My small harp is a Lewis Creek Nightingale from De Troubadour Harpen Delft, NL - they ship their harps worldwide. It is a therapy harp with a very special and gentle sound.
She has 27 nylon strings, is 80cm tall and weighs about 3kg. She follows me everywhere, I even take her to all of my concerts and festivals. She is the best sounding travel harp I know.
My big harp is a 34 string T Kadiou by Camac.
She weighs 8 kg, is 1,25 m tall with a very low string tension and a full, warm bass. She has a full octave more then my travelharp, so I can play extended patterns in the bass.
This harp stayed with my Mom in Germany after I relocated to New Zealand.
Harp is a very beginner friendly instrument. It is never too late to learn to play harp! You decide to do and go for it. It is as simple as that. You CAN do it and it is not that hard to play, really. Just get started, keep practising and you will be surprised how soon you can play nice little tunes already.
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:
... and painting soundscapes with tones. Over time, a path has opened its way to me, which I have taken with my students now for several years. It sounds at first quite illogical: "Freedom
Through constantly repeating bass motifs and recurring melody sequences these exercises emerge as sun flashes on moving water, and thus lend freedom to our fingers to let our musical dreams come true. The melodic elements (others may call them "finger exercises") are building blocks that combine in ever new and different ways and let your own ideas grow. The exercises can be played alone or in a duo with a second harp.
Orfeo was a magical musician whose music soothed wild animals and calmed Hades. I wish all of us, that we may come as closely as possible to attaining this art.
I dedicate this book to the sun, the wind and the sea." - Christoph Pampuch
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. I suggest you get a harp with a C as the lowest note (or lower).
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.
But there really is not right or wrong way. Some people love the feel of a big harp on their shoulder and others love their little portable companion. Let your heart decide - or get two harps - one for home, one for to go!
Harps usually come with nylon, carbon or gut strings (I do not speak of metal strung harps here, they are their own kind). Also there is a material called silk gut which is a synthetic fibre by the company Aquila - kinda cool but not used much. I personally love nylon as it is very sturdy - I have never had a broken string so far. Also carbon is a good choice.
Gut strings sound very nice but are super sensitive to weather changes and break a lot. For travel harps, this is not a good choice. Each time when I would gig with my gut string harp, 2 strings would break. So keep in mind that you will need to invest in strings a lot, so if you are on a budget, don't get gut strings! They are also the most expensive strings.
Sound: Gut string has a nice warm round sound, nylon is in between and carbon has a more brilliant sound. Nylon is in between. It also depends on the construction of the harp how the strings sound. Let your heart speak!
I am picky when it comes to levers. There are a lot of systems out there but I depend on levers that work well and don't damage the strings. Stay away from plastic levers. Pakistani harps generally have bad quality levers that make them impossible to use in many cases.
My choice of levers would be Camac levers, they have a nice smooth action and are easy to regulate. In Europe they are wide spread.
My harp came with Truitt Levers as this system is more popular in the US. Truitt are lightweight and beautiful. They don't work as smooth as Camac but are quite alright.
Delacour levers are very good, as well.
Loveland kinda work but tend to damage the strings over time. If possible I would stick to Camac levers.
My harp is a Lewis Creek Nightingale / Jessie therapy harp and I bought it from The Troubadour Harpen NL (they ship internationally). This company 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 - the ones I love.
You can also 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.
Here are two photos of the Troubadour Harpen Store in Delft that I took on my Netherlands Trip in 2016:
Isn't it a harp paradise?
Alternatives to the Jessie are the Triplett Christina, the Harpsicle Special Edition, the Camac Bardic.
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.
Camac Bardic (discontinued, only second hand): String spacings like a regular floor harp, very high tension, nice sound but it is very heavy for that size, so not exactly suited for carrying it around in a hospital for hours. If you do not have problems with transporting it and high string tension then great little harp for a good price.
Dusty Strings Ravenna 26: Dusty Strings harp all sound amazing, more on the heavier side. If weight isn't an issue for you, you might be completely happy with these.
Blevins Harps: Another alternative
Stoney End: Eve - lovely!
Rees Harps: The company that makes the Harpsicle also makes other more expensive models.
My big floor harp that I recorded my CD with is a Camac Telenn Kadiou from Camac Harps. I bought it at Harfengalerie Camac Berlin and left it at my mothers house in Germany before I went overseas. It is a wonderful harp with 34 strings and a warm, gentle sound and low string tension.
What other floor harps an you recommend?
To me, the Camac Kadiou was the best floor harp on my journey and if I had to choose again, I would possibly pick the same instrument again. Another model I do like very much is the Camac Ulysse. I played that one during the Musikmesse in Frankfurt and it was a delight to play. Plus it is innovation - a carbon fibre harp and you can order it in your favorite color!
Other instruments I would recommend are Dusty Strings which have a distinct brilliant sound, Rees Harps (besides the popular low-budget Harpsicle Harps they also have some more sophisticated harps that sound very decent) and off course the big harp models of Lewis Creek Instruments.
If you are located in Germany, check out Pepe Weißgerber, he has stunning instruments, both historical and modern.
People ask me a lot of Salvi and Lyon & Healy Harps, and though many people are happy with these, they have a very high string tension and are more harps that prepare you to get ready to play concert harp one day. If that is what you want, great! As I love low-tension string harps, those are not for me. Plus they are VERY heavy.
Plus there are many local makers out there who offer beautiful harps that I simply don't know... So ideally, you'd visit those, and please, always trust your own intuition on what instrument to buy.
Thank you so much for your support. What comes around goes around.