In case you asked, How many strings does a harp have? The concert harp contains a total of 47 strings. The strings are made in completely unequal lengths to add variety to the tune you play. The harp is a unique string instrument that is stroked or plucked with the finger. They are also typically very tall. The concert harp for example is about 6 feet tall. Similarly, there are long strings on the harp that produce lower pitches.
Read on to find out more interesting things about the harp strings and the tones they make.
How Many Strings Does a Harp Have?
There are no standard numbers of strings a harp must-have. Determining the number of strings is a monopoly only the manufacturer has. They often design the harp based on aesthetics and function rather than a number of strings.
So, your harp may have 47 strings or even fewer strings. It may have just 7 or 8 strings, but it does not mean it will not function as a harp. Some harps have 40, 30, and even 23 strings. Just as the sizes and types of the harp vary, so also are their strings.
The Number of Strings of Different Types of Harps
While the concert and modern harp usually have 47 strings, the number of the strings of others varies. Here is what they look like in the order of the number of their strings:
The pedal harp is the harp often referred to as the modern harp. It contains 47 strings that play smoothly when a harpist steps on a note. Surprisingly, some pedal harps only accommodate 46 strings because of their frame. However, the pedal harp still remains one of the best and a standout from the rest. This is because it is specially equipped with pedals. It has about seven of them that help to improve its tune.
In case you have never imagined a harp to be an instrument that can be plugged into a power supply, here is one. The wooden frame of the electric harp does not disturb it from being powered by electricity.
Also, the electric harp is closely similar to the pedal harps in terms of frame and number of strings. Some of the latest models of the electric harp have exactly the same body structure as the pedal harp. Most importantly, the electric harp has between 40 to 47 strings fixed to its solid body.
The multi-course harp is short of one string to the pedal harp. It has 46 strings fixed into its frame. Also, the multi-course harp usually has more than a string in a row. At times the strings are doubled in a row.
This is to say that if a model has two rows of strings, it will be distributed equally as 23 strings on both sides of the neck.
Majority of the multi-course harps usually have either triple rows of strings or double rows of strings. However, the pair of strings share the same notes and are played together.
It will be interesting to know that the lever harp is named so because it has levers built in its frame. No, it’s not the regular lever; these are materials used in controlling the tension on the harp. Each of the strings has a lever attached to it to aid its functionality. The lever assists a harpist in playing different notes on each of the strings.
However, a typical lever harp contains just 36 strings, and they are played with both hands around the levers. The harpist adjusts the levers as he or she plays the strings; they help in adjusting the pitch of a note and add color to the tune of the strings.
Although the lever harp is considered one of the most difficult to play because of the multi-tasking it requires, it still remains one of the best harps for a beginner to pick up.
The Celtic harp got its name from its origin, Celt. It is one of the harps you can not consistently say this is how they will always be. There are several makes and number of strings for different models. While some Celtic harp contain 30 strings, some have more or less. There are even Celtic harps of 38 strings and another of 22 strings.
Similarly, there are slight variations in the frame of the Celtic harp, and this could have contributed to the fact that they have only 2 to 6 octaves.
The lyre harp, for years, almost seemed like the only type of harp that existed. This is probably because their history goes as far as ancient Greece and Rome. They had only 4 strings then and were almost seen as all there was to harp.
Later on, they evolve to having 8 strings and then 10 strings. A modern-day lyre harp now has a maximum of 16 strings and a minimum of 7 strings. The lyre harp is one of the ancient cherished string instruments of all time.
It is also interesting to know that one of the harps (lap harp) is often played on the laps; thus, it got the name – The lap harp. Just like the lyre harp, the lap harp also dates way back to the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century.
However, there is a modern construction of it that has an average number of 18 strings at a go. As small as the frame of a lap harp is, it can accommodate 15 strings and some as high as 22 strings. The lap harp is made in such a small frame to make it convenient to handle and play on the lap.
The harp strings and their tone range
Having learned the number of strings each type of harp has, now let us focus on the tone the strings produce. A typical harp is marked with colors to help a harpist in finding the strings he or she wants to pluck or strum quickly. As a result, the majority of the F strings are coloured black for easy identification. The C strings are coloured red.
However, the tones of harps range from C1 to G7. These ranges produce different tone register that will be discussed below:
The shorter strings have a higher frequency and oftentimes produce a higher register. Similarly, the thicker strings produce higher pitches than the thinner ones. The harp, therefore, is played in a higher register using the nylon strings. Also, the best notes played on this register are the short running notes because they do not ring too much.
It is also referred to as the central or medium register. This is simply because it produces notes that are in the middle using the gut strings. You can play short running notes and chords using this register. Arpeggio also fits perfectly well in this register – playing each individual note separately as opposed to playing simultaneously.
This register has a higher resonance. Most longer strings create lower frequency and lower pitches. Because of their length, when not plucked or strummed very well, some have their sound fade off halfway.
The low registers are often produced using steel strings to produce notes. Chords and single notes are also often used in this register.
How many strings should a beginner harp have?
It is recommended for a beginner to start out with the lever harp, which contains 36 strings. This is because it has levers that aid in tuning the pitch of the tone, and you play the strings. Although it requires a little multitasking, like playing with both hands, using the levers, and playing the strings, it helps to train your fingers in the long run. Also, they are relevantly affordable to purchase.
However, the major idea is to stay within the middle range. Buying a harp with only a few strings, like 8 or less, may make your learning quite difficult. Similarly, starting out with the 47 strings harp is not a better option. So, stay in the middle range of 36 strings. After your initial purchase, monitor your progress with the 36 strings harp. And also, focus on what works for you. With the 36 strings, you should make tremendous progress.
How many strings does an Irish harp have?
The Irish harp is another name for the Celtic harp. And the Irish or Celtic harp has 22 strings to 38 strings. It has a varying number of strings. While some of them have as little as 22 strings, some of them have 30 strings. And the highest the Irish harp have ever had is 38 strings.
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Now you have the answers to the question, How many strings does a harp have? Furthermore, you also know that the harps have a varying number of strings. However, the most common the harp is known for is the 47 strings which are mostly contained in a pedal harp. Nonetheless, If you are a beginner seeking out a harp, to begin with, getting the 36 strings lever harp might be a better option.
As a whole, this article will be of help in assisting you reach a decision, happy harping!