minstrel: Lap Harps

Pat Yarrow yarrowp at mscd.edu
Mon Jan 15 07:43:59 PST 2001

Solomon wrote:

<<Grannie Yeats has a CD available that includes both the nylon, gut, and
strung harps.  You might wish to listen to that or another CD like it when
making your choice in harps. >>

That's an excellent recommendation.  Charles Guard's _Avenging and Bright_
is another CD that includes both, as is the duet album _The Harper's Land_
with Ann Heymann and Alison Kinnaird.


<< Having nails like that makes it
nearly impossible to play gut/nylon,>>

That hasn't been my experience.  I play both, as well.  You don't need
extremely long nails to play the wire harp; in fact, I find it's easier when
they're no more than a quarter inch beyond the tip of the finger.  This
means that it's still possible to play nylon using the pads, or to do as my
former teacher (Therese Schroeder-Sheker) does and play the gut strings with
the nails).

<< 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.>>

A lap harp will tend to have less ring than a floor harp, though, and it
*may* be possible to play with less damping than a larger wire harp.

<<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.>>

On the other hand, it's easier to switch from wire to nylon than vice versa.

<<  (The music for wire-strung has two dots
for each note; a red one to pluck and a blue one to stop.)>>

I would love to see the music you're describing, as I've not yet encountered
this system.  I've seen X's used for damping, and red notes.  This sounds
like an intriguing method (and I hope more efficient than the one I use!).

<<  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.>>

Or take up the bray harp, which gives a soft buzzing sound.  There are
makers and players who specialize in historical harps.  I've had excellent
luck with Lynn Lewandowski's harps.

There's a  Historical Harp Society:


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