Should I take up the harp if I can never afford a pedal harp?
August 19, 2018 6:15 AM   Subscribe

I've always dreamed of playing the harp but I can only afford a lever harp.

Pedal harps are so expensive I don't see how I can ever afford one. To make matters worse, I live in Asia (am native Asian) so harps have to be imported/shipped from US/Europe at great expense and there isn't much of a secondhand market.
There are few harps/teachers here. The local teachers are all conservatory-trained in either US and Europe and they charge a great deal for lessons. Most harp students are young girls from wealthy families who can afford to buy pedal harps for them.
I like lever harps but I would really like to play pedal as well. I'm not sure if I can live with the repertoire limitations and worry that the envy will gnaw away at me when I look at other people's pedal harps.
I am wondering if I should take up an traditional Asian instrument I do not like as much but which has the benefit of being much more accessible. I could easily buy a top-of- the-line Asian instrument (no repertoire limitations!) for the price of an ordinary lever harp and still have plenty of money left over for lessons. Lessons would also be a lot cheaper and teachers/secondhand instruments plentiful due to my location.
I would like to hear from any lever harpists who would like to play pedal harp but cannot afford one. How do you deal with it? Are you able to make peace with your situation? Should I take up an instrument more suited to my modest means instead?
posted by whitelotus to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I wonder what the response would be if you talked honestly with a few of your local harp teachers about this. I bet that at least one of them would love to have a student who's passionate about the harp, even if you can't afford to pay the fees that rich kids do. "I love the pedal harp; I desperately want to play it; I don't have much money. Do you know of any way I could get into playing?"
posted by clawsoon at 7:08 AM on August 19, 2018 [2 favorites]

I currently am learning keys, but may never own a real piano. It’s ok, I have plenty of fun playing non-piano keyboards.

I started playing harmonica, because they are cheap and portable.

Many Asian string instruments will teach you skills that can transfer to harp.

I say start learning by buying a nice used plucked Asian string instrument. After a few years, if you still long for a harp, you can sell your instrument for near what you paid for it, and start on harp with an advantage of having learned something that trained many of your relevant muscles and dexterity and music reading and theory.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:12 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

I think that if you want to play the harp, you should at least try to find a way to get started with lessons.

I got started playing the harp in a group class with 5 or so other people, which was much more affordable than individual lessons. My teacher also rented us the harps we used for a reasonable price, so it wasn't necessary to buy one for the classes.

I think once you get involved with your local harp community, friends and acquaintances can recommend ways to study that are less expensive. I also suspect that harps in your area may be sold by word of mouth, so if you are looking at prices online they may only be a fraction of what is available.

In addition, since harps are so expensive, I imagine a lot of people rent them. So even if you are dead-set on having a pedal harp, even if you can't buy one now, you could probably rent one.

I'd love to play a pedal harp, but since I am a beginner my 22-string lever harp is enough for me. I've sought out nice music I can play on it, and I really don't feel limited by it. I also live in NYC, and even if I could afford a pedal harp, I don't think I could ever afford to rent an apartment big enough to put one in.
posted by Lycaste at 8:08 AM on August 19, 2018 [5 favorites]

You don’t need to be able to afford a Maserati to learn to drive. Begin with a beginner’s instrument.
posted by sageleaf at 11:06 AM on August 19, 2018 [1 favorite]

Thank you all, you have given me much food for thought.

clawsoon: I've talked to local teachers but bear in mind that I am an adult. I think if I am a cash-strapped young girl who might still have the chance to become a professional player, teachers will be more sympathetic to my quest. As an adult, I'm expected to pay my way.

Saltysalticid: I am considering just going for the Asian instrument first because secondhand ones cost just a few hundred bucks whereas a lever harp costs a few thousands at least and would take a long time to save up for. Renting a lever(not even a pedal) from a teacher will cost me more than a hundred per month.

Lycaste: You have made great points. However, renting even lever harps are pretty expensive where I am. I asked about it when I asked about lessons. I think pedal harps will cost a lot more given how expensive they are.

sageleaf: you made a good point about the Maserati. Thanks.
posted by whitelotus at 7:20 PM on August 21, 2018 [1 favorite]

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