A harp is a wonderful instrument to play.
It's also a wonderful piece of craftsmanship by a skilled harp marker.
As such they are not cheap.... and you get what you pay for.
Buying a harp should be no different from any other financial investment.
Buy the best quality harp that you can afford.
A good instrument will give years of enjoyment, and will keep it's re-sale value.
A cheap instrument will be poorly made, will not keep it's re-sale value, will probably not have a good tone and be hard to stay in tune. Most importantly if it sounds horrible you won't enjoy playing it.
Before you buy a harp, do your research. Check out the company that makes that instrument. See what various shops online sell those harps for, and then check out the second hand forums to see how many are available second hand and what they are retailing for. Also look at how long those harps are on the listings for before they are sold.
What you will find is that some harps keep their re-sale value well and some do not. Study the second hand listings and you will get a feel for what harps are selling and what are not!
- If the harps new retail price was very low, you are unlikely to see them on the second hand market listings that are used by the harp community.
- Some harps are such sought after instruments that as soon as one comes on the second hand market they are sold almost immediately, so you may not see many (if any) on the second hand market.
Look at harpists on YouTube and if you like their sound, see what harp they are playing. If you are not sure what make of harp they are playing, email them and ask!
Some shops will do "hire to buy" schemes. These can be very good, but make sure you don't get locked into a scheme just because it's cheap. A scenario I often see is someone being lured by a "hire to buy" scheme which may be cheaper than anyone else's but in the end it costs more, because you end up buying an instrument which if you come to re-sell doesn't keep it's value in the long run.
If you are going to invest in a harp it's going to be quite an initial outlay, so it's worth buying a better quality harp which will give you years of enjoyment.
If you buy a cheaper harp to start with, you are only going to have buy a "better instrument" sooner rather than later.
If you buy a second hand harp, you must see it and play it. Ask when it was last serviced and who serviced it.
- Harps should always be serviced by a recognised harp technician.
Ask about the harps history and who has owned it. If it has belonged to professional harpists they will probably be happy to talk about it's history.
- Ask whether the soundboard or neck has been replaced.
If so ask who repaired it. There will be reputable harp repairers who will do a good job, find out who they are and speak to them.
Heres a link worth looking at to see how harps are maintained. Lever harps, although nowhere near as complex as concert harps, still need to be maintained by a professional!
- A soundboard should not be bowing up and should not have cracks.
- If the harp is not in tune when you see it, ask the seller to put it in tune before you try it.
- Only buy from listings or shops that the harp community uses. If professional harpists don't buy from there, you shouldn't either.
There are lots of wonderful second hand harps out there waiting to be loved!
I would always recommend someone to buy a 34 string harp if at all possible. It has more bass notes and will give you much more flexibility.
However if you want to go for a smaller harp than the minimum number of strings that I recommend is a 27 string harp, and if you really want to buy a new harp and want one now.... then I am a recent convert to the Camac Bardic harps. I think they are cheapest, most portable, best quality harp you can get for that price range.
Factors to consider when choosing a harp.
- Do you want to get qualifications on the harp and do grade exams? Get a 34 string harp.
- Do you want to play for fun only? Get a 27 string harp.
- Do you want to "move up" to a concert harp one day? Get a 34 string harp.
- Does the harp need to be light and portable for practical reasons? Get a 27 string harp.
- Do you want to play with other musicians for fun? Get a 27 string harp.
- Do you want to play with lots of different types of musicians and styles of music? Get a 34 string harp.
- Do you want the harp for a small child? Depending on their age and your budget, a 27 string harp is preferable, but don't be surprised if you then have to buy a 34 string harp in a few years time when they are bigger and want to do grade exams. It's perfectly possible for a small child to start on a 34 string harp!
I'm not associated to any particular brand or manufacturer of harp.
My concert harps are Salvi and I recently purchased a Camac lever harp.
I've seen and heard lots of different types of harps during my professional career.
Each harp is individual and in the end it's all about the sound!