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professional grade lever harp

  • Amy
    Amy Wilson

    Hi all,

    I play a pedal harp and have a friend who plays a Salvi Ana lever harp.  She wants to start playing lever harp professionally and asked me to recommend a lever harp brand that it portable (lighter than her Ana) and has enough projection to handle professional work in medium-sized venues without needing to be amplified.  Any recommendations?

    Amy

    replies to "professional grade lever harp"
    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      It's not so much a question of brand--most makers make both student and professional grade harps--as of models. But no lever harp is going to work in a medium sized venue chock full of people without being better for amplification (nor pedal harp, either). You can play any harp in an empty cathedral and it will project just fine. You can play the largest loudest concert grand in a small packed venue and not be heard. If she wants to play professionally, amplification is a fact of life, I'm afraid, except sometimes for wedding ceremonies.


      For lighter weight harps, pretty nearly anything from a lever harp maker is lighter than a lever harp from a pedal harp maker (like the Ana or the L&H prelude or Camac Mademoiselle). Is she willing to trade the pedal harp shape of the Ana for the more basic triangle of a dusty, thormahlen, etc?


      Personally, I would think the Ana, if hers is decent, is a pretty nice harp for gigging. I'd get a dolly and an am, if it were me, instead of a different harp, unless i hated the harp I had. In the US, other options would be some models from dusty strings, thormahlen, triplett, Rees, Kortier--there's a whole long list. Since she's used to gut strings, I'd probably say to start by investigating the folk-gut thormahlens, as closest to what she's used to.


      But are you in the US? That makes a difference, and so does the kind of playing she plans to do.

    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      I'd get a dolly and an am


      and an amp, of course, not "am"

    • Amy
      Amy Wilson

      Barbara,

      She doesn't like the Ana because the sound is too mellow.  She says that she needs a medium-sized lever harp suitable for pro work that has excellent projection/tone/resonance.  She also thinks that she can adapt to a nylon harp or composite strings without too much trouble.  (Has tried a harp with fluoro in the past and was able to get a good sound from it.)  If gut/lever gut strings don't project as well as nylon/composite/fluorocarbon strings, she'd rather avoid lever harps strung with them.

    • Jerusha
      Jerusha Amado

      Amy,

      I play lever harp professionally and also wanted a harp with excellent projection (as well as excellent tone and resonance).  I also needed something that would work in venues where amplification is not allowed.  I replaced my Thormahlen Cygnet with a Dusty Strings 36S because the Thor. was more of a stay-at-home harp--was not suitable for professional work.  My Dusty, on the other hand, has a lot of power and resonance, with a beautiful tone.  I also tried a friend's Bubinga Cygnet, and it was similar in that it lacked sufficient projection.  I have tried a variety of other brands/models of lever harps over the years, and based on my experience, I would say that nylon, composite,or fluorocarbon strings usually project better than gut on a medium-sized lever harp.

      Jerusha

    • Kreig
      Kreig Kitts

      I was thinking maybe the pedal tension Thormahlens might have the oomph she wants. My teacher's Troubador is plenty loud, though it's probably taller than many other 36 string lever harps and I don't know how much lighter than an Ana it would be. Heartland harps are generally known for a big sound, so that might be one to try out, especially if she likes the sound of their carbon fiber models, which are as light as you'll get a harp with 36 or more strings.

       

    • Brook
      Brook Boddie

      I played a Lyon and Healy Prelude 40 a couple of weeks ago at the Atlanta Harp Center that had a fantastic sound--very much like a small pedal harp.  It probably weighs as much as an Ana, however.  I was very impressed with the sound of this particular harp.  The Pratt Chamber Harps are great lever harps also, but they are heavier as well.

    • Jerusha
      Jerusha Amado

      Kreig,

      I've heard pedal tension with pedal gut on medium-sized lever harps in the past, and they still couldn't match the projection of the nylon or composite strings.   My guess is that the shorter string length of the medium-sized harp results in less resonance, so something else in the design needs to pick up the slack (e.g. composition of the strings, soundboard design).  I agree that the Troubs have lots of power, but at 38 lbs. they are heavy, and they are taller than the Prelude!

    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Wow, Jerusha, that's the first time I've heard anyone say that thorms are unsuitable for pro use. I'll have to pass the memo around to Laura Zaerr and all the other pros who use them that we all need to throw them out and get new harps!


      I totally agree that given the additional info that Amy provided a gut-strung thorm isn't the harp for her, but really, now.

    • Karen
      Karen Johns

      The Heartland harps do have big sound, Kreig. I have a Dragonheart that really puts it out. Plus, it only weighs in at 25 lbs. With 38 strings, it's everything I dreamed of in a performance harp.

      Karen

    • Jerusha
      Jerusha Amado

      I believe that Laura plays the Swan professionally, and I think that you do as well.  I never said that all Thor styles are unsuitable for professional work.   My experience is with the Cygnet, and the two that I am very familiar with (although beautiful in appearance and tone) were not suitable for gigging in medium-sized venues (or for playing in ensembles), especially if no amplification is involved.  Please read my posts carefully before you respond with things like this (<we all need to throw them {Thors} out and get new harps>) because I never said anything remotely like that.  There is no need to become defensive here.  I contend that nylon or composite or fluorocarbon usually do a better job of projecting than lever gut or gut strings on a medium-sized harp.  And if memory serves, you have stated to me personally that Dusty 36's,
      for example, project better on average than Thors strung in gut. As an aside, the Ceili or the Serenade might work for Amy's friend.  So could a Swan in nylon.  I just don't have any personal experience with these, so I didn't mention them.  But the harpists on this forum who do use these will most likely weigh in with their experiences in the use of these styles in professional settings.




    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Oh yes, I wouldn't deny that the big Dustys generally have a larger sound, for sure.


      Amy, the best thing would be if you and your friend could get someplace to try different harps. Whereabouts are you located? Even if there aren't harp stores/dealers in your area, there are plenty of folk harp events with vendors all over the place these days, if you're in the US.


      The fluorocarbon harps are definitely very bright. Besides the ceili/ceili mor, I think Larry Fisher is the only person who's really specializing in fluorocarbon strung harps these days, but he's seriously backordered, since his fluorocarbon harps are extremely popular in Ireland.

    • Jessica
      Jessica Wolff

      Well, Rick Rubarth uses fluorocarbon for the Merlin and it projects well. It's considerably smaller and lighter than the Troubadour (for example). Then there's Josephus Harps' Heritage model, slightly shorter and lighter than the Ana.

    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Yes, I'd forgotten he'd switched to fluorocarbon for the Merlin. Thanks for the reminder.

    • Jerusha
      Jerusha Amado

      Rick Kemper of Sligo Harps also specializes in fluorocarbon strings.

    • Jennifer
      Jennifer Buehler

      Kortier Harps are strung in flourocarbon and he has a really nice elctro-acoustic harp.

    • Barbara
      Barbara Brundage

      Yes, although for me his sound, which is very distinctive (Kim Robertson plays his harps, so you can get a good idea of the sound) doesn't work so well for what I do, there's no question that his 40 string is the most strings in the smallest package out there. I don't know that I would say that they're particularly loud harps, though, despite the stringing, if that's the primary consideration.


      Jerusha, do you have personal experience of the Sligo harps? What are they like.

    • Patricia
      Patricia Jaeger

      Amy, consider the Pilgrim Harps Clarsach model, 34 strings, just over 18 pounds, with same spacing of strings and tension as a pedal harp. At www.pilgrimharps.co.uk you can read more detail and see the harp in several finishes. There are also links to hearing it played on You Tube.

    • Maria
      Maria Myers

      Good grief!

    • Maria
      Maria Myers

      Very gracious response to a rude post, Jerusha.

    • Janelle
      Janelle Lake

      I love my Thormahlen Swan.  I don't know if it is lighter than an Ana, but it has concert tension and sounds gorgeous and full.  I also love the Camac levers.