minstrel: Lap Harps

Solomon Matisoff SolomonM at asta-engineering.com
Mon Jan 15 06:52:17 PST 2001


H'loo,

Grannie Yeats has a CD available that includes both the nylon, gut, and wire
strung harps.  You might wish to listen to that or another CD like it when
making your choice in harps.  Realize that the playing method for the two
classes of harps is significantly different.  (My harp teacher plays both,
but regards them as entirely different instruments.)

Wire strung in period would have required you to grow longer nails.  While
at the end of period (or possibly beyond; there is no documentation still
existent that shows when the switch-over occurred, but we know it is late)
people played with the pad of the fingers on wire-strung, the traditional
method is to pluck the wire with the nails.  Having nails like that makes it
nearly impossible to play gut/nylon, which are played the same way.  Another
major difference is the "belling" quality of a wire-strung.  Picture playing
a piano, but with the pedal down so that the notes are never damped.  The
sound quickly gets muddy.  To keep that from happening on a wire-strung, you
must touch each string again when you want it to stop playing.  On a
nylon/gut, the note (except for the low ones, which a lap harp won't have)
will stop shortly after playing.  Perhaps you will get 3 seconds from a
note, while on wire you will get 20 or 30.

To be honest, if you are starting out playing, I would look into a good
nylon strung.  I know too many who have given up on harp because they bought
wire-strung and it was too complex.  (The music for wire-strung has two dots
for each note; a red one to pluck and a blue one to stop.)  If you go into
heavy period-only playing you can change the strings to gut (an expensive
measure, but one that gives wonderful tone), or start up on wire-strung.

The NUMBER ONE THING is to go to where the harps are; either the
harp-maker's shop, or one of his distributors, or Pennsic, and PLAY on one
of their harps.  Harp tone varies from one to the next, so it is best to try
the one you will buy.  I went to a local shop for my most recent one and
fell in love with it there.  (Almost had to get a taxi for my friend who
came along; it filled up over half of the car.)  And you DON'T have to know
how to play.  Pluck the strings & see how it sounds to you.

Best of luck in your quest,
	Solomon

> -----Original Message-----
> From:	Katie harwood [SMTP:darkangelsdoom at hotmail.com]
> Sent:	Saturday, January 13, 2001 1:24 AM
> To:	minstrel at pbm.com
> Subject:	minstrel: Lap Harps
> 
> I am looking into buying a lap harp and could do with some advice.
> I was posted a catalogue of harps from a local maker. The one I like best 
> had a caption at the bottom saying that it could also be bought with 
> 'bronzed strings'. What is the difference between these and regular
> nylons? 
> And does anyone know where i can pick up some online hints on learning to 
> play? Thanx. I remain-
> 
> Yours in service,
> Morag
> _________________________________________________________________________
> Get Your Private, Free E-mail from MSN Hotmail at http://www.hotmail.com.
> 
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