You have made it this far because you have decided to start harp lessons. Next comes the question: should you buy or rent?
Letʼs explore the right questions to ask so you can find the perfect harp for your budget and needs.
Whatʼs your budget?
Rentals can cost anywhere from $45-$150 a month. Harps can range in purchase price from $1,000 to $60,000. As gorgeous and beautiful as the gilded gold, painted flowers, intricately carved pedal harps can be, these can be impractical for beginner harp students.
What size should I get?
Youʼll want to find a size that will fit your needs. A lap harp may fit well for a 5-6 year old (averaging 42” in height), whereas a 34-36 string lever harp will work well for pre-teens, teenagers and adults. A perfect fit for harp will include a proper bench that is adjustable to sit well behind the instrument, no matter how tall or short you are. I have a 6 year old student that sits on a small chair and plays my 21-string Heartland Harps lap harp. I also have a 5 year old student that plays on my 34-string Lyon & Healy Ogden. Both students are the same height, and Iʼve made it work for them.
I started harp at age 9 on a Lyon & Healy Troubador, and I was short for my age. I had to sit on the yellow pages! Am I dating myself? If you are just starting out, and donʼt know how to work the pedals, then you donʼt need to spend the money renting a pedal harp. A lever harp, which is generally smaller and more light-weight (20-38 lbs.), will usually be more inexpensive to rent. Also, thereʼs no need to think that youʼll eventually need to play a pedal harp. Some harpists have made their career on only lever harps.
Where do I start looking for a harp?
There are more lap harps and lever harps for sale today than pedal harps because they are easier to make and donʼt require the yearly regulation that a pedal harp requires. Because of this, there are many avenues to purchase a smaller harp. There are a few important things to remember when starting to look for your first harp.
First, It is better to see the instrument in person and have a harpist play it so you can hear what it sounds like. Second, I canʼt stress it enough: quality! When you buy cheap, you get what you paid for. With harps, a finely built instrument will not only last longer, it will sound better and be more consistent with overall tone and dependability. You will be happier and more eager to practice on an instrument that is more responsive to the touch of your fingers.
Why should I buy a harp?
There is the moment in a harpistʼs life when they make the commitment to purchase a harp. Itʼs a big decision. Iʼm here to help!
When buying is better than renting:
You have decided that youʼll play the instrument long-term, whether for a career or just for fun.
You have the funds available and feel that monthly rental is throwing the money away when youʼre confident youʼll keep playing.
Even if there is a chance that youʼll want to sell the harp in the future, the investment you make in the purchase will not depreciate in value over a long period of time.
Is financing available?
If you want to purchase a new harp with monthly installments, Allegro Acceptance financing can be offered. This is how I was able to pay for my Lyon & Healy Style 100.
Rent a harp.
With that said, here is a list of trusted harp companies from whom you can rent:
There are Rent-to-Own programs offered through these previously mentioned companies. Explore this option before you decide to rent. Some of the contracts stipulate a separate rent-to-own agreement where you place a down payment for the first few months with the option to purchase later on.
Buying a used harp
Always play the harp in question, or have a harpist play it for you. Check the sound, as well as cosmetic damage. Wear and tear is expected, but ask the previous owners for information on past regulations, repairs (if any), and how often it was moved and used.
Check these places for available listings of harps in your area:
Did you ever think weʼd see the day?! There are now carbon fiber lever harps for sale through Heartland Harps. I havenʼt had the pleasure of playing one, or feeling how light weight they are, but Iʼm excited to try it. For more than 20 years Iʼve moved my 80 lb. harp from gig to gig with no complaint. Itʼs just part of the job! However, with these new carbon fiber lever harps, it would make that trek much easier. Iʼve owned a Heartland Harps lever harp for more than 15 years and love it.
What I own and swear by
Iʼve had the opportunity to play on many different brands. Picking a lever or lap harp is a personal preference. When it comes to pedal harps, I believe in quality and longstanding companies with great relationships. In the end, what matters most to the buyer/renter should be the overall quality and sound of the instrument.
My own studio harps include the brands of Lyon & Healy, Salvi, and Heartland Harps. Last but not least, always consult your teacher as they will have their own arsenal of experience from which to learn.
I wish you all the best in your journey of the harp world! It is wonderful, fantastic, and a beautiful thing to play these heavenly instruments, either for the pure pleasure of playing, or making the most out of a career in music.