I am new to harping.
I imagine the Prelude and similar “pedal harp appearance” lever harps are among the heavier ones out there. They all look pretty solid.
For the best sound in a very light package, Heartland Harps now makes a harp made of carbon fiber that from the clips they have up sounds quite nice. 38 strings and 10 pounds is quite appealing if you don’t want to strain yourself, and if I were shopping for a lever harp right now that would be on my list. I mean wowie, that’s a light harp. It has a somewhat futuristic appearance because of the material. They have a clip up at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VzSdptY82HQ and some others on their web site.
If you want a more traditional (i.e., wood) appearance, you might look into smaller harps. Blevins Harps makes a gazillion shapes and sizes and a lot of people on here enjoy their harps. If nothing else their site is fun to browse around on since they have so many – I think the Aspen is my favorite to look at, and if I were shopping for a lever harp right now, that would also be on my list. I might have a long list, so I guess I’m glad I’m not shopping for a lever harp right now.
I own a Thormahlen and love the feel and tone. It respond well to a light touch but does a good pedal harp impersonation if I want a fuller sound. I don’t know their weight, but I’d guess probably a bit less than a Prelude. My Cygnet doesn’t seem too heavy, but it depends on how light you want. It fits into the back of my Toyota Echo pretty easily and I can carry it without much trouble, but I wouldn’t want to walk a 5k with it or carry it while juggling knives. They have clips at http://www.youtube.com/user/thorharp.
I also used to rent a Camac Aziliz and thought it was a great size and weight. It’s 34 strings, not as tall or wide as many with that many strings. I’d give it props for portability while keeping a good number of strings. I think it has a very nice sound for traditional music as well, it has a nice brightness but doesn’t get plinky. Clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rbbRPdHmfcY.
On the subject of renting, if you’re somewhere you can rent, you might see about renting a few different sizes and get a better idea for how many strings you need for the music you want to play, whether you need full levers, how badly you want cool celtic drawings, and all that fun stuff. You also might look into makers or retailers that let you trade up later, so you can start out on a less expensive model while you learn and be able to get a different harp more affordably later if you want.
If you look on the Heartland Harps webpage, the weight on their 38 string Dragonheart is only 25 lbs. That’s not too bad when you compare it to other full-size harps which weigh anywhere from 40+lbs. for lever to 80+ for a pedal harp. There are sound samples on their webpage as well. I’m certainly a fan!
Have you gone to any of the Harp Therapy web pages? I have no experience in this, but it looks like therapy harps are much smaller than a harp you would use in church. Also, there seems to be a whole science behind the sound a harp makes for therapy. It’s something that I’ve thought about looking into also. I would suggest striking up an email conversation with someone who does this work – and I know that several at this forum do.
I’ve thought about finding a program to work through, and if successful, I thought I’d buy a harp specially built for therapy work. But the programs can be long and pricey, so I have to hold off for now.
Anna, I think it’s VERY important not to compare your progress to others. More than any other instrument I’ve ever played, I find that progress playing the harp is like being on a diet- you can plateau for a while and then make a LOT of progress quickly.
It’s also a matter of being in the right place at the right time. There may be no opportunities to play for others for a stretch, then many.
Finally, one’s personal mental set has a lot to do with how soon (or not soon) playing in public is right for you. I’ve played for exactly three years this month, I have a degree in music education, and I wasn’t at all ready for other people to hear me until recently.
If you are enjoying what you’re doing, looking forward to practicing every time you sit down to play, and aspiring to making progress, you’re on the right track!
Take a look at the Pilgrim Harps (just south of London, England, in Surrey) that has a 34 string clarsach. Such a mellow tone, pedal harp spacing, light-weight and fully levered. The late Derek Bell, harpist with The Chieftans, played a Pilgrim clarsach harp.
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