One of the oldest instruments, harps have a very medieval charm to it. And no wonder, it has been existing since over 3,000 BCE.
With proper tutoring and a good quality harp, one can create a mood like no other. Harps come either with or without pedals and with an array of strings that the musician strums to create music.
The presence of the pedal also decides the tonal quality and whether it will be used as a folk instrument or a classical one. Today we will discuss the things to keep in mind if you are thinking of buying a harp, and also help you with some options in terms of best beginners’ harps.
Things to Consider When Buying a Harp
Unlike many other string instruments, harps are quite expensive. So, when you are buying a harp for yourself, you have to be really sure of what it is like, if it suits your purpose, and that you will be committed to it for a really long time.
For those beginning their journey, it is never easy to determine these things. So here are the pointers you might want to take into consideration.
To begin with, there are two different types of harp based on their size – the floor harp and the lap harp. Since the lap harp is smaller in size, it may come across as easier to pick up. But in reality, it gets really problematic to get used to its weight.
The floor harp instead can stand on its own, hence cutting off the burden of carrying the instrument on yourself. So, it is suggested that beginners start with a floor harp.
The number of strings also vary from harp to harp. The floor harps usually have 34 strings, giving you a range of treble and bass, and are also easier to learn.
Though there are options with more strings, it will increase the weight and complexity of the instrument. For a lap harp, the standard string count should be over 26 as you cannot find a good range below that.
The playing style and sound quality also vary with the string tension. The kind of music you are going to play comes into consideration here. For quicker playing and brighter output, one can go with low tension strings.
But this may create buzzing noise. Those willing to play classical music and want a mellow, warmer tone might want to go for high tension strings. But these type of strings put a lot of strain on your fingers.
Types of strings used in a harp also make a huge difference in their tonal quality. Nylon strings produce brighter output while the gut strings are known to have richer tone.
The nylon strings are comparatively more durable and cheaper than the gut strings. You can also go for the carbon strings, which produce tones brighter than the nylon strings, are the most durable, but are also the most expensive type of strings.
The spacing between two strings varies between a lap harp and a floor harp. Floor harps tend to have more spacing, making the movement smooth and playing easier. Closely placed strings can also create buzzing noise.
Another aspect to look at while buying a harp is the number of levers. While there are options to go for lesser levers, it is best to have all the levers to be able to play at all possible keys. It also helps in accompanying vocals or other instruments.
Since harps are not the most common instruments, you may have to ship yours from a different country. It is hence advisable to always buy the basic accessories along with the instrument. To begin with, a bag to carry your instrument is extremely necessary.
Another important is a tuning key to tune your harp, which you might need to do frequently.
Except for the technical aspects, there may be constraints such as budget and confusion regarding your playing style and purpose. Before buying a harp, you need to be extremely clear about your choice of music which you are going to work on with the instrument.
Even though you might have a limited budget, do not just go for the cheapest option available. Look at it as an investment and try to pick the one with all the features needed for your type of music.
Lastly, to understand if your instrument is suitable for you, you need to try your hands at playing it and check if you are actually comfortable with the size, weight, shape, and quality of your harp.
6 Best Beginner Harps
Since the harp is a complex instrument in itself and does not belong from this era, it is not the easiest to master. But once you do, it will produce an unparalleled musical tone. To help you find your most suitable harp, we are listing down six of the best beginner-friendly harps, so that you can cut down on the hustle of going through all the harps which are available.
We begin with the Heather harp by Mid-East. As the name suggests, the company manufactures most of the ancient instruments, including some of the brilliant beginner harps. Though lap harps should ideally have around 26 strings, this harp gives a brilliant pitch and range with 22 strings. Brilliant looks and features put this among some of the best beginner harps.
Let us have a look at all its features which makes this harp special.
- 22 string lap harp
- 36” in height
- Has DuPont hard, durable nylon strings
- Has a pitch range from C3 to C6
- All 22 strings have sharpening levers
- The harp frame has rosewood inlay
- The soundboard is made of birch
- Bright sound and hard, long-lasting body
- Comes with the entire tuning kit and an extra set of strings and padded case
- Available in knotwork, lacewood, vine design, and five-panel sheesham back look
Complete with all necessary accessories and made with top quality materials, the Mid-East Heather harp is one of the best for beginners.
Rees is one the most renowned brands that specialize in making harps. They have quite a vivid range for beginners to choose from. However, their most popular entry-level model is the Rees Harpsicle. For years, Rees have maintained top-notch quality with their products and grown the reputation of creating value for money instruments.
There are many uses of harp apart from just musical pleasure, one of which is for therapeutic purposes. The Rees Harpsickles, for their gentle plucking and warm, mellow tone, are known to be used widely by the therapeutic harp players. Its size is suitable for all age groups, and being lightweight, it is easy to manage as well.
Let us look at the features of this Rees harp to understand what puts it in the list of best beginner harps.
- 26 string lap harp
- Body made of maple wood
- String spacing made with precision
- Tuned in the C scale
- Keys in C and A minor
- Can play 3.5 octaves, from G to C, below middle C
- Does not have bridge pins
- Levers cannot be added
- 33” in height
- Only 2.6 kg weight
- Comes with a two-year warranty from Rees Harps
- Available in natural maple, white, red, yellow, orange, green, pink, blue, purple and black color options
Packed with features yet extremely light in weight, with a warranty from a trusted brand, the Rees Harpsickle is an amazing pick for beginners.
For beginners picking lap harps, it is suggested that they opt for lightweight harps. Looking for such instruments, we find the extremely light Pixie harp.
It is manufactured by Roosebeck, a company that creates many ancient instruments such as dulcimer, bodhran, lute, bagpipes, and of course, various kinds of harps.
Not only the instruments, but the company also makes tuners and strings for harps, which helps a buyer to get all the solutions and accessories under one roof.
Though they have different kinds of professional harps, their lightweight Pixie harp is a crowd favorite among the novice musicians. Here are the features of the Roosebeck Pixie harp.
- 19 strings lap harp
- 31” in height
- Extremely lightweight
- Strings used are DuPont hard nylon which are very durable
- Has a pitch range from F below middle C to high C
- Has sharpening levers in all its strings
- Has engraved rosewood inlay
- Soundboard made of birch
- Has brilliant tonal quality
- Has beautiful carvings on its body
- Accessories include tuning tool and an extra set of strings
Aesthetically beautiful, packed with necessary accessories and made with top grade material, the Pixie harp by Roosebeck surely makes a spot among the best beginner harps.
Moving on from smaller lap harps, we now will look at bigger Celtic harps which are usually played putting on stands. These are heavier in weight, but since in most cases the musician does not have to carry it while playing, it makes the action very simple and relaxing. Here we are looking at tall Irish Celtic lever harps.
Let us look at its features to understand why it has been included in the list of best beginners’ harps.
- 22 strings tall Irish Celtic harp
- Made with high quality heavy, durable wood
- Completely handcrafted and polished by hand
- Beautiful hand-carved designs decorate the soundbox
- Mellow, warm tonal quality
- Comes with an extra set of strings and tuning key
- Comes with a suitcase-style water-resistant carrying case with zipper and padding
So, if you are looking to play classical music on larger Celtic harps, this can be a great choice for you.
This is the second Rees harp on our list and for all the right reasons. We have earlier seen the features of a lap harp by Rees, and it is now time to look at a full-sized harp.
The Rees Fullsickles are not only stylish but are also made with top-grade materials. These are fully professional-grade products but made in a way that even beginners can pick up easily. Let us look at the Rees Fullsickle’s features.
- 26 string full-sized harp
- 36” in height
- Just shy of three kgs in weight
- 3.5 octaves can be played
- Strings made of nylon monofilament with nylon wrapping
- It can be played in eight keys – Eb, Bb, F, C, G, D, A and E and their minor keys
- It has a pitch range of G to C below middle C
- Has two years of warranty offered by Rees
- Different coloured harps have different marble stain and textures
If you want to start with a professional harp as an investment, this harp is perfect for you.
We have seen the Roosebeck Pixie lap harp earlier and it has great features. But some of you might be looking for similar features in a Celtic style harp. Guess what, Roosebeck has got your back.
Let us look at the features which the Roosebeck Celtic harp has.
- 19 string Irish Celtic style harp
- Has durable DuPont hard nylon strings
- Can play 2.5 octaves
- Has a pitch range of F3 to C6
- 30” in height
- All strings come with sharpening levers
- Has engraved walnut wood frame inlay
- Sound board made of top quality Finnish birch ply
- Has beautiful carvings on the body
- Comes with tuning tool, extra set of strings, etc
Harp is a unique instrument in itself and makes those who play it unique as well. Your wish to choose an age old instrument is commendable, and it might take quite some time and a lot of hard work to master the required skills. We wish you luck to learn all the technicalities of this beautiful, gothic instrument. Hope this article has helped you out.