When to get a pedal harp?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    Cassie M on #159005

    I am currently playing on a Ravenna 26 with partial levers. I began taking lessons in about August or September so not too long ago. Although I thought I would be very content with my lever harp, and don’t get me wrong I totally love her, but I already have found she is limiting me. In many songs I need more strings which can be frustrating because I’m not advanced enough to improvise much in my music.

    I’m not interested in moving to a bigger lever harp because I am interested in classical pieces. As young as I am, its hard to fathom buying something so expensive. It did take me a while to save for my Ravenna but this will take much longer. My question is, would you recommend me moving up to a pedal harp? Please keep in mind by the time I have the money to purchase my harp, I will have been playing for over a year which include weekly professional classes and practicing. Does anyone have an opinion on this? I always knew I would move onto a pedal harp but I did not expect it to come so soon.

    Audrey Nickel on #159006

    I’d say that, if you want a pedal harp, buy one as soon as you can afford it.

    jennifer-buehler on #159007

    Talk with your teacher.

    dawn-penland on #159008

    I’m 53 and have played for 1 1/2 years now.

    kay-lister on #159009


    I understand your quest for a pedal harp, as I have recently gotten mine after 7 1/2 years of saving up for it.

    hannah-roberts on #159010

    I understand your frustration because I too love playing classical music!
    I don’t know what your budget is, but if it’s small, I enthusiastically second the trade-up program with Lyon and Healy. That way you can make the progress with the music you want with a fully-levered harp while you save for a pedal harp. I have a Ravenna 34 and I know just what you mean about 26 strings and
    partial levers creating limitations in classical music – those extra
    bass strings make a big difference! and so do full levers!
    There are books and books of classical music arranged for both pedal

    barbara-brundage on #159011

    >Talk with your teacher. They should have an idea of the rate you’re progressing and when it will be necessary to have a pedal harp.

    I’d love to second this advice, but realistically, my own experience is that most teachers with a strictly pedal harp background would say the time is NOW, regardless. There are just not that many teachers who’ve bothered to really try to understand what can be done with levers, although there are some wonderful teachers who do know how to teach lever harp as a ‘real’ instrument.

    It’s not a question of “when” you need to move. Although I majored in harp at Eastman and don’t play celtic music at all except for Danny Boy or whatever when requested, I myself play the lever harp pretty much exclusively these days, including things like classical trio performance. I agree that it would be very, very hard to do this on a 26 string harp, especially without a full set of levers.

    The real question is not when do you “need” a pedal harp: it’s how much you want one and when you can afford to go that way. If you really, really, really want one and don’t like playing a lever harp at all, then the time is now, if you can swing it. If your goal is to play in a symphony orchestra, then you need pedals.

    But don’t be deluded that you can’t play a LOT of very complex classical music on a full-range lever harp. I’ve certainly got more music than I’ll learn to play well in the rest of my life, even if my pedal harp went away forever tomorrow.

    Listen to what people like John Manno or Anne Marie O’Farrell (she’s on itunes–can’t link to it from here) do with levers before you write off the lever harp for classical music. It’s definitely harder to play this kind of music with levers than with pedals, but it can certainly be done.

    tony-morosco on #159012

    I’m very much in the middle on this one.

    On the one hand I definitely think that if you want pedals then get pedals as soon as you can afford them. I don’t think there has to be any time limit as to how

    jessica-wolff on #159013

    Recently noticed two used Pilgrim Progress pedal harps at their website going for GBP 4,700 and GBP 5,000. That’s a kid-sized double-action harp (40 or 41 strings, 5’0″ tall, 50 lbs) for not that much more than a really good lever harp with plenty of levers and strings–though if you’re in the U.S., the cost of having it sent from England would add up. Sounds pretty good, too (not just my opinion). They refer you to a YouTube video of Deborah Henson-Conant playing one (Samba d’Orfeu). You refer to yourself as young–do you mean really young, as in teenage or younger? If so, this harp might be ideal.

    barbara-brundage on #159014

    In this market you could definitely find a used pedal harp in the US for less than that, (and a used full-range lever harp for MUCH less than that). But you need to be sure you have a teacher or other competent harpist who knows what to look for to help you find one, or there’s also plenty of trouble out there for the unwary.

    barbara-brundage on #159015

    just to clarify: I meant for less than what the total cost would add up to with shipping and duty. Also, with an instrument like the Pilgrims you need to consider what you do when it needs a repair.

    Harp Museum on #159016


    I’m happy you’ve brought up John Manno. His ability to play those complex pieces on the lever harp is astounding, not to mention the fact that he makes it look so incredibly easy.

    We were so impressed with his performance that we are showcasing select pieces from his CD on our website at http://www.InternationalHarpMuseum.org

    Anne Marie O’Farrell is an outstanding performer as well and I, for one, would really like to see more of this level of classical playing on the lever harp.

    jessica-wolff on #159017

    Well, Barbara’s probably right. I had also thought of Lyon & Healy’s Chicago Petite 40, but it hasn’t been around long enough to be found as a used harp. New, it costs more than $10,000.

    Tacye on #159018

    I think you should start saving up- you can always change your mind and do something else with the money!

    barbara-brundage on #159019

    Very true, but there are probably hundreds of used 85Ps floating around and not a lot of market for them right now. People are usually asking high, but believe me, there are a lot of people who will negotiate.

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