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Musicians who want to take up the harp, but have never played a large stringed instrument before should take harp lessons to determine if it is the right choice for you. When you decide to buy a harp, choose an instrument that suits your experience level. If you buy a used harp, do not do so sight unseen. You should inspect the strings and body before you buy a harp, and test it out as well. Consider what price range you can afford, and select a harp that fits your budget without compromising quality.
Before you buy a harp, consider if it will be used for a professional purpose or mainly as a hobby. If you are a professional musician, a quality instrument is essential. If you're a hobbyist, a small, less expensive harp should be suitable.
You also need to consider cost before you decide to buy a harp, as prices may vary according to the size and features of the harp. You might not require an advanced player's harp, and choosing a beginner's style that uses approximately 24 strings may cut costs considerably. The disadvantage of buying a beginner's harp, however, is the range of sound will not be as wide as a harp with 30 strings. If you can afford it, buy a harp designed to be placed on the floor. Smaller models that are hand-held are more difficult to manage.
It is important to familiarize yourself with the two main styles of harp, which are the lever style and the pedal style. A major music store or music dealer that specializes in harps should have both types on display for you to test. If you're a new harpist, play each one for several minutes before deciding which is preferable.
If you're undecided about whether to buy a harp that uses a pedal or lever system, consider what use you have for the instrument. If you've chosen a small lap harp, it will most likely use a lever, rather than a pedal. A lever harp might limit you to the styles of music and notes you can play. If you are a serious musician who wishes to play a broad range of music, you should consider investing in a pedal harp.
Before you buy a used harp, inspect it thoroughly for signs of damage. There should be no cracks or worn parts on the neck and soundboard, and strings should not be broken. The bridge and turner pins should be tight, and all levers should be intact, with no signs of looseness. The wooden feet on the bottom of the harp must be smooth with no signs of warping. If you're considering a used pedal harp, be sure the pedals operate effortlessly, with no squeaks or grinding noise.