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A medieval harp (left) and a single-action pedal harp (right)
String instrument
Hornbostel–Sachs classification 322–5
(Composite chordophone sounded by the bare fingers)
Playing range
Range of harp.JPG
Related instruments

The harp is a stringed musical instrument that has a number of individual strings running at an angle to its soundboard; the strings are plucked with the fingers. Harps have been known since antiquity in Asia, Africa and Europe, dating back at least as early as 3500 BC. The instrument had great popularity in Europe during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, where it evolved into a wide range of variants with new technologies, and was disseminated to Europe's colonies, finding particular popularity in Latin America. Although some ancient members of the harp family died out in the Near East and South Asia, descendants of early harps are still played in Myanmar and parts of Africa, and other defunct variants in Europe and Asia have been utilized by musicians in the modern era.

String (music) musical instrument part, made from metal or plastic

A string is the vibrating element that produces sound in string instruments such as the guitar, harp, piano, and members of the violin family. Strings are lengths of a flexible material that a musical instrument holds under tension so that they can vibrate freely, but controllably. Strings may be "plain", consisting only of a single material, like steel, nylon, or gut, or wound, having a "core" of one material and an overwinding of another. This is to make the string vibrate at the desired pitch, while maintaining a low profile and sufficient flexibility for playability.

Sound board (music) musical instrument part

A sound board, or soundboard, is the surface of a string instrument that the strings vibrate against, usually via some sort of bridge. Pianos, guitars, banjos, and many other stringed instruments incorporate soundboards. The resonant properties of the sound board and the interior of the instrument greatly increase the loudness of the vibrating strings.


Harps vary globally in many ways. In terms of size, many smaller harps can be played on the lap, whereas larger harps are quite heavy and rest on the floor. Different harps may use strings of catgut, nylon, metal, or some combination. While all harps have a neck, resonator, and strings, frame harps have a pillar at their long end to support the strings, while open harps, such as arch harps and bow harps, do not. Modern harps also vary in techniques used to extend the range and chromaticism (e.g., adding sharps and flats) of the strings, such as adjusting a string's note mid-performance with levers or pedals which modify the pitch. The pedal harp is a standard instrument in the orchestra of the Romantic music era (ca. 1800–1910) and the contemporary music era.

The neck is the part of certain string instruments that projects from the main body and is the base of the fingerboard, where the fingers are placed to stop the strings at different pitches. Guitars, banjos, ukuleles, lutes, the violin family, and the mandolin family are examples of instruments which have necks. Necks are also an integral part of certain woodwind instruments, like for instance the saxophone.

Acoustic resonance phenomenon where acoustic systems amplify sound waves whose frequency matches one of its own natural frequencies of vibration (its resonance frequencies)

Acoustic resonance is a phenomenon in which an acoustic system amplifies sound waves whose frequency matches one of its own natural frequencies of vibration.

Chromaticism is a compositional technique interspersing the primary diatonic pitches and chords with other pitches of the chromatic scale. Chromaticism is in contrast or addition to tonality or diatonicism. Chromatic elements are considered "elaborations of or substitutions for diatonic scale members".

Chromaticism is almost by definition an alteration of, an interpolation in or deviation from this basic diatonic organization.


Near East

Ur lyre Ur lyre.jpg
Ur lyre
1A Sassanid era mosaic excavated at Bishapur Bishapur zan.jpg
1A Sassanid era mosaic excavated at Bishapur

The earliest harps and lyres were found in Sumer, 3500 BC, [2] and several harps were found in burial pits and royal tombs in Ur. [3] The oldest depictions of harps without a forepillar can be seen adjacent to the Near East, in the wall paintings of ancient Egyptian tombs in the Nile Valley, which date from as early as 3000 BC. These murals show an instrument that closely resembles the hunter's bow, without the pillar that we find in modern harps. [4] The chang flourished in Persia in many forms from its introduction, about 4000 BC, until the 17th century.

Sumer Ancient civilization and historical region in southern Mesopotamia

Sumer is the earliest known civilization in the historical region of southern Mesopotamia, modern-day southern Iraq, during the Chalcolithic and Early Bronze ages, and one of the first civilizations in the world along with Ancient Egypt and the Indus Valley. Living along the valleys of the Tigris and Euphrates, Sumerian farmers were able to grow an abundance of grain and other crops, the surplus of which enabled them to settle in one place. Prehistoric proto-writing dates back before 3000 BC. The earliest texts come from the cities of Uruk and Jemdet Nasr and date to between roughly c. 3500 and c. 3000 BC.

Ur Archaeological site in Iraq

Ur was an important Sumerian city-state in ancient Mesopotamia, located at the site of modern Tell el-Muqayyar in south Iraq's Dhi Qar Governorate. Although Ur was once a coastal city near the mouth of the Euphrates on the Persian Gulf, the coastline has shifted and the city is now well inland, on the south bank of the Euphrates, 16 kilometres from Nasiriyah in modern-day Iraq.

Ancient Egypt ancient civilization of Northeastern Africa

Ancient Egypt was a civilization of ancient North Africa, concentrated along the lower reaches of the Nile River in the place that is now the country Egypt. Ancient Egyptian civilization followed prehistoric Egypt and coalesced around 3100 BC with the political unification of Upper and Lower Egypt under Menes. The history of ancient Egypt occurred as a series of stable kingdoms, separated by periods of relative instability known as Intermediate Periods: the Old Kingdom of the Early Bronze Age, the Middle Kingdom of the Middle Bronze Age and the New Kingdom of the Late Bronze Age.

Around 1900 BC arched harps in the Iraq–Iran region were replaced by angular harps with vertical or horizontal sound boxes. [5] By the start of the Common Era, "robust, vertical, angular harps", which had become predominant in the Hellenistic world, were cherished in the Sasanian court. In the last century of the Sasanian period, angular harps were redesigned to make them as light as possible ("light, vertical, angular harps"); while they became more elegant, they lost their structural rigidity. At the height of the Persian tradition of illustrated book production (AD 1300–1600), such light harps were still frequently depicted, although their use as musical instruments was reaching its end. [6]

South Asia

Mesolithic era paintings from Bhimbhetka show people playing harp. an arched harp made of wooden brackets and metal strings is depicted on an Indus seal. [7] The works of the Tamil Sangam literature describe the harp and its variants, as early as 200 BC. [8] Variants were described ranging from 14 to 17 strings, and the instrument used by wandering minstrels for accompaniment. [9] Iconographic evidence in of the yaal appears in temple statues dated as early as 500 BC[ citation needed ] One of the Sangam works, the Kallaadam recounts how the first yaaḻ harp was inspired by an archer's bow, when he heard the musical sound of its twang.[ citation needed ]

Mesolithic Prehistoric period, second part of the Stone Age

In Old World archaeology, Mesolithic is the period between the Upper Paleolithic and the Neolithic. The term Epipaleolithic is often used synonymously, especially for outside northern Europe, and for the corresponding period in the Levant and Caucasus. The Mesolithic has different time spans in different parts of Eurasia. It refers to the final period of hunter-gatherer cultures in Europe and Western Asia, between the end of the Last Glacial Maximum and the Neolithic Revolution. In Europe it spans roughly 15,000 to 5,000 BP; in Southwest Asia roughly 20,000 to 8,000 BP. The term is less used of areas further east, and not at all beyond Eurasia and North Africa.

Bhimbetka rock shelters 30,000+ years old archaeological World Heritage site in Madhya Pradesh, India

The Bhimbetka rock shelters are an archaeological site in central India that spans the prehistoric paleolithic and mesolithic periods, as well as the historic period. It exhibits the earliest traces of human life on the Indian subcontinent and evidence of Stone Age starting at the site in Acheulian times. It is located in the Raisen District in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh about 45 kilometres (28 mi) southeast of Bhopal. It is a UNESCO world heritage site that consists of seven hills and over 750 rock shelters distributed over 10 kilometres (6.2 mi). At least some of the shelters were inhabited more than 100,000 years ago. The rock shelters and caves provide evidence of, according to Encyclopædia Britannica, a "rare glimpse" into human settlement and cultural evolution from hunter-gatherers, to agriculture, and expressions of spirituality.

Indus Valley Civilisation Bronze Age civilisation in South Asia

The Indus Valley Civilisation (IVC) was a Bronze Age civilisation in the northwestern regions of South Asia, lasting from 3300 BCE to 1300 BCE, and in its mature form from 2600 BCE to 1900 BCE. Along with ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia it was one of three early civilisations of the region comprising North Africa, West Asia and South Asia, and of the three, the most widespread, its sites spanning an area stretching from northeast Afghanistan, through much of Pakistan, and into western and northwestern India. It flourished in the basins of the Indus River, which flows through the length of Pakistan, and along a system of perennial, mostly monsoon-fed, rivers that once coursed in the vicinity of the seasonal Ghaggar-Hakra river in northwest India and eastern Pakistan.

Another early South Asian harp was the ancient veena; unlike the modern instrument of the same name, the ancient veena was a harp vice the modern lute-type instrument. Some Samudragupta gold coins show of the mid-4th century AD show (presumably) the king Samudragupta himself playing the instrument. [10] The ancient veena survives today in Burma, in the form of the saung harp still played there. [11]

The ancient veena is an early Indian arched harp, not to be confused with the modern Indian veena which is a type of lute. The instrument is attested on a gold coin of the Gupta Empire from the mid-300s CE.


Samudragupta was a ruler of the Gupta Empire of present-day India. As a son of the Gupta emperor Chandragupta I and the Licchavi princess Kumaradevi, he greatly expanded his dynasty's political power.


The saung is an arched harp used in traditional Burmese music. The saung is regarded as a national musical instrument of Burma. The saung is unique in that it is a very ancient harp tradition and is said to be the only surviving harp in Asia.

East Asia

The harp was popular in ancient China and neighboring regions, though harps are largely extinct in East Asia in the modern day. The Chinese konghou harp is documented as early as the Spring and Autumn period (770–476 BC), and became extinct during the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644). [12] A similar harp, the gonghu was played in ancient Korea, documented as early as the Goguryeo period (37 BC – AD 686). [13]

Structure and mechanism

Basic structural elements and terminology of a modern concert harp Harp.svg
Basic structural elements and terminology of a modern concert harp

Harps are essentially triangular and made primarily of wood. Strings are made of gut or wire, often replaced in the modern day by nylon, or metal. The top end of each string is secured on the crossbar or neck, where each will have a tuning peg or similar device to adjust the pitch. From the crossbar, the string runs down to the sounding board on the resonating body, where it is secured with a knot; on modern harps the string's hole is protected with an eyelet to limit wear on the wood. It is the distance between the tuning peg and the soundboard, as well as tension and weight of the string, which decide the pitch of the string. The body is hollow, and when a taut string is plucked, the body resonates, projecting sound.

The longest side of the harp is called the column or pillar, though some earlier harps, such as a "bow harp", lack a pillar. On most harps the sole purpose of the pillar is to hold up the neck against the great strain of the strings. On harps which have pedals (largely the modern concert harp), the pillar is a hollow column and encloses the rods which adjust the pitches, which are levered by pressing pedals at the base of the instrument.

On harps of earlier design, a given string can play only a single note without retuning. In many cases this means such a harp can only play in one key at a time and must be manually retuned to play in another key. Various remedies to this limitation evolved: the addition of extra strings to cover chromatic notes (sometimes in separate or angled rows distinct from the main row of strings), addition of small levers on the crossbar which when actuated raise the pitch of a string by a set interval (usually a semitone), or use of pedals at the base of the instrument which change the pitch of a string when pressed with the foot. These solutions increase the versatility of a harp at the cost of adding complexity, weight, and expense.

Development and history


The harper on the Dupplin Cross, Scotland, circa 800 AD DupplinHarper.jpg
The harper on the Dupplin Cross, Scotland, circa 800 AD

While the angle and bow harps held popularity elsewhere, European harps favored the "pillar", a third structural member to support the far ends of the arch and soundbox. [14] [15] [16] A harp with a triangular three-part frame is depicted on 8th-century Pictish stones in Scotland [14] [15] and in manuscripts (e.g. the Utrecht Psalter) from early 9th-century France. [16] The curve of the harp's neck is a result of the proportional shortening of the basic triangular form to keep the strings equidistant; if the strings were proportionately distant they would be farther apart.

A medieval European harp (the Wartburg harp) with buzzing bray pins. Wartburg-Harfe.JPG
A medieval European harp (the Wartburg harp) with buzzing bray pins.

As European harps evolved to play more complex music, a key consideration was some way to facilitate the quick changing of a string's pitch to be able to play more chromatic notes. By the Baroque period in Italy and Spain, more strings were added to allow for chromatic notes in more complex harps. In Germany in the second half of the 17th century, diatonic single-row harps were fitted with manually turned hooks which fretted individual strings to raise their pitch by a half step. In the 18th century, a link mechanism was developed connecting these hooks with pedals, leading to the invention of the single-action pedal harp.

The first primitive form of pedal harps was developed in the Tyrol region of Austria. Jacob Hochbrucker was the next to design an improved pedal mechanism around 1720, followed in succession by Krumpholtz, Nadermann, and the Erard company, who came up with the double mechanism, in which a second row of hooks was installed along the neck, capable of raising the pitch of a string by either one or two half steps. While one course of European harps led to greater complexity, resulting largely in the modern pedal harp, other harping traditions maintained simpler diatonic instruments which survived and evolved into modern traditions.


In the Americas, harps are widely but sparsely distributed, except in certain regions where the harp traditions are very strong. Such important centres include Mexico, the Andean region, Venezuela, and Paraguay. They are derived from the Baroque harps that were brought from Spain during the colonial period. [17] Detailed features vary from place to place.

The Paraguayan harp is that country's national instrument, and has gained a worldwide reputation, with international influences alongside folk traditions. Paraguayan harps have around 36 strings, played with the fingernails, and with a narrowing spacing and lower tension than modern Western harps, and have a wide and deep soundbox which tapers to the top. [18]

The harp is also found in Argentina, [19] though in Uruguay it was largely displaced in religious music by the organ by the end of the 18th century. [20] The harp is historically found in Brazil, but mostly in the south of the country. [21]

Andean harp Meg with Andean harp (4134119578).jpg
Andean harp

The Andean harp (Quechua : arpa), also known as Peruan harp, or indigenous harp, is widespread among peoples living in highlands of the Andes: Quechua and Aymara, mainly in Peru, and also in Bolivia and Ecuador. Andean harp has relatively large size. Its distinguishing feature is significantly increased volume of the resonator box, which gives basses a special richness. Andean harp usually accompanies love dances and songs, such as huayno. [22] One of the most famous performers on the Andean harp was Juan Cayambe (Pimampiro Canton, Imbabura Province, Ecuador [23] )

Mexican "jarocha" harp music of Veracruz has also gained some international recognition, evident in the popularity of "la bamba".[ original research? ] In southern Mexico (Chiapas), there is a very different indigenous style of harp music. [24]

In Venezuela, there are two distinct traditions, the arpa llanera and the arpa central (or arpa mirandina). The modern Venezuelan arpa llanera has 32 strings of nylon (originally, gut). The arpa central is strung with wire in the higher register. [25]


A Mangbetu man playing a bow harp. Magpetu vona.jpg
A Mangbetu man playing a bow harp.

A number of types of harps are found in Africa, predominantly not of the three-sided frame-harp type found in Europe. A number of these, referred to generically as African harps, are bow or angle harps, which lack forepillars joining the neck to the body.

A number of harp-like instruments in Africa are not easily classified with European categories. Instruments like the West African kora and Mauritanian ardin are sometimes labeled as "spike harp", "bridge harp", or harp lute since their construction includes a bridge which holds the strings laterally, vice vertically entering the soundboard. [26]

South and Southwest Asia

While lyres and zithers have persisted in the Middle East, most of the true harps of the region have become extinct, though some are undergoing initial revivals. The Turkish çeng was a nine-string harp in the Ottoman Empire which became extinct at the end of the 17th century, [27] but has undergone some revival and evolution since the late 20th century. A similar harp, the changi survives in the Svaneti region of Georgia. [28]

In the remote and mountainous Nuristan province of Afghanistan the Kafir harp has been part of the musical traditional for many years. [29] In India, the bin-baia harp survives about the Padhar people of Madhya Pradesh. [28]

East Asia

Saung musician in 1900. Saung harp musician.jpg
Saung musician in 1900.

The harp largely became extinct in East Asia by the 17th century; around the year 1000 harps like the vajra began to replace preceding[ clarification needed ] harps. [30] A few examples survived to the modern era, particularly Myanmar's saung-gauk , which is considered the national instrument in that country. Though the ancient Chinese konghou has not been directly resurrected, the name has been revived and applied to a modern newly invented instrument based on the Western classical harp, but with the strings doubled back to form two notes per string, allowing advanced techniques such as note-bending.[ citation needed ]

Modern European and American harps

Concert harp


The concert harp is a technologically advanced instrument, particularly distinguished by its use of "pedals", foot-controlled devices which can alter the pitch of given strings, making it fully chromatic and thus able to play a wide body of classical repertoire. The pedal harp contains seven pedals that each affect the tuning of all strings of one pitch-class. The pedals, from left to right, are D, C, B on the left side and E, F, G, A on the right. Pedals were first introduced in 1697 by Jakob Hochbrucker of Bavaria. [31] In 1811 these were upgraded to the "double action" pedal system patented by Sébastien Erard. [32]

The addition of pedals broadened the harp's abilities, allowing its gradual entry into the classical orchestra, largely beginning in the 19th century. The harp played little or no role in early classical music (being used only a handful of times by major composers such as Mozart and Beethoven), and its usage by Cesar Franck in his Symphony in D minor (1888) was described as "revolutionary" despite some body of prior classical usage. [33] Entering the 20th century, the pedal harp found use outside of classical music, entering jazz with Casper Reardon,[ when? ] the Beatles 1967 single "She's Leaving Home", and several works by Björk which featured harpist Zeena Parkins.

Folk, lever, and Celtic instruments

New Salem Village re-enactor playing a Celtic harp. Celtic harps.JPG
New Salem Village re-enactor playing a Celtic harp.

In the modern era, there is a family of mid-size harps, generally with nylon strings, and optionally with partial or full levers but without pedals. They range from two to six octaves, and are plucked with the fingers using a similar technique to the pedal harp. Though these harps evoke ties to historical European harps, their specifics are modern, and they are frequently referred to broadly as "Celtic harps" due to their region of revival and popular association, or more generically as "folk harps" due to their use in non-classical music, or as "lever harps" to contrast their modifying mechanism with the larger pedal harp. [34]

Welsh harpists at Caerwys Eisteddfod c.1892 Eisteddfod Caerwys - harpists (4153297586).jpg
Welsh harpists at Caerwys Eisteddfod c.1892

The modern Celtic harp began to appear in the early 19th century in Ireland, contemporary with the dying-out of earlier forms of Gaelic harp. Dublin pedal harp maker John Egan developed a new type of harp which had gut strings and semitone mechanisms like an orchestral pedal harp; it was small and curved like the historical cláirseach or Irish harp, but its strings were of gut and the soundbox was much lighter. [35] In the 1890s a similar new harp was also developed in Scotland as part of a Gaelic cultural revival. [36] In the mid-20th century Jord Cochevelou developed a variant of the modern Celtic harp which he referred to as the "Breton Celtic harp"; his son Alan Stivell was to become the most influential Breton harper, and a strong influence in the broader world of the Celtic harp.

Multi-course harps

A multi-course harp is a harp with more than one row of strings, as opposed to the more common "single course" harp. On a double-harp, the two rows generally run parallel to each other, one on either side of the neck, and are usually both diatonic (sometimes with levers) with identical notes.

The triple harp originated in Italy in the 16th century, and arrived in Wales in the late 17th century where it established itself in the local tradition as the Welsh harp (telyn deires, "three-row harp"). [37] The triple consists of two outer rows of identical diatonic strings with a third set of chromatic strings between them. These strings are off set to permit the harpist to reach past the outer row and pluck an inner string if a chromatic note is needed.

Chromatic-strung harps

Some harps, rather than using pedal or lever devices, achieve chromaticity by simply adding additional strings to cover the notes outside their diatonic home scale. The Welsh triple harp is one such instrument, and two other instruments employing this technique are the cross-strung harp and the inline chromatic harp.

Cross-strung chromatic harp Cross harp.JPG
Cross-strung chromatic harp

The cross-strung harp has one row of diatonic strings, and a separate row of chromatic notes, angled in an "X" shape so that the row which can be played by the right hand at the top may be played by the left hand at the bottom, and vice versa. This variant was first attested as the arpa de dos órdenes ("two-row harp") in Spain and Portugal, in the 17th century. [38]

The inline chromatic harp is generally a single-course harp with all 12 notes of the chromatic scale appearing in a single row. Single course inline chromatic harps have been produced at least since 1902, when Karl Weigel of Hanover patented a model of inline chromatic harp. [39]

Electric harps

Amplified (electro-acoustic) hollow body and solid body electric lever harps are produced by many harpmakers, including Lyon & Healy, Salvi, and Camac. They generally use individual piezo-electric sensors for each string, often in combination with small internal microphones to produce a mixed electrical signal. Hollow body instruments can also be played acoustically, while solid body instruments must be amplified.

A gravikord Gravikord.JPG
A gravikord

The late-20th century gravikord is a modern purpose-built electric double harp made of stainless steel based on the traditional West African kora.

Terminology and etymology

The modern English word harp comes from the Old English hearpe; akin to Old High German harpha. [40]

A number of non-harp-like instruments are colloquially referred to as "harps". Chordophones like the aeolian harp (wind harp) and the autoharp (with the piano and harpsichord) are not harps, but zithers, because their strings are not perpendicular to their soundboard. Similarly, the many varieties of harp guitar and harp lute, while chordophones, belong to the lute family and are not true harps. All forms of the lyre and kithara are also not harps, but belong to the fourth family of ancient instruments under the chordophones, the lyres.

The term "harp" has also been applied to many instruments which are not chordophones. The vibraphone was (and is still) sometimes referred to as the "vibraharp", though it has no strings and its sound is produced by striking metal bars. In blues music, the harmonica is often casually referred to as a "blues harp" or "harp", but it is a free reed wind instrument, not a stringed instrument, and is therefore not a true harp. The Jew's harp is neither Jewish nor a harp; it is a plucked idiophone and likewise not a stringed instrument. The laser harp is not a stringed instrument at all, but is a harp-shaped synthesized electronic instrument that has laser beams where harps have strings.

A person who plays a harp is called a "harpist" (or sometimes "harper" or "harp-player").

As a symbol


Coat of arms of Ireland Coat of arms of Ireland.svg
Coat of arms of Ireland


Pub plaque, Omagh Pub plaque, Omagh - geograph.org.uk - 660876.jpg
Pub plaque, Omagh

The harp has been used as a political symbol of Ireland for centuries. Its origin is unknown but from the evidence of the ancient oral and written literature, it has been present in one form or another since at least the 6th century or before. According to tradition, Brian Boru, High King of Ireland (died at the Battle of Clontarf, 1014) played the harp, as did many of the gentry in the country during the period of the Gaelic Lordship of Ireland (ended c. 1607 with the Flight of the Earls following the Elizabethan Wars).[ citation needed ]

In traditional Gaelic society every clan and chief of any consequence would have a resident harp player who would compose eulogies and elegies (later known as "planxties") in honour of the leader and chief men of the clan. The harp was adopted as a symbol of the Kingdom of Ireland on the coinage from 1542, and in the Royal Standard of King James VI and I in 1603 and continued to feature on all English and United Kingdom Royal Standards ever since, though the styles of the harps depicted differed in some respects. It was also used on the Commonwealth Jack of Oliver Cromwell, issued in 1649 and on the Protectorate Jack issued in 1658 as well as on the Lord Protector's Standard issued on the succession of Richard Cromwell in 1658. The harp is also traditionally used on the flag of Leinster.

Since 1922, the government of Ireland has used a similar left-facing harp, based on the Trinity College Harp in the Library of Trinity College Dublin as its state symbol. It first appeared on the Great Seal of the Irish Free State, which in turn was replaced by the coat of arms, the Irish Presidential Standard and the Presidential Seal in the 1937 Constitution of Ireland. The harp emblem is used on official state seals and documents including the Irish passport and has appeared on Irish coinage from the Middle Ages to the current Irish imprints of euro coins. Irish companies such as Guinness since 1759, Harp Lager since 1960, Irish Independent since 1961 (originally in black but in green since 1972), and Ryanair since 1985 have all incorporated harps into their logos.


The South Asian Tamil harp yaal is the symbol of City of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, whose legendary root originates from a harp player. [41]


St. Maria (Weingarten/Wurttemberg) Weingarten Marienkirche Empore Engel Harfe.jpg
St. Maria (Weingarten/Württemberg)

In the context of Christianity, heaven is sometimes symbolically depicted as populated by angels playing harps, giving the instrument associations of the sacred and heavenly. In the Bible, Genesis 4:21 says that Jubal, the first musician and son of Lamech, was 'the father of all who play' the harp and flute. [42] [43] [44]

Many depictions of King David in Jewish art have him holding or playing a harp, such as a sculpture outside King David's tomb in Jerusalem.


The harp is also used extensively as a corporate logo, by private companies and government organisations. The Irish beer Guinness uses a harp, facing right and less detailed than the version used on the state arms. Relatively new organisations also use the harp, but often modified to reflect a theme relevant to their organisation: Irish airline Ryanair uses a modified harp, and the Irish State Examinations Commission uses it with an educational theme. The harp appears in the logo for League of Ireland football team Finn Harps F.C., Donegal's senior soccer club.

Other organisations in Ireland use the harp, but not always prominently; these include the National University of Ireland and the associated University College Dublin, and the Gaelic Athletic Association. In Northern Ireland the Police Service of Northern Ireland and Queen's University of Belfast use the harp as part of their identity.

In Iraq, the football club Al-Shorta is nicknamed Al-Qeetharah (Assyrian Neo-Aramaic : "the harp"), and has a harp on its logo.

See also

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A nyckelharpa is a traditional Swedish musical instrument. It is a string instrument or chordophone. Its keys are attached to tangents which, when a key is depressed, serve as frets to change the pitch of the string.

Electric harp

The electric harp is an instrument based on its acoustic original. There are both solid-body and hollow body electro-acoustic models available. True electric harps have a solid body versus a hollow body electro-acoustic harp, which can be played either acoustically or electronically. A true electric solid-body harp cannot be played acoustically since it has no hollow soundbox, and must be amplified when played.

Celtic harp triangular harp traditional to Brittany, Ireland, Scotland and Wales

The Celtic harp is a square harp traditional to Ireland and Scotland. It is known as cláirseach in Irish and clàrsach in Scottish Gaelic. In Ireland and Scotland, it was a wire-strung instrument requiring great skill and long practice to play, and was associated with the Gaelic ruling class. It appears on Irish and British coins and coat of arms of the Republic of Ireland, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Cross-strung harp harp with two overlapping rows of strings allowing for chromatic play

The cross-strung harp or chromatic double harp is a multi-course harp that has two rows of strings which intersect without touching. While accidentals are played on the pedal harp via the pedals and on the lever harp with levers, the cross-strung harp features two rows so that each of the twelve semitones of the chromatic scale has its own string.

The triple harp is a type of multi-course harp employing three parallel rows of strings instead of the more common single row. One common version is the Welsh triple harp, used today mainly among players of traditional Welsh folk music.

Pedal harp string instrument with pedals

The pedal harp is a large and technically modern harp, designed primarily for art music and may be played either solo, as part of a chamber ensemble, or in an orchestra. It typically has a range of six and a half octaves, weighs about 36 kilograms (80 lb), is about 1.85 metres high, has a depth of 1 metre, and is 55 centimetres wide at the bass end of the soundboard. The notes range from the C three octaves below middle C to three and a half octaves above, usually ending on G. Using octave designations, the range is C1 to G7. At least one manufacturer gives the harp a 48th string, a high A giving the instrument a range of C1 to A7.

Diatonic and chromatic

Diatonic and chromatic are terms in music theory that are most often used to characterize scales, and are also applied to musical instruments, intervals, chords, notes, musical styles, and kinds of harmony. They are very often used as a pair, especially when applied to contrasting features of the common practice music of the period 1600–1900.

Origin of the harp in Europe

The origins of the triangular frame harp are unclear. Triangular objects on the laps of seated figures appear in artwork of the Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales, as well as other parts of north-west Europe. This page outlines some of the scholarly controversies and disagreements on this subject.

Paraguayan harp

The Paraguayan harp is the national instrument of Paraguay, and similar instruments are used elsewhere in South America, particularly Venezuela.

The arpa jarocha is a large wooden harp that is normally played while standing, although early examples from the 16th through the first three or four decades of the 19th centuries were smaller and were played while seated. It has a wooden frame, a resonator, a flat soundboard, 32-36 nylon strings, and does not have pedals. This harp is tuned diatonically over five octaves. The top of its soundboard sometimes arches outward due to the tension of the strings. Unlike other Mexican harps, the arpa jarocha has its sound holes located on the back of the sound board instead of on the front.

Veena stringed Indian musical instrument

The veena comprises a family of chordophone instruments from the Indian subcontinent. Ancient musical instruments evolved into many variations, such as lutes, zithers and arched harps. The many regional designs have different names such as the Rudra veena, the Saraswati veena, the Vichitra veena and others.

Multi-course harp harp with two or three rows of strings

A multi-course harp is a harp with more than one row of strings. Harps with two rows are called double harps; harps with three rows are called triple harps. A harp with only one row of strings is called a single-course harp.


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Additional sources