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Harp Facts

15 Interesting Facts About The Harp

The Harp is a distinct musical instrument within the string family. It features numerous individual strings that extend at an angle to its soundboard. These strings are played by plucking them with the fingers.

The Harp is an instrument of very ancient lineage and is synonymous with classical music and Cupid’s lyre. Over the years, the Harp has evolved from its primitive hunting bow shape to its modern day form. Across the world, each culture has its own version of the Harp.

Here are fifteen interesting facts about this amazing instrument.

Harp Facts

1. The origins of the Harp

Interesting Harp Facts

The Harp is believed to have existed since 15,000 BC, making it one of the oldest instruments in the world.

Harps have been found in ancient burial tombs and painted on the walls of ancient Egyptian tombs. In Europe, Asia and Africa, Harps date back as far as 3,500 BC.

2. Harps are complex

The Harp is a multi-stringed musical instrument, or a chordophone if you want to be really fancy!

A resonator (or soundboard) vibrates with the movement of the Harp’s strings, producing its notes. The strings of the Harp can be made up of silk, nylon, wire or sheep’s gut (charming!). A Harp’s strings run perpendicular to its resonator. Each of the Harp’s strings play one note. Longer strings play lower notes and shorter strings play higher notes.

Facts About The Harp

3. The world’s most expensive Harp

One of the world’s most expensive and luxurious Harps was made by Lyon and Healy and is named the Louis XV Concert Grand Harp . Rolls of the tongue, right?

This Harp is as fancy as it sounds and is clad in 23+ carat gold leaf, flaunting a Rococo style, due to its embellishment with flowers, leaves, shell-like shapes and scrolled feet. The impressive neck and kneeblock boast complex carving along the soundboard edges. The side of the soundboard is adorned with a miniature etching of a Lyon and Healy concert Grand Action plate.

This harp will cost you a cool $189,000, (£142,000).

4. The Harp and the orchestra

Amazing Harp Facts

The Harp is a string instrument, but also holds a class of its own. The Pedal Harp, played in Symphony Orchestras, is a Chordophone. It is the only instrument of its particular type in Symphony Orchestras. There are usually one or two Harps in the orchestra and they play both the melody and harmony.

5. The Harp’s impact on music

The Harp has been used in classical music since the 19th Century.

In the 20th Century the pedal harp found a life outside of classical music. It featured in Jazz with Casper Reardon in 1934, in the Beatles’ 1967 single, ‘She’s Leaving Home’ and several works by Björk, which featured harpist Zeena Parkins.

In the early 1980s, the Concert Harp was exposed to large new audiences by Swizz Harpist Andreas Vollenweider, who produced popular new age and jazz albums, as well as concert performances.

6. The world’s smallest Harp

If we want to get really technical, the Nano-Harp is the world’s smallest stringed instrument. The Nano-Harp was made by Researchers at Cornell University. The tiny instrument is used to measure very small vibrating systems at record high frequencies. This pint-sized instrument was born in the same place as the guitar.

Let’s talk about more familiar small harps. The Lyre is similar in appearance to a small harp and is known for its use in Greek classical antiquity and later periods. The Lyre of classical antiquity was played in Ancient Greece with a plectrum to strum the strings, rather than the picking method typical of regular harps. 

7. The world’s largest Harp

The world’s largest Harp is called the Earth Harp. Dramatic, huh?

The Earth Harp was invented by part-time musician / part-time inventor William Close in Los Angeles.

“When I first invented the Earth Harp I mounted a series of chambers on one side of a valley or canyon and I ran the strings clear across to the other side, turning that canyon into a giant harp,” Close explains. The Earth Harps’ strings are about 1,000 ft in length.

In 2019 Close became the Guinness World Record holder for the world’s longest string instrument, when he attached the Earth Harps’ strings to a skyscraper in Singapore. Pretty extraordinary, right? This allows you to understand the sheer size and scale of this magnificent instrument.

8. How many strings does a Harp have?

A Folk Harp’s strings can range from less than 20 to more than 40 strings.

A Pedal Harp usually has about 40 strings.

9. What are the notes the Harp plays?