Which instrument usually has 47 strings

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Magic instrument: harp

The TFF Rudolstadt, Germany's largest folk, roots and world music festival, will take place for the 21st time at the beginning of July 2011. In addition to musicians from all over the world, there is the country focus on Switzerland, the dance of the year waltz, and the concerts around the magical instrument - The Harp.

The harp belongs to the chordophones, more precisely to the plucked instruments. It is one of the oldest musical instruments known to man and came as early as around 3000 BC. BC in Mesopotamia and Egypt.

Among the three basic types of plucked instruments (harps, zithers and lutes), the harp is characterized as an instrument in which the strings pull vertically (angle harp) or beveled on the soundboard. The concert harp as the largest representative of its kind is one of the largest and heaviest orchestral instruments with a height of around 180 cm and a weight of up to 40 kg.

Structure and technology

The harp column forms the backbone of the instrument. At the top is the head, which can be artistically decorated, and at the bottom is the foot. From the head, the neck leads to the knee, which is the connection to the downward sloping corpus, the resonance body, which in turn ends in the foot.

The upper surface of the resonance body forms the soundboard on which the suspension bar for the strings is located. The harp's tuning pegs are located in the neck, and depending on the type of harp, there is also a mechanism. In pedal harps, this is connected to the pedals in the foot via pedal rods that run either in the column or in the body.

In the simplest harps, each string is responsible for only one note. With the hook harp, each string can be tuned a semitone higher as required by means of a hook, often also called a semitone key. With the pedal harp you can increase all tones of the same name of the instrument by a semitone by pressing a pedal, with the double pedal harp by another semitone.

The term "concert harp" always means a double pedal harp (basic tuning C flat major), which can be played in all keys, the term "folk harp" or "Tyrolean folk harp", which is common in the Alpine region, means a single pedal harp (basic tuning E flat major), which can be played in keys of up to three flat and four sharps, including C major.

Types of harps

Diatonic tuned harps

Single pedal harp

In the 18th century, pedal harps were constructed to set the keys, which are still in use today. In the pedal harp, the strings are shortened by a complex mechanism (up to 2500 components) using foot pedals, i.e. also while playing.

Originally, a pedal arrangement was in use, which offered the possibility to tune the tone of a string by a semitone higher. In line with the effort involved in building the harps, there were few, often five, and later seven pedals. The hooks, which were originally to be turned by hand, were later connected to a pedal on the lower part of the harp's resonance body by means of pull ropes in order to produce the semitone by pressing this pedal.

In the middle to the end of the 18th century, “pull crutch mechanisms” were widespread: These were mechanized hooks that pressed the strings onto a bridge attached to the neck across the string plane. (Construction by Naderman Paris). A mechanism with several rotating hooks was less common. (Cosineau Paris).

At the end of the 18th century, the fork disc mechanism commonly used in today's concert harps was developed (Nadermann Paris and Erard London). Function: A rotating disc, the axis of which is arranged across the neck, was provided with two small pins between which the string runs. If you step on the pedal, the disc rotates and the two pins press the string so that it sounds a semitone higher in shortened form.

The pull rods operated by the pedals were guided exclusively through the column with a deflection in the head of the connection between the column and the neck. Exotic constructions such as the retuning of the strings by stretching them with rotating pegs from Cosineau at the turn of the 19th century could not prevail. In contrast to the hook harp, the single pedal harps achieve a significant expansion of the keys that can be reached within a piece of music.

A special type of single-pedal harp is the "Tiroler Volksharfe" or "Tiroler Liederharfe", which appeared in the late 19th century, a "harp" that enables the necessary retuning for the typical key change in Alpine folk music simply by stepping on the pedals. It is tuned in E flat major with the pedals not pressed and thus reaches the keys of E flat to E major.

Presumably, because of the curved top, it is a further development of the “Bohemian harp”. The name derives from the distribution area of ​​today's Tyrol and South Tyrol. It's a fairly simple construction. The static parts of the neck including the bearings for the retuning devices are made of wood. The arrangement of the pedals was different depending on the instrument maker.

The instruments of the harp maker Franz Bradl from Brixlegg helped the construction, which is still valid today, to achieve a breakthrough. The popular harp player Berta Höller from Vöcklabruck in Upper Austria was significantly involved (analogous quote: First I had to make it clear to the wooden heads that the pedals had to be arranged like on the concert harp so that the harp prevailed).

The wire hooks no longer used by Franz Bradl were used by the harp maker Kammel (Schneizlreuth, Upper Bavaria) for a long time. The instruments still built by the well-known people's harp makers (Mürnseer, Kitzbühel, Petuschnigg, Lienz, Kröll, Zangerle, both Tyrol and Fischer, Traunstein in Upper Bavaria) are equipped with forked disc mechanisms. The design feature with the tie rods in the soundboard and deflection in the knee has been preserved in the folk harps. These harps are characterized by a clear sound and a strong knee.

The Double pedal harp is the concert harp in use today. It usually has 47 strings (which are tuned diatonic) and covers a range of six and a half octaves. They reach a height of up to 1.90 meters. The string tension increases significantly with the further development of the concert harp and requires the harpists to develop strong strengths, to build up the cornea and special techniques to relax the hand (fingers pointing downwards pluck the strings and are articulated in the palm of the hand to relax the hand). With the development of the double pedal harp, the playing possibilities have been greatly expanded, for example playing a glissando over a diminished seventh chord.

On May 2, 1810, Sébastien Érard received the patent for a harp with double resolution and turntable mechanism. Each of the seven pedals could now be stepped not just one step, but two steps. This made it possible to increase by two semitones (one whole tone). The invention is still used almost unchanged by concert harp builders today. 3500 copies sold led to the standardization of the harp, which is strung with 46 or 47 strings.

In the seventies of the last century, concert harp companies brought models with widened soundboards in the bass range onto the market. In the front view, the ceiling appears in the shape of a pear. With the double pedal harp, the instrument returned to the "Classical Orchestra" as a permanent instrument in the 19th century, after the Arpa Tripla (Arpa Doppia) of the 17th century.

The double pedal harp usually has seven pedals, one for each root note. The pedals are connected by metal rods in the column of the harp with a mechanism that allows the length of the vibrating part of the strings to be changed while playing, which changes the tuning of the strings. Each pedal has three positions, in the starting position all notes have a ♭ -sign. Each tone can now be increased twice by a semitone step.

Hook harp

A Hook harp is a type of harp named after its retuning devices.

The harp is traditionally a diatonic instrument that is tuned to one key. Probably with the spread of tempered tuning and in order to be able to change the key quickly, hooks were attached below the tuning pegs from the 18th century, with which the individual strings could be shortened and raised by a semitone. At the top of the string there is a hook or lever that can be operated by hand and shortens the string. So the string can be raised by half a tone. Not all strings have to be hooked. Usually the key is set before each piece. However, it is also possible to operate the resetter during the game, usually with the left hand.

The term hook harp says nothing about the regional origin of the instrument. Hook harps have been known (according to an unspecified source, caution is required here!) Since the 17th century and, along with pedal harps, were widespread in art music well into the 19th century. The best known, however, are those instruments that were often played by Bohemian and Thuringian traveling musicians well into the 1950s. These are therefore known as Bohemian hook harps and are now popular again in Franconia and southern Germany. In addition, many of the so-called Irish or Celtic harps are hook harps. In today's common hook harps, the original simple hooks have been replaced by semitone keys ("Levers" in English), but the name has remained.

The types in use today are Celtic harp and the Bohemian harp.

Bohemian harp

The bohemian harp is a Central European variant of the "continental" type of harp with a straight rod and a pegged neck. It became known as the instrument of Bohemian traveling musicians who traveled through Europe and Asia in the 19th century, sometimes in organized music bands. Accordingly, it was built very lightly so that it could be carried as a "traveling instrument" over long distances - compared to the rather heavy, robust construction of other European harps, which were used more as a stationary "court instrument".

Throughout its history, the Bohemian harp was a "simple" instrument built by carpenters. Spruce is mostly used as building material for the neck and pole, and only spruce is used for the ceiling. In the older models, the soundboard is grained lengthways, later in herringbone or diagonally grained (an extremely rare design feature). There are also a few specimens with cross-grained covers. The string material consisted of natural gut. Modern replicas use nylon or strings made of polyvinylidene fluoride (so-called "carbon strings").

Some of the preserved historical museum specimens from the 19th century have metal hooks on some strings. These had the function of increasing the frequency by a semitone by pressing on the string. This was the forerunner of the later semitone mechanics, as it can be found today in a wide variety of styles on modern harps.

In Bohemia itself, the Bohemian harp became extinct in the course of the twentieth century. Historical specimens can still be viewed in numerous Bohemian museums (Music Museum in Prague; District Museum in Sokolov; Stredniho Pootavi Museum in Strakonice; Local history museum in Boží Dar (God's gift); Bohemian Forest Museum in Kašperské Hory). Since around 2002, individual instrument makers in Prague, Pilsen and Příbram have been reconstructing these harps using museum specimens or specimens from private collections.

Research is carried out in Germany on the history of the German-speaking Bohemian female harpists Nancy Thym (Archive and Museum for Harp History, Freising), whose concert program also includes the fate of individual harp girls such as the Hildesheim Nightingale or the Berlin Harp Jule and the Pressnitz harp players.

The instruments played today, which are often referred to as "Bohemian harps" in Germany (see picture), are mostly modified harps of the Bohemian type, such as those made by the company Sound workshopMarket forest are produced. These are from Christoph Löcherbach Developed on the basis of the historical Bohemian harps, they are somewhat smaller and more compact, have sound holes on the back of the body (a feature that the historical Bohemian harps did not have) and modern semitone keys. The low weight of the harp and the compact dimensions, but also the perfection of the development by the instrument maker Andre Schubert with the possibility of assembling the instrument at extremely low cost in building courses under supervision, made the harp one of the best-selling in Germany.

Celtic harp

As celtic harps (also Gaelic harps) are a group of harp instruments that stand out due to the typical, round shape of the column. The shape of the corpus varies from the simple box shape to shapes with a rounded back. The tuning is diatonic, the key can usually be varied using semitone keys, which is why the instrument is often disparagingly referred to as a "hooked harp". Harps in this design are known from Ireland, Brittany and Scotland and are closely interwoven with the Celtic tradition.

The modern "Celtic" (Irish and Scottish) harp is a successor to the historical stringed instrument. It is approx. 0.7 to 1.6 m high and in the concert form has approx. 34 diatonic tuned nylon, carbon or gut strings. In contrast to the concert harp, this means a smaller range in the bass range. So-called lap harps also produce a comprehensive sound with 26 strings. The string material is identical to the concert harps, the tension is slightly lower and the distance is slightly smaller. The soundboard is straight, the string angle to the soundboard is also identical to that of the large harps.

Cherry, maple, walnut, rarely pear wood and oak are known as building materials for the load-bearing parts. The soundboard is usually spruce (cross-grained), rarely covered with veneer.

The playing techniques of most instrumentalists differ only marginally from those of the concert harp; the instrument is rarely played with fingernails, such as by Laoise Kelly. In Ireland this harp is called the Neo-Irish harp due to the "innovation" of using gut, carbon or nylon strings instead of bronze or other metal.

The instruments have now spread across the entire northern hemisphere. While internationally a great number of individual manufacturers produce self-designed single pieces, this type of harp is also produced in large numbers in factories in Japan, Italy, France and the USA and also as a cheap product in Pakistan.

In Germany with Cláirseach (Irish) or Clàrsach (Scottish Gael.) or less often Gaelic harp a harp with bronze strings, often without tuning keys. The Clairseach has a long and rich history. It was played in Ireland, the Scottish Highlands and Islands for over 1000 years until the late 19th century. The inhabitants tried to keep the old tradition alive with the bronze-covered harp.

The early history of the Celtic harp in Europe is not immediately explored. Three of the four oldest authentic harps are Cláirseach in the British Isles, one in Ireland and two in Scotland. These three harps are dated around the 15th century and are believed to have been made in Argyll in south-west Scotland.

The characteristic features of the historical Cláirseach harp are its bronze strings. These are stretched over a massive sound box, which is usually made from a single piece of willow wood. Attached to it is a reinforced curved column, the neck of which is decorated with carvings and flanked by broad brass bands. It was usually played with fingernails, which gave a superb ringing sound.

Three of these medieval harps are in the library of Trinity College in Dublin, often romantically referred to as Brian Boru's harp, as well as the Queen Mary harp and the Lamont harp in the Scottish National Museum in Edinburgh. Based on the artistic design of the instruments, it can be assumed that all three were probably made in the western Highlands. There have been ample opportunities in the past to bring Trinity College's harp from Scotland to Ireland across the sea, so it can be assumed that it too is of Scottish origin. There are at least 15 other early Celtic harps that date from post-medieval times to around 1800. Although most are located in Ireland and are commonly believed to be of Irish origin, many are uncertain and could be from Scotland.

Mostly they are still played with the fingernails today.The Irish harpers were by no means subordinate companions, but virtuosos, extremely praised for their quick fluency and complicated modulations. Cutting off one's fingernails was considered the "maximum penalty" for a bard.

The harp that once thro 'Tara's halls
The soul of music shed,
Now hangs as mute on Tara's walls
As if that soul were fled ...
Thomas Moore [FW # 37]

Metal-stringed harps are now more common again, often as replicas of historical instruments such as the Queen Mary Harp or the Sirr. They did not play a significant role in the further development of instrument making until the 1980s, when Alan Stivell and Myrdhin in Brittany, Mary MacMaster in Scotland or Rüdiger Oppermann in Germany made the instrument popular again. Today, harp makers in Germany are again offering quite extensive model ranges of metal-stringed harps.

Its overtone-rich, diatonic sound is currently becoming more fashionable again; it still has its place as the national instrument of Scotland and Ireland.

In addition to the diatonic tuned Cláirseach, a chromatically tuned variant of the instrument was also developed. Presumably via the detour of the Italian harp to Wales, a triple harp with metal strings with only 7 triple harps (Cloyne harp in the National Museum Dublin, Collins Baraks branch). The string material is worth mentioning here: in the treble bronze, and in the bass silver or gold. (The metal is compressed by rolling and receives additional tensile stress.)

The Celtic harp was depicted as a symbol on Irish pound coins. Today it can be found on Irish euro coins. It is also found in the coat of arms of the Republic of Ireland.

Latin American harps

The harp, widespread in Spain, was introduced to Latin America by the Spanish in the 16th century - it was a fashion instrument in Europe at the time. The instrument lost the pentatonic string row in the course of its development and is today a diatonic instrument without retuning devices and strung with nylon strings. The harp is widespread in South America today, and harp music is part of folklore in various Latin American countries.

This instrument is particularly popular in Paraguay and Venezuela. The typical Paraguay harp has 36 strings and is about 150 cm high, the distance between the strings is about one centimeter. The sound openings are located on the back of the instrument. The Venezuelan harp Arpa llanera is larger, on average about 160 cm, has 32 strings, the side distances are 1.4 cm and the sound openings are on the front of the instrument, on the soundboard. The arpa llanera is also played in Colombia. The harp, which is widespread in the Andes, the mountains of South America, has a very wide resonance body and 34 strings. The Peruvian harp is particularly popular in the Ayacucho region. The harp is not unknown in Chile, Ecuador and Bolivia, but it is becoming less and less important. In Mexico, the harp is popular in the state of Veracruz, but there it is used more for accompaniment and not as a solo instrument. The famous song "La Bamba" is originally a harp song.

Due to the widespread use of this instrument in South America, there are many styles of music that can be played with the harp (e.g. the joropo). Venezuelan-Colombian harp music is very rhythmic and influenced by the hot climate of the tropical lowlands. Traditionally, there is also singing (sometimes spoken chant) and the harp is accompanied by the cuatro, the maracas (rumba ball) and a bass. Paraguayan harp music is very melodious and melancholy. It is accompanied by guitar, requinto (small guitar) and sometimes with accordion. Andean music is based on the pentatonic scale of the Incas, is often melancholy and, with its constant change from minor to major sounds, is perceived by Europeans as slightly sad.

South American harps are plucked with the fingernails.

Chromatically tuned harps

Originated in Spain and Italy in the 15th or 16th centurieschromatic harps. The following types of chromatic harp are known today:

Welsh triple harp

It has survived in Wales to this day. The instrument, which is almost two meters in size, is tuned chromatically, which means that there is a separate string for each whole and semitone, arranged in three levels. The two outer levels are each tuned diatonic, corresponding to the white keys on the piano, the level in between corresponds to the black keys and supplements the two outer - equally tuned - levels with the missing semitones for chromatics. As a result, the triple harp does not need any pedals. It is strung with up to 99 strings. Georg Friedrich Handel wrote his concerto for harp and orchestra for the Welsh triple harp. Various collections of harp pieces have also survived in Wales. Today Welsh folklore is played almost exclusively on the instrument, the most famous representative being Robin Huw Bowen.

Modern special cases

The experimental art in harp building has not died down, so modern forms of the pleyel harp and smaller chromatic harps with twelve strings in a row could be seen at the harp congress in Prague. These models were already present on a smaller scale in the Renaissance and Baroque periods without ever becoming more widespread.

By 1900 the chromatic harp had a brief revival. Due to the increasingly chromatic art music, some considered the diatonic pedal harp unsatisfactory or unsuitable for modern music. The most famous composer who composed for this instrument was Claude Debussy.

Based on a construction of a chromatic harp that already existed in the 19th century, the harpist Christoph Pampuch made a new attempt at the end of the 20th century. Based on the Bohemian harp, he developed a double-row crossed, also handy model that offers the entire chromatic spectrum with its own playing technique and without error-prone mechanics. The special feature is the tuning of the instrument, the strings of a string row are always tuned in large seconds (analogous to the Salzburg dulcimer), i.e. in 2 parallel whole-tone scales. This makes this harp one of the 6 plus 6 instruments. For a triad, the musician takes two strings from one level and one string from the second level.


The harp is very common all over the world. The earliest traditional documented references are from the time 4000 BC. In Egypt and 3000 BC In Mesopotamia. The first images of harps appear in Mesopotamia and Egypt around 2400 BC. From the Cycladic culture ten marble statuettes with seated harp players have survived, dating from approx. 2600 to 2200 BC. Were created.

Archaeologists from Innsbruck have reconstructed a 2000 year old, carved angle harp. The arm of the harp, carved from deer antlers, is richly decorated and bears a Rhaetian inscription. In northern Europe (in contrast to the Mediterranean region, Medialib) the first images of harps in Ireland appear around 800 AD. With their characteristics (curved neck, beveled string arrangement), these harps are the basic type of all harps in use worldwide today.

Four of the oldest harps have survived in Europe. There are three Celtic harps from the 15th or 16th century. The harp, named after the legendary Irish high king Brian Boru, has a corpus beaded from a single trunk, and willow wood is used as the resonance wood. This harp can be viewed in the library of Trinity College Dublin. The Brian Boru Harp can be seen in the coat of arms of the Republic of Ireland as well as on the flag of the Irish province of Leinster, it is also depicted on the Irish euro coins, and was previously seen on all coins of the Irish pound for a long time. Two very similar specimens that Queen Mary Harp and the Lamont harp are located in the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh. A fourth harp, the so-called "Wolkenstein harp" or "Eisenach harp" from the end of the 14th / beginning of the 15th century, can be seen today at the Wartburg in Eisenach.

In Central Europe the harp appears as a simple lap harp (often also as a bow harp). Buzzers were widespread, making the instrument sound more powerful. The rasping sound suggests its use as an accompanying and rhythm instrument. The pedal harp with pedals attached to the harp foot was invented by Jacob Hochbrucker in 1720.

The pictures show details of a "Gothic" harp based on the MI59 harp in the Germanic National Museum in Nuremberg

Harps in mythology

The harp is under the name Kinnor the instrument of the Hebrew King David, who uses it to drive out the evil spirits of his predecessor Saul. It also appears in various Nordic sagas, such as the Wälsungen saga or the Beowulf.

Preforming the harp
Selected harp discography:

Cormac De Barra "Tarraing Téad - Pulling Strings", Nadia Birkenstock "Strange New Land", Robin Huw Bowen "The Road to Aberystwyth", Moya Brennan "Signature", Máire Ní Chathasaigh "FireWire", Stefano Corsi "Trails for Celtic Harp" , Patricia Daly "The Rolling Wave", Katrien Delavier "Harpes D'Irlande - Irish Harps", Gwenan Gibbard "Y Gwenith Gwynnaf", Phamie Gow "Dancing Hands", Rachel Hair "Hubcaps & Potholes" / "The Lucky Smile", Gráinne Hambly & William Jackson: Music from Ireland & Scotland, Janet Harbison & Belfast Harp Orchestra, Corrina Hewat "My Favorite Place", Delyth Jenkins "Aros", Gwenaël Kerleo "Yelen", Ralf Kleemann "Hugs & Kisses", Catriona McKay " White Nights ", Loreena McKennitt" A Mummers' Dance through Ireland ", Norland Wind" From Shore to Shore ", Rüdiger Oppermann" Same same - but different ", Anne Postic" An Delenn Vev ", Tim Rohrmann" Schattenlicht ", Savourna Stevenson "Touch Me Like The Sun", Alan Stivell "Emerald", William Taylor "Two Worlds of the Welsh Harp" / " Grayteil ", Merit Zloch" Urban Legends "

The Granard Harp Festival - Excerpts from `The Memoirs of Arthur O'Neill '(1810)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia [de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harfe, de.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%B6hmische_Harfe, de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Keltische_Harfe, de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Walisische_Tripelharfe ]. Wikipedia® is a registered trademark of the Wikimedia Foundation Inc.

The text is available under the “Creative Commons Attribution / Share Alike” license.

Status: February 2011.

Photo credits: (1) Bard & Harper from John Derricke's 'Images of Ireland' (1581), (3) Klesmermusikant August Söchting (1949), (5) www.meritzloch.net @ Wackelstein Festival 2009, (8) Irish Euro Coin, (10 ) Holger Schäfer (unknown); (2) Tom Daun (by folkBALTICA); (4) SonDeSeu, (9) Gwenan Gibbard, (12) O'Sullivan, Carolan - The Life, Times and Music of an Irish Harper, (13) Daly, Irish Harp and Song Book - Traditional Harp Tutor, (14) Hair , Mostly Scottish Harp Vol. 1 - Scottish, Irish, Manx and Original Tunes Arranged for Celtic Harp (from website); (6) Grainne Hambly & William Jackson; (by Wolfgang Vogt / Music Contact); (7) Alan Stivell (by Bardentreffen); (11) Harpentreffen Mosenberg 2004 (by Josef Straka); (15) Wikipedia Logo (by Wikipedia).

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