The harp stands out as one of the world's most renowned instruments, with a rich history that predates all others. Its unique appearance and playing style cemented its special musical instrument status. 

Its interesting to know that "Harp" pronounce differently in various languages. It is pronounced "Arpa" in Italian, Spanish and Latin America, "Harfe" in German, "Harpe" in French and "Harp" in English. Stay with us to learn about the untold aspects of this fascinating instrument.

Harp Instrument


Where did The Harp Originate from?

You will definitely be surprised when we tell you that the harp origin goes back several thousand years ago. The invention of the harp dates back to about 6000 years ago. Some believe that the origin of the harp belongs to ancient Egypt circa 2500 BC, and others think that this instrument is one of the original Persian instruments born in Middle East, Persia (Todays Iran). The appearance of the harp has evolved over time. The earliest harps that called frame harp were likely small and portable and were made from materials such as wood and animal gut. The harp became larger and more complex over many years, with additional strings and a more elaborate frame. Modern concert harps are often made from a wood and metal, and they can weigh up to 90 pounds. 

According to the inscriptions on the columns of Persepolis, this instrument's history in Iran dates back to the Sassanid period and the era of Khosrow Parviz.

The bas-reliefs of "Taq-e Bostan" also show the harp players playing the harp in the boat for the Sassanid king who came to the hunting ground. 5 harp players are painted on a ship in Taq-e Bostan 's works. And in a boat where the king is hunting, a most likely musician, "Barbad", is playing. The harp then was seen from "7 strings to 11 strings".

Europeans claim to have invented pedal harps, founded in Germany in the 18th century, but these were also made based on the Eastern angular harps.

Harp in Poems and Literature

The harp has been used symbolically in literature for many centuries, and its meaning can differ from one culture to another. For example, in many Western literary traditions, The harp is associated with beauty and harmony. Sometimes, the harp can also represent the divine or the supernatural, particularly in myths and legends.

The name of this instrument is found not only in the carvings and paintings present in Persepolis but also in original and ancient Iranian poems, and the poets of Iran in that era used the name of this instrument as one of the musical sounds in their poems.

It can be seen in the hand paintings of poems by Shahnameh Ferdowsi and other great Iranian poets, as in the picture below. 

Harp origin 

The Different Parts of Harp Instrument

The harp instrument consists of a triangular frame whose rear side is the sound amplifier box of the instrument. The upper side is a curved line on which the wires are fixed, and the front side, like a regular column, supports the other two sides.

The harp strings are often made of sheep's intestines; in the case of bass, they are made of steel. Each string produces a musical sound.

Harp instrument structure and mechanism

The method of playing the harp instrument is that the instrument is placed vertically, facing the musician. He vibrates the following notes with the fingers of his right hand and the bass notes with his left hand. Two little fingers aren't usually used in playing the harp instrument, which is played with "eight fingers".

How Many Strings Does a Harp Have?

The appearance of the harp is similar to a right-angled triangle, whose wires are installed vertically at the height of the instrument. The number of strings on a harp can vary depending on the type and size of the harp. At the beginning of the invention, the number of harp strings was 4. Nowadays, a concert harp, the most common type of harp used in orchestral music, typically has 47 strings.

What is a Harp Player called?

Players of all types of harps are termed harpists. The term originated to describe those who played the pedal harp.

Among the famous musicians of this instrument, we can mention "Abdol Ali Bagherinejad" and "Azarnoosh Sadr Salek" from Iran and "Anna-Maria Ravnopolska-Dean" from Bulgaria.

Famous musicians of harp instrument

How do Harp Produce Sound?

The harp produces sound by plucking its strings. When a string is plucked, it vibrates and creates sound waves amplified by the harp's body. Harp strings are usually made of nylon, gut, or metal, and the tension of the strings can be adjusted to tune the harp to the desired sound.

The harp sound is very relaxing and enjoyable. And the power of its music that can affect our emotions and lift our spirits is undeniable. The tranquility of the harp and other Persian instruments, such as Tar, can achieve healing.

The harp's sound is often described as delicate, otherworldly, and almost mystical. It has a dreamlike quality that can evoke feelings of wonder and enchantment.

playing harp instrument by harpists

Types of Harps Instruments

Different types of harps have been found in Iran over centuries, including the curved harp from the 7th century of the lunar calendar. The harp image can be seen in all the ancient works of Iran from the Achaemenid period to the Seleucid period.

In general, the types of harps are divided into 10 categories, which are:

  1. Lever Harps
  2. Pedal Harps
  3. Latin-American or Paraguayan Harps
  4. Celtic or Folk Harps
  5. Modern Wire Harps
  6. Electric Harp
  7. Cross-Strung Harp or Chromatic Harp
  8. Bell Harp
  9. Harp Guitar
  10. Wind Harp

In an old photograph, a bride in a wedding dress and a bouquet stands next to a tar instrument.

What is a Handheld or Mini Harp?

A handheld or mini harp is a small version of the traditional harp instrument. It has a smaller range of notes and fewer strings but still produces the same beautiful and relaxing sounds.

Mini harps come in various sizes and styles, ranging from simple lap harps to more traditional models, and they are popular among children and beginners who are learning to play the harp.

Harp Instrument Price

The harp instrument has always had a high price because of its complex structure and difficulty. The cost of harps is prohibitive - unfortunately, there's no way around it! Many players can afford more expensive harps thanks to various more affordable harps and finance options. 

Harp Origin

The price of a product is generally indicative of its quality. More expensive harps have a larger, rounded sound, while less expensive ones tend to have a smaller, less rounded sound. Compared with more expensive harps, the levers can be more difficult to operate. The harp is not for everyone, but these instruments can be great starter instruments. Whenever you're sure about upgrading, go for it!

CyrusCrafts' Last Word About Harp Instrument

The available pictures and inscriptions show that the harp had its roots 6000 years ago, has changed throughout history, and has become its present form. The harp is an expensive instrument, and it has many types. They use a small harp instrument for more accessible transportation.

We hope that we have answered the questions that arose in your mind about the harp. If you have any other questions about the harp, please write them down in the comments.

Asian Art & Memento

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