Webster Harp vs Dusty Strings?

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    Molly K on #234050

    I am in the market for a nice harp, one that will hopefully last me for several years. I have been set on the Ravenna 34, but recently spotted the similarly priced Webster Populist 36 string. I’m unable to find a lot of information on it though.

    Has anyone here played the Populist? How would you describe the sound compared to the Ravenna? Thanks all!

    Biagio on #234267

    William Webster has a good reputation, not as well known as others as he is a solo (independent) maker. Several other fine harp makers are as well: Kortier, Thormahlen, Kemper, Blessley and Boulding for instance – but I understand that Wiliam changed his location a few years ago which my be why you can’t find much information.

    As long as you are considering alternatives, I strongly suggest that you look at Phil Boulding’s Concert Oladion; that harp is much admired where I live ( Puget Sound area) by some very fine players:


    Had I not talked myself into upgrading the Musicmakers Cheyenne with a spruce SB and decided to just buy a full 5 octave harp, I would have been sorely tempted by the Oladion. Of course, if you have access to some minimal wood tools (an electric drill, several clamps, preferably a finish sander, screw drivers, socket wrenches and hammer etc.) ) and are willing to learn how to mount levers an MM kit is also a possibility.

    It appears that the Populist uses an aircraft laminate board like the Dusty Ravennas and Crescendo and is probably heavier than the former. Also to consider: if you buy the Populist and William had some misfortune you would not be able to go to him for any repairs if needed.

    Sorry I can’t be more helpful..as always it is best to try a harp out in person if possible. If not possible, I’d suggest the Ravenna. Some people – I’m thinking of those like our friend Balfour – really want all 5 octaves, but 34 strings is fine for many others. Hope that is helpful!


    balfour-knight on #234285

    Ha, ha, Biagio, my friend! I just accidentally saw this post–wasn’t really looking, but so glad I did see it. Yes, for a harpist who tunes in the Key of C, like on the pedal harp, in C flat of course, the 5-octave range is very nice! I use all 36 strings regularly, especially playing by ear with my own arrangements. The 34 strings of the Ravenna are fairly complete for a Celtic harp, though. When I needed that High C, I would make a harmonic on the top C of the Ravenna which sounded that High C, so all was well unless I was doing a glissando all the way to the top C and was stopped short on the A, ha, ha! I am just too used to the 47 strings of the pedal harp, I guess, so it all depends upon which harp you are playing and what sort of music you like on that particular harp. Thanks for mentioning me, Biagio!

    Biagio on #234304

    Haha to you too, my friend! Of course you want the full five octaves; in fact if you had not fallen in love with Cherie you might easily have fallen for a 38, right?

    On the other hand, get a bunch of mainly folk/Celtic players together and if someone pays a gliss there will be smiles and mayhap even a few tut-tuts:-)

    Of course, when those of us who also play the clarseach show up with a Dusty there will be some tut-tuts when we use our fingernails LOL.


    Molly K on #234385

    Thank you so much for all those points to consider. I live in Nebraska and have one nearby harp store that has one L&H Prelude, which is out of my budget range (and I’m not a fan of the levers from what I’ve read). So unfortunately trying is just not an option.

    I think you are right about the Ravenna – it seems well-loved and regarded by many, which is probably the best I can hope for buying something unheard or played.

    I am tempted by the Oladion as well. One thing I do wonder is how much those extra strings matter. I am still very much a beginner so I feel I can’t judge what I will or won’t need in the future. I like classical as well as folk and traditional music, but when playing on the mikel 38 I have yet to use the top or bottom two strings – in fact, I haven’t used anything below the low G. On the other hand, it didn’t take me long to grow beyond the 26 strings on my harpsicle, and I fear that will happen to me again if I invest in a 34 string harp. What do you think? I have considered investing in a petite pedal harp in the future, but that would be at least 5 years from now.

    wil-weten on #234388

    Hi Molly, an L&H Prelude is a lever harp very close in sound to a little pedal harp. I’ve got one myself and can say from experience that when the levers are well adjusted, they function fine and frictionless. In a whole year I had three strings broken, all three within a very short time after buying the Prelude. Yes, Camac levers are nicer, indeed, but the performance levers on the Prelude are ‘nice enough’ for me.

    You may have read some horror stories about when these ‘performance levers’ were just new on the market several years ago.

    You may be able to find a second hand L&H Prelude or another harp with pedal string tension that does fit your budget (perhaps an L&H Ogden or Troubadour). But frankly, harps with pedal gut tension are great for classical music and a lot of other music, but it’s really hard to play fast celtic music on it.

    A 34 string harp would be fine for most music for lever harp. Yet, two of my three harps do have a low A and A low B beneath the C two octaves below middle C, and though I seldom play them, I love their ‘sounding along in sympathy’ with the other strings.

    I agree with Balfour-Knight and Biagio on the Ravenna being a great starter harp. It’s also very suitable for all kinds of popular and celtic music, just a bit less for classical music in my mind.

    Please, don’t buy a harp before hearing and seeing and feeling it yourself.

    I found one harpshop in Nebraska: http://www.hurstharps.com/Harps.html I was very surprised to see a new 38 string L&H Prelude for sale. For several years now, Preludes come standard with 40 strings, so a 38 string is an old model that may be sold for an extra neat price.

    Molly K on #234391

    Frankly, I’m leery of purchasing a lever harp with pedal tension. Ideally, I’d get a nice lever harp that’s very good for Celtic and folk music and acceptable for simple more classical pieces. And perhaps in the future invest in a pedal harp that I could get serious about classical music with.

    wil-weten on #234395

    Hi Molly, yes, I agree, if you are looking for a lever harp that’s primarily very good for Celtic and folk music, there are a lot of lever harps which would suit you better than one with pedal gut tension.

    Biagio on #234471

    Hi Molly,

    I did not notice if you have a teacher available in your area. If not, I especially agree with buying a lever tension instrument: that will be a lot easier for you when developing technique.

    One thing about the Oladion – Phil usually builds after he receives and order, and lever costs are extra; Dusty would probably have a partially or fully levered Ravenna 34 in stock.

    About the range: 34s and 36s usually end with a bass C. That can be changed to a low A on most but that is a special order (and of course you lose two notes at the top). I’d go with the design as is (low C) unless or until you want more bass later on.

    Best wishes and please tell us what you decide.


    • This reply was modified 1 year, 8 months ago by Biagio.
    wil-weten on #234478

    I agree with Biago: if you don’t have a teacher, you’d best get a lever harp with lower intermediate or intermediate string tension. That way you may prevent developing (chronic) injuries you might suffer when using unhealthy techniques on a pedal string tension harp.

    As you do consider moving on to a pedal harp in about 5 years, I think you may like to learn classical technique from the very beginning. It would save you a lot of time later on having to ‘unlearn’ the kind of unhelpful technique that sounds fine (though not great) on a lever tension strung harp.

    Biagio on #234479

    >”As you do consider moving on to a pedal harp in about 5 years, I think you may like to learn classical technique from the very beginning”<

    I agree Wil though would point out for Molly’s benefit that most beginner instruction follows one of the several classic techniques. The differences at the basic level lie in the force with which you play; it’s not until you get into intermediate and advanced levels that the styles begin to diverge with respect to effects. That is, there is stuff you can do on a pedal harp that is difficult or impossible on a lever harp – and visa versa.

    It’s true that one can get away with careless technique on a lever instrument that one could not on a pedal tension. for a while – one being not closing fingers all the way to the palm.

    Yes, one can get away with it but it’s shoddy and will come back to haunt you – especially if you move up to a higher tension instrument!


    • This reply was modified 1 year, 8 months ago by Biagio.
    Biagio on #234519

    When talking with beginners on the Virtual Harp Circle (which will shortly be moving to groups.io) I sometimes liken buying a harp to buying an automobile.

    Back in the 70s before pollution controls etc. (but never mind) many kids including me were happy with a VW Bug to start – we could always sell it later and move up to a middle range thing like the Ford Falcon, a sport model like the Triumph Spitfire or muscle car (think Stingray). I did all that in fact LOL.

    You can think of modern autos and harps in that way too. These days I drive a Ford Focus but at one time a Spit, a Beemer and before a Honda Civic. I do my own harps now but started out with a good reliable Musicmakers Limerick, upgraded to a very big McFall-type, and now have downsized to a wire 26, floor sized nylon 26, and the soon-to-be Cheyenne 36.

    Earlier lessons learned the hard way – don’t buy a lemon; buy something reliable and easy to maintain at first. Case in point – that Spitfire. I spent more time tuning the thing than driving it!

    It’s not much different today. Harpsicles are good affordable harps, the Ravennas are all around fine, Dusty FHs get you into the higher end and Preludes take you into the muscle end.

    Man, haven’t thought of that Triumph for along time. Heck of a car when it ran LOL.


    Molly K on #234567

    I love your car analogy Biagio because I think it highlights a difference in mindsets. I’ve been mostly driving the same van since 2005; it suits my needs, and the devil you know being better than the devil you don’t, haha. Whatever harp I do end up purchasing is unlikely to ever be sold, I grow attached to my instruments. So I continue to waver over what I’d like to settle on. I’m leaning more and more towards the Ravenna, but I’m waiting to hear back from a shop that can help me finance it.

    Oh and to answer the teacher question – I’ve only been able to find one local to me, and she is full on students at the moment. I’m considering contacting some teachers in the bigger city an hour away; my parents live up there and would probably appreciate the visit if I could arrange a once-a-month weekend lesson. Lots to think about and meanwhile the rest of life must be attended to, haha.

    Biagio on #234571

    Ha Ha Molly, nice that you liked the car analogy. I always have a private giggle writing it. “Get something good and keep it” if I follow your mindset – sound policy wish I had that discipline!

    Regarding teachers: it is always good of course if you can attend lessons in person but there is also a lot to be said for using the Internet. When I first moved to the Puget Sound area I took lessons via Skype from Laurie before she moved closer.

    Good thing too, she quickly cleaned up a lot of my self taught errors. There are many others, Laurie is just one I know well (and like and admire). I don’t know if she accepts students these days..If you wish to contact her this is the website (she has a lot of good info there too):


    Happy harping!

    balfour-knight on #234664

    I agree with Biagio–Laurie is wonderful! Also, the more strings you can get, the better, up to 47 of course. I know Salvi came out with the Reus harp which has 49 strings, going down to the Low A of the piano, but you do not even have mechanisms on those extra strings, which makes A, B, C,& D without mechanism! Not for me, thank you very much!

    Molly, the Ravenna is probably your best option, in my opinion. I was very pleased with mine for the time I owned her, until I got the FH36S, but I would certainly have kept the Ravenna had I not needed the money from the trade-in. You could play this fine little harp forever without getting tired of her, and she can accomodate the majority of the lever harp literature with her 34 strings. Hope this opinion helps!

    Best wishes everyone,

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