Secondhand harps at a distance?

  • Participant
    Katia on #190815

    Has anyone ever bought a harp secondhand from a ways away, hiring another harpist/teacher local to the area to check it out first (I’ve heard of this being possible, but not sure if I’ve ever actually heard of it happening)?

    There is this one: http://www.kijiji.ca/v-string-instrument/kitchener-waterloo/celtic-harp-perfect-for-beginner-or-travel/1110314435?enableSearchNavigationFlag=true

    However, this is a few hours from me… further than I would prefer to drive just for purposes of looking at something that may turn out to not even be any good (especially with an older car whose mileage I would like to limit as much as possible). (And, since I wouldn’t know enough to evaluate it well, there’s little point in me doing so myself anyway; I’d still have to find someone else who could go with me to have a look, so I might as well just find someone to look at it for me and then decide whether I want to drive there or look into shipping.)

    I am not sure what to think of the instrument, I admit. The price is quite low. There could, of course, be explanations– the seller just needs it gone, for example. He says it was made by his uncle, who was an instrument maker, which, of course, tells me little (for example, was the uncle a successful maker of harps, or was he a maker of PVC pennywhistles who tried his hand at a harp one day?). For an unknown maker, that could account for the low price, even if the instrument was good. But would I have issues finding replacement strings?

    I’m also a bit wary of the “has rarely been played” bit. I assume this means it has possibly been out of tune for years, which I’m sure doesn’t bode well for the instrument. I’d be willing to slowly bring it up to tune, but are there lasting repercussions for a harp that hasn’t been played much?

    Of course, there are a lot of questions I would still need to ask the seller if I decided I was really interested, before I’d even hire someone to look at it for me. I haven’t really got my heart set on buying anything to replace the HSO, just that I happened to see this ad and wondered if the instrument could be worth it. If not, I’d be fine with passing it up and continuing on the HSO.

    Thanks!

    Participant
    Biagio on #190818

    If you have a friend who would do that for you, that would be a good idea but I would not hire someone I did not know. As for that particular harp, it may be OK but it is not anything special in construction. Only the box sides are cherry, the rest is baltic birch ply, so I would guess the soundboard is too. You would be better off I think paying a little more for a new kit in that price range.

    You always take a chance and sometimes it works out pretty well, sometimes not. I just did some repair work on an elderly Argent Fox double strung and it should sound fairly good now – but the present owner got it for free (due to the needed repairs) from someone that she and I both know very well.

    Biagio

    Participant
    hearpe on #190819

    The only thing about the harp you pictured Katia is that there are no sharpening levers- so you’re stuck playing in C unless you retune the strings with the wrench every time- and that can wear the pegs out.

    I’m just getting ready to list a virtually new Roosebeck Heather 29 harp with a birch soundboard and 24 levers- I bought before I found a larger harp- I could sell that for $400 shipped in the original container if you’re interested. They are $100 or more new on Amazon and ebay and this one is two months old and played very little- not a scratch, if you’re interested.

    Participant
    Katia on #190820

    Thanks, Biagio! I can’t tell from looking at it myself, so thanks for the assessment. I thought it might at least be worth asking about. I’m fine with keeping the harp I have– I’m not much of a player so I don’t warrant much harp– but I browse the ads sometimes too, just to see what’s out there. 🙂

    Hearpe– the ad actually says that there are levers to go with it; they’re just not installed. Granted, “not installed” is not really ideal, but still better than “no levers at all.” Since my current harp has levers but they’re good for nothing and can’t be used, I’m stuck playing in C anyway (or whichever key I retune to).

    Participant
    Tacye on #190838

    I think the price is in Canadian dollars, which makes it look potentially attractive to me. Of course, second hand harp prices do vary a lot with area and I don’t know the market around you, but buying cross border can get expensive with taxes so looking locally is an advantage.

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #190839

    I regularly sell used pedal harps on my web site, http://www.swansonharp.com. Sometimes they are harps that belong to me which I’ve done work on, and other times they are harps that people have asked me to sell for them. In all cases, I can vouch for the structural integrity of the instrument. I won’t sell anything that has repairs on the horizon. I’ll happily describe to anyone that is interested what one instrument or another is like structurally. What I won’t do is make decisions for the potential buyer about the sound. I know from being a harpist myself and from having interacted with harpists for decades that everyone has their own concept of sound. I always strongly urge anyone interested in an instrument that I am selling to come to Boston and try the instrument. That is the only way to know if it is what you are looking for. Same with a ‘big sound.’ You have to try it yourself and decide if it is a sound and volume that will work for you.

    Katia, you said that the harp you are thinking about buying is “a few hours away.” Are you seriously thinking of letting someone else make the decision about the instrument when you could go try it yourself without too much trouble? That doesn’t make any sense.

    Participant
    Katia on #190928

    I tried a reply, and of course it got eaten by the internet. Let me try again, but not so well.

    Carl, normally you would be correct about sound. However, my current harp is a Pakistani “harp shaped object,” so most harps, that are proper harps, would likely sound better. It’s not a terrible harp, and it mostly works for my purposes, but it’s not a great one, either, let’s face it.

    The idea of choosing the sound of a harp, to me, suggests that one is able to pick from many, and that such a thing is financially feasible for a person (at least, that is always the way I have selected instruments when having the option). In many circumstances, however, “this instrument is passable, and it fits my budget, and if it’s not perfect, it’s better than no instrument at all” are one’s criteria, unless one absolutely hates the sound and can’t stand to play the thing (and I have done this many times as well). (Then there are the harps that AREN’T better than no harp at all, but a person can weed those out. For example, I’m giving the miss to one that is closer, for what would be probably the same price in the end, but looks like one of the Early Music Shop Pakistani harps.)

    Surely another person could evaluate whether a harp sounds absolutely terrible (and I’m probably not educated enough to make a good determination, anyway, so an actual teacher/player might have a better shot). If not bad, it is probably somewhere on the scale of “fair” to “good,” with personal preference coming into play beyond that– but again, not everyone is in a position to hold out for the sound that makes them jump up and down (though heaven knows we’d all love to go to a harp show and try out every instrument in the place until we find our favorite, without thinking of the cost!).

    I don’t think of it as someone making a decision for me about the sound, other than “this thing sounds awful; don’t buy it.” The decision I need is whether it’s a worthwhile instrument, which I admit does require a certain assessment of the sound. If it’s nice enough– I’m not worried about the nuances. I’m assuming that there is some sort of standard by which most/all harpists would agree that an instrument either sounds okay, or it doesn’t. As long as it’s not the Gomer Pyle of the harp world, I’m not that concerned whether it’s Emma Kirkby, Montserrat Caballe, or Maria Callas otherwise! (okay, I’ll never have the Emma Kirkby of the harp world, more like perhaps Paul Potts, but that’s okay.)

    Participant
    Katia on #190930

    And as far as “without much trouble,” that is subjective to each person. As I said, my car is older. It needs repairs. I also need to sell it within a few months, despite said need of repairs. The lower I can keep the mileage, the better, as the only other thing going for it is good body condition, so I’m loathe to put over 400 miles on it in one day. Also, I really don’t want to essentially drive 7+ hours in a row (as I’d be pretty much going to try out/pick up the harp and driving right back).

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