Rees Aberdeen Harp

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    Aria on #189626

    I’m hoping for feedback from anyone who owns or has tried a Rees Aberdeen harp and who also has experience playing different types of harps. I don’t live in an area where I can try the Aberdeen in person.

    I own a Merlin (R-Harps) which has very light string tension and narrower spacing. And I own a Venus Pedal harp with Very Tight tension and wide spacing. Each of these extremes has Amazing advantages as well as difficulties for me personally. As I have progressed into more advanced music and have worked on my pedal harp technique, my technique begins to create issues on my Merlin Harp. So each of these harps should really be approached very differently and with different repertoire. I fully understand that.

    But I’m selling Merlin and seeking something in the middle: A lever harp with medium tension that can handle more complex music (without sounding muddy) and can handle “fingers closing into the palm” without sounding harsh. Could the Rees Aberdeen fit this description perhaps? Is it a fairly clear and articulate harp? And how does the string tension and spacing of the Aberdeen compare to the average Pedal Harp?

    Thank you

    hearpe on #189631

    I can’t tell you but I hear Pee Wee Rees!

    You’ve probably seen this demo then

    Beautiful harps!

    Alyson Webber on #189636

    Just curious why you are focusing on the Aberdeen? There are lots of lever harps that are strung with pedal gut and are more designed to be beginner pedal harps than folk harps. Is that what you are looking for, or did you want the nylon strings and lighter tension for fast, light playing?

    Biagio on #189638

    Rees makes excellent harps – I would call their tension “medium”, about 25 lbs. per string on average. I haven’t played the Aberdeen, but I have played two of their double strungs and they are gorgeous. Which brings up the question of technique….

    If you want to commit to only one that’s understandable but of course limits your choices. Alternatively, have one style as your “foundation” and modify it for different styles. L&H, Salvi (recently), Pilgrim, Camac, Thormahlen, Dusty Strings, Cunningham…and others all make harps at “pedal tension” and “concert spacing” – both not very well defined terms. Some of them can be strung with gut, or nylon with somewhat lighter tension – and of course somewhat different style and tone.

    I have two high tension lever harps (“high” defined as about 31 lbs, per string average), two wire strungs and at one time messed around with a very light South American: all very different styles and techniques, but I could play all with some changes. Eventually settled on one as the “main” instrument, but not to the exclusion of the others.

    I’ve built what I want to try out, but even going that way gets pricey. So it might be less expensive to change one’s style a bit rather than the harp.

    Rees makes a flat box, Cunningham’s are round back, Thormahlen’s are staved, Dusty’s Boulevard is a laminate sound board…these are all considerations purely aside from tension and whether you are “French or Salzedo”….


    Aria on #189639

    These are all great responses and gives me much to think about, especially about being willing to be more flexible with my technique. To answer some of the questions:

    No, I don’t want a lever harp with full pedal tension. My particular Pedal harp is extremely high tension. I want a lever harp that will give me a break (from the high tension) when I need it, and something enjoyable to travel with. However, I don’t want it as light-tension as the one I currently have. That contrast is a bit extreme for me. I’m willing to modify my technique. But in my current situation, I feel I’m modifying technique so much that it’s reinforcing “bad habits” that don’t work on my pedal harp.

    I suspect that a Medium tension lever harp could possibly give me a happy ‘Medium’ that might be easier for me to work with. Thank you for sharing that the Rees are medium tension. If anyone has tried the Rees and the Merlin, would you say the Rees is higher tension than the Merlin?

    I’ve also explored and played other lever harps including some of the ones mentioned. I’m not ruling any options out. I’m personally drawn to the Aberdeen Rees, so exploring that at the moment. Thank you all again for your responses! You are helping me immensely.

    Biagio on #189641

    Happy if anything was helpful! Here’s one suggestion from what I gather about your interests: Timothy Harps, either the Llyr or Storm King. Timothy, as you may know, is a professional harpist as well as outstanding maker – one of the very few who do both. As a small shop he is quite willing to do modifications or custom work also.

    Best of fortune with your search!

    patricia-jaeger on #189644

    If you’d consider another brand of lever harp that more people are having an interest in, look at Douglas Harps which are single action with only 7 levers, (just as the single action Tyrolean harps have seven pedals,) for altering each string with the same name, by one/half step. Arsalaan Fay who patented this action placed it inside the harmonic curve of this portable 33-string harp, makes them in the Sarasota, Florida area, and he demonstrates them on It makes all other lever harps obsolete in my very humble opinion because it increases your repertoire and full harmony greatly when you can change pitches of each string with a similar name by one swift lever motion, and with either hand. This rather new technology was an idea that Mildred Dilling inspired Mr.Fay to build. We would not go back to using gaslight after the invention of the incandescent light bulb, or LEDs. Paul Hurst, Emily Mitchell, Erik Berklund have performed and recorded on these, among other well known harp players.

    Aria on #189645

    Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve never heard of this harp. So I will definitely look online to learn more about it!

    balfour-knight on #189646

    Aria, my Dusty Strings Ravenna 34 and Music Makers’ Large Gothic 36 have pretty firm tension, but less tension than my L&H pedal harp. When my fingers “need a break” from the pedal harp, either of my lever harps suffices. Also, have you considered the Thormahlen Swan? They are very nice harps, also, with 36 strings.

    Patricia, do you know a source on the Tyrolean pedal harps, single action? I have heard one on a YouTube video, but when I searched for information to see if these harps are still produced, I came up with nothing! I would be interested in the Douglas harps, but they don’t have enough strings to suit me for the great expense of them. My Ravenna has more strings than the Douglas, and I always wish for 36, going up to the High C like my Gothic harp does!

    Best wishes to all of you,

    Aria on #189647

    Wow wow wow. After looking into it, the Timothy Harps mentioned here have captured my attention. Where can I try one?

    Biagio on #189655

    Hi Aria,

    Timothy (last name Habinski) is in Nova Scotia, his harps are offered through several studios and outlets such as the Virginia Harp Center – probably easiest to ask him. Or search “Timothy harps for sale” – I got one hit on a studio in New York and I’d bet Denise Grupp-Verbun (Ohio) would also know – they’re colleagues and friends. He was at Somerset last month (I think) and may be at the SE harp weekend in October.

    I guess it depends on where you live. I rarely see any for sale by individuals, though I have a friend in British Columbia who is thinking of selling her Niamh.

    Best wishes,

    patricia-jaeger on #189677

    Biagio, I do not have a source tor Tyrolean harps but in the American Harp Society Directory there are currently 3 harp players listed in Germany and one in Austria. Their addresses are printed, and the three in Germany also print their e-mail. If you can look at such a Directory and communicate with them it might be that you will find a maker. I remember that a harpmaker in Germany used to post frequently here in harp column: Bernhard Schmidt. If you search: Bernhard Schmidt Harpmaker you will have results and his e-mail address will come up on your screen as well. He knows the English language. He may not make the Tyrolean style but probably knows people who do, and perhaps even knows someone wishing to sell a used one. Another clue is to contact people in the U.S. or Canada who have imported one. The different regional chapters of The Folk Harp Society have online monthly newsletters; contact some of those editors, perhaps to see if anyone in their area has one and find who the maker is. I am too busy to check and find these answers for you but do not give up. Communicate with Arsalaan Fay at Douglas Harps and see if he now makes a larger harp than mine of 33 strings, which is about 22 years old and was bought by me from another player. I enjoy the improved technology in it so much because it gives me back a richer harmony with less effort and my listeners want to comment on that difference when they see this smaller, portable instrument sound much like a concert pedal harp, especially when using some amplification. Mr. Fay now has a waiting list, I understand. He deserves success, since he did not give up when 4 hurricanes hit Florida in the same season and destroyed his business a few years ago.

    Biagio on #189679

    This is a side note to the thread, but may be interesting to all harpists so I’ll go ahead. Briefly….

    Pedal harps were dominant in most of Europe and entirely in the US during the 19th century – what we now call lever or Irish harps were pretty much relegated to being parlor instruments. One exception was the Egan harp. Around 1908 Melville Clark discovered it while studying harp making at the Erard factory. He returned to the US and began making the Clark harp – the first non-pedal harp made in the US. It was such a success that the company could not fill all its orders and contracted with Lyon and Healy to produce them as well.

    These little harps are beautifully designed; the model A has 31 strings, originally strung at concert harp tension, but it is only about 39 inches tall. I have one and so do many other makers and dedicated harpists. It has been the model for a number of modern harps – including Kim Robertson’s electric acoustic and (here it’s getting relevant) Arsalaan’s Douglas/Dilling harp. You can read about that harp’s history on the Harp Spectrum:

    Arsalaan now calls his model the “Joy” after Jocelyn Chang, a great promoter of the instrument (and also as it happens my first teacher). I’ve heard that he is working on a double action version. A wonderful and talented person and he really does deserve a lot of respect as Patricia has written.


    Aria on #189712

    Since there’s some knowledgeable people on this thread I wonder if you can tell me your opinion: If you were buying a 36 string lever harp with 5 octaves and you had the choice of having the string range as either “C to C” or “A to A”, which would you prefer and why? I’m asking because this is an option for the Aberdeen Meadows Harp. In my case I’ve never had repertoire that needed anything past the top A on a 35 string lever harp. But I do have repertoire that could use that low A. However, I don’t have a large repertoire in the first place. So I’m trying to figure out what is usual and most advantages?

    Biagio on #189715

    C to C is most common for lever harps. I don’t know why though there may be several reasons including habit. I love having that low A and dropped my 34 two steps, and so have some others I know. I had to change most of the strings of course to preserve similar tension to the C version. I’d say the choice is largely dictated by your repetoire. I rarely if ever go above G in the treble so that low A was a natural choice.


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