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Can someone give me some basic harp info?

I’ve recently entertained the notion of taking up the harp as an instrument. Since I am only in the very early stages of my planning process, I know very little about it and would like more information. So if you could share a few facts with me or direct me to a site that can, I would really appreciate it. Thank you


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One Response to "Can someone give me some basic harp info?"

  1. frazzle169 says:

    Other than percussion, the harp or its variants are thought to be the oldest instruments known to man. The first harps most likely evolved from the hunter’s bow and had a single string. As the harp developed, more strings were added but it was still in the basic bow shape. The harp then evolved into an angle harp with a sound box for greater volume. These harps had a sound box with a cantilevered arm from which the strings were attached. Pictures from ancient Egypt often depict some of these early types of harps.

    A big development was to add a column much like the harps of modern times, this column allowed for greater tension on the strings and more flexibility in design.

    In the early centuries, the harp was one of the most popular instruments. However, eventually the harp became less popular as music became more complex and the many accidentals where difficult to manage on the harps of that day. Most harps of that period where diatonic (white keys on a piano) and therefore the more complex music was more suited to chromatic instruments (black and white piano keys).


    There is no such thing as a “standard” harp and in making a come back, several types of harps evolved falling into several general categories.

    The first category is to differentiate between harps with pedals and those without pedals and second is whether they are diatonic or chromatic. Compared to a piano, just the white keys is a diatonic instrument, whilst a chromatic instrument has both the white and black keys. The pedal harp much as we know it today, the cross-strung harp and triple strung where developed to enable the harpist to play music with accidentals. As a result of politics, the pedal harp became the harp of choice. The pedal harp allows the harpist to change a string between flat, natural or sharp by the use of a foot pedal, leaving the hands free to pluck the strings. Non pedal harps often have a system of semitone levers or blades, which allows the harpist to set the key at the beginning of a piece and to make minor changes during the piece. Since the hands are being used to pluck the strings, this restricts the amount of changes that can easily be made by moving semitone levers during the piece.

    Briefly, other than pedal harps, types of other chromatic harps are as follows with the analogy of a piano to help describe them.

    Cross strung where there are two rows of strings which cross from side to side. One row is tuned as the white keys and the other the black keys. The harpist by playing above or below the cross can play either the “white or black” keys. The double strung harp is simular and sometimes confused with the cross strung, but it is still diatonic. The double strung has two rows of strings that are parallel and both are tuned as the “white” keys. This allows for an overlap of notes and the capability to play the same note on either row of strings. The cross-strung harps have been around for several hundred years but are just now enjoying a come back in popularity.

    Triple strung harps have 3 parallel rows of strings with each of the outer rows tuned to the “white” keys and the centre row to the “black” keys. To get a sharp or flat, the harpist reaches through the outer rows to pluck the required string.

    There are also in line chromatic harps which have a single row, but in addition to the “white” keys, the “black’ keys are interspersed usually 11 strings per octave instead of 7.

    The second broad category and very popular among harps is the non pedal diatonic harp, which is known variously as a Folk Harp, Celtic Harp, non pedal harp etc and is probably most accurately called a neo Celtic Harp. In addition to the “Celtic” shaped harps, these harps can also be made with a straight column that can resemble the look of a “concert harp” As mentioned above, these harps are often fitted with a system of levers that can raise each individual string by a semitone. As mentioned above, these harps are also occasional made with two parallel rows of strings called a double strung harp. There are small harps, designed to be held on your lap, called lap harps, and larger models called floor harps that are supported on the floor. Most people find a floor harp easier to play as it is supported on the floor as opposed to having to balance the harp on your lap.

    Wire strung harps can be simular in style and shape but usually have closer string spacing and are traditionally played with the finger nails rather than the pads of the fingers. Metal strung harps tend to have strings the “ring”.

    With in this Category there is also Latin or Paraguayan styled harps (originally Spanish) which are light weight, the strings are usually closer together and designed to be played with the finger nails rather than the pads of the fingers. These harps traditionally have strings that go down through the centre of the neck rather than being suspended off to one side and are ligh

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