The Harps

Harps are very ancient stringed instruments. They are well known in antiquity. The Masapotamia harps date back to 2600 years (before Christ), while the harps of Persia and those of Egypt (2600 – 1500 BC). They were of different sizes and also had a different number of strings.

The evidence shows that the majority of ancient harps were held with the strings either vertically. The strings were either plucked by the fingers (figs.2f, g, k–t; fig.3a–c, e; fig.7b and fig.8 below) or struck with a long plectrum held in the right hand (figs.3f and fig.4c–e). Both methods are seen on ancient representations by the 2nd millennium bce, but vertical harps were often plucked with the fingers and horizontal ones with a plectrum. In representations with plectra, the left hand is often obscured by the strings, but it may have been used to dampen the strings that should not sound when the plectrum was strummed across all strings. Arched harps were first introduced during the 3rd millennium bce in the Middle East (fig.2a, c–h) and Egypt (fig.2i–k) and angular harps appeared in about 1900 bce in Mesopotamia, from where they quickly spread. The latter were used throughout the Hellenistic period, entered the Buddhist and Islamic worlds, but died out after the end of the 17th century ce.

Nowhere is there a larger variety of harps than in Africa. The harp has a place in the traditions of nearly 150 African peoples. The variations in the construction and decoration of African harps serve as excellent examples of the ingeniousness of African instrument makers in creatively utilizing locally available materials.

The modern harp emerged in Europe in about 800 ce.

        Harps today are an important part of symphony orchestras. One of the popular harp brands is the one called Salvi.The 34 string Mia is an elegant, high quality instrument with a rich, clear sound that is built to be light and compact for ease of portability.

The following harp is called the Prince of Wales.


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