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Warning. This site uses cookies. They help with occasional site revisions late at night, with a cup of cocoa. Copyright: Dr Ian McLauchlin 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020. You are free to use the information given here for non-commercial,                            not for profit, purposes but please Acknowledge my Name and this source. Thank you.




But that isn’t enough to accommodate all the notes in an instrument of manageable size. Something else has to change, and one of those changes is the material of the string.

Nylon, gut, and  steel are used. The higher notes are the short strings nearest the player and these are made of nylon. The lower notes are the longer strings furthest away from the player and are made of steel. (In practice it’s arranged that the nature and tension of the strings over the whole range varies smoothly to make playing easier for the harpist.)

This allows the harp to be a suitable size for playing so that the player can reach the furthest strings. But even that isn't quite enough and a further refinement is necessary.

Why does the top of the harp have that unusual bend in it?

If we consider only the length of strings:

Frequency is inversely proportional to length. That means that as the length increases, the frequency reduces – the note is lower. Over an octave, the frequency halves which means that the length of the string doubles.

However over many octaves, this doubling means that the changes occur exponentially. That is, doubling every octave leads to very slow changes in length at the start but very rapid changes as the notes become lower. The bend in the top of the harp helps to accommodate that. If you look inside a grand piano, you’ll see that the iron frame also has a similar bend in it.

Harps come in various shapes and sizes eg.the Lyre Harp and the ancient bow harp..

 The harp was of particular importance to Celtic people. In fact the harp is iconic in Ireland today as those who drink Guinness already know.

Some of the background for this article came from