I am considering switching from lever to pedal harp. I will never be a professional, or perform other than harp recitals, and perhaps the occasional retirement home with my HarpCircle. I am leaning strongly towards a Camac 44 string with the range of: G00 (above 1st octave) – F42 (6th octave). The top strings are exactly the same as a 47 string. The 3 “missing strings” comparing the 44 to a 47, are the lowest E,D,C. The thoughts that I have heard is that living without the D and C are easy enough. But living without the E might be questionable. Appreciate all insights. Thanks!
I’m not a harp professional but I have used all of them. Not having the E would be limiting on the repertoire as the low E does not necessarily apear only in advanced music. I have come across simple music/arrangements that requires that low E note.
For me, it would have been extremely frustrating to start a piece and later finding myself to have that one missing note so I’d rather go for the full range.
If you will play primarily lever harp music on a pedal harp, it will be fine. If you’re going to switch to a pedal harp repertoire, you’ll miss them at some point of time.
Think of it not as savings made by leaving out 3 low strings which seem not to be used often. Rather it’s savings made by compromising the opportunity to play the full range of pedal harp repertoire.
Karen, my main harp now, as a senior citizen, is a lighter weight, 56 pound pedal harp with a range of from 7th octave E at the bottom, up to top E. I do not miss the top F-0 and G-00 I used to have, or the bottom C and D. The 43 strings I do have are enough. This harp is a Lyon and Healy style 14 and is no longer in production. You can occasionally find one used for sale, and it has enough gold at the top and bottom of the column to make it quite attractive. If you join the American Harp Society you would be able to view monthly newsletters online of chapters in neighboring states in the U.S., that often have classified ads of harps for sale/rent.
That Camac harp you describe would have the same range of strings as Style 14 if Camac would simply re-string it one string lower before shipping it to you- sometimes custom stringing is possible, and it might not hurt to ask the company, or one of its dealers in the U.S.
Patricia, thanks for your insights. Your L&H 14 sounds perfect. Your idea of having Camac string it with an E at the bottom could solve my dilemma. I understand it is possible in that one could string any string anywhere, but do you happen to know if it is structurally sound to string it with a low E rather than a low F and go on up the harp from there? Perhaps if it is done that way at the factory it is ok (as opposed to doing that after years of the harp being strung a different way). I would love to hear Carl Swanson, and/or Bryan Howard give their thoughts on this. Thanks for the suggestion Patricia. This could be a great solution.
As I understand it, the Camacs use cables rather than rods that run through tubes in the column, so they should be able to rearrange the cables at the factory. Interestingly, I’ve worked on several antique crochet-action harps that had had the rods rearranged to change the range of the harp but keep the pedals in the usual sequence.
Whether a harp uses pedal rods or cables, I think it would be difficult to rearrange things so that you can string a harp differently from the way it was intended. But go ahead and ask the people at CAMAC. They might be able to do it. I know that doing it on any other make of harp would be a nightmare. A new tube packet would have to be made up for this. All pedal rods, on all makes of harps, are in the same order down in the pedestal. That order is: D, C, E, B, F, G, A. The order at the top end is dictated by the order of the linkage inside the action. In modern harps, the order of the linkage is the same as the order in the pedal box. But it wasn’t always like that, and so you had to have rods crossing over each other inside the column. That’s what you would have to do on this harp if you strung it differently from the way it was intended.
Thanks for weighing in Carl…we can always count on you for good perspective. From what I am gathering, the ‘action’ would need to be redesigned to accommodate the string change. Highly unlikely. I do think it would be worth their while to put the effort into it, and offer the Clio with the 7th octave E (giving up the G-00), since the low E seems to be a coveted string. Alas, the harp is perfect in all ways (for me) except for that.
They don’t have to redesign the action. They have to change which linkage chains the rods hook into. If the E chain is right next to the front plate, then the E rod attaches to that chain. But if the F chain is right next to the front plate, and the E chain is say next to the back plate, then that rod will have to be moved so it crosses all the other rods and connects to the first chain. And in addition, all of the rods will have to be reconfigured. I just don’t know if any company can do that. Remember, the rods, or cables, have to stay in the same order at the bottom, but what you want will require all of the rods to cross other rods inside the column.
The other way of approaching this would be to talk to them about building you a custom instrument. That way, when they assemble the action, they can build the linkage chains to fit the way you want. But that will be very expensive, if they are willing to do it at all. Just how often do you think you will need that low E?
Thanks again Carl. No, I don’t want a custom harp, though I do think Camac would do well to consider redesigning to include the E 7th oct.
Thanks for your question as to whether or not I indeed “need” this E string. That is the question that I started this ‘thread’ with, and would love more answers to that. I have only been playing (36 string lever) for 6 years, so I am unclear as to whether or not “buyer’s remorse” would creep in were I to not have that E. I far prefer the smaller pedal harps, don’t plan to perform. But, do most pedal harp arrangements require that E? My harp teacher seemed to think that living without the D and C were no big deal, but she hesitates a bit about the E–so that is why I asked our community ‘at large’. Thanks again!
I have, by no means, an expert opinion. I am a student player and just got my 47 string pedal harp last year. I thought I would just be playing for churches, nursing homes or perhaps weddings in the future. However, I unexpectedly joined a community orchestra when I first purchased the harp. The orchestral music I have encountered has had the 7th octave E a few times, most often played with the octave above it simultaneously. Sometimes, I determined that at my skill level leaving off the 7th octave E and just playing the 6th E allowed me to get to the next notes faster. So, even though I have the string, and my music has called for it, I haven’t always played it because of the nature of the music and my skill level.
I guess what I’m saying is there is almost always a work-around, at least at the level that I play at: Intermediate music that seems to make people happy. I haven’t ventured into the truly “big” works, so someone will have to chime in there.
Quick question, though… Why a semi-grand in the first place? Transport? Cost?
I thought I wanted a semi-grand until I sat behind both sizes. The semi-grands did not feel comfortable, they didn’t fit my body as well as a grand. So, don’t make up your mind until you try some harps on for size!
Thank you Alyson. Your perspective and honestly is very helpful. I don’t think I’ll ever venture into the ‘big works’ as you call them—out of my league, and since I am 52 years old, doubtful that Carnegie Hall will be in my future! 😉 To answer your question about why the semi-grand: I am fairly petite and want to be able to move it by myself. I am in a HarpCircle so moving it once a month is common. I have car that easily fits the petite grand and don’t want to encounter needing to buy a new car (like a friend of mine had to). The difference between the petite grand that I like and a grand that I would want is about $7k so that is not a total obstacle, but certainly a factor. $7k for one desired string is significant! Thanks again. btw, if I may ask, are you a student learner as in college age, or an older adult learner? Just interested in your path…thanks!
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