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Choosing your harp.What is the right harp for me?

Updated: Mar 29, 2022

Different types of harps.

Lever Harps (Celtic harps, Lap harps, Bardic harps…)




These are the most widespread harps. Having almost died out some centuries ago, they were revived by enthusiasts in the 1970s. This type of harp is often called a “Celtic harp”, because of its history, but today it is capable of playing more or less every style of music.


Specifications:

• Size: 1.5 – 1.6m • Strings: nylon, carbon or gut (steel → antique harps) • Range: 34 – 38 strings (4 – 5 octaves) • Weight: 8 – 16 kg • Price: 2000- 5000 € (new) • Suitable for: harpists from the age of seven • Position: seated or upright (with raised harps). • Transport: small hatchback cars.


Pedal Harps (or Classical Harps)

Energetic and majestic, this harp’s full sound is as imposing as its stature. From its voluptuous bass to its pearly top register, its sound and its pedals offer a fascinating, wide range in all styles of music.

Specifications:

• Size: 1.70 – 1.90m • Strings: nylon (top register) + gut + bass wires • Range: 40 – 47 strings (5 – 6 octaves) • Weight: 30 – 40kg • Average price: 15 000 – 25 000€ (new) • Suitable for: from the age of ten (to reach the pedals) • Position: seated (to be able to work the pedals) • Transport: large car and harp trolley


Electric Harps (Electro-harps, Solid-body)

The result of long years of research and experiments by manufacturers such as Camac and Salvi, and by artists like Alan Stivell and Andreas Vollenweider, these instruments were born out of the need to amplify harps on-stage, especially with a lot of other musicians. Solid-body harps (without sound boxes) saw the light of day in the Camac workshops.



Specifications:

• Size: 1.17 – 1.45m • Strings: nylon • Range: 32-36 strings (lever) | up to 47 strings (pedal) • Weight: 5 – 7.5 kg (lever) | 35 kg (pedal) • Price: 2.000 to 5.000 € (lever) | up to 30k € (pedal)

• Suitable for: from the age of seven • Position: seated or upright (32 strings, with body strap) • Transport: small cars, rucksack (lever) | medium car (pedal)


South American Harps (Llanera harps, Paraguayan harps, etc.)

These harps arrived in South America via the colonies, and have become an emblematic instrument of Venezuela, Colombia and Paraguay. Their roots are in Western harps, they have undergone various transformations to adapt to South American music. There are two principal families: llanera harps, and Paraguayan harps.



Specifications:

• Size: 1.30 – 1.60m • Strings: nylon • Range: 34 – 38 strings (4-5 octaves) • Weight: 8 – 16 kg • Price: 2000 – 5000€ (new)

• Suitable for: from the age of seven • Position: seated or upright • Transport: small hatchback cars


STUDY HARP VS CONCERT HARP


As not every harpist has the same means, there are instruments classified as study or concert harps.

The main difference is in the quality of the woods used, and therefore in the price..


  • Study Harp

(entry-level to mid-range)

The woods used for all the parts will be of lesser quality. The higher up the range you go, the more high-quality wood will be used. A study harp will have plainer finishes (in terms of quality of the varnish, decoration etc). Depending on brand, the quality of the mechanism (pins, discs etc) will also be lesser.

Regarding pedal harps, a study harp will have slightly fewer strings than a concert model, as well as a narrower soundboard called a “straight soundboard” (in contrast to the extended soundboard of concert harps).

These instruments are suitable for amateur and semi-professional harpists.


  • Concert Harp

(mid-range to top-end)

A concert harp will have a better-quality soundboard, which gives a better sound and allows the concert artist to fully express their talent. You will also find better woods in all other parts of the body. The mechanism and its finishes will also be of superior quality.

Regarding pedal harps, concert harps have an extended soundboard (which extends out past the width of the body at the sides), in order to amplify the power and the resonance of the instrument. This gives a more ample sound, extending the harp’s possibilities still further → same principle as a grand piano, which has a bigger sound board than an upright piano.

These instruments are conceived for semi-professional to professional harpists, or for amateurs seeking a high sound quality.

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