I have had 2 people come to me with harps that were given to them as gifts.
I don’t have THE answer for you, but here are a couple of thoughts.
Maybe you can take yourself off the hook and don’t have to say much of anything. These people are thrilled with their harps. If they pursue the instrument and start listening to other harpists etc, they will soon discover on their own that their harps are not quite up to speed.
Meanwhile, maybe you can say something about they have a “good” (using the term loosely)
I’ve had this problem numerous times, as people in this part of the world tend to go out and buy a harp before looking for a teacher and turn up with all sorts of things that are not entirely desirable…I recently had a lady with very pretty harp, that would not hold any tuning and with worrisone levers, so I know what you are going through.
Rod is right, its best to let them realise for themselves, that the harp is not good. And I also agree, find something good to say about the instrument – like carving or inlay, or general appearance – first. Then say something general about how you are concerned that it may not stand up to a lot of use, as it seems a delicate harp – and/or that that they will have to bring it each week as you are concerned that it is not holding pitch, until the instrument settles. So, I like to indicate that something is amiss so they do not get a complete shock when they realise and wonder why you didn’t say anything when they asked you!
The sight of you having to take so much time to tune it each week, and having to tune it so often themselves will make it dawn on them that things are amiss. I give them a sheet with tuning info on that I take them through in lessons, and with really dodgey harps I recommend a tuning meter straight off so they can see for themselves how out the harp gets…
If they play your harp in lessons each week too, it will not be long before they notice a difference. I have a student who started with me recently, and came with a
It’s hard to criticize someone’s instrument because they themselves often feel rejected. I have students playing on terrible pianos–we go through the whole, “this piano sounds different than mine at home” rigmarole.
I’ve found never to offer an opinion unless it’s something positive, and then to try to couch the negative words in terms that allow a second opinion or possibility for the future. Many people can’t afford another instrument for some time so it’s good to let them know exactly what their current one is good for.
Good for Chopsticks.
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