I thought you guys might enjoy seeing the latest addition to my harp collection. This is a Stoney End Even Song made from walnut by Gary Stone. The vine decorations were hand painted by Heidi Bacon, who is on staff at Stoney End. I wanted something with more of a rustic, woodsy look but still with a great sound, and Stoney End built this incredibly beautiful harp that is exactly what I had envisioned. Best of all, it sounds as beautiful as it looks. The sound is sweet, warm, and inviting without being too bright or twangy. It will be perfect for harp therapy work or for when I just want to grab a harp to play outside or somewhere without having to get the cover and dolly. In short, this is an incredible harp with which I could not be happier! Gary, Eve, and Heidi are all great to work with, and I’d highly recommend Stoney End if you are looking for a therapy instrument.
I plan to buy a Stoney End Brittany double strung harp. I’ve only seen it/heard it on YouTube, but just KNEW it was what I wanted; it sang to my soul.
It’s light & portable, very important; I’m wondering if anyone had the cherry finish?
Is supposed to be warmer in tone.
Jennifer, I own a double strung Brittany in walnut, but I have played one in cherry. Honestly, I could not tell much difference in the sound of the two. They both sounded great. I ended up with the walnut simply because I prefer darker-stained harps. I don’t think you can go wrong with either. Keep us posted on what you get!
- This reply was modified 7 months, 3 weeks ago by brook-boddie.
I have owned lever harps in walnut and in cherry–real solid wood, not just a “finish” they put on the harp. I agree with Brook, the tone of both woods is very similar, on the warm side. You may like to listen to the examples on Dusty Strings’ website to compare the sounds of the different types of wood!
Thank you so much. I prefer the look of dark wood, as well, but didn’t want it too crisp.
Also, on YouTube, there’s an amstevick playing a double strung Brittany. If she’s around, could she tell me if that was the one she had trouble with? I need to know before plopping down the money. For me, $2000 is a large amount of money. We’re not quite into retirement, but Hubster has begun cutting back on the most onerous of the responsibilities…
I’m curious about 22 vs 26 strings. Is it possible to have the shorter strings exchanged for a couple more of the warmer tones/lower strings?
Do people actually PLAY the tiny higher notes? My husband’s ears & my own, are at issue. If my father were alive, I’d never be able to play any of the higher notes; he got Dengue’ fever in WWII, in the Pacific.
The short answer (sorry, little pun) to changing the shorter strings is “Not readily.” If one wishes a lower range one must have either longer strings, heavier ones, or both. That could mean a different design entirely, that is to say, a taller one. Usually!
However, somewhere in the archives is a discussion about dropping the range on a Stoney End double (? a Brittany?) which includes a string set one fourth lower on one side. See Mae McAllister on “Double Strung Saga” or something like that. That was a kit so Mae could make the necessary changes to hardware: larger eyelets and enlarged holes for some of the Zither pegs.
WRT 22 vs 26 strings, most if not all designs simply add more to the bottom e.g. the lowest for a 26 would be a C (range C-g). The idea is that for a 26 the base tuning would be to C major, for the 22 G major. There’s no particular “law” about that, just what makers assume during the design.
There’s also no reason that you cannot ask a harp maker for a different design – it would be a custom instrument, though. Most smaller shops such as Sligo, Blevins, Stone, etc. might consider building a custom harp, but of course that would cost more than a standard design with a longer waiting period.
Though a double harp is much easier transportable than a single row harp with the same amount of strings and gives lots of interesting possibilities, you may miss the sound of the lower strings.
You ask: “Do people actually PLAY the tiny higher notes? My husband’s ears & my own, are at issue.”
Well, I understand what you mean as my ears are very sensible to the sound of the highest strings. If you hate those strings, you may think again before deciding for a double strung harp.
If I were to buy a double strung harp, it would at least need to have a full octave below middle C. As far as I remember the Stoney End Brittany goes only to the G below middle C. Stoney End does make a bit larger double harps (like the Anne and the Lorraine). Personally, I would be tempted to have a look at the Dusty String FH26 double strung harp.
But when your ears long for great sounding low bass tones, or low bass tones spontaneously resonating with the higher strings you play, you may like to compare the sound of little double strung harps with single row harps and find out what you like best. When you try these harps out, also think of the ergonomic aspects of playing. A stand harp is easier to play than most lap harps.
The point is: what is most important for you? If it’s only the easy transportability of the harp, you may think of one of the compact and/or light weight 34 (or perhaps 31) strung harps. If you do like the added possibilities of the double harp, you may still like to go for the double strung route (perhaps with a full octave below middle C).
Which double – or single for that matter – is obviously a matter of price, preference and availability. For myself, having played both the Dusty and the Rees’ I would go with the latter hands down. Dusty is, of course, and excellent firm but they on make one double (a 26). Rees makes five, from a lap sized to a full sized 36. Just my preference.
Yes, which double is indeed a matter of price, preference and availability.
From Rees I only heard their budget harpsicles and one grandsicle. Probably not comparable to their upper range.
Another builder of a range of double harps is Blevins, but according to their website they don’t accept new orders at the moment.
I read the two threads in which Jennifer is searching for information on a double harp and when I read it well,
* it will be her very first harp,
* she wants it to sound round and warm,
* she doesn’t like the sound of the highest strings,
* she’s thinking about a harp of about 2000 dollars
* she lives in Nevada (I wonder whether one needs a lot of precautions in order to prevent a harp from cracking because of the possible very dry air and large changes between temperature at daytime and at night; when this would be me, I would be tempted to look at a Dusty Ravenna (unfortunately only available as a one row harp) before any searching further, as I guess it may need no or less precautions than most solid wood harps. On the other hand, if the harp stays air conditioned, this would not be relevant.
Edit: additionally, as you want to sing while playing the harp, a stand harp may be easier than a lap harp.
Apart from all the details which may complicate one’s choice of a harp, I would say, just go for the kind of harp that sounds and feels right for you.
- This reply was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by wil-weten.
Hi Jennifer, amstevick here. 😉 I love my double Brittany. I think the only “trouble” I had with it was getting motivated to get it done. I bought it in the white so I could decorate (and save some money) and it took me forever to get underway on the finishing…. That, and the bridge pins were frustrating to put in because they don’t fit quiiiiiiiite properly (see the Double Strung Harp Saga, and Double Strung Harp Saga Redux threads) but they work fine.
Edit: now I remember that I was really mad about the stringing/pins/zither-to-bridge pin angle for a while, but the harp has settled, and it’s not a problem anymore. And if you buy a harp fully made, you won’t have to deal with any of that.
I just installed a few truitt levers a couple days ago! I’ll probably add some of that info to the redux thread. The top f and c levers do not function properly because it is not possible to get the lever close enough to the bridge pin. It lifts the note a whole step no matter what. Frustrating. But the other ones work fine, and the install process really wasn’t too hard. I only have them on Fs and Cs.
I will say that my Brittany has the least sustain of my 3 harps (but that’s not really surprising, as one is wire, and the other is a large Heartland) but that also works out ok because you can play more sparkly notes and double-Strung effects without muddy sound. 🙂
As to the tone of the cherry– I don’t think it will make much difference which wood the harp is made from. The soundbox is plywood with cherry veneer (I think so anyway– is that right, Biagio?) I like how the cherry looks, and that’s what matters in this one, I think.
Edit to add: If you like a big, warm, deep tone, this small double won’t deliver the same way a larger one would. As others have said, it only goes down to g below mid c. I do play the upper strings, but not everyone would need to. You’ve got 22 strings for each hand, so it’s not like you run out of room on either side. 🙂 I play mine often with a strap, so it’s secure and I can move around. I find it to be comfortable that way, and it takes away the need to find a stool or bench that’s just the right height.
So there’s some fragmented rambling. 😉
Choosing a harp really comes down to what each individual person prefers in sound and feel, etc. I love that there are so many option out there to choose from.
ps- Congrats, Brook! It’s beautiful!
Hi Allison, Jennifer and Wil,
Yes, the sides of Stoney End harps are plywood. People make a Big Deal out of what kind of wood is used in a harp’s body and how that affects tone but IMHO that’s a much over-blown idea. Sure, there is some audible difference but so many other factors are at play as well: size and shape of the sound chamber, access holes, type and length of strings, heaviness of the neck and pillar, etc. etc.
Same goes for the sound board material: Dusty’s FH26 and Rees’ Morgan Meghan (a 27) use solid wood but the former is mahogany and the latter poplar. The FH sounds “brighter” to my ear than the Rees and yet – perhaps surprisingly – I don’t hear much if any difference between the FH and my own 2×26 – which has a high density laminate SB but somewhat longer strings.
All of which just reinforces Wil’s suggestion to try a harp if at all possible.
A few other remarks for what they’re worth:
Regarding those bridge pins, it is necessary sometimes to file the ends if you can’t get the lever close enough. Dusty supplies those (see their hardware catalogue) or read what David Kolacny writes in “Trouble Shooting Your Lever Harp”. A booklet that every serious lever harper really should invest in, by the way.
On climate: every high end maker, in the US at least, dries their SBs in a special chamber before fitting them to the harp body. There is little chance of breaking in most climates IF any change is gradual. It is a sudden change in humidity and especially temperature that can put the harp at risk.
Happy Holidays to all,
I’ve done some experimenting with sound boxes- I started mostly with classical guitars and ukes- and developed a few ideas I think are based largely upon sound- no pun intended- principles of physics- i.e. shape, volume and densities of woods- that I like to share when I can.
The harp is a little different from some of those other acoustical instruments in that the main soundboard is under the influence of the forces of many more strings pulling in the middle, so it is bounded by constraints more imposed by the need for strength, while the rest of the soundbox isn’t necessarily so and frequently in my own opinion- and on cheaper paki and decorative harps- often typically overdone in terms of thickness.
As a rule- temporarily removing the special needs of the soundboard itself- cubic volume of a sound box adds resonance, and often volume (loudness)- but not necessarily volume because the other factors of string types and gauges and sound board , and the shape of the box come into play.
It was an education for me when I started exploring smaller guitar sizes- ukes led me there- to compensate for a couple of my fingers haven gotten broken long ago, and considerations of my own aging- I’m 63. I found a couple of small 3/4 sized guitars had used full sized bracings inside the sound box, which really killed the sound further than the smaller box, particularly when the top and back bracing was placed almost directly over one another. When those were reduced in height just a short bit even, the sound of the guitar really opened up.
I started to then envision sound as lengths of waves, that “function” best when not limited by either shapes or unnecessary density.
I’m going to post and then continue
I think my most “perfect” acoustical instrument- in several ways at least- is a small $35 Hola soprano uke of thin mahogany body- it’s the body mostly I think, but combined with the unfinished and unfinished mahogany- it really “pops” in sound from the tiny nylgut strings. It occurred to me that out of all my guitars and ukes then that it is most shaped like a bell itself- and somehow the “roundness” almost of it- although the top and back are flat- the depth of it- proportionately deeper than most guitars – give it a real punchy tone.
If it were larger, it might still have great resonance, but not the punch.
You’ve heard me mention the Caswell Sweetharp Biagio, and I’d love to have that lute shaped beauty, because I think it demonstrates remarkable acoustics in the same way- a lightweight- yet not particularly deep body.
A shallow body- in acoustic generalities seems to deliver more punchy body while deeper ones deliver a more mellow fuller of resonance sound.
But density of any kind kills the waves- That is why I always go for unfinished and unpainted guitars and ukes at least. Although I certainly make an exception over a beautiful and functional instrument like the Stoney end above.
I’ve taken to sanding smooth any sound boxes I can easily reach, because I found eliminating rough surfaces makes a difference I can hear- the sound bounces around the box and it doesn’t kill the long waves in the rough which I guess is like the same effect on a golf course.
On the Mikel Celtic 27 I’ve been working on recently- it really has made quite a difference- the curved back being a rather heavy “basswood” they’d probably call it, and I’ve also enlarged the rear soundholes which I noticed smaller in proportion than some other harps- and that has increased sound volume and resonance. Yet it is the lessening of density itself of the material which also make a difference you can actually hear- when I tap on the outside of the box now the rapping is brighter and louder in every way, and so is the sound of the strings on the same sound board I haven’t touched beyond a smoothing on the back surface.
I’m sure many of you would not want to much modify your harps- I got that one incredibly cheap- but the point is maybe to look for a largish sound box with not terribly thick sides or backs.
I would love to have one of those travel harps that remove the sound box from the harp and sound board just to see how much sound really comes off a board relative to the rest of the box.
- This reply was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by hearpe.
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