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Want to learn how to play the harp, which to choose?

Home Forums Harps and Accessories Want to learn how to play the harp, which to choose?

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  • #78137
    vicky-s
    Participant

    Hi!
    Sorry for another “newbie” thread! I am thinking of buying a harp… I live in France, which is why I’m mainly talking about harps I’ve seen can be found here. I’m also a student, so getting a harp would require quite a bit of saving up and summer jobs, and maybe my parent’s help (and there’s paying for lessons too..)
    Based on everything I’ve read so far, I’d like a lever harp with about 34 strings or so, and maybe, eventually, a smaller one too.

    I’m hesitating between a Ravenna 34 or a Camac Hermine now, and then getting a more portable (like a lap harp or one of those therapy harps) later.
    Or getting a Ravenna 26 now, and then waiting and saving up for a few years. (For a Ravenna 34, FH 34, Camac Hermine, Melusine, Aziliz… )

    I’ve never played, so this is just the result of lots of internet research! The music I like on Youtube seems to be played on these sorts of harp. I love celtic music, and some lap harp songs, but also contemporary piano music (like Yan Tiersen, Yiruma or Michael Nyman’s music on the harp) and some classical (like Pachelbel’s canon, Debussy’s clair de lune, Ave Maria…. ) I’m not thinking of ever playing on a pedal harp though. I don’t think I’ll want to play particularly loudly either.

    Right now I’m leaning towards the first option though, either the Camac Hermine or Ravenna 34…
    Any opinions on these harps? What is the difference in sound, ect? In France, both cost about the same, though the Ravenna might cost a bit more…

    Thanks!

    #78138
    jimmy-h
    Member

    If I lived in France then Camac would be more attractive. An in country manufacturer means much closer support if you should need it. There are a lot of lovely French players on youtube using Camac’s as well.

    #78139
    deb-l
    Participant

    It would be hard to go a few years with 26 strings. I started with 30 strings and after a year and a half I needed to get another harp to play the tunes I wanted and really missed the bass. I agree you will get a better harp for the money in France on a camac than a dusty. I would be hard pressed to choose between them, I have a Rees Aberdeen and an Aziliz. The Rees is similar to the dusty in a lot of ways, but I play almost all traditional and the Aziliz has such a lovely sound, feel and size. It seems more effortless to play. The bigger harps have a stronger bass, dusty’s are famous for that, very resonant. I heard the Hermines vary a lot from each other in tone, so if you have the opportunity, have someone play a few of them for you.

    #78140
    vicky-s
    Participant

    Thank you for your answers 🙂 Camac does make a lot more sense, given that I live in France (and the Ravenna costs 800euro more in France than in the US! It would be like 3150 USD instead of 1900 USD…) The Hermine is beautiful, and I have heard music on youtube on camac harps that I really like.

    The Hermine still seems like a better choice overall, but I am curious about the difference in sound?
    (I know some people here have complained of the Ravenna having too much sustain, and when I played the piano before, my teacher told me I used the sustain pedal too much 🙂 I thought it sounded better).
    Because between these two videos, I kind of prefer the Ravenna (it seems, uh, richer?)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d7hHgWxyoWg
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5xRFyoAJUeM

    Are these videos representative of how they actually sound, or is the difference due to the music, the way they are played, the individual harp, the recording?

    #78141
    Alison
    Participant

    You sound mature and discerning enough to need an adequately sized instrument with good sound – do not forgo the advantages of a pedal harp in your plans… The Camac harps are probably better value and somw are strung with a choice of gut and nylon and you might prefer gut.
    How’s your French, is it good enough to look locally and on the French websites for second hand instruments (a l’occasion) ??

    #78142
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi Vicky,

    I too, looked on youtube to hear harps I was interested in. I viewed and listened to the Korrigan and then the Concert Melusine. There were not too many Melusine harps I could find on youtube, but for the two I did find, they gave me a general an idea. I listened to the videos you chose. They both sound to me, like they have a nice rich and deep tone. The harp sound is clear enough, as a result of a possible recording mic ( and nice playing). That helps!

    I guess one could say that, it is still a little bit of a challenge because you are not there to play it yourself. But others will tell you, that often times, not everyone has the opportunity to visit harp showrooms and travel far distances to find one. I say, kudos to your research, do as much research on the harp that you can, so that you feel comfortable with your decision. Did you get a chance to read the Harp Columns’ November/December 2013 issue? It’s with Allegra Lilly on the cover. There is a nice informative article on choosing harps. If you haven’t read it, see if you can get to it, you’ll be inspired even more.

    P.S. I chose the Camac Concert Melusine. I loooooove it. 🙂

    #78143
    deb-l
    Participant

    Do not necessarily go with the most sensible or better value. It sounds like you like a resonant harp with a longer sustain. You can still play the faster jigs and reels on this type of harp, although I find I tend to play faster in the Aziliz because of its ease and shorter sustain, I enjoy hearing the resonance and the bigger bass sound and flexibility of the larger more resonant Amberdeen. Go with your heart.

    Also forgot to mention, it’s not just the tone that’s important, harps have very different shapes, styles, and feel completely different from each other. For example you may prefer the smooth ride of a Cadillac but a VW may be more fun to drive.

    #78144
    vicky-s
    Participant

    Alison P Wilson- I’m not that interested in the pedal harp, for some of the reasons I’m not interested in playing the piano… I speak fluent french, why?

    So if you can play faster music on a more resonant harp, would this be possible? Or would the sustain make the notes “bleed” together too much?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xc9Yu5IbZbM

    To make things more complicated, I’ve been listening to the sound sample of the FH34 on the Dusty Strings website. I like it so much more than the sound samples of either the Ravenna or the Hermine I’ve found…. Of course it costs twice as much! I’d have to ask my parents to pay, and though I think they wouldn’t mind, I dislike doing so. Then again, I’m 18, and I haven’t asked for a car! 😀
    I’d rather buy one harp I love than to have to “upgrade” in a few years…

    I might have to plan a trip to Paris to try them out then? I’m not sure how that would work, though, given that I still have no idea of how to play!

    #78145
    elizabeth-palladino
    Participant

    Try some French harps first. Just in terms of service–maintenance and repair–I think it is easier if you are geographically close to where your manufacturer is. I lived in New York and bought a Dusty Strings FH36S, which I love, but sometimes I wish I could just run into the Dusty shop–which is at the other end of the country. : 0 )
    Anyway, even if you can’t play it yet, it is important to hold the harp as if you were actually playing–is it comfortable, can you reach the bottom strings, etc. It may just not feel right–or it may be wonderful. Have someone play it for you. Then you will know exactly what that particular harp sounds like, even if you can’t actually do it yourself yet. Read every review and comment that you can find about your potential purchase. I think the question about whether you speak French was very important, and I wondered the same thing–because it will make it a lot easier when you look for harps in France if you can communicate well. I started with a smaller harp that had legs for the floor–a Dusty Strings FH26. I taught myself on it–and loved that thing–but realized after four years that I was not progressing and that I was practicing a lot of mistakes. I sold it to a school-age child–it was perfect for her–with my new teacher as intermediary with her parents–and worked with the teacher and my new DustyStrings FH36. I do find that the phosphor-bronze base strings are very brittle–tune by tiny increments, and by ear as much as by the electronic tuner. But I don’t think you can go wrong with a Dusty, if that turns out to be your final decision. I do agree with the person who said that if you start with a small harp, you will soon be wishing you had those extra bass strings.

    #78146
    vicky-s
    Participant

    Thank you so much for the advice! 🙂 The main reason I was thinking about starting with a small harp is that one of the reasons I was drawn to the harp was how much more portable it is than the piano. So If I were to get a bigger harp, I know I would probably want a ‘travel harp’ down the line. So I figured if I got the travel harp first, I could save up and also learn more before choosing. Plus, music can be adapted 🙂
    But then I heard that it’s better to start with a floor harp… Plus, I don’t want to start getting bad habits! I know from piano how hard it is to unlearn bad technique. So…

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