There is no doubt that the harp has steadily grown in popularity over the years. Indeed, since it made its way into the orchestra in the 19th century, the harp has quickly become quite the sought-for instrument. Of course, this means that more people are asking questions about it.
Some of the most recurring questions are usually about the number of strings on the harp and their tone range. So if you’re wondering ‘how many strings does the harp have?’ you’re not alone. More importantly, we’ll help you find answers.
You’ll agree that the harp is one of the very few instruments in a class of their own. However, there may also be some downsides to the uniqueness of the harp. For instance, there are not many places you can find reliable information on the famous instrument.
Thankfully, we have a team of seasoned researchers that are up to the task. In this blog post, we’ll answer your questions on the number of strings that go on the harp. So, don’t stop reading!
Numbers of String on Different Types of Harps
We’d like to tell you there is an absolute answer to the question of how many strings the harp has. Sadly, there isn’t. The number of strings on a harp depends on the type of harp in question.
So, to help you, we’ll explore the number of strings the harp has on a type-by-type basis. Keep reading to find out more.
The Lever Harp
First on the list is the lever harp. This harp derives its name from the levers on each string through which the harpist can play two separate notes on one string of the harp.
Speaking about strings, the lever harp has 34 strings. Fun fact? This harp has one of the highest numbers of strings, amongst all others.
To play a lever harp, you’ll have to use both hands to reach around to the levers that control the strings. However, playing the notes and adjusting simultaneously with only the hands may often lead to mistakes while playing. This is why this type of harp is more common amongst beginners who are just learning the ropes.
The pedal harp is what you’d call the modern-day harp. More often than not, it usually has 47 strings. However, some models have 46 stings on their frames.
Naturally, the string number is not the only difference between the pedal harp and its lever counterpart. As the name implies, the pedal harp has several pedals (seven) on its bottom through which you can adjust the notes you want to play.
The Celtic Harp
Next on the list is the Celtic harp, which has an average of 30 strings. However, the actual number varies depending on the model in question. Some Celtic harps may have as little as 22 strings, while some may have as many 38 strings.
If you’re wondering about this harp’s name, experts believe it got its name from the region that revived it. The Celtic harp usually has a tone range between 2 to 6 octaves. Also, it features diverse variations in its construction.
Still, on how many strings the harp has, we have the multi-course harp. Before we examine the number of strings this harp has, let us explore its distinctive features.
The multi-course harp always has multiple rows of strings. In some cases, the harp features a double row of strings, while some other models have a triple row. But, the double-course harp has a row of strings hanging down each side of its neck.
The multi-course harp usually has a total of 46 strings (like the pedal harp). This means that on a model with two rows of strings, each side of its neck will boast 23 strings. Of course, each opposite will share the same note.
An electric harp is basically a lever harp that has an electric power source. However, some more recent models may follow the structural framework of a pedal harp. Whichever the case may be, electric harps always have a solid body, unlike the hollowed structure of the acoustic version.
You will typically find between 40 and 47 strings on an electric harp in terms of string number. Indeed, it has the second-highest string number tally after pedal harps.
In the ancient Mycenaean culture, the lyre harp started with only four strings. Then, this number increased to 8 and eventually to 10. Today, the lyre harp can have up to 16 strings and typically have no fewer than seven strings.
There is a lot that is unclear about the lyre harp. But one thing is certain — it was one of the most loved instruments in ancient Rome and Greece.
The lap harp is precisely what it sounds like – a harp that can fit into its player’s laps. The lap harp’s history dates back to sometime between the end of the 9th century and the beginning of the 10th.
Due to their comparatively smaller size, lap harps today have an average of 18 strings. Some may feature as few as 15 strings, while other models border on the upper limits of 22 strings.
The Range of Harp Strings
Now that you know how many strings various types of harps have, let us quickly the range of their tone.
The tone range of the harp travels from C1 to G7. Interestingly, the strings should have colors on them so harpists can find the right ones quickly. All C-strings have red color on them while the F-strings are black.
Now, let’s break down the range:
The Low Register
● Here, single notes and chords work well due to the high resonance.
● Most harpists used steel strings in this register.
The Central Register
● Arpeggios, alongside short running notes, fits perfectly here.
● Chords are also ideal for this register.
● Gut strings are the general consensus for playing the notes that fall here.
The High Register
● Short running notes are the best here because the notes do not ring so much. Also, the lower resonance helps.
● Most harpists use nylon strings to play notes in this register.
By now, you should have answers to the question ‘how many strings does the harp have?’. Remember, string numbers on harps vary by type and model. So, if you’ve been wondering about the irregularities between various harps, now you know why.
We hope that you enjoyed learning these fascinating details about the harp. If you have further questions, please let us know!