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What Are the Different Types of Mini Harps?

Mini harps enchant with their compact design and sweet melodies, offering a range of types from the simple lap harp to the intricate lever harp. Each type beckons with its unique charm, inviting both beginners and seasoned players to explore its strings. Discover the perfect mini harp for your musical journey—will it whisper folk tunes or dance through classical pieces? Continue to uncover your match.
Anna B. Smith
Anna B. Smith

The different types of mini harps include the lyre, Lily harp, Baby harp, and the clarsach. These instruments may be held in the lap and plucked, or rested on a table top and leaned back against the shoulder. The range of notes of which each design is capable is typically dependent on the number of strings provided and the size of the sounding board.

Harps are manufactured in a wide range of sizes and styles. Mini harps are typically small harps with fewer strings than classical concert floor models. They are often referred to by different names that note the style of craftsmanship from which the harp was carved, or the type of music intended to be played upon it.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

A standard harp can offer between 19 and 40 strings, which may be altered in pitch and tone by a system of levers or pedals. Mini harps only provide between eight and 12 strings, and these are generally tuned using a small tuning tool that directly tightens or loosens the strings. The height of these harps may be determined by the size of the sounding board and the neck of the instrument.

The lyre is the smallest harp that may be played by hand. This instrument departs from the standard triangular design of the classic harp, in which strings are attached to a curved neck and fasted inside a sounding board. The sounding board of the lyre is often rounded and somewhat flat and provides an arched neck that stretches from one side of the board to the other. The instrument features eight strings which run from the neck, across an open playing space, down to the body at a length of approximately 17 inches (43 cm).

The Lily harp is a commonly recognized name among mini harps. This instrument usually measures at 15 inches (38.1 cm) and provides 8 strings. The pitch of the notes created by this instrument are high, ranging between the C above middle C to high C. Sound is generated by plucking nylon cords which resonate through a hollow sounding board that widens towards the lower register notes.

The baby harp stands slightly taller than the Lily and provides a wider range of sound than its smaller counterpart. This instrument features 12 strings, similarly made from nylon, that range between the F above middle C to high C. The sounding board is often carved from rosewood, birch, or mahogany to lend a different style of sound to each unique instrument.

The modern clarsach is a slight departure from the traditional scale of mini harps. The design of the clarsachs is based on historical documentation of instruments played in Scotland dating back to the 10th century, and their name is derived from the Gaelic word for "harp." This harp can stand between two and four feet (0.6 to 1.2 m) in height and may feature as many as 30 strings. The note range of the instrument is the widest of all of the designs of mini harps and runs between bass C and treble D. These strings are made from wire, usually copper and brass, though silver and gold may be used for the lower registers.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the main types of mini harps available?

Mini harps come in various types, each with unique characteristics. The most common types include the lap harp, which is small enough to be played on the player's lap; the lyre harp, which has a distinct U-shaped frame and is often used in historical and folk music; the therapy harp, designed for musical therapy due to its soothing tones; and the travel harp, which is compact and portable for musicians on the go. Each type offers a different range of notes and sound quality suitable for various musical styles and purposes.

How many strings do mini harps typically have?

Mini harps can vary widely in the number of strings they possess. Generally, lap harps may have anywhere from 15 to 25 strings, while lyre harps often range from 7 to 16 strings. Therapy harps, designed for ease of use and calming sound, typically have around 15 to 22 strings. Travel harps, prioritizing portability, might have a similar range as lap and therapy harps. The number of strings affects the instrument's range and the music it can produce.

Are mini harps suitable for beginners?

Yes, mini harps are quite suitable for beginners. Their smaller size and fewer strings make them less intimidating and easier to learn compared to full-sized harps. Beginners can start with simple melodies and progress to more complex pieces as they become comfortable. Additionally, mini harps are often more affordable, making them an accessible starting point for those new to the instrument.

Can mini harps be used for professional performances?

While mini harps are smaller and have a more limited range than full-sized concert harps, they can still be used for professional performances, especially in intimate settings or as part of an ensemble. Their portability and unique sound make them a favorite for traveling musicians and those performing in smaller venues. Professional harpists may use mini harps for specific pieces that require the distinctive sound or tuning these instruments offer.

What is the price range for a quality mini harp?

The price of a quality mini harp can vary depending on the craftsmanship, materials, and brand. Generally, you can expect to pay anywhere from $100 to $1,000 for a well-made mini harp. Higher-end models, particularly those made by reputable luthiers or with specialty woods and intricate designs, can cost more. It's important to research and possibly try out different harps to find the one that best suits your needs and budget.

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