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stringed musical instrument of ancient origin, the strings of which are plucked with the fingers. Harps were found in paintings from the 13th cent. B.C. at Thebes. In different forms it was played by peoples of nearly all lands throughout the ages. The harp was particularly popular with the Irish from the 9th cent. They adopted the small instrument still in use, called the Irish harp, as a national symbol. The larger instrument was well known on the Continent by the 12th cent. During the 15th cent. the harp came to be made in three parts, as it is today: sound box, neck, and pillar. The strings are stretched between the sound box and the neck; into the neck are fastened the tuning pegs. Chromatic harps, having a string for each tone of the chromatic scale, have appeared since the late 16th cent., but none has been as practical as the diatonic harp, made in the late 17th cent. in the Tyrol and equipped with hooks capable of altering the pitch of any string by a semitone. A pedal mechanism that shortened the strings was devised (c.1720) in Germany. The harp was perfected with Sébastien Érard's invention (c.1810) of the double-action pedals, which can shorten each string twice, raising the pitch by a semitone or a tone. The harp appeared occasionally in the orchestra in the 18th cent., but its regular inclusion there, as well as most of its solo literature, dates from the late 19th cent.


See R. Rensch, The Harp (1970) and Harps and Harpists (1989).


A metal device fitted into the socket of a lamp that holds a lampshade.


1. a large triangular plucked stringed instrument consisting of a soundboard connected to an upright pillar by means of a curved crossbar from which the strings extend downwards. The strings are tuned diatonically and may be raised in pitch either one or two semitones by the use of pedals (double-action harp). Basic key: B major; range: nearly seven octaves
2. an informal name (esp in pop music) for harmonica
References in periodicals archive ?
A lot of composers perhaps don't fully understand the harp which is an exceptionally technical instrument and the harpist has to talk to the composer and advise what is do-able.
Royal harpist Hannah Stone and Rhian Mair Lewis taking part in S4C show Dechrau Canu, Dechrau Canol at Ty Enfys Care Home, Pentwyn PICTURE: Peter Bolter [umlaut]
Claire Jones, 22, from Pembrokeshire, took over as royal harpist in 2007.
HARPIST Lucy Wakeford is bringing her ensemble of talented musicians to Warwickshire next week.
Headteacher Pat Hibbert said: "Sarah, who was a leading harpist in the National Children's Orchestra, has always given her talents to help the school and this is another way in which she and her family are trying to put something back into the school.
But Coltrane, 65, an accomplished pianist and harpist in her own right who was once a member of her late husband's quintet, doesn't feel overshadowed by his fame.
King David, who wrote many of the psalms found in the Old Testament, is probably music's best-known harpist.
A HARPIST has been working her fingers to the bone since Madonna's Scottish wedding.
She was, at the time, a classical harpist embarking on her professional career while moonlighting in a Denver nursing home.
One four-page entry for twentieth-century harpist Acacia Brazil de Mello has no sources listed at the end of the article.