Harps are a type of string instrument which is mostly used in orchestras. You will find different types of harps in the market which are in general larger than the average string instrument and has a rather unique build to it which makes it easily distinguishable. You may see harps in movies and cartoons where it is generally associated with angels and other heavenly creatures. Harps are known to be instruments that have a calm and serene vibe to them and the sound emitted from a harp is generally very soothing and mild.
Harps are one of the oldest instruments that are still in use. Harp is depicted in paintings and inscriptions that date backs to 3000 BC. There were different types of harps available from times unknown and the many variations of it have been in use in the history of music. However, only a few of those variations have survived and are still in use.
Different Types Of Harps Played By Musicians These Days
1. Lever Harps
Lever harps are one of the two types of harps that are currently used by the majority of players worldwide. A lever harp is called so because it utilizes a lever to adjust the stretch in the strings in order to hit different notes. It is one of the more portable as well as smaller versions of the harp.
There are a few subcategories to lever harps as well which provide a bit of a variation but they are mostly of the same nature. However, those subcategories can be largely divided into two with one of them allowing the harp to be played by placing it on the lap and the other one needing to be placed on the floor and leaned against to play. It is also a budget-friendly option and a great one to start your journey as a harp player.
2. Pedal harps
Pedal harps are bigger than lever harps. They may be the most played version of the harp worldwide. The strings on these harps are made out of a combined alloy of nylon and steel. There are in total 40 to 47 strings attached in the pedal harp which provides it with a very wide range of playable notes.
It is suggested that beginners should avoid this one as it is harder to master and can be a bit challenging for new players to get accustomed to. It has a more extensive range and the quality is a bit more refined than the average harp which makes it suitable for seasoned players. It is a bit costly and therefore may not be the most viable option for beginners.
3. Paraguayan Harps
It is not very common among harp players so people who are new to these instruments may not have seen or heard about this one. A distinctive physical feature in these kinds of harps is that the pillar is not curved like in most harps but is rather straight. The number of strings in Paraguayan harps can range from 32 to 46. These harps usually can be seen having a majestic body that is made of pine and tropical wood. The instrument boasts a height of 4 feet and 6 inches but it is considerably light considering its height with only 4 to 5 kilos in weight.
4. Celtic Harps
As the name suggests, this harp has its origins in Ireland and Scotland. Its mechanism is similar to the lever harp where a lever is used to adjust the strings and accommodate changes into the harp. The modern versions of this harp are a bit different from the traditional version. It does not have a pedal to it which is also a factor that makes it a bit more similar to the Celtic harp. Celtic harps usually have 26 to 38 strings. They were known to be a bit difficult to play but the modern versions of them are a bit more manageable in terms of playing.
5. Modern Wire Harps
Usually, harps are made up of nylon strings but the modern version of the harp is made of wire strings. This has been widely used as a support instrument for both poetry as well as songs. Brass and bronze are the materials that are used for making the strings for these harps.
The sound quality in these instruments largely depends on the structure and the size of the instrument and many variations may be found on the market. It is a bit tricky to accommodate flats and sharps in these harps but if you know where to look then you can definitely manage to find a variation that will help you play them effectively.
6. Electric Harp
Electric harps started gaining popularity from the 1950s onwards. This type of harps can be found having both lever and pedal mechanisms which allow you to have a greater variety of choices if you are looking for one. It follows a similar mechanism to the acoustic versions when it comes to laying the instruments but the only significant difference in these is that you will have the provision for using electrical amplification for the output. You can also choose to play them as acoustic harps if you are not looking to amplify the output which makes it a great versatile option.
7. Cross Strung Harp
This is one of the most unique versions of the harp. It has two sets of strings that are attached in a criss-cross manner without touching one another. This provides a wide range to players without having to adjust the strings like with pedal or lever variations. Players can play flat as well as sharps without having to deal with levers and pedals. The strings in these instruments are made of nylon or bronze.
These are the different types of harps that one can look for these days. We have mentioned the basic factors that distinguish them from other options in the market. Choose the one that is best suited to your needs judging from the description we have provided and continue in your journey of practising and perfecting the harp.
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