So you’ve fallen in love with a harp and you want to buy your first instrument. You’ve decided you want a 34 string harp for it’s balance of range and portability great range, it has lots of lovely bass to play with but you can still get in in a car. A 34 string lever harp is a common size that loads of players play and music is arranged for.
One option is to go second hand, and probably for somewhere between £1000 (very rare), £1200 (more common) and £2000 you’ve got a lot of choice. You need to get acquainted with all the harp makers out there and try and few new instruments beforehand but with time and patience and looking in the right place you can get an instrument for less than £1500.
But what if you don’t want to wait that long, and actually you want a brand new instrument? Here’s a round up of the most economical levers harps to start with.
Camac – Hermine, £1,895, 11kg
Telynau Teifi – SiffSaff, from £1,895, 8kgs
Morley Harps – Ravenna 34 by Dusty Strings, £ 2,200, 8.6kg
Pilgrim Harps – Skylark, £2,220, 8.2kg
Factors to consider for your harp are:
1, Sound – this is the most important thing. Do you like the sound? Does it sound like a harp to you? Does it make you want to play the instrument? Your technique definitely has a big influence on sound quality but some instruments definitely sound brighter, others richer. It comes down to personal preference and the best advice is to try them: go to harp festivals, players meetings, harp shops, talk to people and ask nicely to try.
2, Weight – this probably the next most important decision. The heavier an instrument, the less likely you are going to want to move it: to lessons, to playing groups, to festivals. If you can find a harp you are comfortable moving then a wonderful social world of playing opens up to you! It’s definitely worth trying to lift each instrument. My personal maximum weight is around 14kg which my harp currently weighs. I once moved an electro-acoustic lever harp weighing 25kg and that was very difficult. I’ve put an order in for an electro harp weighing 7kg and I am very much looking forward to that!
3, String tension / feel – this is a big part of the sound and your experience playing the instrument. The higher the string tension, the more effort you need to put into each finger to pull the string and make it ‘sing’ properly. Higher tension instruments (heading towards a pedal harp) tend to be richer in sound and louder. Low tension instruments tend to be brighter and quieter. If you love classical music, go for the depth of tone. If you like trad dance tunes, you definitely want a faster lighter instrument!
4, Height – measure your car and see if you harp fits across the back seats or if you’d need to put the back seats down every time. I buy my cars so I can get one harp plus four people (inc driver) and a PA in – split back seats are great.
So in summary: affordable harps are out there. Try as many as possible and you’ll get your ear in to what you like. Think about the practicalities – by and large, lighter = better. Good luck!
For parents of children in full time education and young people aged 18 – 25 have a look at the Take It Away Scheme (http://www.takeitaway.org.uk/) which can give you an interest free loan. You may also be able to avoid paying VAT with the cooperation of your school – talk to them and the harp shops.