Small harp, lap harp, baby harp, or something?

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    I’m a beginner on a nice 34 string lever harp. I really am interested in purchasing a smaller harp – say, 8-20 strings? – for travel purposes, playing with friends at the park, and to bring to camps when I am working as a counselor. I am looking for a small harp to fit in my lap and something that I can carry around without being too large. I really wanted to get something with levers, but everything I have found online has not been good quality. I’ve found a lot of nicer 22 string and higher harps, but they are much bigger then I would like.

    And recommendations of where I could find one would be great! Thank you!

    Simona Millham

    Hi Madeline

    I think you might find so few strings rather limiting – when I was a new beginner I started off with a 19 string lap harp because I was obsessed with “something small”.

    Zen Sojourner

    I have a Blevins Bouree, also 26 strings, which is fairly portable.

    Karen Choo

    Hi Simona,

    I am considering a Cameo 26. Ever tried bringing your Cameo 26 on board a plane as a carry-on? Does it fit in the overhead cabin? How would you describe the tone?


    Cheryl Z.

    Hi Madeline,

    Try getting a Harpsicle or Sharpsicle.


    Slightly off the wall suggestion, but if portability is a big issue, and if you don’t mind trying something slightly different for variety, have you considered getting something like a Finnish kantele?

    Kantele are pretty inexpensive but culturally rich lap harps, lay very flat (which makes them far easier to put into a gig bag or small case than a harp) and quite sturdy in construction, probably well sturdier than a guitar. The 10-string ones aren’t quite as big as just the body of a guitar (and not as thick) and the five string ones are smaller than a mandolin. (Lest you think 5 strings can’t do anything, check out any YouTube clips of 5-string players, like this one:

    The main US kantele maker, Gerry Henkel, has built thousands and won all kinds of awards, and his 5s are still only $135, and a bit over $200 for 10s. Definitely a much cooler lap-harp option than many of the more generic pieces out there.

    Cheryl Z.

    Hi Matthew,

    Thanks for posting about the kantele.


    No problem, glad you’re finding it of interest. Not quite the range of even a small “folk harp”, but even the 5-string is a full instrument vice a downsized “toy” version. Due to the durability of the design, much easier and sturdier to haul around than any true harp, decent volume, and even quality ones are quite affordable.

    I would own a kantele, except that I already have a 6-string Anglo-Saxon lyre, which is close enough in concept that I don’t feel the need to own both. The kantele is technically more versatile, since it’s easier to do 2-handed plucking on it, while on the AS lyre your left hand mainly holds the frame in plucking mode. For both lyre and kantele, there’s also the really cool “block-strum” technique, where you use the off-hand to muffle some strings with your fingertips, and strum across all the strings with the other. Kind of like a manual autoharp. Here’s what it looks/sounds like on lyre:

    When you’re jamming with friends, you can either do lap-harp plucking with two hands, or you can block-strum and have a basic assortment of chords within your home key available to you. There are apparently several good books in English on playing kantele, if you bounce around the few English kantele sites.

    Looking forward to hearing what instrument you wind up getting!

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