Classical Musical Instruments/The Harp

“And whenever the tormenting spirit from God troubled Saul, David would play the  harp. Then Saul would feel better, and the tormenting spirit would go away.”     –  1 Sam.16:23 NLT


We’ve already examined the effects of classical music as  a possible remedy  for Alzeimers and dementia patients. (see http://classical music& 

Today we look at another in the series  of the stringed classical musical instruments-the magical harp.                                                                                                                         


Dated as far back as the year 3000 BC, the harp has its roots in both the Far and Middle  East.  It also gained prominence from early art and manuscripts.  Very simple  in structure,  it was made from two pieces –  a sound box and a string arm, and was angular in shape.

Meanwhile, in the West…


… a third piece was added – a fore pillow, and the Harp became a triangular instrument. In some cultures,  the harp was played on the left shoulder, the right hand playing the bass range and the left hand, the treble.The harp is also played in some cultures by the fingernails.

Irish Connection

In the Irish tradition, the harp is most revered and the Irish praised for their skill and craftiness. ‘Though once described as “barbaric”  for harps played with “metal wire” and “bray pins, ” by the end of the 17th century,  the old Irish harping tradition had died out.   The 18th century welcomed harpers playing more contemporary and popular music.

Growth & Development

The harp’s development saw the addition of pedals around the year 1700, to allow for  hands free chromatic adjustments. These pedal harps were  called single-action pedal harps, and allowed a given string to be raised by a semi-tone. 

Double the Action 

At about this time, Baroque music became very popular,  and required an instrument to play its intricate parts. Enter the “doubleaction” pedal harps, invented in 1810, which enabled music to be played in both sharp and flat keys.

Use of the harp throughout the Baroque, Classical, and Romantic Period

The double-action pedal harp became an instrument in demand during the Baroque and classical music  period, which, in turn, gave way to the Romantic era. The different musical periods saw changes in the demand and use of the harp –  for while classical music composition  was strictly governed, the Romantic period allowed for more freedom of expression.   This music was more suited    to    the                                                                                                                            double-action pedal harp.                     konzertharfe_salvi_2016_neuss-1

                                                                     From Dwarf To Giant

The growth and development of the harp throughout the years has been phenomenal.  From a small organic instrument of  about five or six strings, it has evolved into a giant with rods, disc,  pedals, and  up to 47 strings.

A Unique Instrument

The Harp is distinctively different from other stringed instruments. Some of these distinctions are its height – about 6ft., shape – like the number 7- and its 47 strings of varying lengths.

The string’s are tuned to the notes of the pianos white keys. The neck of the harp leans on your right shoulder and it is played sitting down with each leg on either side. The strings sound the pitches of the piano’s black keys thanks to seven foot pedals at the harp’s bottom.

Modern Day Uses

The Harps used in concerts today is very similiar to its relatives, only more powerful and richer in tone. A typical orchestra will have at least one or two harps, and they play both melody and harmony.   One such  group is the world renowned Philarmonia Orchestra, known accross the U.K. for outstanding quality and innovative performances.

Harps in schools

There is also a Harps-in-schools program, especially for children with special needs. The aim is to educate and promote the knowledge of harps and their healing qualities.


There is a wonderful organization called the Harp Foundation, in Phoenix, Ariz. where, for a small fee,  one can arrange the services of a  harpist in medical settings for infants, children and adults.

Similiar services are also available for Hospices,  Senior and Retirement Homes upon request.


Thanks investing your valuable time in reading this post.

Any questions, comments or suggestions are  most welcomed.


Sources: The Harp Foundation, Phoenix Ariz. & Wikipedia