Harp Models

Al Labous

Al Labous Left Angel

At Telenn Ar Menez - Mountain Harp we constantly work towards improving the sound, playability, looks and comfort of our harps. We have modified the design of our first model called An Deraouenn (The Beginning) enough to warrant a new model name. This newest model is called Al Labous which is breton for "The Bird". Externally this new model looks like the previous one, but details of the design are noticeably different.

One of the changes in the soundboard design is a substantial change in the bracing system with the Al Labous model utilizing a more symmetrical approach with two, long wood braces on either side of the inner string rib. Another change involves a slight thickening of the soundboard under the very top strings, to give them more resonance and amplitude. And we have increased the lengths of the top four treble strings to give those notes greater volume and resonance and make those notes easier to pluck (see the photo below).

We also utilize strips of wool felt on the underside of the soundboard to eliminate any "beat" frequencies which may sometimes occur due to some of the high notes producing specific resonances with some of the lower notes. The use and placement of these wool felt strips is somewhat unique to each individual harp. We also use wool felt to reduce the resonance and loudness of those strings which naturally have the greatest amplitude on the harp, thereby producing more eveness in the volume between all the strings.



 

 


This is a 36 string, five octave harp with a range from C2, the second C below middle C, up to C7, the 3rd C above middle C (or using the more classical notations for notes, from the 6th octave C to the 1st octave C). The top four octaves are strung in nylon monofilament while the 2nd octave up from the bass is strung in nylon with nylon wrap. The lowest bass octave is strung with steel core/fiber bedding/copper wrap strings.

The string tension of this harp is best described as medium high. Our stringband design utilizes two distinct curves (in addition to the separate curve for the top four strings): one for the nylon strings and one for the metal core strings (see the photo below). Compared to some other, similar harps, the bottom octave has somewhat smaller diameter strings, and the bottom two octaves have slightly less tension.

This stringband design, in concert with the design of the soundboard, gives all the bass notes very good volume and resonance, as well as providing a smoother transition in tension from the nylon core to the metal core strings.

Our Al Labous model weighs 24.4 pounds (including 36 sharping levers), has a maximum height of 52", and a maximum front to back depth of 29 1/2".

 


 

 

 

Al Labous Steel StringsAl Labous Top 4 Strings

 

Below are some recordings of the Al Labous model. (If your browser cannot play HTML5 MP3 files, then you will not be able to play any of the recordings below). These tunes and arpeggios were played by Rita Rice, a harpist and harp teacher of New Mexico, and recorded by Rick Gross using very high quality digital recording devices. Thank you very much Rita and Rick.

Pastorale
Siciliana
Arpeggio in C minor
Arpeggio in E Flat

Below are some sound samples of the earlier An Deraouenn model harp.

The first three tunes were played by Margot Krimmel and recorded in her teaching studio. The room is a little "live" in its sound, and I apologize to Margot for not recording the tunes at a higher volume. She did a great job. Thank you Margot.

Falling Slowly
Petite Berceuse
Spagnoletta

The next two tunes were played by Joanna Cook of the Colorado Celtic Harp Sociery. These were recorded on a non-carpeted floor which brought out the bass and treble response of the harp a little more than would a carpeted room. Thank you Joanna.

So Be Ye Kind
Trad. Breton An Dro

The next two selections are played by yours truly (no laughing allowed). Marv Pontkalleg (pronounced Maro) was recorded in my shop and is a little more "live" sounding than the next selection which was recorded in a carpeted room, making the latter less "live" than Margot's studio and with not quite as much bass and treble response as Joanna's tunes. Oh, did I mention I can't play the harp!!

All of Margot's and Joanna's tunes and the two with me attempting to play were recorded using a Tascam DR-05 hand held digital recorder, utilizing its built in microphones.

Marv Pontkalleg
Simple Chords

The last three tunes were played by Star Edwards in a room at her house. These tunes were recorded directly into the Audacity recording/editing software using a very small Audio Technica mike that clipped directly onto one of the rear soundholes on the harp. The sound is somewhat unusual because Star plays with long fingernails as she also plays the wire strung harp. The tones of the strings do sound different than if plucked with fingerpads as is customary on nylon strung harps. However, Star is not alone in playing nylon strung harps with long fingernails as I have seen others do the same, and it is a very clear and melodic sound. Thank you Star.

Captain O'Kane
Come to the Hills
Innisheer



Ar Wezenn

In the near future we will produce a 26 string harp based on the above Al Labous model. This harp will be called Ar Wezenn which means "The Tree" in the Breton language (and pronounced "r Way zen"). This harp's range will be from C3, the C below middle C, to G6, the 3rd G above middle C (or using the more classical notations, from the 5th octave C to the 1st octave G), with all the notes either nylon monofilament or nylon with nylon wrap, and will have the same string spacing as the Al Labous.

This harp will be designed for those wanting a somewhat smaller harp, but with a feel and a beautiful sound similar to our Al Labous model. It will be suitable for those wanting a more easily transportable, lighter harp for various occasions where the full note range of our Al Labous model is not really needed.

(Thanks to Jean-Luc Pillet, Natalie Novik and Lois Kuter for help with choosing appropriate names for our harp models and the grammatically correct forms of these names, and that of our company name.)