Arpas y arpistas de la península
(Translated by Isabel Abal) (Spanish Version HERE)
These past few weeks we’ve received some enquiries and comments about the growing invasion in the market during the last couple of years –in other European countries, websites as eBay and other online selling services this intrusion has been going on longer and on a bigger scale– of low cost harps and many other stringed instruments coming, mainly, from Pakistani workshops and some other Asian countries. These instruments have highly competitive prices, if we compare them to the prices offered by national luthiers and even those of the usual commercial brands in the harp world. Some of the harp models can be bought for no more than 300 euros.
Most of the enquiries made were about the reliability and quality of the instruments, since these prices are a call for mistrust to any cautious buyer. Additionally, we’ve been privy to the desolation of some luthiers when they’ve come upon clones of some of their harp models on these Asian websites without previous authorization on their part.
These “imported” harps are visually available on the builders’ websites and eBay. They show an attractive aspect, with abundance of ornaments carved on their sides, and with enticing promises about their virtues. In some cases, even with some sound samples available. Making a quick search on the Internet (on English speaking forums, mainly) is enough to find comments and opinions regarding this subject, in most cases of a negative nature. Here, in Arperia, we had the opportunity of testing two of these instruments, and these are our impressions:
We have to point out that both instruments were found on stores. One of them was found on a music store whose owner had acquired the instrument having in mind the needs of first year conservatory students (he told us that he had already sold two of these harps for a price a bit over € 400); the other one was found on a second-hand shop (for about € 500). After testing them for a good while, our impressions can’t be anything but disastrous.
Strings were placed with uneven distances between them.
The sound was lacking in general, sometimes verging on the unpleasant. Hardly any sustain, and a biting and buzzy sound not even close to leveled between the strings.
Reaching this point, this blog can’t do anything but strongly recommend against the acquisition of one of these instruments.
On a closing note, we invite you to do a reflection. Behind the construction of a musical instrument, there’s a long, expensive and difficult process from which the musicians who are buying those instruments only get to see a minor part.
All the previous work of investigation regarding the instrument; all the tests, proportion calculations, quality materials selection, blueprints creation…all that is a time and economic investment that goes well beyond the construction of the instrument, and it is something unique to each luthier. Something for what is worth to pay a price. The world of musical instruments construction is a highly competitive one, where building high quality instruments at an affordable price is the only way to survive. Buying a cloned instrument could result in the acquisition of a visually exact instrument, but with little to none probabilities of obtaining the same musical achievements as the original, achievements that come from a combined process of study, meditation and maturation of said instrument. It really comes down to the small details that you can’t see on a picture but which, in reality, are the ones that give a soul to that instrument.
Resorting to this is, without a doubt, like spiting in the wind if we want to have high quality luthiers building top quality instruments. Sooner or later, the spit is going to hit us in the face.