Everything You Need to Know to Buy Your Perfect Harmonium
The very first step in creating your chant practice is getting your hands on a really good harmonium. Unfortunately, this is not nearly as easy as one might expect. Learning to play on a lousy harmonium is like learning to ride a bike on a bike with a flat tire. You spend all your time fighting the bike/instrument. It's not fun, and it makes it a lot harder to learn.
Here are three critical things to know:
1. To narrow your search for a great harmonium, you must answer these three questions:
Question #1 - Do I plan to play Indian classical music, or Western Kirtan?
Answer - If you play to study Indian classical music (a major undertaking!), you may want to purchase a scale changer harmonium. If you are interested in learning Western Kirtan (ie Krishna Das, Snatam Kaur), something like a Bhava Mini or Bhava Lite would be your best options.
Question #2 - Do I want a Calcutta or Delhi style harmonium?
Answer - Click HERE for a video that will help you understand the difference.
Question #3 - Do I want a harmonium that's portable, or one that will live in one place?
Answer - If portable, you probably want a collapsable harmonium (aka Safari style). The Bhava Mini is a fantastic portable harmonium that weighs only 16 pounds and easily fits in an airplane overhead bin, so is great for travel. Another great (and even lighter) option is the Bhava Lite. If your harmonium will live in one place then you can consider a Bhava Studio harmonium, or something similar that doesn't fold down.
2. All four of the Bhava Harmoniums (Lite, Mini, Classic & Studio) now come in three levels of quality:
- Standard (good) - pine wood.
- Limited (better) - cedar wood.
- Concert (best) - teak wood. No nails used in assembly, so best resonance.
3. When ordering from Old Delhi Music you have three tuning options.
- Equal Tuning (No extra charge)
- Concert (A-440) Tuning (service fees apply)
- Cosmic (A-432) Tuning (service fees apply)
Equal tuning means you will get a harmonium that is in tune with itself, but could come pitched anywhere from A-438 to A-442.
Concert Pitch Tuning means the harmonium is tuned to A-440, like a piano in a concert hall. I strongly recommend paying the extra $50 for Concert Pitch Tuning as it will make it much easier (and better) to play with other musicians.
Cosmic Pitch Tuning is not recommended. It's more expensive and will cause hassles and headaches if you play with other musicians.
If you want to play Kirtan 99% of the time your best bet is getting a Bhava Mini harmonium (a Delhi and Safari/collapsable style instrument) tuned to A-440 (Concert Pitch). That's what I have, and I tour/fly with it all the time. You could also get at Bhava Lite, which doesn't collapse, but is even more portable and sounds great!
WANT TO LEARN MORE?
Below are blog posts which describe some of the challenges people encounter when trying to purchase a harmonium and avoid getting a headache.
- How to Buy a Harmonium, Not a Headache
- The New & Improved Bhava Harmoniums
- Choosing the Right Harmonium: SOUND
- Choosing the Right Harmonium: SUSTAIN
- Harmonium Taste Test
It's so painful to me when a student shows up having paid good money for a harmonium that is just awful. Their instrument may have buzzy reeds, sticky keys, grossly inadequate sustain (how long the sound lasts when they stop pumping), improper tuning, and more. For many harmoniums, there's really no way to fix them. Want to learn more on what can go wrong? Check out my blog post titled: What's Up With My Harmonium?
Don't be one of those people that buys cheap and ends up buying twice. The video below offers a good overview.
Did You Know?
Try Before You Buy
If you live in Colorado, I may have several instruments on hand for you to try. Reach out to me via the form on this page and we can set up a time for you to come over to try them out. Playing an instrument is the best way to be certain you pick the one you love.
Students in the Boulder/Denver area can rent a harmonium before investing in purchasing one. I have several good Bhava harmoniums to rent on a monthly basis. Get in touch for more information.
If you don't live in Colorado, I can send you a promo code for 5% off your online order with Old Delhi Music. Get in touch through the form on this page for more information.
Not sure if chanting at home is really for you?
Try out our Free Class, which you can take on harmonium, keyboard, piano or organ.
"Thank you for recommending Old Delhi Music. The harmonium I got from them is a pure pleasure and brings so much to my heart as I continue my Kirtan journey.”
— Sandra Boysen Sluberski
Singer, Actress, Voice Instructor & Yoga Teacher
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