Harp Information

History of the Harp

The harp is one of the oldest instruments known to humankind, dating back to at least 3000 B.C. The ancient Egyptians had elaborate golden harps that were used in harp ensembles and temple worship. During the middle ages, itinerant European harpers earned their living by moving from town to town, using small harps for self-accompanied singing, storytelling, and in instrumental consorts. The harp had such mystical significance that many kings or chieftans had harpers in their employ, believing the instrument to possess magical powers. It was not unusual for a harper to remain unharmed during battles, being respected by the enemy and considered immune from attack. The modern orchestral harp was not perfected until the 19th century.

The Pedal or Concert Harp
Pedal Harp
This is the large harp seen playing with orchestras, in formal recitals and in jazz ensembles. It has a system of seven foot-operated pedals which allows the harp to change keys or pitches rapidly. It is very impressive in both size and appearance and is capable of more volume than most stringed instruments. It is very expensive to own, cumbersome to move and difficult to play well. Today's concert pedal harps have 44 to 47 strings and encompass over six octaves. Protege

The Lever or Folk Harp
Lever Harp
This smaller, less imposing harp, is ideally suited for use in museums, boutiques, floral gardens and a variety of historical settings. It employs a system of hand-operated levers on the strings to change individual pitches; therefore, it is best suited for performing mostly diatonic music. Persons who play this harp are called "harpers" rather than "harpists." The range of a lever harp varies from 3-5 octaves, depending on the model and size.