Questions About Camac Mélusine with Carbon Soundboard

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    circulus on #194026

    I am in the US. I have been thinking about buying a lever harp for several years and am ready to add one to my collection. I do not play the harp. I would be using it for personal enjoyment. I specialize in a different instrument.

    I found a used Camac Mélusine recently. However, unlike the Mélusine currently advertised on the Camac site, this one offered to me only has 36 strings and has a carbon soundboard instead of 38 strings and a spruce soundboard. I am curious about a few things:

    First, how does a carbon soundboard affect the sound of a harp? It seems to me that most harps I have looked at use wood soundboards.

    Second, does anyone know how much this sort of Mélusine sold for new and/or how much would be a fair price for a used one? I searched online a little in English and in French, but could not find many with precisely 36 strings and carbon soundboard to compare against.

    Third, are two strings extra strings on the more current 38-string Mélusine important enough to go for that instead of a 36-string Mélusine? I noticed that people are usually advised to go for more strings but that seems to typically be when someone is trying to decide between 22 and 26 or 29 and 33.

    Last, I suppose does anyone have recommendations for other lever harps in the less than $2,000 range?

    Biagio on #194029

    OK here are some thoughts for you to consider:

    First off it would probably not be a very good idea to buy a used harp at this stage unless you are able to examine it with an experienced harpist, who has a good understanding of design. Some things that may be problems might not be evident to an inexperienced eye.

    All sound board materials will have unique sounds, which are somewhat dependent on the strings as well. Carbon fiber does sound different from spruce, certainly; the question is “does the sound please you?” You should be aware however that other materials than these two are often used in qulaity harps: redwood, cedar, basswood, mahogany, yellow poplar and high grade laminates to name just a few,

    Most people recommend at least 26 strings to begin learning but a larger issue (pardon the pun) is whether it is a floor or a lap harp. The latter is difficult to control unless you have a floor stand.

    The more strings the merrier maybe, but price increases quickly beyond 26 – not just in terms of the strings themselves but for levers (which can be 10%-20% of the cost for a 36 string harp.

    I would not say that 38 strings are any more preferable than 36 and there are some fine harps in the 33-34 string range. $2000 is about the lowest you will pay for a good harp new or used with the exception of what you will find in a kit. Some possibilities in your price range would be the Dusty Strings Ravenna 34, Music Makers Voyageur, Blevins Evensong 34 (a bit over the cost limit), and the Stoney End Lorraine.

    A question to ask yourself: what kind of music do you intend to play most and will you be taking lessons? The answers should help you decide on a specific model.

    Best wishes,

    wil-weten on #194035

    There’s a reason Camac stopped with making carbon sound boards. Even on its carbon harps, they use spruce sound boards. I once read an article in which Camac tells about the decision not to use carbon sound boards any longer, but I can’t find it at the moment.

    circulus on #194097

    Biagio, I was hoping to buy used as I would be able to get a little more for the same amount of money. I have been watching CL and Ebay for the used harps, but I suppose I should look into harp teachers and harpists in NJ and NYC who are selling their old instruments. I am sure no one established would want to risk their reputation by selling a harp with existing or potential issues without disclosure.

    I would be willing to spend up to $3000, but I am not very excited about that. I do intend to buy a mostly levered or fully levered harp if cost allows.

    I do not intend to take harp lessons unless I suspect my posture is off. I play the zither already, so I am not expecting great difficulty.

    I will be playing mostly piano music and music I already play on the violin, so both classical and a little traditional folk. I realize that classical repertoire requires a pedal harp because of the accidentals, but I do not want a pedal harp because it will be considerably more expensive, will be heavier and harder for me move around, and will probably make my music room too crowded. I already have to move everything but my cello and zither under the piano when I give lessons!

    wil-weten, if you happen to find the article, I would be very interested in reading it and knowing why Camac changed from carbon soundboards to spruce soundboards.

    Biagio on #194105

    Hi Circulus,

    Looking up teachers in the area is a very good idea; quite often they have student rentals and while they may not wish to sell them, they might – and at least will be happy to let you interview and try them out.

    Carl Swanson – a member here – has a fine reputation as a performer, harp maker, and teacher – he is located in NY. I’d get in touch with Carl first of all.

    Another teacher I recall is an East Coast dealer as well for the Rubarth Merlin (an excellent lever harp); I will try to look up her name.

    If you are willing to wait a little it would be a very good idea to attend the Somerset Harp Festival in Parsippany NJ coming up in July. You would meet many many harpers and they always have a huge vendor exhibition as well. Here is the vendor list:

    One of my friends has said that she will be there offering a slightly used Sligo Luchair; there are usually others with used harps to sell.

    Other “showroom” type possibilities would be the Virginia Harp Center showroom in Philadelphia and the Harp Connection in Salem MA.

    Best wishes,

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #194333

    Be careful whose advice you listen to.

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