Dusty Harp Pickup
The Dusty Harp Pickup is our answer to the question, "How can I make my harp louder and still have it sound the way I love?" Harps are particularly difficult to amplify because of their long soundboards, and when we spent time testing a bunch of different options, we didn't find anything we were completely satisfied with. We are perfectionists about how our harps sound, and we realized that designing our own harp pickup was the only way to ensure an amplification solution that would meet our standards.
After extensive development and testing, we came up with the Dusty Harp Pickup. Rather than relying on one (or sometimes two) contact points, which can't help but pick up more sound from the notes that are close by and less sound from the notes farther away, our pickup has 4 carefully selected piezo elements spaced along the length of the soundboard. (Three elements in the case of the smaller P10.) This creates a balanced and focused sound throughout the whole range of the harp. The full, rich bass notes blend with the clear mids and highs, providing natural-sounding amplification at any volume level. It's simply the sound of the harp, only bigger!
Although we initially designed the pickup for our own harps, the response was so enthusiastic that we created a kit to allow the pickup to be installed in a wide variety of harps by other makers. We even developed a pedal harp version, and over the years our pickups have been successfully installed in many non-Dusty harps. Harpists and sound technicians alike rave about how easy it is to use and how even and natural the sound is.
The pickup is discreetly mounted inside the soundbox, invisible to the audience. A single jack mounted on the back of the harp makes for "plug and play" ease of use. An instrument cable (not included) connects your harp directly to any amplifier and most PA systems. In most situations a preamplifier is not needed, but if you are playing in situations requiring very high volume, you may want to add one. In addition to boosting the signal, it will give you direct control over your volume and tone. With some amplifiers, a preamp can also sweeten and smooth out your sound.
We can install the Dusty Harp Pickup in any new or existing Dusty Strings harp, and it can also be done by harp owners who are handy with tools or by any instrument repair technician. Installation involves attaching mounting clips to the internal braces or sides of the harp, snapping the cable harness into the clips, gluing the elements in place, and drilling a hole to mount the jack in the back of the harp. There are detailed instructions and a template for placing the elements in Dusty Strings harps. If you have a different type of harp, use the template as a starting point, but it's a good idea to experiment with the element placement to confirm the best-sounding attachment points. The only tool you'll need is a ½-inch brad point drill bit, available at most hardware stores or from us. If you prefer not to drill a hole, you can simply connect to the jack through the bottom soundhold of your harp, or add our Jack Clamp for a secure and removable way to anchor the jack.
The cost for us to install a pickup in a Dusty Strings harp is $100. For details on ordering a pickup with a new harp, see our Options page.
Check out our blog for background information on terminology and amplification basics.
P10 (for 24-30 string lever harps):
- 24" long
- Additional 8.5" of lead
- Minimum soundbox length (internal): 25.5"
- 3 piezo elements
- Ultra-high impedance
P20 (for most 32-40 string lever harps*):
- 28.5" long
- Additional 7.5" of lead
- Minimum soundbox length (internal): 30"
- 4 piezo elements
- Ultra-high impedance
P30 (for pedal harps and some pedal-harp-styled lever harps*):
- 34" long
- Additional 24.5" of lead
- Minimum soundbox length (internal): 35.5"
- 4 piezo elements
- Ultra-high impedance
*Certain lever harps (the Lyon & Healy Prelude and Troubadour are good examples) are built like pedal harps, with similar heavily-reinforced construction and high string tension. Although they have levers and not pedals, in all other respects they are much closer to a pedal harp and we would recommend the P30 pickup for these harps. The P20 is designed for more lightly-built lever harps and may not be responsive enough to produce the best results on a pedal-style harp. In all cases, it's a very good idea to test out the pickup placement before permanently gluing down the elements!
Impedance and Choosing an Amplifier
The Dusty Harp Pickup system utilizes piezo pickups that are "high ohmic," meaning that they operate optimally in a high impedance circuit. Results will be best when the pickup is plugged into an amplifier that has an ultra-high input impedance of about 1 megohm or higher. This will provide a flat and balanced frequency response.
If you plug this pickup into an electric guitar or bass guitar amplifier, you may hear a thin sort of "quacky" bass response and there may be other frequencies that are filtered out. You may not like the sound! This is not the fault of the pickup, but is the result of the mis-match of this ultra-high impedance acoustic pickup with a high impedance electric guitar amplifier.
In short, coupling the Dusty Harp Pickup with an amplifier optimized for acoustic instruments with piezo pickups will give you the best sonic reproduction - the full, rich acoustic sound of your unamplified instrument, only louder!
P10 and P20 Lever Harp Pickups
"I was amazed hearing the internal pickups when amplified. After I play, the sound guys are always first to rush up and find out what I'm using to get such great sound. These guys are the ones that know and who give the system the highest marks. Thank you again for making quality your priority. It shows in every aspect of my beautiful harp."
-Jeannie Page (Albuquerque, NM)
"This pickup is the closest thing to getting an electric harp! It covers the harp's full range and I don't have to worry about internal rattles like I did with my former pickup. When I'm playing with other amplified musicians, I finally feel like the harp is in equal balance with the other instruments. It makes a clean and rich conneciton wiht the sound system. If you're in need of a harp pickup, this is the best investment."
-Monica Schley (Seattle, WA)
"It was so nice to just plug into the church sound system, and not have to worry about a separate microphone for the harp."
-Balfour Knight (Balsam, NC)
P30 Pedal Harp Pickup
Pickup demonstration video by Katie Buckley, principal harpist in the Icelandic Symphony Orchestra:
"So excited! This is for the Iceland Symphony's harp. I convinced them to buy one because I love mine in my harp so much. It's amazing!! We do a few amplified concerts a season, plus, I like the help it gives with tuning in noisy situations."
-Katie Buckley (Iceland)
"I am a harpist and I use your pedal-harp picku-up - these days I play amplified music whether it's in a jazz, band, or larger production setting... and I LOVE it - it works much better than any other system I've used before and has a clean enough sound to use effects without the danger of lots of feedback and other problems like many amplification systems for the harp."
-Elisa Thorn (Vancouver, BC)
"My Dusty Strings pickup has totally revolutionized the sound of my harp. For the first time I have the volume I need to play with drums and electric guitars on big stages without compromising the beauty of the natural tone of my harp. The Dusty Strings is the only pickup that captures the full range of my harp. It has a full warm, rich sound in the bass and mids without losing any of the power and definition of the higher strings. It's vastly superior to any other pickup I've tried. Without it, the best I could hope for was for a few high, thin notes to pierce through a wall of sound coming from powerful electric instruments. The Dusty Strings pickup has given me my harp back."
-Sarah Page (Barr Brothers Band, Montreal)
"I had time to test out the new Dusty Strings pick-up in my Lyon and Healy Style 23 last night. I love it! It is very natural sounding and gets a very "real" warm sound from the instrument. It also is very even and balanced throughout the full range of the harp. It is by far the best pick-up I have ever used. Having it permanently installed is a real plus also, so I don't have to deal with sticking it on every time I need to use it and then worrying if it will stay stuck on when I need it! Peter [Wiley] installed it very quickly. Please thank the Dusty folks for me and let them know I really, really like teh sound and balance of the product! I would recommend it to anyone without hesitation!"
-Paul Baker (Los Angeles, CA)