Types of Harps

Harp1911Harps can be classified in different ways based on their size, use, and historical factors.  Though some would disagree with me, I’ve chosen to organize discussion on harps based on their typical use and construction as follows:

Pedal Harps are the large, often elegant, harps seen in professional symphonies and orchestras. This type of harp uses pedals to enable the playing of sharps and flats. It is strung with steel, gut, and/or nylon strings.

Folk Harps are considerably smaller and more portable than pedal harps, and come in a variety of shapes and sizes from lap to floor models. Common features are the lack of pedals, and, at base level, the inability to play sharps and flats without re-tuning the instrument. Levers can be installed to manipulate the tension of the strings for production of sharps and flats.  It is strung with steel, gut, and/or nylon strings.

Wire-Strung Harps, or Clarsachs, are a type of folk harp strung entirely with metal strings. The sound produced is distinctly different from pedal and lever/folk harps. Often wire-strung harps are reproductions of historical harps and, depending on the style of construction, can be a floor or lap harp. Wire-strung harps can have blades (as opposed to levers) installed to play sharps and flats.

Cross Strung Harps feature two courses of strings, allowing for playing sharps or flats without levers or pedals.  The strings cross over each other, but do not touch.


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The harp that once through Tara’s halls The soul of music shed, Now hangs as mute on Tara’s walls As if that soul were fled. So sleeps the pride of former days, So glory’s thrill is o’er; And hearts that once beat high for praise Now feel that pulse no more. (Thomas More, 1779-1839)