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Some Advice Please

  • Unknown
    Unknown User

    Hello everyone.  Found this forum while researching harps.

    I'm looking to take up the Harp.  I have been looking more at a Celtic style harp.  I have never played the harp before but have been playing piano for over 45 years (I read music).  I have been looking on eBay at some harps, bid on one but got outbid.  I am now looking at another on eBay.  It is a Caitlin 38 string and would appear to be cross-strung, but is quite small in size so would be perfect for travelling.  The price (for the UK) is reasonable at £149.99 ($210) but the P&P charges a little on the high side at £35 ($49).

    Anyway, sorry to rabbit on, but as a complete novice to the harp, would getting a cross-strung be a good idea or should I go for a lever harp, maybe 26 or so strings?

    I live in England, UK.

    replies to "Some Advice Please"
    • Jennifer
      Jennifer Buehler

      Avoid the Caitlin!!  Anything that has "Carved" and "Rosewood" in the description is probably a bad bet.  Generally these harps have poor quality control, are badly strung and have levers that work poorly if at all.  While there are a few here on the fourm that have made similar harps work for them, I would recommend something else.

      Cross strung, in and of itself, is not bad but it's much harder to find a teacher or method books.  And, if you eventually want to play pedal harp, the technique is completely different.



    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Thank you for that Jennifer. 

      At the moment I am undecided of which harp to get but it has to be a Celtic type harp, preferably small.  A pedal harp is too big to travel with - and I wouldn't have enough space in my house for one. 

      The reason for taking up the harp is that I've been asked to form a little band playing esoteric type music.  That is going to be fun in itself because I have to teach others to play instruments like guitar.  It was a friend of mine who suggested, jokingly, that I get a Celtic harp.  Well, the seed was sown and has now germinated LOL.  I was looking at the Caitlin, mostly because it is cheap and therefore if things didn't work out, it's not too much money to lose.

      To be honest, I'd much rather try several harps and eventually choose the one I'm most comfortable with and has a nice tone.  I did hear a clip on the internet of a Caitlin since I posted, and I have to admit, I wasn't too keen on the sound.  I felt it was a bit harsh.

      Unfortunately, there are no music shops selling harps in the area where I live.  The nearest is over 40 miles away.

      Can you recommend a harp, preferably no more than 39 inches tall, that has a nice sound and isn't too expensive?

      Many thanks.


    • Karen
      Karen Johns

      Jennifer is absolutely right- you do not want to get this type of harp! Some people have gotten a decent sounding one, but it seems to be rather the exception than the rule.

      If you have any inclination towards trying to build a harp, the cheapest way I can point you is to build one from a kit. Try www.harpkit.com . I have built both the Voyageur & Limerick models from this company, at a fraction of the cost of a prebuilt custom harp.

      Best of Luck to You!



    • Liam
      Liam M

      Fiona a chara,


      You are looking at a Mid East manufacturing harp made in Pakistan. I happen to have one, not double strung, but a 29 string lever Minstrel.  I did look at the double strung, in fact I looked at fixing a broken one. (I backed off when I learned soundboard failure was not unheard of in that model)

      You are going to hear considerable criticism of the "Pakis" as they are derogatively called, (Pakistani Harp Shaped Object to be specific) and I will concur, you should exercise caution when purchasing one.

      Now having made the obligatory statement concerning caution, please allow me to put it into perspective. First, if it is double strung you desire... then there is no issue with levers as they have none in the doublestrung version. If you were to opt for a lever version, then the levers are not the quality of Loveland, nor Camac or any of the other better brands.... but if you are willing to spend the time to work with them, you can make them function. It takes time and patience. As to the sound, stringing can be improved and with it the sound improves. And Michael here has done some amazing work with resonators.


      There is a young girl on YOU TUBE, Maple Squirrel, who makes a Paki just like mine sing. It can happen if you are willing to work with it. And your outlay will be less then any other harp on the market.


      My grandchildren currently practice on the Paki.  I used it as an entry and it served the purpose well. Personally, as I learned more of harps, I fell in love with the wire strung Clarsach and moved on starting with an "In the White" Druidd kit that I finished from Dreamsinger harps. 


      Here is my Paki and my Clarsach, Clarsita

      And here is Clarsita and my latest acquisition, a Dreamsinger Trinity I am restoring...

      As you can see, I love to work with my hands and, as I am sure some will attest to, I am a better mechanic then I am a Clarsair, or Harper. For this reason perhaps I am more forgiving of the Pakis. I accept them for what they are, an inexpensive entry level instrument that one uses to enter the world of Harping. I do not see them as a lifetime instrument.

      The cost of the next least expensive fully assembled instrument will be ~1.5 to 2x the Pakis. that would be the cheapest of the Harpsicles an instrument which I do not find asthetically appealing, but many enjoy their voice.

      To go to a kit, is an excellent option. Most kits are reasonably simple to assemble and yeild a sense of pride that is well worth it... of course if you can handle the kit, you could also handle the regulation of a Paki... but the kit will double in value when finished where as the Paki will not.


      And do take the time to listen to the lovely voices of the wire as you enter into the magic world of Fingers Dancing in Heaven. No matter which you choose...Welcome!!

    • Tacye
      Tacye Phillipson

      Can you make it to the Edinburgh Harp Festival http://www.harpfestival.co.uk ?

      There are not many harp shops in the UK which stock a wide range of good harps by different makers- but they do come to the festivals.  In the mean time how about renting?  The Pilgrim Skylark is a good harp and not much taller than you ask for- the price tag on a good harp in this country is why renting at first is wise.

    • Harpa
      Harpa Overy

      I would second the advice to look at musicmaker's kits - they really are very good instruments and allow you to personalise the decoration/finish if you wish. As money is an issue (as it is for most at present) you can also save a bit by not installing levers right away. You can always instal them later, when you've a bit of knowledge under your belt and are playing pieces that require key changes. Just remember that there will be tax to pay when the kit reaches the UK so you'll need to figure that into your sums.

      I'd also second the advice about Pilgrim's Skylark. Pilgrim harps are generally very well thought of by those who've played them so if you haven't already, you might want to check out their website.

      Unfortunately harps just aren't cheap, but especially so here in the UK!

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Aye Liam.  (I noticed the bit of Gaelic there :)

      I thought one of the Paki harps, because they are cheap would be a good way to start.  The harp would also be used outdoors (possibly at Stonehenge) so if a cheap one gets damaged it wouldn't be quite so bad than if an expensive one got damaged.  Perhaps good enough to learn on and it could be sold on at a later date.

      One thing I've noticed on eBay, harps (regardless of make) are selling for high prices.  I bid on an EMS.  I bid over £100 for it and got outbid.  It sold for £122.  Another I was watching but couldn't bid on (I think it may have been a Paki) sold for £92 today.  I was quite disappointed at not being able to bid.  My laptop is ancient and the connection very slow.  I got held up at work and didn't get home until 15 minutes after the auction ended.

      However, that said, when someone is selling a new harp, even though it's made in Pakistan for £149 + P&P, is it worth buying a second hand harp for almost as much?

      At the moment I've decided to sit on things, research and learn what I can - at least for a couple of weeks.  The size of the instrument is also quite important as it has to fit in the car and be reasonably easy to carry from A to B.

      The nearest shop that sells harps is in Bristol, some 40 miles away.  Not this weekend coming but next we may be going there so will visit the shop.  I'll be able to try a few harps there.

      Not having played (or even touched) a harp before, I'm really quite in the dark.  I have watched a few YouTube videos and it doesn't look too difficult, not even the cross strung as the strings are laid our similar to a piano (been playing for well over 40 years so that helps).


      Although I live in England, I'm Scottish with family in Aberdeen.  My daughter recently gave birth to my second grandson so I've got a very good excuse to go to Aberdeen - and go to the Harp Festival in Edinburgh :)

    • Audrey
      Audrey Nickel

      I'd caution you against the "it doesn't look too difficult" kind of thinking.  It's not necessarily any more difficult to learn than piano, but it is a very, very, different technique from piano, and you can hurt yourself quite badly if you don't know what you're doing...and at the very least, you won't get decent sound out of your instrument.  If you do get a harp, and can't arrange for lessons, at least get a method book and some good videos (not just what you see on YouTube) and learn to play with correct technique.  Even our small folk harps are serious instruments, and they deserve a serious approach.

      Definitely don't get a cross or double strung if you don't plan to take lessons.


    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      What I meant by "doesn't look too difficult" was learning which strings represent which note.  Sorry if I didn't make that clear.  I know technique is important.  I started learning the piano at the age of 5 and was taught from day one to keep my wrists up.  Paid dividends.  Apart from playing piano (and a few other instruments), I'm also a secretary/typist and have been for over 25 years.  I've never had Repetitive Stress Injury unlike some people I've known.  I do believe that is because I keep my wrists up when I play piano or type so I know technique is very important.

      I also did wonder if I can find a good harp teacher locally and will set about trying to find one tomorrow.  There are so many things I need to know and learn taking a few lessons even before I buy a harp might be worthwhile.

      Anyway, it is nearly 2am so I'm off to bed to dream about when I get a harp :)

      By the way.  Thank you all for your advice so far.  Very friendly and helpful forum :) :) :)

    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      It would be an excellent idea to find a teacher before buying a harp. For one thing, many teachers (at least in the US) either have instruments they rent out inexpensively to students or know where you can do this. It's a good idea to play a while before you buy; you'll have a much better idea of what works for you when you're ready to spend the money.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Well, the good intentions of finding a harp teacher locally fell flat on it's face I'm afraid.  There isn't one in my county, let alone in our town.  Nearest I come up with is over 40 miles away, charge £22 per lesson (probably the going rate).  Add to that the cost of travelling and it's not really viable.  Next one is in Wales, over 100 miles away.

      Plenty teachers for piano etc., but not a lot for harp.

      Looks like I'm going to be teaching myself, so if anyone can recommend a good book and/or DVD/Video please let me know.

      I'll try our local music shop and see if they know of anyone who teaches harp.  I know when I was looking for a music teacher for my son (clarinet) I had a hard job finding someone - and that was a couple of years ago.

    • Karen
      Karen Johns

      Pamela Bruner- Play The Harp Beautifully Series. Great starter book, really takes it a step at a time. She is very thorough with her approach. I recommend getting the DVD's that go with this book as well. Check out www.heartlandharps.com .


    • Rachel
      Rachel Avery

      Pamela Bruner's "Play the Harp Beautifully" Vol. 1-2 and Sylvia Woods' "Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp" each have books with accompanying DVD's.  The Bruner books go at a slower pace and use original compositions.  Sylvia's book has exercises, tunes you may be familiar with, but again they progress in difficulty rapidly; it's a great book for repertoire.  Neither assume you know how to read music.   If you want good beginner classical-sounding music, I like "First-Grade Pieces for the Harp" by Grandjany/Weidensaul (this book does assume you have flats on your harp).  Together these would be a great start.  I learned on my own before I got a teacher, and if you're careful to follow their instructions, you can get by with occasional lessons.  I would still recommend having a lesson or two in the beginning to make sure your position is good and to get the basics.  Then perhaps have sporadic lessons after that as funds will allow.  Good luck!

    • Audrey
      Audrey Nickel

      One possible concern with the Sylvia Woods DVD...I think it may be region 1 only (I don't have my copy anymore, so I can't check).  A possible concern for someone living in the UK, unless you have an all-region player, or want to set your harp up in front of your computer.

      I don't know about the other books, but if they're U.S. authors or publishers, you're likely to have the same problem.


    • Jennifer
      Jennifer Buehler

      There are several harpists who teach online.  Not sure how that works overseas but I think you google "skype harp lessons" to find more info.



    • Tacye
      Tacye Phillipson

      Hobgoblin (I assume this is the Bristol shop you are thinking of) has only a limited range of harps- the Stoney Ends are nice, but only one option.  Cardiff would be a better bet for you with both Salvi Wales and Telynau Vining (Camac) either of whom may have listings of teachers in your area and ask Pilgrim also- this is frequently more effective as a way of finding harpists than trying local drum and guitar shops because we all end up buying books and strings mail order from the specialists.  You should probably look at Morley's website too to get an idea of the harps available. 

    • Karen
      Karen Johns

      Regarding the Sylvia Woods DVD:

      I had a real problem with this DVD- it wouldn't play at all on my DVD player (it's a combo player, Samsung). I returned the first one, got a second, and had the SAME problem. It kept skipping forward lessons, wouldn't go to menu, etc. Maybe your explanation explains why this happened, but it will play on my computer and my kids Xbox 360. But I'm in the U.S., so how does that figure? This has puzzled me for a long time. All my other DVD's work just fine on this player. Any thoughts?

    • Alice
      Alice Freeman

      My therapeutic musician training was online with a 90-minute class every Friday night for eight months using Skype. We had 4 students from the US and 2 from Australia in the class and it worked just fine (especially playing our harps for each other during the session). Our group still meets once a month on Skype for an informal chat. Our only challenge is keeping our starting times straight when one or the other of our countries goes through Daylight Savings Time changes. I would highly recommend checking out Skype for cheap communications.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Some good ideas.  Tuning the harp isn't a problem because I've got the piano (it's digital so is always in tune) - and it sits next to the PC.

      What is annoying me today is I found a really nice harp on a website, the right size, sounded really nice (there was a soundclip) and I can't for the life of me remember what it was called or what website I found it on.

      It was a wee bit more expensive but I loved the sound of it.  It had a really warm, mellow sound.  I decided it would definitely be worth saving up for - if I can remember which one it was!!!

      Also running searches for harps for sale, I found a private ad for a 27 string harp (I think it may be an Asian one but not sure - just the words rosewood and carved) for £70.  I've e-mailed the seller but so far haven't had a reply.  I'm not sure how old the ad was because it didn't say.  Have to wait and see on that one.

      If I don't hear by e-mail by tomorrow evening, there was a phone number too so I'll ring it.  I would have phoned tonight but hubby wanted to do some shopping and we just got back 30 minutes ago.  Spent longer in the supermarket than we intended - and spent more LOL!

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Tayce.  Meant to add it is Hobgoblin I was thinking of.  They might not have a lot (and I've heard they're not very helpful) but at least I could have "tried one for size" so to speak.

      Cardiff's a fair distance away but might go over there in a few weeks time if I can't find anything closer to home.