This post will outline the differences between small (lever) and large (pedal) harps. It outlines a range of prices for these harps. Based on your needs and goals behind the instrument, it will give you an overview of what the different harps offer and which one will be best suited for your needs. At the end is a list of links to view and rent/purchase a harp with ease.
General Sizes of Harps
Lap Harps (10-21 strings)
10 to 20 lbs.
Larger Lever Harps (21-40 strings)
28 to 44 lbs.
Pedal Harps (40-47 strings)
78 to 81 bls.
Lever harps are smaller in size compared to pedal harps. They are more lightweight, and more inexpensive than pedal harps. One is able to play in many genres with the lever harp. Lever harps get their name because of levers on the neck which flip up or down, and adjust the pitch of the strings by a half step. Lever harps are accessible to most beginner students, and more appropriate for beginner students than pedal harps.
Pedal harps are large in size and heavier. They are a bit more difficult to transport. They are called pedal harps because they have pedals which the feet control instead of levers. There are seven pedals, each one associated with a pitch (A-B-C-D-E-F-G). Each pedal has three positions: Up (flat), Middle (natural), and Down (sharp). Pedal harps are a necessity for orchestral players, or anyone wishing to play the more challenging classical repertoire. Because of the size and mechanism, they are significantly more expensive than lever harps.
What is your Budget?
Regardless of your budget, you have some great options out there for a decent beginner harp.
BEWARE! The money you put in will define the product you get. Do not go cheap if you can afford a few $100’s more for a much better quality instrument. Be wary of eBay, Craigslist and similar sites. If they do not have an established website with a great following or detailed information, then proceed with caution.
Price of Harps
Lap harps can range from $800 to $1k
Larger lever harps range from $2K to $5K
Pedal harps range from $10K upwards of $100K
What are your goals with the harp?
If you plan on traveling quite a bit with the harp, then, and only then, will I recommend a lap harp. Otherwise purchase a harp where you are able to sit on a proper chair or bench. Lap harps may require sitting on the floor, or finding an elevated surface just for the harp. Prolonged periods of sitting on the floor may lead to back issues.
Purchase a floor lever harp if you intend to learn the harp:
just for fun
for occasional playing out (gigs, church, etc.)
to see if you like it
as an occasional harp player
If you your intention is to begin learning repertoire that is more advanced, has the ability to change keys and accidentals at a rapid rate, specifically the challenging classical repertoire or orchestral music, then you will want to look at pedal harps.
Places from which to RENT a harp:
Before we discuss options on renting a harp from a far off location, check your local musician’s union first. Do a preliminary search for your local musician’s union and ask them for a list of harpists in the area. Call these harpists to see if they offer any harps to rent. This way you are stimulating the local economy first. Keep in mind that local harp rentals may be slightly higher than contacting one of the following links because of the nature of its convenience. If no local harps are available to rent, then proceed with the following links.