• emramey

My Forever Harp

There are so many different kinds of harp out there- some have pedals, some have levers. Some have one row of strings, others have two that cross, or two that don't cross! Most are made of wood, but some are made of carbon fiber, or cardboard, or pvc pipe. The range can be 22, 26, 29, 34, 36 or more strings. The strings can be high or low tension. Each combination of elements creates a harp with special potential and capabilities. With so many options, how can a person find just the right harp?

As a graduation present from Portland State University, my husband coordinated buying me an entry level harp: a Harpsicle with no levers. It was so sweet of him, and a great introduction to the harping world. But it wasn't my 'forever harp'. For the next decade, I would occasionally go on a quest for the perfect harp. This might start by just glancing at a website, but one I got started, it would almost inevitably turn into a major project. I would spend hours and hours looking at pictures, poring over my small collection of harp magazines, finding websites, reading reviews, and pondering. I would ask the same questions over and over:

  • What is the perfect range?

  • What is the perfect size and weight?

  • How do you compromise?

  • What is the most limit-free design?

  • What is the easiest harp to play?

  • What is more important?

  • Are the Celtic or Gothic harps prettier?

  • What kind of string tension do I want?

  • Can I get a kit and build it myself? Do I want to?

  • What is new in design, and is it worthwhile?

  • What can I afford? How far can I stretch that?

It was hard to come to a definitive conclusion because the cross strung seemed by far the most limitless, but also the most difficult to play. The standard wood harp might have the best sound, but the carbon fiber was so much lighter and practically indestructible. But also extremely expensive. Harp kits really brought the cost of a harp down, but putting one together requires having the time, space, and some equipment. After few weeks of deliberation, I would come to some conclusion (different each time, based on which elements I prioritized) about which style of harp is best, or which harp maker is best, or whether building a harp myself was a good idea or not, and then let it go for a time. I knew that I would eventually get a 'forever harp', but just one of them, so I had to pick once and be sure to pick right.

Then I discovered the double strung, and that changed everything! The double strung combines the limitlessness of the cross strung with the ease of playing of the standard lever harp while giving each hand a full range of strings to play- which means no hands running into each other, and not needing as large (or as heavy) of a harp. To top all that, the double has special techniques (like echoing) that can only be done on a double.

So now I am the proud owner of a double strung Lorraine model from Stoney End- via Carolyn Deal:

My harp is settled nicely into her new home and I have given her a name: Eowyn Anne