This week I thought I’d talk about my harps that I’ve loved, hated, bought and sold in my quest for the perfect playing! It’s going to be story time then some practical tips!
Let’s start from the beginning.
My first harp was only £150 from a music shop in Buckinghamshire. I thought It was incredible and a wonderful instrument… It is not. It’s a fantastic instrument to learn the basics on but only the basics!
Small Lap Harps:
They are the best for beginners! they’re light weight, cheap, take up very little space and often very good quality! My student now uses my small one to learn on as she’s just starting to learn to play!
Over the winter break I decided to re-string my lap harp. I hadn’t replaced them in about 5 years and they were well worn. as I restrung it I realised, you can’t make a cheap harp sound expensive!
It’s a fantastic harp for teaching and learning and a good first stop on the way to a good harp but it is not a nice sounding harp and has a very limited range to actually use for gigs! That being said I did about 3 weddings with it before getting my big harp, so you never know!
Big Cheap Harps
After I moved into my house after uni I bought this big beast off amazon for £500… and the struggle began!
Don’t buy a cheap harp unless you have incredible pitch and even better patients! It never stayed in tune! I fought with it for about 6 months before it eventually got in tune! It did not tune easily, the levers did not work at all! and it was in an awkward size between shoulder and harp trolly!
Due to it’s poor quality and build I constantly had strings break and didn’t even bother tuning the top octave after the first 2 months as they would constantly break!
The positives was that it was a good transitional harp to my big harp from my small one as it has 36 strings and allowed me to expand my playing. It also sold really quickly once I’d put it on gumtree because I was honest about it’s limitations, If you’re going to buy a terrible harp second hand buy it off a harpist how’s honest about how terrible it is!
Would I get one knowing what I know now? Oh heavens no! it was 12 months of struggle!
Camac Harps (Korrigan)
My Live EP was recorded on my Korrigan Linked here:
I bought my Camac Korrigan second hand from a harpist on gumtree for an absolute steal! and It is the most fantastic harp in the world! It is far more reliable than any man I’ve ever met. I know that sounds like a joke but I am constantly amazed at how well it holds pitch, very rarely has string breaks and can take a beating (musically!) it has 38 strings, which means it goes all the way up to a top top C and all the way down to a Low Low A, which is great because I like a lot of bass when I arrange things but you also get beautiful clear high notes.
The only disadvantage is playing outside. It has a round soundbox/body with is quieter than a square soundbox/body. So when I took it busking it was incredibly quiet, however my square harps create a much bigger sound in poor acoustics, like outside!
When the Lord God made the Universe he made Adam and Eve. What people don’t know is that he also made Sam and my Camac Bardic 27… That’s how wonderful this little harp is! It’s fantastic! I use it for busking mainly and it just works so perfectly! you can get a tremendous range of dynamics from it and it sounds so big and glorious even out on the street!
It’s great to play things up an octave and you still have all the best parts of a bigger harp while also being able to carry it like a backpack!
The only down side has been finding somewhere to keep all my stuff. I had a shoulder bag for about a year and it was fine but made me over balance with my right shoulder, right I have a rolling briefcase that is perfect for keeping my umbrella, music, purse, water, keys, tuner etc! And I tie my stool to the handle to make it even easier!
If you’re going to be doing a lot of teaching, busking or gigging and you don’t drive I would recommend this little wonder! it’s just wonderful! And very cheap for such a phenomenal instrument!
Pedal harps are expensive and that is why I do not have one yet! I’ve got my eye on a lovely electro-acoustic if anyone want to donate to help fund this just let me know! All donations welcome!
Buying a Harp
If you’re starting out and you have no idea if you will play it for long or if you will play it at all. buy a very small one! a Cheap small one is not going to take up much space, will sell quite quickly if you don’t want it and will give you a sense of whether or not you enjoy it!
Don’t buy a huge harp right out the gate, they take up a lot of space. If you don’t drive they are horrible to get about by foot, they also take ages to sell on!
If you’re going to take it really seriously and really want a nice harp I would suggest visiting ‘Affairs of the Harp.com‘ for a good second hand harp. I really love the idea of a second hand harp as it relieves one harpist of their unwanted harp and allows you to enjoy a quality instrument at a reduced cost. It also means that harpists aren’t stuck with their unwanted harps after upgrading! It’s also the most environmentally friendly way! (Think of the wood!)
If you want one brand new then I would suggest going to the harp shop near you and trying out a bunch of different harps. there are subtle differences between harps and each one is different so make sure you have a go and experiment! Harpists are very friendly so there’s nothing to worry about!
If you don’t drive:
If you don’t drive then don’t get a big harp! it is the worst to take on trains, public transport and even taxis!
If you’re going to get a big harp, get a good trolley! mine is fantastic and let’s me strap in my harp so I can walk to the Hilton if for some reason my car doesn’t start! If you live in a city a big harp will be fine as most cities have decent pavements. However, if you’re out in the countryside make sure you can lift and carry your harp if needs be!
You can’t go wrong with a small harp! never underestimate a good quality small harp!
That’s it for this week! I doubt that was helpful to anyone reading but I hope it was at the very least entertaining!