The Harp

The harp is a stringed musical instrument. It has a very rich history being used extensively throughout the ancient world. The harp that comes to mind today is a modern version, with its triangular shape. Earlier harps and similar stringed instruments like the lyre were shaped like a hunting bow. The harp dates all the way back to 3000 BCE and there are images in the Egyptian pyramids of harps as well as in Mesopotamian art. Africa too has an old history with harps among various tribes.

The word harp comes from the world ‘harpa’ which was used around 600ADE to refer to a stringed instrument. The harp itself usually has a maximum of 90 strings. There are two main types of harps -the frame and the so called ‘open heart’.

The instrument is played using the first four fingers on each hand, usually by plucking away at the strings. When a flurry of notes is played across the harp the technical musical term is called an ‘arpeggio’, while the graceful motion of the hands across the harp is called ‘glissando’. The harp was often the reserve of royalty and the aristocracy. This has changed of course and the instrument is used in many different contexts today.

The harp is also a favourite symbol to use, it is the national symbol for Ireland and is the symbol of the beer brand Guinness, which features a golden harp. These are just a few of the many business that use the harp as their logo.

When played in the orchestra there is usually one harp. Interestingly, there are entire orchestras made up only of harps. The Celtic Harp Orchestra, the Irish Harp Orchestra, and the National Youth Harp Orchestra being just a few. Harps come in a variety of design and materials from wood to gold and can be crafted and designed very ornately.

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