Showing posts with label Harps. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Harps. Show all posts

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Things To Consider Before Buying A HARP

New Salem Village re-enactors playing Celtic harps
New Salem Village re-enactors playing Celtic harps 
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If you are considering playing or purchasing a harp, you may feel overwhelmed by the different types and choices available. This article will provide a basic explanation of the different models and give you some points to consider before making a purchase or deciding on an instrument.

The pedal harp is sometimes also called a classical, concert, orchestral, or concert grand harp. It usually has between 41 and 47 strings and is typically the largest type of harp. A pedal harp has pedals at the base that allow you to play in different keys without having to restring the instrument. This allows you to play the widest variety of musical styles.

A non-pedal harp is basically a harp without pedals and is sometimes also called a lever, folk, or Celtic harp. Non-pedal harps have levers that let you adjust the instrument to different keys, although the levers do not provide quite as much versatility as pedals do. Lever harps can vary greatly in size, from lap harps to floor models up to 5 feet high.

Harps are usually either strung with wire or nylon. They may also be double, triple, or cross-strung. Double and triple strung harps have 2 or 3 rows of parallel strings, and one hand plucks each row of strings. Cross-strung harps have 2 rows of angled strings that cross over one another. This allows you to reach each set of strings with either hand.

Choosing a harp depends partly on what type of music you like to play. If you prefer classical or jazz, you may want to consider a pedal harp because of its musical flexibility. If you like folk, Celtic, or popular music, a non-pedal harp will probably suit your needs.

While the size of the harp may be a consideration for a child or small adult, smaller is not necessarily better. Lap harps, while smaller, also require you to balance the harp on your lap, and this may be challenging for a smaller person. Actually, with proper posture and sitting height, a child can play a floor harp, even if they can't reach all the strings just yet.

Another, and perhaps the biggest, consideration in choosing a harp is your budget. The cost of a harp varies greatly. Pedal harps are the most expensive. Non-pedal harps are usually less expensive, but of course the larger the harp, the more costly it is.

With so many things to consider, including personal preference, you are the only one who can decide which instrument you prefer. Once you make your decision, enjoy playing your new instrument, and take pride in your musical accomplishments!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

How to Play the HARP in All Styles of Music and Expand Your Musical Expertise

English: modern celtic harp Français : harpe c...
Modern Celtic Harp
 (Photo credit: 
There is a certain freedom in allowing oneself to delve into any kind of style of music regardless of your background and choice of instrument. One of my favorite instruments is the harp and its versatility. I play a Woldsong levered harp made by Paul Culotta (RIP, dear one) with 39 strings. It's made of Walnut wood with a Spruce soundboard.

The range of notes on my harp is from a G below great C to the C an octave above High C. This is a wonderful range for a Folk or Celtic Harp. Paul chose to use metal on the bottom 8 strings, which gives a rich, full sound to the bass.

When I say it is a levered harp, that means it has a lever per string close up to the bridge pin which, when engaged, will sharp the string a half step. Most folk or Celtic harps you see in the world have the flip-up lever. My harp has brass blade levers, as opposed to flip-up levers. These are rare levers, however, I prefer them because they are really fast and able to do an excellent pull-off or hammer-on as you would do on a guitar. I use these techniques primarily when I play blues and difficult classical pieces on my harp.

Blues harp, you say? Yes, the original in my opinion.

Have you ever heard a song and just wanted to play it and the sheet music is just not out there? Well, what I do is listen very carefully to the song and find the tonic or 'Do,' if you will. I work out the melody and find the chords to go underneath. If you can hear the distance between notes in the melody (the intervals and how they move), and do the same with the bass, you can usually fill in the rest fairly easily.

When I'm taking a song, for example, 'Wonderful World' and working it out on the harp, I use mainly octaves and 5ths on the bass lines with arpeggio chords, and embellish the melody with inversions on the right hand with rolled or block chords. Many times I will dampen the strings to create a stop-like feel for effect.

When I use the hammer-on or pull-off technique, I will pluck the strings of the harp with my right hand and turn the lever with my left hand, creating a semi-tone movement up and down. With blade levers, there is no stop sound--the lever being disengaged and making a loud click sound on the mechanism. Blade levers turn 45% towards the harpist and touch the string, tightening it just enough for a semi-tone ascension. There is no mechanism attached to the blade.

When you are working out a song, whatever the style, listen carefully to the rhythms, and figure out what works with your harp playing. In Reggae, you will use a lot of dampening stops with back-beat rhythms, and the same goes with blues and rock songs. In some songs, your bass lines will be more complex. In Celtic and Traditional music, you will use more of a light touch on the harp strings, perhaps with a bit more speed and lilt of rhythm. You will find more grace notes, trills, and rolling, continuous bass lines in the Celtic and Irish harp music.

In Classical music, you will challenge your scale skills and your modulation skills with a levered harp. I love playing Fur Elise on my Celtic harp and it's definitely not a harp song. I've worked out all of the sections very carefully. When using a levered harp, you have to choose the voicing of your chords with care because you are flipping your levers in order to modulate into the next key or passage.

I encourage you to expand your horizons of thought with the harp and how it can be played. If you play the harp, try something new! If you don't, try listening to eclectic versions of songs played on the harp. There is a lifetime of music from wonderful harpists out there. Go and enjoy yourself!

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Short History of the HARP

Photo  by quinet 
Ask a random person off the street to describe a harp, and they are likely to describe a huge, bulky instrument. However, all harps are not equal. They range in size in type. But where, exactly, did this seemingly simple instrument come from?

The harp is an ancient instrument, having been around since as early as 2500 B.C., that continues to be a major force in the modern-day music world. This instrument has evolved in many ways in the last four millennia. The different harps have come from and evolved from Egypt, Ireland, and many other places and cultures. Harps such as the diatonic, triple-strung, single-action pedal, chromatic cross-string, and the double action pedal have been used.

The kinnor, which is an ancient instrument played by King David as told in the Old Testament, is often confused with the harp. The kinnor is actually a type of lyre. However, the first true harp can be traced back to ancient Egypt.

In Ancient Egypt, the earliest evidence of a harp dates back to as early as 2500 B.C. These harps were actually bow-shaped or at a very small angle, which forced them to have a small number of strings. Due to the lack of a column for support, these harps were unable to support very much tension. The first column appeared in Medieval Western Europe in what came to be known as the frame harp in the 8th to 10th centuries. These harps were known as the frame harps. This was also the very first harp to use a soundbox to amplify the sound from the instrument.

European harps differed from Irish harps and they were known as Renaissance harps. They had more strings attached to wooden pegs, and the pillar was thinner and less curved. These were known as diatonic harps.

The triple-strung harps appeared in the late 16th century after an invention of a double-strung harp. A triple-strung harp has three rows of strings and it was easy to play and amplify. The single-action pedal harp was designed in 1720. This harp was a combination of a diatonic harp and a single-string harp but included new features known as pedals. This harp only included five pedals, which the harps today use seven.

Other harps that were designed off of the earlier inventions were amazing improvements from the diatonic and the double-action pedal. These harps were constructed in the early 1800s.

The harp is a beautiful instrument people love to play and listen to the sounds the strings resonate. The history of the harp dates back all of the ways to 2500 B.C. and is still played today as a fine and quality instrument.