I thought I would share some reflections in light of recent posts about the Mikel,as I am well into altering a good basic kit harp into a concert grade instrument. Here are my reflections and I look forward to comments.
1. One should determine a reasonable budget and compare quality harps to that. As a median size and cost, look at those of 29-34 strings, at least partially levered. If you see a “new” harp at anywhere below the median cost, be very suspicious. If you see used one that looks interesting, look it over personally, preferably with some one experienced.
2 Understand that levers are about 20% of the cost
- to the maker
and ask yourself – will I be playing lots of music that requires chromatics at first? Probably not, in all honesty but if the harp of your desire comes with full levers, fine. But do not get hung up on this: some harpers just retune if needed, especially those who play the clarseach.
3 If at all possible, learn something about how harps are made and how they differ in sound and general quality. Most players have ideas about this but it is harp makers who have the deeper knowledge. Most are very honest and will tell you their thoughts without much bias. If one does not, beware!!
4 Consider a kit if you have the space and a few home project tools: sanders,
electric drill, a few clamps etc. You will save a lot of money BUT you must be willing to learn how to mount levers if you want them right away. Otherwise, buy a finished kit or something like the Dusty Ravennas or Allegro/Crescendo line.
5 Note the differences in cost – most good introductory harps have a laminate sound board; more expensive ones use spruce, cypress, poplar or some other wood. Ask yourself if you feel ready for a concert grade instrument or one that you can enjoy while also learning basic harp technique.
6 Most teachers I am confident would agree: it will take about two years at least to begin to master harp technique. You will not be doing a lot of chromatics in that time.
7 Do you have or will you look for a teacher? They can guide you and often have rental instruments. Perhaps your aim is to a pedal instrument – that is very different from a “folk” harp wrt cost, although technique is the same at the basic level. But it is best to begin on a pedal tension gut strung instrument if that is the way you intend to go.
Why this mind stream was engendered…I just computed the cost of upgrading an excellent kit to concert level, vs. buying a concert grade lever harp vs. just a good kit or a finished introductory harp.. The result: about 30% savings excluding labor over the concert one, excluding labor. Contrast that to a good but not concert grade like the Ravenna or Crescendo and the basic kit -no savings at all except some time.
Going from kit to concert grade, the “saving” of about 30-40% lie entirely in being willing to do the work. And that, my friends, is that is time consuming, albeit fun perhaps. Case in point: from first conceiving of that upgrade to finished harpo will be about two months, although in fairness, much of the elapsed time consists of just sitting around waiting for orders to arrive. On the other hand, the initial design included would take about as long.
Hint hint: do not go this route if you are want for a good introductory instrument soon in your life. If you really want to understand the harp it might be worth doing some day.there are workshops that include this.
So to be tiresome and repetitive:if you want a good introductory harp and do not want to have glue on your fingers, assume about $1500-2200 for a good introductory harp if you want one with 4-5 octaves with levers.
Honestly. I’ve been around harps and harp makers for a good long time now. There are no great bargains unless you are willing to do a lot of work (or are lucky).
Whew! Late night ramble, but it is cold, there is sawdust in the floor and I got bored with domestic politics.