Harp is a very beginner friendly instrument. It is never too late to learn to play harp! Just get started, keep practising and you will be surprised how soon you can play nice little tunes already.
Floor harps with 34 strings are recommended for beginners as they are easier to play (small harps tend to be harder to hold and stabilize) plus you have the benefit of a nice, deep bass and will be able to play most songs from harp sheets. With less strings, you will need to re-arrange pieces or play them one octave higher as you run out of strings.
However, I have started out with a travel harp as I knew I wanted to play a outdoors a lot. Some people who want to accompany their voice rather than play harp solo, or wanna do sound healing work in hospitals etc. might be better off with a portable harp. Here I recommend 26 strings and again, C as the lowest note.
My harp is a Lewis Creek Nightingale / Jessie therapy harp and I bought it from The Troubadour Harpen NL (they ship internationally). She has 27 nylon strings, is 82 cm tall and weighs about 3,4 kg. De Troubadour Harpen has an excellent customer service and I was delighted to visit the store in person as well. They have a nice collection of harps of all sizes, but mostly smaller harps.
If you live in the US or Canada, you may buy it directly from the maker, Lewis Creek Instruments in the US. It is one of the best therapy harps on the market and worth its price.
Wood choices: This harp model comes in 3 wood choices: Cherry, walnut (Nightingale) or sassafras (Jessie). The sassafras wood is very lightweight but also gets scratched easily. Cherry and walnut are more robust woods. To me, they all sound similar and I would go for what wood you love looking at - or call De Troubadour harpen and have them play the different variations to you over the phone (or go there, best option!).
Btw, the Jessie has a lower string tension than the Nightingale.
Lewis Creek Jessie / Nightingale: Is most expensive one but just perfect in weight, aesthetics and sound. Narrow string spacing.
Triplett Christina: Has a big string spacing. Not too heavy. To me, the sound is more like a Harpsicle.
Harpsicle SE: Definitely has an improved sound compared to the regular Harpsicle. Lightweight. They do look a bit like IKEA harps to me... But it is the entry option with harps. Very narrow string spacing.
Dusty Strings Ravenna 26: Not a traditional therapy harp, but a travel harp. Dusty Strings harp all sound amazing, more on the heavier side though. Normal string spacing. If weight isn't an issue for you, you might be completely happy with these.
Blevins Harps Blevinssong or other models: Another alternative for therapy harps
Rees Harps: The company that makes the Harpsicle also makes other more expensive models.
Stoney End: Eve - lovely affordable small harp
The floor harp that I recorded my CD with is a Camac Telenn Kadiou from Camac Harps. It is a wonderful harp with 34 strings and a warm, gentle sound and low string tension. (Discontinued)
What other floor harps can you recommend?
I don't recommend Salvi and Lyon & Healy Harps: they have a very high string tension plus they are heavy. For a folk harpist or sound healer, I would say, other harps are more suitable.
I don't teach. Here you will find a list of teachers to support you. Plus for more support, I encourage you to join one of the Facebook Groups about Celtic Harp or a Celtic Harp Internet Forum. There you will find people who are on the same track and are happy to help you out.
Teachers that teach playing music by ear (Skype)
Online Courses (with Feedback)
I do not know of any books that teach this specifically. These sources are the closest to playing simple, soothing harp music (therapeutic harp music / harp therapy) or giving suggestions on how to improvise with your harp:
Koshi Chimes The Koshi are high quality bamboo chimes from France. They come in 4 different tunings - fire, water, earth and air (ignis, aqua, terra, aria). I own a complete set and display them on a gong stand. They are very soothing for sound journeys.
I bought my koshi chimes from various sources. Just google and find the closest retailer. One source worth mentioning is Hokema, they also sell other sound healing instruments like the Sansula:
What koshi should I get?
There are 4 different sounds: Aqua, terra, ignis and aria. You can start with one koshi, or buy two, or a whole set. Most people love the aqua koshi. It is up to you what sounds resonate. This can also change over time. Let your intuition guide you.
Koshi Gong Stand This is the official website of the company that builds them - Studio Gong: http://www.gongstands.eu/en
DIY You can also use any small gong stand and just add the 4 hooks for the koshi. I found a similar stand here: https://www.hess-klangkonzepte.de/produkt/gongstaender-harmonie-mini-mittel/
You would need to add hooks for that one.
Or start from scratch and build your own - or ask a local carpenter to give you a hand.
There are three kinds of Sansula - Basic, Renaissance and Deluxe. What is the difference?
So, I own a Renaissance Sansula and think it is the best choice for most people. You can order them directly from Hokema https://www.hokema.de/en in a variety of different tunings with a bag and an aditonal tuning hammer. There is a variety of tunings for this instrument and I use Heavenly A.
The Reverie harp - technically a zither, not a harp - is a music therapy instrument in pentatonic tuning that anybody can play, no practice needed. There are no wrong notes and it is very soothing with a long sustain due to the metal strings that feels very nice as the vibrations spread through your body.
The specialty of this instrument is that it has a mirrored tuning, the lowest notes being in the middle and from there going up to the sides. It is also possible to tune the right side and the left side to two different tunings to enjoy a 2 chord tuning to accompany your singing. It is mostly used in hospiz, hospital, yoga studios, spas, sound therapy and healing settings.
Things you should know before you buy
You are somewhat limited with the pentatonic tuning and you cannot play "normal songs" with it like you can with a celtic harp. Also there is no color coding for strings - they all look the same, which makes it harder to navigate. Plus it has to be tuned a lot more than an instrument with nylon or carbon strings. They are quite sensitive to temperature changes.
Where to buy?
If you do not insist on the pentatonic tuning, you can shop for a finish kantele, gusli, zither, psaltery or any similar diatonic instrument. They are not the same as the Reverie harp, but just similar enough for me to recommend what else is there:
The Lynda Lyre is a 22 stringed diatonic instrument that is great for travel and music therapy use. So unlike the Reverie harp which is a pentatonic instrument, or a "regular" lyre which is chromatic and more complex, with the Lynda Lyre you can play harp music! Technically, the Lynda Lyre is not a harp, but a lyre due to the way it is built, but the sound is the one of a harp and I can transfer my harp playing skills 1:1 - just the way you hold it is a bit different (strings are on the other side).
Re Photo: Here I added a photo of my 27 string Lewis Creek Nightingale and the Lynda Lyre for comparison of size. The Nightingale is 3.7kg and the 22 string Lynda Lyre only about 2kg. Its dimensions are also more compact - yet it has a similar range and the same bass C!
Dimensions: 71 x 35cm. Weight 2kg. (The variation with levers would be about 3.2kg, so a lot heavier!) It works very well to play it with the strap while standing or strolling around!
Should I get levers?
If you want to change keys often, get the levered version. On a side note, it is not possible to install the levers later, as the construction needs to be built differently from the start.
Nylon or wire strings?
I got nylon strings, as wire strings have a too long sustain for me personally and you would need to play with your nails.
Where to buy?
Here is the link where to order and have a closer look at the instrument:
Nylonstrings without levers: https://www.harpkit.com/22-string-diatonic-lyre
Nylonstrings with levers: https://www.harpkit.com/Lynda-Lyre-with-Levers
DIY Kit: https://www.harpkit.com/Lynda-Lyre-DIY-Kit
Can I buy this anywhere outside the US / Is there a retailer in Europe?
I do not know any other source than Harpkit to buy this from. So, if you live in Europe like me, you would need to ship and import it from the US.
If you have any further questions, please contact the makers of this instrument at harpkit.com!
Shruti Box Paloma Large
The Paloma Large Shruti Box is amazingly dynamic to play - from very quiet to loud, due to the big ballow everything is possible! It is also highly recommended for overtone singing.
Another source of high quality shruti boxes & a lot more is this company in Berlin: www.india-instruments.com
Also there is this little company in Wales, UK that sells good Shruti boxes that can be even played with a foot pedal.
https://www.shrutibox.co.uk (Supplier: www.monojkrsardar.com)
Shruti Box Educational Website
On this website you will find a free PDF that helps you set chords for singing:
The Crystal Tones Singing Bowls are of extraordinary beauty and pure frequeny. I owned a set of two bowls that I bought via Annie Jameson who has also produced some lovely soothing albums with these instruments.
Main website US - Crystal Tones Singing Bowls: http://www.crystalsingingbowls.com
The ones I used in my videos are:
Blue bowl: 8” Egyptian Blue Alchemy Crystal Bowl C# -45Hz
Clear bowl: 6” Platinum Alchemy Bowl G# -45Hz
I personally am in love with >>Southern Cross Flutes. I have started with High Spirits Flutes a couple years ago, but they are mass produced, not nearly as beautiful and require more air/breath. They do sound decent and are good if you are on a budget, but Southern Cross Flutes are simply stunning and well made, so beautiful, plus they are custom built for you. You can choose your woods and also decorative elements and stones. Todd takes the time to communicate with you and make sure you get the flute of your dreams. The small company is located in New Zealand, just a bit north of where I used to live and they ship worldwide. They have fantastic exotic woods that are native to New Zealand, like Kauri, a 40.000 year old wood found preserved in the swamps. Ancient and beautiful!
What key should I get?
Here you see 5 flutes from Southern Cross flutes sorted from lowest to highest:
If you want to get started, the usual recommendation is to get a Love Flute (that is how you call this size of flute) in the key of A or G. The bigger the flute, the more you need to stretch your fingers and practice to control your breath. The smaller the flute, the easier it is to start with - but it will have a more high pitched sound which is not everyones cup of tea. I highly recommend F#, which is just a bit bigger than G and it is also the traditional key for this instrument and has a unique sound.
If you have experiences with other flutes, you might already get along well with bigger sizes. This is highly personal and depends on you. Keep in mind there are some physical limits to how big the flute can be to play for you (arm length).
What wood should I get? Cedar is the quintessence of flute wood, it is super lightweight and absorbs moisture. The tone is soft and mellow. For a more bright and clear tone, walnut is quite common. And there are 1001 woods in between. It is a matter of personal taste. Walnut flutes are heavier. For big flutes (starting from low C), I personally look into more lightweight flutes as I find them harder to hold, but most people do not have issues with this. For smaller flutes it doesn't matter so much as the size also affects the weight. Some people even prefer to have a heavier flute in their hands. Again, personal preference.
Is there a book on how to learn to play the native flute?
Yes, fortunately Southern Cross Flutes provides a really good book for learning how to play the flute.
More info please! If you need more info on flutes, check out the Southern Cross Flutes website, they have a lot of info and different sound samples for you to listen to. Plus a very useful starter book - both digital and print edition.
Anyway, connect with your heart and listen to your intuition on this. There is no right or wrong way and most people have a collection of flutes as there is a moisture buildup after a while and you need to switch flutes anyway and let the moist ones dry out. So start with A flute and buy more later.
The xiao is a fascinating instrument from China! I didn't even know it existed until recently.
I have had my experience with the shakuhachi that is somewhat related to the xiao (thought the xiao came first). It was incredibly diffcult to play even for me, a person that picks up any instrument with ease. Not so the shakuhachi. After a few months of not getting a sound out of it, I sold it and said to myself to never get a rim blown instrument again. But some whistle player recommended the xiao to me and promised it would be easier to play then shakuhachi and they were right! Though it is still a lot more difficult to play than a whistle or Native American Flute and requires dedication and practise.
What key should I start with?
Bamboo xiao or wooden xiao?
Long or short xiao?
Open or closed mouthpiece?
Xiao maintenance? What do I need to know about getting the xiao ready to play?
Where to buy a xiao / Where did you buy your xiao?
How to learn to play the xiao? Where to find support?
Luckily, there are other options for us westerners than ordering xiao from Asia! Look up Geoffrey Ellis, a world flute maker with great skill and dedication. He is really taking the time to explain things to me and answer questions with such passion I rarely see these days. The price range is higher, so these xiao are starting at 500 USD - though totally worth it.
If you can at all afford it, I highly recommend you getting in touch with Geoffrey to order a xiao from his shop. He is such a lovely, customer oriented and kind hearted professional! And the instruments are just superb and such a pleasure to look, touch and play. Such detail. Such love! I am over the moon about every aspect of it.
My cherry xiao in G is definitely the best instrument from all of the ones I have tried so far. It looks lovely, is nice to touch (beeswax), is an instrument you will swoon over for the rest of your life.