• how to choose a harp

First Time Buyer's Guide

When you look through our harp models, we offer advise as to who might purchase each model. For impartial information we wanted to provide our clients with an article about choosing a harp written by a harp teacher without a brand in mind. In the “Choosing a Harp Guide” Cynthia addresses all the issues regarding getting the right harp for the student. We are well versed in this as well so if you don't get your questions answered here,please call us for advice.

Choosing a Harp Guide

Written by harp teacher Cynthia Artish

Harps are not standardized musical instruments and can be a bit confusing to new players. Out of all the various choices, the Important priorities are: Sound, Fit, Range, Price.

Sound is Everything

New musicians need to know that the sound of their instrument is the most powerfully satisfying feature of doing music. The best harps have a rich, resonant voice; the strings are evenly balanced so the full range of the harp is responsive – even inspiring the player to reach for greater skills. Musicians “live” with their music, so understanding the sound of your harp is important because you are going to live with it for a long time.

The Best Fit for Beginners

Since playing the harp (like any other musical instrument) is such a physical experience, it is vital a new student play a harp that fits their body comfortably and securely. Matching statures (student height to harp size) is important. For adults, sitting on a standard 18” high stool, to a floor size model of 30-34 strings is a wonderful first choice. For a small child (age 6-8), sitting on a 12” stool with a 28 string harp set on the floor, is a reliable “rig” that will preserve healthy ergonomics. This way, both the adult and child’s feet support their upper bodies so they can hold the harp rightly and play freely.

Travel Harps – Strolling & More

Some unique and wonderful uses for small harps, is strolling (moving around while playing) and taking your harp on trips (car and airplane travel). Therapy harp is all about sharing music at the bedside, so smaller harps are perfect for this application.

However, small harps are not necessarily a good choice for a beginner because smaller sized instruments can be tricky to hold and coordinate. Setting a harp on the lap, table or stand can be risky to balance for young children or adults with special needs. These students are best served by playing floor size harps, which have the best playing position stability.

Musical Range

Harps come in all sizes with different amounts of strings. This influences the styles of music that is possible to play on it. Lever harps are capable of doing a wide variety of musical styles: Classical, folk, Jazz, Celtic, Renaissance, Blues, Pop, Sacred, Latin, Children’s, Therapy and Rock. Presently, there is a global harp renaissance occurring where we are seeing lots of creative fusion and innovation of musical styles!

While smaller harps (22-30 strings) constitute a smaller musical range, we’d not agree this is necessarily “limiting” because many artists specialize in small harps in their careers. Certain compromises in playing techniques are present, of course.

Floor size harps (34-38 strings) offer full access to the musical styles, with little to no compromises.

Smaller harps possess a smaller volume compared to larger harps, possessing a larger volume. This is a basic rule though not always occurring as expected.

Price

Handcrafted, solid wood, stringed instruments have the smallest profit margin in the market because of the unique skill mastery and fine materials required to create a reliable product. Nothing is more fundamental to the quality of a musical instrument than the materials from which it's made and how the materials are designed and rendered.

Lower priced harps have certain “compromises” while larger, pricier harps will offer the highest quality and musical potential.

The best situation is to obtain an affordable harp that is well designed and crafted by luthiers committed to excellence at every price point.