Musical Acoustics Essay on the Harp

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  • Topic: Harp, Microphone, Pedal harp
  • Pages : 5 (1821 words )
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  • Published : February 26, 2013
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The Harp

The Harp is the oldest known stringed instrument, made up of a frame that surrounds multiple strings. The amount of strings depends on the size and type of harp, the concert harp typically has 47 strings which ranges 6 and a half octaves. The word harp comes from the Anglo-Saxon word meaning “to pluck”. Smaller instruments similar to the harp include the lyre, which has strings of the same length but of varying thickness and tension; the psaltery, which has a frame open only on one side; and the dulcimer, which is similar to the psaltery but which is played by striking the strings with a hammer rather than plucking them. The harp is thought to have origins in a hunters bow, in the sound it created when plucked. Because of this there is no true date of invention of the harp. There are cave paintings that depict a harp like instrument in France dated to 15,000 BC. The first types of harp were the bow harp, which has a single curved piece of wood attached to a resonating vessel, and the angle harp which is commonly called the open harp, which is made of 2 pieces of wood, one being hollow to resonate the sound, attached together at an angle with the strings strung between them.

The harp was developed separately in different parts of the world and during different time periods but all seemingly producing similar types harps. In ancient egypt there are many harps depicted in Pharaohs tombs around 5000 years ago the majority of these being bow harps up to 2 metres with 19 strings.

Vertical harps known as lyre harps were created in ancient Greece and coincided with the creation of the mathematical musical scale where Pythagoras discovered numerical ratios corresponding to intervals of the musical scale. During the Roman times the use of the harp and musical instruments in general declined and did not reappear for many years.

The triangle harp seems to have been developed in Europe and incorporated a vertical pillar to close the frame, the effects of this mean that it allowed the harp maker to increase string tension without distorting the instrument which also made the harp easier to tune as changing the tension of one string no longer affected the tension of all the other strings. The frame of the triangle harp is normally made of wood with the soundboard being a different type to the main body. Common woods used are spruce, beech, and maple with maple being the most common. The strings are stretched between the soundboard, which is the slightly slanted and uncurved arm of the entire triangular frame, and the curved, often elaborately carved, top. The strings are often made of nylon or wire. The main modern types of harp are the pedal harp and the lever harp. Pedal harps are usually used as concert harps and usually have a number of pedals at the base which are used for changing notes and for switching keys. These typically have between 41 and 47 strings. Lever harps which are commonly known as celtic harps or folk harps, are floor harps and have no pedals. These have between 20 to 40 strings. The pedal harp has been improved to include a double action so that the note they are attached to sharpens a semitone on the first depression and a further semitone on the second depression. The pedals were originally designed with hooks that attached on the end of the strings and pulled down tightening the string. The hooks were then updated to crochets, which were right-angled rather than the u-shape of the hooks, then to bequilles, which are sets of two small levers in which each string wrapped through; when one of the pedals were depressed, one lever would turn clockwise and the other counter-clockwise, providing a firmer grip. This was a better system but it tended to break and prone to a buzzing sound being produced. This was then overcome by the introduction of the disk system which is made up of two brass prongs (or forks) extended from a disc that a string passed through before attaching to the tuning...
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