Jump to content


Photo

Beginner harper, very late starter!


  • Please log in to reply
72 replies to this topic

#61 Saxwarbler

Saxwarbler

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 788 posts
  • Member: 768786
    Joined: 29-May 13
  • Leicester

Posted 19 October 2020 - 19:35

I've been reading this thread with interest as I'm just about to take the plunge.

It started with a Facebook ad from Derwent Harps, featuring their 20-string lap harps. Good price but still a bit much at that time so as my interest had been sparked I parked the idea and said I'd save up a little. It did at least give me more time to test my interest and work out what I wanted to play - which is mostly Celtic and folk tunes.

Move on six months and I now have a small pension about to mature so I'm back in the market, except I've found out that lever harps with a couple more strings may be a little more 'useful'. I'm still going to be on a tight budget but I think it's going to pay me to raise it a little so I'm looking at Early Music's Heritage harps. Just a muse for now but I can always upgrade if it gets to be more than that.

I had wanted to visit Early Music's showroom at Saltaire but it's not really practical at the moment with Covid in full swing.


  • 0

#62 AdLibitum

AdLibitum

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 392 posts
  • Member: 900040
    Joined: 28-January 20

Posted 20 October 2020 - 07:09

Great choice of instrument! :)

Another thing to consider in addition to what you say in your post is that lap harps are far more difficult to learn on than floor standing harps.

And yes, you'll definitely want more strings even for Celtic music.

Consider renting to begin with, it's common in the harp world and a good way to figure out what you like.

Before you decide, I'd suggest going through the HarpColumn forum archives. There are lots of threads about people considering their first harp purchase plus a few stories of merchants to avoid. And the people there are very knowledgeable and very helpful.
  • 2

#63 vron

vron

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 238 posts
  • Member: 898525
    Joined: 05-December 17
  • South Shropshire

Posted 20 October 2020 - 09:05

I pop in here from time to time as the harp is an instrument I am drawn to. It does seem an expensive choice though and not sure i can justify the expense. Unlike flute or clarinet where you can usually get a beginner's one second hand for not too big an outlay the harp seems different.

 

I might pop over to the forum mentioned to have a look  at what they say.

 

I will watch with interest Saxwarbler when you report back what you bought and how you are finding learning it. The sort of music you mention is similar to what I would like.  Are you thinking of lessons.


  • 0

#64 dorfmouse

dorfmouse

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1601 posts
  • Member: 1946
    Joined: 18-August 04
  • Germany

Posted 21 October 2020 - 06:52

You should both definitely get harps. Not a shred of doubt!
  • 2

#65 erard

erard

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 625 posts
  • Member: 716
    Joined: 09-March 04

Posted 21 October 2020 - 21:33

Derwent have some new models coming out.  The wee nifty is also worth a look.  I have not been impressed with the Early Music shop's instruments.


  • 0

#66 Saxwarbler

Saxwarbler

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 788 posts
  • Member: 768786
    Joined: 29-May 13
  • Leicester

Posted 22 October 2020 - 19:32

Another thing to consider in addition to what you say in your post is that lap harps are far more difficult to learn on than floor standing harps.
And yes, you'll definitely want more strings even for Celtic music.
Consider renting to begin with, it's common in the harp world and a good way to figure out what you like.

There is no way I can run to a floor-stander although I have seen a slightly larger, 29-string instrument for not too much more money. If... repeat if I become so serious that I want to play something larger then I will consider renting. Purchase is a gamble I'm willing to take at this moment in time.

I pop in here from time to time as the harp is an instrument I am drawn to. It does seem an expensive choice though and not sure i can justify the expense. Unlike flute or clarinet where you can usually get a beginner's one second hand for not too big an outlay the harp seems different.

...

I will watch with interest Saxwarbler when you report back what you bought and how you are finding learning it. The sort of music you mention is similar to what I would like.  Are you thinking of lessons.

I have to say, before I had even seen the Derwent ad, the harp was lurking at the back of my mind. Never considered it until I found myself chatting to a (frankly gorgeous) bloke who was helping one of my youth groups with a garden project. We were talking about playing instruments and he said he felt daft saying it and not to laugh at him, but he'd bought himself a table harp and was loving playing it because, he said, "even when you make a mistake you can't make a bad sound on it". Well of course, I was intrigued and I wouldn't have dreamt of laughing.

Like you, I had also thought they were too expensive until I realised that smaller harps can be had for a lot less. Ordinarily I wouldn't be able to justify the expense of even the small Derwent but as I said, I have a little windfall on the way so I'm going to treat myself.

I don't plan to have lessons. I already have piano and - once Covid regulations allow - singing lessons and I'm doing really well with both. One or the other would have to go and I'm not prepared to give up either. I've managed to download a copy of Sylvia Woods' Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp for starters.


  • 0

#67 Pickle

Pickle

    Member

  • Members
  • PipPip
  • 62 posts
  • Member: 578811
    Joined: 20-November 12

Posted 23 October 2020 - 07:09

The problem with lap harps is that if actually played in your lap, they are unstable and wobble, and will lead to the player trying to restrain the instrument with their forearms, which means that their hands are in effect fettered and unable to play meaningfully. A harpist's hands need to be free to move anywhere over the strings, and the elbows free and "floaty".  If you get a small harp of any type, it might be useful to use a small stool, table or something to bring the harp up to a playable height, and put some sort of non-slip cover between the harp and it. This should be more stable than your lap.

If you opt for second hand, most of the harp makers or dealers keep a list of "Pre-owned" harps.

If you decide to rent, the clarsach society has more affordable hire harps than most, and there is often a network of parents renting out their offspring's left-behind, outgrown but too-beloved-to-sell harps.

Like Erard, I have not been too impressed with the Early Music Shop models. But whatever route you decide to go down, enjoy! It's an addictive instrument.


  • 1

#68 AdLibitum

AdLibitum

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 392 posts
  • Member: 900040
    Joined: 28-January 20

Posted 23 October 2020 - 08:28

Re small harps, the 26 string Ravenna has a floor stand. The Ravennas are good quality for the price and from a reputable maker.

Saxwarbler, I confess I don't quite follow the logic that renting a larger harp being more of a gamble than buying a small harp - it'll cost you far, far less to rent for a year than to buy even the smallest playable harp. (Any harp costing just a few hundred quid is not playable - it just isn't possible to build a harp for so little.) I can understand the desire to own rather than rent, though, yes.

ETA: I've looked up the Derwent models - I see they don't have levers, that would bring the cost down quite a bit. That also means, though, not being able to play any accidentals and having to retune to play in a different key.
  • 0

#69 dorfmouse

dorfmouse

    Prodigy

  • Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 1601 posts
  • Member: 1946
    Joined: 18-August 04
  • Germany

Posted 23 October 2020 - 09:48

https://m.youtube.co...h?v=12IHhE_f4lc

I was just browsing the Camac site and discovered this new model, the Odyssey. 27 strings with detachable feet. Light, 5.5kg if I remember rightly. Couldn't find a price in English money but found a review on a German harp forum which was very positive and I think the poster said it was €1,500.
Camac have an excellent reputation for quality.

Other thought for the day - credit is cheap these days + windfall = lovely harp!
(Temptress mouse)
  • 1

#70 Saxwarbler

Saxwarbler

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 788 posts
  • Member: 768786
    Joined: 29-May 13
  • Leicester

Posted 23 October 2020 - 16:34

Re small harps, the 26 string Ravenna has a floor stand. The Ravennas are good quality for the price and from a reputable maker.

Saxwarbler, I confess I don't quite follow the logic that renting a larger harp being more of a gamble than buying a small harp - it'll cost you far, far less to rent for a year than to buy even the smallest playable harp. (Any harp costing just a few hundred quid is not playable - it just isn't possible to build a harp for so little.) I can understand the desire to own rather than rent, though, yes.

ETA: I've looked up the Derwent models - I see they don't have levers, that would bring the cost down quite a bit. That also means, though, not being able to play any accidentals and having to retune to play in a different key.

I'm not about to divulge the full state of my financial affairs but the Ravenna is a lot more than I can (or want to) afford. Neither is around £50/£70 a month for hire in the longer term something I'm prepared to commit to at this stage (at over £600 a year, is it really cheaper, especially as, if you keep it for that long you generally only get a percentage of the hire fees deducted from the final cost?). As I said, I have a small windfall on the way and I am quite prepared to use some of it to buy outright. It's a windfall, not a rise in income!

Plenty of people do seem to learn well enough on 26 -29+ string harps that "only cost a few hundred quid" - I have no aspirations to play other than for myself, family and friends and I simply cannot - will not - consider anything much more at the present time. I couldn't justify it. As I said, if it becomes much more serious or if I suddenly develop a yen for classical harp then I'll consider rental/upgrade options on something bigger. Right now, though, that's not in the picture.

Having done (still doing) a little research, one of the reasons I've switched my ambitions from Derwent is the lack of levers on their smaller models, pretty though they may be.
 


  • 0

#71 Saxwarbler

Saxwarbler

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 788 posts
  • Member: 768786
    Joined: 29-May 13
  • Leicester

Posted 23 October 2020 - 16:49

The problem with lap harps is that if actually played in your lap, they are unstable and wobble, and will lead to the player trying to restrain the instrument with their forearms, which means that their hands are in effect fettered and unable to play meaningfully. A harpist's hands need to be free to move anywhere over the strings, and the elbows free and "floaty".  If you get a small harp of any type, it might be useful to use a small stool, table or something to bring the harp up to a playable height, and put some sort of non-slip cover between the harp and it. This should be more stable than your lap.

I had read that and I may well add a stool to the purchase, although I know a few excellent woodworkers who would be happy to custom-build one for me.

Like Erard, I have not been too impressed with the Early Music Shop models. But whatever route you decide to go down, enjoy! It's an addictive instrument.

I have met and dealt with them a couple of times and had the opposite experience (recorders and drums). It's all relative, I guess.
  • 0

#72 Zixi

Zixi

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 492 posts
  • Member: 895683
    Joined: 08-August 16

Posted 28 October 2020 - 08:02

Saxwarbler - I bought a fullsicle harpsicle 5 years ago. I'd wanted a celtic harp since hearing Stivell's Chemins de Terre - Renaissance of the Celtic Harp as a teenager. And just then I was awaiting a cancer diagnoses which arrived about the same time as the harp. I wish I could tell you that I'm now  passable player but I'm not. I take it out, tune it and play very simple things. Sometimes I just pluck the strings randomly. Whatever I do, it sounds beautiful. I'd do the same thing with hindsight. At the time fitting a full size harp would have been awkward. I didn't want to hire because I wanted one that was really mine. It was a limited edition cherry (it's lovely!) I'd advise on levers because of flexibility. I went to some harp forums and one particular one thought it wasn't a harp unless it filled a room... some were very scathing about small harps until one person came along. He taught harp, made them and repaired them and he said very bluntly that the harpsicle and the like were perfect for those who didn't have the cash or the space for a bigger harp... There were words about top notes and he said that no top notes on any harp weren't that much use and it kind of silenced things. I ordered the harpsicle the same day with a stand. As people have said, it's much easier to balance with a stand and it feels safer. You know your budget and your environment - if it'll make you happy (and you accept the limitations with equanimity) then go for it!!!! :-) BTW I weave and I've seen similar arguments about looms with one person getting so irate about the things said about mini looms that she offered to weave anything they wanted her to on her small loom... again, it rather silenced things! :-) At least here you're seeing enthusiasm for small harps!!!


  • 0

#73 Saxwarbler

Saxwarbler

    Advanced Member

  • Members
  • PipPipPip
  • 788 posts
  • Member: 768786
    Joined: 29-May 13
  • Leicester

Posted 29 October 2020 - 14:57

Thank you for your words, Zixi. That's exactly how I feel. 

The harp I'm looking at is described as suitable for those starting out and finding out whether the instrument is 'for them'. I want to play Celtic and general folk music rather than classical (I have a piano for that) so yes, I'm going for a lever harp. Can't invest too much in one because I'm also upgrading my piano and a fair proportion of this little windfall will go on that.

I'll let you know how I get on. :)


  • 0