I am new to both to the harp (just had my first harp lesson last week!) and to reading music. I will be renting a harp for the next few months and then hope to buy one in the near future. My question is: I am particularly interested in early music..medieval, renaissance, even baroque and am wondering what a good harp for a beginner-on-a-budget would be, given my musical interests? I see many beginners on this site looking into the Dusty Strings Ravenna 26–but am not sure if that would be suitable for someone like me? Or if 34 strings might be better & expand the repetoire of early music I could play? As I said, I am a complete novice so any suggestions are much appreciated!
In general, if you get the most strings that you can afford, you’ll expand the range of pieces you can play.
When I was planning to get a harp, I bought some music and browsed through it. I wanted to get a head start on remembering how to read music. As I collected music, I started to realise that the 30 strings I had been thinking of would not be enough. I ended up buying a 36 string Blevins floor
Thanks for the replies!
That’s a good question! My harp teacher teaches a range of of musical styles, with special interests in Celtic and medieval/renaissance but I am not sure if she is familiar with period technique or working with a replica instrument but I will ask! (I think she noted her technique for early music is classically based). I certainly am willing to look into it…but since it is all so new to me, am still navigating all the possiblities! Your suggestions are much appreciated.
As a beginneer with musical tastes similar to yours I think that your best bet early in your studies is to get a good manageable all around harp with 34-38 strings.
I got a Thormahlen Serenade and I love it. At about the same time as I got my Serenade, I ran into a Lewis Creek Nightingale at a price I liked, and I love that too. I alternate practice between both of my harps, and since my teacher has a Lyon & Healy Prelude, with 38 strings,
I will second the recommendation on the Thormahlen Serenade. I took mine to my first lesson (yay!) and my instructor was impressed. Although I’m biased, I actually thought it sounded as good/better than other harps of a similar size. It’s full and mellow sounding, and not as trebly as some folk harps.
The biggest thing about the Serenade is the fairly high string tension, for a nylon harp.
I researched this quite seriously last year as I have similar musical tastes and have been playing a couple of years. There are two ways to enjoy your early music.
- Historical performance – this means you play a replica instrument and use techniques as close as you can to the time period. This is quite different to classical technique. The advice I recieved from a historical player is that you should learn to play a low tension instrument rather than a pedal harp to make the transition to a historical instrument easier. This can include a replica gothic instrument which has one row of strings and no levers, or a double or triple strung instrument which is what most baroque music was played on. As stressed to me classical technique will hinder more than help in this arena.
- Original music on a modern instrument – you can play whichever harp sounds best to you and suits you and play your musical choices on that. It won’t necessarily sound anything like a historical performance but then again it may actually be more musical to modern ears as well. If you go this route then any modern technique which gives you freedom of movement without injury is appropriate. If you want to get as close to historical instruments as possible then choose a low tension folk harp, which is closer to the sound than a pedal harp. The full sound of a high tension harp is a very modern invention and would never have been heard with early music.
It’s all a matter of how hard core you want to take your interests. If you intend to play with a historical ensemble then get yourself a nice large gothic harp which is the cheapest of the historical harps and will do while you learn. Then scour the world to find a historical harpist that will teach you their technique.
As for myself. I decided that
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