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If you are a frequent reader or if it is the first time you join us, you must be sure that you have come to the most updated and complete blog in its field. Today, as in other articles, we will talk about a very interesting instrument; the harp.

It had great popularity in times where it was a fine entertainment among the aristocracy and although it is closely related to angels and cherubs, even with cupid who in addition to his arrow carries a harp, this harmonious and emblematic musical instrument, has a high degree of complexity to master.

If you are thinking of becoming a harpist or if you are already one and wish to invest in your own instrument, there are several considerations to take into account. So below we will give you information such as what it is, what advantages and disadvantages it has, and so on. Everything you need before choosing to get your money's worth.




Summary

  • The harp is a plucked stringed instrument consisting of a triangular shaped frame (the most common) and strings placed vertically. Its sound is obtained by plucking the strings with the fingers.
  • There are several types of harps, as they vary in size and style, and even in the construction of parts involved in making them. But basically they fall into a classification that divides them into harps with pedals and harps with levers.
  • To buy a harp we must take into account points that involve important decisions to take home what we need, some of these are: material, strings, size, among other details.

The Best Harps: Our Picks

Buying guide: What you need to know about the harp

When you go to the shop of your choice to buy your harp, you'd better get your money's worth, because it's not an inexpensive instrument. So take note of the information below, as we'll go into everything you need to know about the product so you can buy what you need with certainty.

beautiful curly hair woman playing the harp on a beach along the river at sunset

What is the harp?

The harp is an instrument that has been around for years; it is a plucked string instrument, which means that to play it it is necessary to pluck the strings with the fingers, emitting its harmonic notes to create sounds that make up a melody. It has a frame and the strings are placed vertically.

The existing range is wide and you can find large harps or those that are more easily transportable, the same as their case can vary and one or several characteristics included in each one of them.

What are the benefits of a harp?

Like any other instrument, it has many advantages and many disadvantages that help us to determine whether it is what we want or not. For example, the great variety of harps allows us to choose the one that best suits our needs and desires.

Another great advantage is that despite its history and the seriousness that persists in this instrument, its sounds allow us to play almost any kind of musical genre and to play as a soloist or within a modern or classical instrumental accompaniment.

Advantages
  • Variety of existing types
  • Can be played in any musical genre
  • Made in various sizes
  • Not much competition
Disadvantages
  • Highly complex instrument to learn
  • Difficult to transport
  • Price requires a large investment

Harp with Pedal or without Pedal - What should you pay attention to?

The harp has a long history behind it, as its development dates back to the beginning of the 19th century, but since then variants have been developed depending on various factors such as the number of components, the size, etc.

However, despite the variety that exists, all harps fall into a classification that involves whether they have pedals or levers. Accordingly, we will begin to understand what types exist in order to determine the most suitable for our needs.

With lever. They are those that in the upper part of the instrument, in the so-called neck of the harp, have a lever that helps the harpist to play two strings that represent two different notes on each string. Squeezing or loosening them allows you to create natural, flat or high notes.

With pedal. Also known as Celtic, these harps have 7 pedals included. They are located at the bottom of the instrument, and look similar to piano pedals. Each pedal includes high, middle, low and natural notes. The pedals give the harpist the possibility to play any kind of song. These harps do not have levers.

Harp with lever Harp with pedal
Function Play two different notes on each string Play high, middle, low and natural notes
Location Neck of the harp On the neck
Level Beginners Advanced
Capacity Limited because one hand must be on the levers Any melody can be played by using both hands

Are there other types of harps?

Harps have been delighting people's ears since ancient times, and new versions have emerged and others have been improved or modified according to the needs that musicians and experts have determined. There is a wide range, but some of them are:

Electric harps. Created to be able to amplify their sound on stage allowing the audience to hear every single note coming from this instrument. They are of high quality and performance. They produce a very full sound.

Gothic harps. These are narrower harps with a thinner soundboard than traditional harps. They may have pointed designs and high heads. These harps do not have pedals.

Modern Wire Harps. So called because they are made of wire strings, their construction is very strong. They are easy to manoeuvre and are common at Celtic or Irish music festivals and competitions.

Cross-strung harps. These harps have two rows of strings placed at slight angles. They are played with both hands and in a similar way to a piano with sharps and flats.

Jarocha harp. Harp of Mexican origin, widely used in Veracruz for the son Jarocho. It is made of wood and has strings ranging from 32 to 36 tuned diatonically in 5 octaves.

How much does a harp cost?

If you are just starting out and you still don't know if this will be the instrument you will connect with forever, then we recommend you to look for a used one or better yet a rental one. On the other hand, if you are a professional in this field you will know beforehand that harps are not exactly the cheapest instrument.

Purchasing criteria

Having the possibility of buying the instrument of your dreams is one of the most satisfying sensations, especially when you are sure that you have acquired exactly what you needed and that the choice you have made has not left you wanting for nothing. For this reason, it is essential to know the characteristics that you may encounter, so that you can decide in good time what is best for you.

Material

Wood is used to manufacture them, both in the soundboard (the soul of the harp) and in its body, which influences the sound, albeit more subtly. The type of wood and varnish used or not in these parts will have a direct influence on the effect of the sound produced. Among the woods used are:

Spruce. The number 1 choice of wood to use, as it has an excellent balance between resistance and flexibility, allowing a good return of vibrations. This wood is often used in the soundboard.

Plywood. This consists of several thin layers of wood glued together. The outer layer is usually aesthetically the thinnest wood. In terms of sound, it produces powerful basic notes without many overtones, richness or warmth.

Solid wood. Used in the manufacture of high-end harps or concert harps. It is usually used for the column part. It projects with power and richness harmonic sound frequencies. It transmits good vibrations that are not affected by any glue that has to be used as in the case of plywood.

Strings

The strings are another indispensable element of these instruments, as they are used to generate the tones and colours of the sound. There are different types of materials with which we can delight our ear, choosing between nylon, carbon, natural gut, bass and metal wires.

Nylon. Provides a clear, bright, crystal clear sound and is very versatile and durable. They require less effort, are lightweight and are not sensitive to temperature or humidity because they are synthetic, but take longer to stabilise once they are placed on the harp. This type of string is mostly used on lever harps.

Carbon. Or polyvinyl fluoride. Designed to imitate the sound of gut strings without the drawbacks. This material remains stable, as it does not react to temperature or humidity, nor does it break frequently.

Natural gut. These cow or sheep gut strings provide a round, voluptuous sound and are used on both pedal and lever harps. They have a brilliant sound, ideal for jazz or classical music. They stabilise quickly when placed on the harp.

Bass strings. On harps with more than 27 strings, from the fifth octave and downwards, bass wire strings are used. They are made of a steel core, wrapped with silk or other material and then covered with stainless steel or bronze. They are strings that are easily stabilised when placed on the harp.

Metal. Strings made of this material have been used for centuries, but nowadays they are used on high-end harps. They are also preferred for the possibility of achieving greater volume and are sometimes used in conjunction with natural gut strings.

Size

Although there is a variety of sizes, the average size is between 1.6 to 1.8 metres, but they can also be divided into two classes: floor and lap. Which one is preferred is a personal matter and each will have its own characteristics and advantages.

The floor ones. As the name implies, they are floor-mounted, there is no need to carry them or attach them to any place or any other device, they are simply placed on the floor while the user sits on a bench or stool. It is enough to sit at a comfortable and suitable height.

Lap harps. These are harps that we hold on our arm, as they are not very big, we can place them on ourselves to play them. The initial conflict is to keep the balance while mastering the instrument. The great advantage of this kind of harp is its portability and easy storage.

(Featured Image Source: Noemi-Italy/ Pixabay.com)

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