I am looking to buy a (hopefully not too expensive) 22 string harp. I've never played the harp, nor do I know anyone who has one, so I have no idea what to look for or how to know if it is of reasonably good quality. I don't need the best of the best, but I don't want to buy something that sounds cheap. Is there some characteristics of a medium quality harp that I should be aware of? Thanks a million!
If it looks too much of a bargain, it probably is. There are some very cheap harps on sale on the internet, but if you don't know who made it, avoid it, however pretty it looks.
Harps all sound different, so you do need to listen to them, if only on YouTube. I started off on a cheap educational/music therapy harp, which was OK for a beginner, but the sound is a bit weedy. The better sounding ones tend to be bigger, with larger sound boxes.
Get a harp with levers on the strings. Otherwise you've got the choice of either playing only in C major, or re-tuning the thing every time you want to change key.
Be aware that 22 strings isn't very many. It'll be like playing a piano with the bottom half of the keyboard missing. Melodies in the right hand will be fine, but you'll be wondering what to do with the left hand.
You have probably obtained your harp long ago by now, but for future readers... One of the things about a 22 string harp that I would consider essential is that it have legs. The wobbliness of a "lap harp" held between the knees will limit most people. Legs give a stability that enables one to play faster, harder music with better technique and greater dynamic range. There is also a body harness that will stabilize a small harp effectively if you don't want to add legs.