This is the formal review of my long-awaited double strung harp from
I named her Daphne Phoenix, because 2 rows of strings need 2 names. 🙂 This is my personal instrument; the review wasn’t requested or sponsored in any way.
The written review is quite long! So, if you simply want to listen to the audio samples, they are collected here, before the next section heading.
These are pieces I composed previously and arranged for double strung harp. They demonstrate some of the effects possible on double strung that are not possible on a single row of strings.
Effects include echoing melodies between hands in the same octave, and playing melody and accompaniment in the same octave. And don’t forget the good ol’ 1-5-8 pattern (root, 5th, octave) you’ll hear in “Seed of a Dream.” It’s a favorite hand shape on double strung harp, because it can surround a melody.
Grab a cuppa and relax!
Explanation and Scale
Grant Us Love
Love the Broken Ones
The first piece I composed on this harp, after 5 days, also with Coda EDC Flute
Seed of a Dream
Harp with Coda EDC Flute
Harp with singing, the second piece I composed, after a week with double strung
Harp with Harmony Ball and Poem
Though this harp is small, it is a true harp shape. In playing position, the soundbox is closest to you. It’s about 8.5″ wide at the bottom and it narrows steadily to the top of the soundbox. It’s also rather thin from front to back, a common feature of small harps.
The neck, or harmonic curve, is the top of the harp. The far side comes to a point, then the neck curves toward the player, making the soundbox side shorter than the pillar side.
The pillar is farthest away from you, and it makes up the third side of the harp’s triangular frame. From the bottom to the point of the pillar, this harp is about 29″ tall. It’s 19″ deep, from front to back. All the strings are within easy reach.
There is one major structural difference between a harp and a lyre. I.e. harp strings go directly into the soundbox. However, a lyre has a bridge over which the strings pass, more like a guitar and many other stringed instruments. I play and enjoy both, but this difference does change the sound.
For those who haven’t seen or touched a harp before, the shortest strings are closest to you, and these play the highest notes. The longest strings are toward the pillar side, giving them the length needed to play the lowest notes.
The back of the soundbox has 2 access holes. These are mostly used for re-stringing the harp, though sound does come out of them as well. This is also where you insert a piece to either bolt the harp to the floor stand, or use the lap bar.
Daphne has a cherry frame and maple soundbox. I originally wanted walnut, but I chose cherry because I wanted a lighter weight. I could smell the cherry wood when I unpacked the harp and can still smell it a month later!
The tuning pins and bridge pins run along the neck of the harp. I chose aluminum pins, again for lighter weight. The bridge pins hold the strings in alignment, while the tuning pins–you guessed it!–are used to change the pitch of each string.
These are through pins, also called harp pins. This means that unlike zither pins, they go all the way through the neck of the harp. It also means that on a double strung harp, tuning the right-side row of strings requires putting the tuning key on the left side of the harp. I had to get used to this, as my other instruments have zither pins.
The finish on this harp is silky smooth and feels wonderful. It’s not gloss and I’m glad of that, because that would make it slippery. Truly a great satin finish!
Strings and Range
This is a 23×2 harp. In scientific pitch notation–which is not normally used for harp strings–the range on each row of strings is C3-D6. This gives you one octave below Middle C and 2 octaves + one note above Middle C… But twice!
For more about this, have a listen to the first audio sample, where I explain the big deal before playing the scale.
The strings are nylon, and those from C3-D4 are wound.
I think the C strings are red, the F strings are blue, and the others are clear.
Holding the Instrument
Many people, myself included, have trouble balancing a lap harp on its own. Added accessories offer many support options. These are:
1. The floor stand.
The stand must be assembled, but once it is, you can safely bolt the harp onto it. There are various height adjustments to get the harp into a comfortable playing position.
I really like the stand, and it’s super convenient to always have the harp handy, standing there securely on the floor, ready to play! However, I don’t leave it out because my environment isn’t climate controlled.
2. The strap.
This is the most comfortable strap I’ve ever owned! I’m not sure of the materials, but it has some sort of fleece-covered foam padding, along with the required slider adjustment like a guitar strap.
It also has locking buttons. This means it can’t slip off the instrument while you’re playing! That could happen if all you had were traditional leather ends holding the strap to the buttons. But there are no worries with this amazing strap!
I haven’t tried to stand and play using the strap, but I know some people do. This harp weighs about 9 LB, so I sit to play.
3. The lap bar.
I purchased this later, but for me it’s the best way to hold the harp. Perhaps that’s because I’ve played lap harps and used one before.
Basically, it’s just what it sounds like: A wooden bar (cherry in this case) that bolts into the back of the harp, that you can adjust to the height you need. When it’s secure, simply place it on your lap. You can also move the harp forward or backward so you’re comfortable.
String Spacing and Tension
I wondered about the string spacing and tension on this harp. I have carpal tunnel syndrome, arthritis in my left hand, and have had various neck, back, and shoulder injuries… I thought this would make playing any harp difficult. However, I was so glad to find out that’s not the case!
This is a therapy harp. It has lighter string tension than larger harps. Similarly, the strings are closer together than they are on larger harps. I really like both the tension and spacing on this harp. That makes it a joy to play! In fact, it’s easier to play than my Lynda Lyre! The wound strings in particular require less strength to play. This was a pleasant surprise!
The strings are not floppy, and if you’ve heard my audios, you know the sound is not thin at all. But the harp is so easy to play, it almost plays itself!
I also have no trouble switching between harp, lyre, and zither.
Getting in Tune
Yes, it can be done. Yes, it can be a pain! Yes, I knew that before I purchased this harp. But, if I were going to change her name, I would call her double trouble! 🙂
I use an electronic pitch pipe that happens to have a reference pitch for the whole range of this harp, except the highest D. So, I tune that to the octave below.
I’m used to tuning both the zither and lyre. The lyre has nylon strings, like this harp. But, the harp has 46 of them!
No sooner do you finish tuning one side, than you’ve got to do it again! Wait! Didn’t I just do this? No, that was the first side! Back to the starting line!
When the tuning is good, the harp sounds marvelous! When the tuning is bad, well, you’d better keep tuning! There’s more on tuning in my scale audio, if you care to hear about it!
The Wrap Up
I waited a good long time for this harp! I don’t mean to have it made, as that only took 3 months. I mean saving money and determining whether I would really be able to enjoy it to the fullest. That’s why I did my
Double Strung Experiment Series.
It was as close as I could get to trying before I bought. I must say, both the wait and the experiments were completely worth it!
This harp is just wonderful! As I said, it almost plays itself! And Blevins Harps was so great to work with; their customer service is phenomenal!
Thank you, Laurie and family, for this beautiful double strung harp! ❤
I hope to get out and do more sound healing and therapeutic music work soon! Until then, and even afterward, Daphne Phoenix will be a frequent guest on Mystical Strings, for songwriting, meditation, sound healing, accompanying poetry, playing hymns and traditional tunes, and hopefully much more!
What a truly beautiful harp! I am so blessed to be able to play and share it! I hope you enjoy listening as much as I enjoy playing!