around the 7th or 8th century A.D. the first triangular frame harps
appeared in Ireland and Scotland. The addition of the forepillar
allowed harps to be larger with more strings and, later, wire strings.
Celtic harps were short, wide-bodied and strung with brass or bronze.
Brass strings are plucked gently with the fingernails, producing a
bright, ringing, bell-like tone.
Perhaps the finest examples of true Celtic harps are the Brian Boru harp of Trinity College, Dublin (pictured upper right), and the Queen Mary harp of Scotland. These are the oldest harps in existence and resemble each other so much they could have been made by the same craftsman. My own experiments in harp design finally led me to consider these harps to be the result of a thousand years of trial-and-error, Pythagorian mathematics (well known to the Druids of antiquity), intuition and inspiration. I only made one change; lengthening the soundbox and eliminating the foot block to increase the volume and resonance and make the harps easier to build. I believe the results to be a total success.
Folk harps are diatonic (they play in only one key at a time), not chromatic, and wire strings are incompatible with sharping levers (I've tried it, trust me), but the clear sound and long sustain makes retuning wire strings to another key comparatively easy.
Wire Harps are played with Fingernails!
The Celtic Harpers played their Wire Strung Harps with fingernails for over a Thousand years. You have to use nails on brass wire strings to get much sound without breaking them. Compared to Orchestra style which uses finger tips on extremely tight gut/nylon strings, You use one tenth as much muscle, get a brighter cleaner sound, and even play faster when you use your nails. Since it's such a light action, you'll never break a nail playing harp no matter how fragile your nails are. Never get calluses or carpal tunnel syndrome!
Most Harp Teachers only know how to play or teach Orchestra style Harp and would be horrified by the thought of playing with fingernails. But Paraguayan and other South American Harpers have been playing with their fingernails on gut strings for over Two Centuries and can play three times faster.
For books on Paraguayan Harp Technique check out: Alfredo Rolando Ortiz
This is the original Brian Boru Harp, the oldest harp still in existence. Located in Trinity College, Dublin.
30 string Trinity in Cherry wood.
Modeled on the Brian Boru Harp of Trinity College Dublin (as seen on one side of all Irish Coins). This is THE Harp of Ireland. It's almost identical to the Queen Mary Harp of Scotland. I made the sound box longer to make it easier to build and improve the sound.
Has a really huge sound for it's size with very round bell like tones, not the least bit tinny or twangy. The bright sound and long sustain of the strings makes it a little unsuited for classical, but for traditional British Isles Music
this is THE Harp!
36 inches tall, only 12 pounds.
4 octaves (F 1 1/2 octaves below Middle C up to G)
$1200.00 Poplar or Cherry,
$1000.00 Laminated Mahogany
Unfinished : Save 30%
|26 string Bard in Cherry||The "BARD"
similar to the Trinity but smaller and easier to carry around. Not as big a sound but just as clear and round in tone. With one octave below Middle C up to a high G it's a perfect Beginner's harp for a Folk Musician. Small and almost as portable as the Druid (see below).
30 inches tall, about 10 pounds
3 1/2 octaves
$900.00 Poplar or Cherry,
$750.00 Laminate Mahogany
Unfinished : save 30%
Hear the Bard being played!
22 string Druid Laminated Mahogany with Bombay Mahogany Stain.
with only 3 notes below Middle C some musicians will find the 3 octave range a little limiting, but this is the PERFECT Harp for Singers and Story Tellers who need a simple harp for accompaniment and maximum portability.
Mel Bay Publishing has at least 4 Songbooks written for the 22 string Harp
only 27 inches tall, weighs only 8 pounds
3 octaves (G to G starting just below Middle C)
$600.00 Poplar or Cherry,
$500.00 Laminated mahogany
Unfinished: save 30%
Mahogany plywood harp no stain. 3 layers of 1/2inch, 21 layers total.
Note blank shield ready for inscription of player's name, maker's The shield is part of ALL my harps. It reinforces the joint where all the string tension wants to bend the neck over. Ancient Harps used a brass plate for this.
Just a couple of years ago I read that Willow and Poplar are close cousins. The Brian Boru was made off willow. American willow is way too soft (I know, I tried) but poplar?
So I made my first Poplar Harp and it was the sweetest sounding wire harp I have ever heard! And no loss of volume. Cherry is slightly louder but very bright. Walnut has a sweet round tone but only half as loud. The Poplar was the best of both. The figure in the wood is similar to cherry but you don't get the reddish color (unless you stain it). I'm making almost all my Harps from Poplar from now on. To make that harp stay straight and keep the tuning pins tight, the middle layer of the neck and pillar will be Maple.
I love the warm reddish brown color and the way it gets darker, redder and deeper with age. Cherry gives excellent volume but is very bright. I''ve had some Cherry harps that sounded like there were quartz crystals in the wood. It's a pretty sound for a folk instrument, but sounds almost harsh to an orchestra trained ear.
(plywood) is something I had to overcome some prejudice before I started using, but I wrapped my knuckles against a sheet and the way it sang made me change my mind. The volume, resonance, and tone are excellent, and although it is a little on the soft side, the plywood layers add incredible strength and lightness. It saves me so many man hours that I can charge about 20% less.
are made of a 1/4" birch/fir plywood with paper thin birch veneer on either side of a solid core of Douglas Fir (fir and spruce are nearly identicle), result: sounds like spruce, strong like plywood. It will probably never crack.
Other harp makers use 1/8inch 3 ply birch, thinking the thinness will give more vibration, but I found that the bass booms too much and the sound is not balanced. It's also too thin for the stress of the wire strings. The 1/4" sound boards are just as loud because of the fir core with a more balanced sound.
THIS IS NOT QUITE A KIT: YOU don't glue anything together.
I do all the cutting, glueing, clamping, routing and drilling.
It comes with all the hardware, strings, tuning wrenches, a Stand and Teach Yourself to Play Folk Harp by Sylvia Woods.
YOU sand it down smooth.
THEN if you want to you can GO CRAZY! Paint it, burn it, carve designs into it (not too deep!) add cut peices of wood, or metal or jewels. DECORATE it to your hearts content. Then you add a few coats of lacquer.
As with the finished harps YOU CHOOSE the Size/Style, the kind of Wood and the Cut-outs for the Soundholes.
Since sanding and finishing is a substantial part of the work, I can offer a substantial discount of 30%.
After you're done Lacquering the Harp here is a set of Stringing Instructions on how to mount the hardware and put the strings on a brand new harp.
Nothing makes you feel like the harp is really yours more than having a hand in making it. Once finished; there won't be a single inch of the harp that you didn't work on.
Instrument orders, questions, and pleasant thoughts
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