About the Harp

There are many different kinds of harp played all over the world.  The two that you are most likely to see in North America are the pedal harp and the lever harp.


Alys’s current harp is the Eireann, made by Canadian artisan Larry Fisher.

The Eireann by Larry Fisher

The Lever Harp

The lever harp (often called the Celtic harp and sometimes the folk harp), can range in size from a very small instrument with only a few strings, to nearly the size of a pedal harp. (This kind of harp varies a lot depending on who has made it). The pitch of the strings on the lever harp are changed by the operation of the levers on the neck of the instrument.

The Pedal Harp

The pedal harp (sometimes called the classical harp or the concert harp) is the large type found in orchestras. It is called the pedal harp because it has seven pedals operated by the player’s feet, which will change the pitch of the strings they are associated with.


The Celtic Harp

The type of harp that is most accurately called the Celtic harp was played in Scotland (where it was called clarsach) and in Ireland (where it was called cruit) and was strung with wire or metal strings. Today this kind of harp is usually described as the metal-strung (or wire-strung) harp. Although this kind of harp still exists in a modern form today, the lever harp is now more common in Europe and North America.  As with the fiddle/violin, a harpist can play Celtic music on any type of harp.  It is the choice of repertoire and the style of performance that makes the music traditional Celtic, not the instrument itself.

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