Retailers of harps, a type of string instrument, offer many different options that affect the price. Some of the most obvious options are the number of strings the harp has, the type of wood or wood veneer used to make it, and the harp's decorations or lack of ornamentation. Other factors, such as the type of lever, are not readily noticeable to the novice player, but may be essential to a professional player. Generally, each manufacturer has an assortment of differently priced harps.
When buying a fundamental harp, the harpist pays the base price of the instrument. If the harpist wants or needs optional equipment, such as different veneers, extra levers, or a pickup to electronically amplify the sound, he adds the cost to this base price. The base price usually depends on the number of strings the instrument has, the type of wood the manufacturer used, and the instrument style. Each company or retailer has a range of differently priced harps.
There are a few different styles of harps. Beginning harpists usually buy the student style. These harps are cheaper than chamber or concert harps. Even for professional harpists there is a difference in prices, ranging from the concert harp to the limited edition harps, if the manufacturer offers them. Typically, the finish or type of construction has the greatest effect on the price of a harp.
Most harps have laminated wood bases with a veneer covering the laminate. Wood veneers vary in price, and generally walnut, maple, bubinga, and other exotic woods are the most expensive veneers. Some of the most expensive harps are solid wood with no laminated parts. Many harp manufacturers offer hand-painted and custom finishes, which are very expensive.
Other expensive finishes include gold leaf or faux gold leaf gilding and inlays. One of the most popular inlays is abalone shell. Typically, companies inlay the shell on the soundboard, neck, and other highly visible areas. Another inlay technique is purfling, which uses contrasting veneers. Many times manufacturers use this in conjunction with shell inlays.
Some of the options that add to the price of a harp are functional rather than decorative. Pedal harps generally are less expensive than lever harps. The number of levers will affect the price of a harp as well as the type of lever. Nylon strings are standard, and a harpist will pay more for gut strings. Adding a pickup device to accommodate an amplifier also raises the price of a harp.
Other costs that a harpist may encounter are the cost of harp accessories. Dust covers, rolling carts and covers, and dollies vary in price. Benches may be inexpensive student models or expensive ones that match the wood and design of the harp.