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FAQS ABOUT HARPS

1. Are all harps that big?

No, there are smaller pedal harps and there are lever harps that are smaller than those.

2. What is the difference between pedal harps and lever harps?

To change the pitch of the strings higher (sharp) or lower (flat), large, orchestral-type harps have seven pedals, one for each note of the scale, and each of these has three positions: up for flat, middle for natural, down for sharp. These pedals move discs on the neck which raise or lower the pitch a half step.

Lever harps, also called Celtic or folk harps, have levers to raise the pitch of strings (sharp them) and then return to natural. These individual, hand-operated levers make these harps much lighter and less expnsive than a large concert pedal harp.

3. So how much DO harps cost?

Lap harps or very small lever harps with 9 - 21 strings may cost only a few hundred dollars. A larger Celtic floor harp may be from $2,000 to $6,000. A pedal harp may cost $9,000 to $50,000, depending on size and decoration.

4. Why are pedal harps so much more expensive than lever harps?

Craftmanship has a lot to do with expense, aside from the gold on some harps. The instrument is made by hand and may take two years to construct from start to finish. Between the pedals and the discs on the neck, there are many moving parts which change the pitch of the strings.

5. Is that real gold on your harp?

Yes. It is extremely thin gold leaf and requires a skilled artisian to apply it.

6. What does harp music look like?

It looks pretty much like piano music. In fact, most of it is piano music with certain modifications. Harpists don't use the pinky finger and some musical passages playable on the piano are not possible on harp.

7. Do you use a pick to play with?

No. Some South American harpists and harpers who play harps with wire strings use their fingernails. I use the pads on my fingers and develop callouses.

8. How much does that thing weigh?

91 pounds.

9. How do you move it?

I use a dolly to move it around and I have a Chevy Suburban to transport it. And, yes, there are times I wish I played a piccolo, but when I start to play, the feeling passes.

10. What are the strings made of?

Some are sheep gut, some nylon. The bass strings are wire-wrapped wires.

11. Why are the strings different colors?

The Cs are red, the Fs black. Since harps do not have a pattern of black keys like keyboards do, harpists need help to find the right strings to play.

12. Do the strings ever break?

Yes, usually without warning. When one breaks, it sounds like a gunshot, a sound which can be very disconcerting if I am playing the harp at the time.

13. How often do you tune the harp?

Everytime I sit down to play and several times during. It gets out of tune whenever it is moved from place to place or whenever the temperature changes.

14. Do you do outdoor events?

No, with some exceptions. Very extreme temperatures, high humidity, and wind are not good for the health of the harp or harpist. The harp will not stay in tune in the sun or in very humid air. I will not do outdoor weddings in the summer in Texas. If there is sufficient protection and a hard surface on which to place the harp, I MAY do outdoor events at other times of the year.

15. How long have you played the harp?

50+ years.

16. Where can I buy a harp?

There are many fine harp manufacturers in the US. If you click on the links provided, you will find a list of them, and some music stores which sell their harps.

Lyon & Healy/Salvi Harps

Virginia Harp Center

Thormahlen Harps

The Sylvia Woods Harp Center

Melody's Traditional Music & Harp Shoppe

Harp Makers, Vendors, and Accessories

17. Where did your harp come from?

Piasco, Italy, just south of Torino.