pillar joint?

    Is there any separation of the soundboard from the body, or any cracks in the box?  Look both inside and outside.

    Are there any vertical cracks in the soundboard itself?  Small horizontal cracks are normal and indeed may improve the tone; vertical ones are a red flag.  Look inside and out.

    Mechanical etc.

    Do the levers all function smoothly and sharp correctly?

    Are any of the bridge pins worn or bent?

    Do the tuning pegs turn smoothly and hold the pitch?

    Are any of the strings broken (they should be replace and tuned by the seller before offering it for sale)?

    Is there any buzzing?  Check with open strings and with all levers engaged.

    Things to ask: When were the strings last changed? when was the harp last regulated?  Is there a seller warranty (usually not unless it has been repaired)?

    Depending on the harp, most of these are not deal killers to a knowledgeable buyer to a greater or lesser extent, but all may entail some work and expense to fix.  Players who have no experience in harp designshould take someone who does along to evaluate it.

    Incidentally, it often amazes me how many fine players have very little idea about that design aspect – one would think they would be interested.  Oh well:-)

    Biagio

     

     

    Participant
    balfour-knight on #198068

    Hello, friends!

    What a wonderful response to Mariah’s thread!  I have been too busy to catch up with Harp Column the last few days, and what a pleasure it was to see all these replies just now.

    Gretchen, thanks for informing us about Dusty Strings’ newsletter–I did not know about it, can you believe it, as much as I love and champion their harps?  Well, you learn something new every day, I suppose!  The Ravenna 34 that I owned before I found my Cherie (FH36S in cherry) was a very special little harp, and Biagio, I totally agree that this model is one of the best values in harps that I have ever seen.

    I, for one, am not fond of lever harps that sound and play like pedal harps.  I want a lever harp to be more Celtic, with brighter tone and lower string tension.  I do use all 36 strings, and that was my only problem with the 34-string Ravenna.  I glissando up to the high C very frequently when I play in the Key of C, so the top string ending on A was a shortcoming, in my humble opinion.  I use the high B and C often in my regular playing, also, not just for glissandos.  I was delighted to receive the new Musicmakers catalog and to see that they once again are offering a 36 string harp.  If building from a kit is an option for you all, Mariah, I heartily recommend Musicmakers.  They have top quality products and customer service.

    Now of course, I am a paradox, ha, ha!  I am very content with a 44-string L&H pedal harp, and I know that there are pedal harpists out there who absolutely MUST have a 47-string harp!  Every harpist just has their own preferences, thank goodness, and we have a huge selection of harps to fit every personality.

    Mariah, the Southeastern Harp Weekend in Asheville, North Carolina, is also a great gathering of harps and harpists!  Unfortunately, there wasn’t one this October, but we are looking forward to next year.

    Have a great day,

    Balfour

    Participant
    brook-boddie on #198138

    Mariah,

    If the Troubadour is in good condition, that’s a good price.  There are some excellent points above about areas of the harp to inspect the closest.  I have a Troubadour VI from 2012, and it is a great harp in every regard–stability, function of the levers, ease of transporting, etc.  My favorite part about the harp is its sound.  People often see the Troubadours as stepping stones to a pedal harp, but I love them for the way they look and the sound they can produce.  If you can find a good one, it would rival a small pedal harp in volume, warmth, and overall quality of sound production. L&H uses the exact same boards for the Troubadours and Preludes, in fact, so you’re paying more for a Prelude because of the design, not a superior sound over the Troubadours.

    Also, check out the Stoney End Marion.  In my opinion, this is the best harp on the market in its price range.  I used to always pass them up at the harp conferences, but I own one now, and it’s really one of the best, if not the best, folk harp I’ve ever played.  There are other good makers out there as well, of course.  Folk harp design and construction has come so far, so I’m sure you can find just what you’re looking for.

    Participant
    Jerusha Amado on #198178

    It’s nice reading this thread and seeing how caring and helpful our harp community is!  It’s also great to read the remarks of two good friends—Balfour and Brook!

    I’m in agreement with Balfour concerning the desired sound of a lever harp.  A bright tone with medium tension is wonderful, particularly for playing professionally because the lighter tension gives my fingers a vacation from my pedal harp and the bright sound also carries better without amplification, better than a gut-strung lever that sounds like a pedal harp.  I really love the sound of a Dusty harp.  It’s almost ethereal in its quality, and so even in tone.  My particular harp is a Dusty 36S in maple.  It has a bright tone but some warmth underneath, which is unusual for their maple harps.  Brook sold me this harp, and I am forever grateful to him!

    Participant
    JackieHarpFan on #198200

    Mariah,

    I am a relatively new harp parent so I thought I would add my experiences to the mix.  My daughter will be turning 13 in a few weeks and has been playing harp for almost 2 and 1/2 years. She expressed an interest for about a year before that and after my husband and I realized she was serious about learning to play we made the commitment to start lessons for her.  One of the things I am most thankful for is the excellent teacher that we found.  I didn’t even know enough about the harp at the time to realize how true this was.  (We do not have an abundance of harp teachers in our area and found this teacher by recommendation of a friend whose daughter plays harp.)  One of the most important things about playing harp is the position of the hand and fingers. When bad habits are developed they can be very difficult to overcome.  (We had experienced this with one of our sons who has played classical guitar for years and was never really able to correct his hand position.)  From what I understand, the correct hand position can help prevent injury and make the music more “playable” and beautiful.  Though not everyone agrees exactly how to accomplish this, there are some important things to avoid.  (O.K., end of rabbit trail.) 🙂

    As for the harps my daughter has played, we approached this in a rather backward way.  In an effort to “save money” on renting we actually purchased a harp at the time our daughter started lessons.  This is not necessarily the best thing to do, as it negatively impacts the income that some harp teachers count on from rentals, etc. and you don’t usually know what to buy early on, depending on which path you choose for the future.  But, in our case, I spent a lot of time researching online and calling quite a few harp stores.  We ended up buying a Certified Pre-Owned Troubadour VI from Lyon & Healy, knowing we would spend a little less than on a new harp, it would already be somewhat broken in and we could also trade it in with L&H later toward the purchase of a new pedal harp.  (After multiple conversations with our daughter and watching videos of different styles of harp music online, we had determined that she would most likely be working toward playing the pedal harp.  Therefore, we wanted a lever harp that would provide the correct tension and spacing for that transition.)

    Well, after about a year of lessons, with my daughter often practicing twice a day, we made the decision to look into renting a pedal harp for her.  Even though her teacher wasn’t really “pushing” for this at the time,  she took lessons on his pedal harp and we knew having one at home for practice would allow her more choices in her repertoire and also help her get used to playing with pedals earlier.  Besides, she is on the tall side, and now over one year later she is already 5’6″, so a pedal harp feels very comfortable to her.  As it turns out, we feel this is one of the best decisions we have made.  Our daughter has made great progress since last year, and comparing songs from last Christmas to this Christmas has shown a dramatic difference.

    But, I will say that the financial side of things is a huge factor.  A few years ago I could never have imagined us purchasing an instrument as expensive as a pedal harp.  In fact, most of our cars over the years have cost less than half of the price of a concert grand!  But, when we realized that playing the harp was going to be something our daughter would likely be doing for the rest of her life (and very likely also studying in college) then we decided to make this a top priority in our finances.  We tightened our budget and committed any extra money (instead of taking a vacation, etc.) to the purchase of a pedal harp.  We just treated this as if it were a car payment.  🙂  That’s when, after even more research (several months), I found an 8-year-old L&H concert grand to rent with the option to buy.  The conditions were that the first 6 months of rent could go toward the purchase if we made the decision to buy it.  Well, our whole family fell in love with the sound and look of this harp!  So, instead of trading in her Troubadour VI on a new harp we sold it to help pay for the harp we had been renting.

    So, as our experience confirms, you’ve been given some very good advice by other more experienced harpists here in this forum.  Most harpists can’t know which path(s) they will take in the future.  Thankfully, things still worked out well for us, even though we jumped the gun a bit with our purchases, but each person is different.  From my limited experience I would give these recommendations:

    – If you are going to buy a pedal harp, I would NOT purchase one with only 40 strings.  I know several people that are having a difficult time selling one like this.

    – Make sure your daughter has a qualified teacher, preferably one with great technique. Also, it helps a lot if the personalities and teaching styles of the teacher and student are a good match, which is the case for our daughter.

    – Another thing to consider.  We moved the harp into our living room (away from the door and the high traffic area) so that our daughter would not be isolated while practicing.   We actually got this idea from our son’s classical guitar teacher who recommended that our son not practice all alone in a bedroom, for example. He said from his experience that students practiced more and enjoyed playing more when someone was listening to them.  He also reminded us that music is to be shared and said that over the years his students that stopped playing were those who never played for anyone else.  So, there’s some food for thought.

    – Finally, as you seem to already be discovering, prepare yourself for becoming an avid harp fan and harp transporter, willing to happily haul a harp around in all kinds of weather.  🙂  It’s worth all the work to hear that beautiful music being enjoyed by people, including some who have never heard a harp being played before.

    Welcome to the world of the harp, Mariah!  I can guarantee that you will meet not only some incredible musicians who make some of the most beautiful music in the world, but also some of the finest, kindest, most helpful people ever.  We feel so blessed by the friends we’ve found here.  Also, we can’t imagine our lives without a harpist in the family!  I hope your daughter continues studying the harp and I wish you all the best!

    Jackie

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