I’ve been playing almost every day now for a week and a half, using the tips of my fingers, with my nails trimmed short. Here are a few preliminary observations.
I have experimented a little with different nail lengths. At 2mm, my nails are too long, and they catch the string, but not controllably or consistently. I think that there is probably a gap between say 2mm and 4mm where the nails are too long for tip playing but too short for nail playing. I’m planning to make a few Youtubes of different length nails striking the strings, and eventually I’ll stitch them together into a composite.
String spacing has been raised by a couple of people as a possible issue, however I think this is due to a misconception that playing without nails means a modern pedal-harp derived technique should be used, with the fingers slid between the strings and pulling the string with the soft finger pad. I don’t find this useful and I don’t believe this is the direction I want to go in. I am using just the tips of my fingers, and this means that string spacing is not an issue. It’s no harder to play on the close spacing of the Downhill as it is to play on the wide spacing of the Otway. I am even finding it fine to play on the ultra-close-spaced Queen Mary.
However string tension has proved to be much more important than I expected. I have my Downhill strung rather heavily (30 strings, total tension 440Kgf). It is speaking a lot less clearly than the Otway (30 strings, total 360Kgf). The Otway’s iron trebles also speak well with finger tips. Usually I would always rate the Otway well inferior to the Downhill when both are played with nails.
The Dolmetsch harp too, ultra-lightly strung (27 strings, total 140Kgf) is speaking well, with none of the over-pulling that is hard to avoid with nails on this little antique harp.
I’m actually leaning right now to using the Otway for my concert in St Andrews a week on Wednesday, instead of the Downhill.