The origin of the harp

The origin of the harp

The harp originated in ancient Persia (Iran). According to ancient Egyptian drawings, this instrument appeared in the third or fourth millennium BC, when it was shaped like a bow with strings, and is one of the oldest plucked string instruments in the world.

Neolithic to Ancient Greek and Mesopotamian stone periods.

Harp and Konghou, classical guitar, lute and other ancient Western plucked instruments (Konghou, like lute, was a Western instrument introduced to China in ancient times) are all derived from the primitive stringed lyre of the Neolithic period, which often played divination, funeral, rain praying and other ritual tools in primitive tribes, and it can be considered the origin of all classical-style stringed instruments.

Ancient Greece, Mesopotamia to the Middle Ages.

The first appearance of the word "Harpa" is around 600 AD; the harps are not uniformly named in the early literature. The first arch-shaped harp to be excavated was found in the Mesopotamian plain, dated to 2500 BC. It is similar to the Burmese harp and has 13 or 14 strings. Such harps can still be found in some Central and West African regions.

After the Middle Ages.

The oldest surviving Irish harp was made in the 14th century. They generally have 30 to 36 strings, and the most distinctive feature is the sound of the nails used to play them. The most original harp in the world is not in Europe, but in Central and South America. The structure of the harp in Central and South America is still the same as it was during the Spanish immigration period, although there are some modifications in different regions.

What is the historical origin of the harp?

From the Baroque period to the Classical period.

In the 16th century, JuanBermudo invented the double-strung harp, in analogy with keyboard instruments. This harp, with two parallel rows of strings, plus the added row, like the black keys of a piano, was responsible for the chromatic playing.

After the double-row harp, the three-row harp and the sickle-hook harp appeared. The principle of the sickle hook harp is very similar to the later development of the pitch harp in that it starts by tuning a few specific tones a semitone lower and then raises the tone a semitone by manipulating the sickle hook with the left hand.

After the double- and triple-strung harps, the cross-strung harp and the chromatic harp appeared in the 18th century. The cross-strung harp has 76 strings, 44 on the left and 32 on the right. But these harps, because of the difficulties in playing them and the limitations of the instrument itself, are hardly used anymore, and only appear in special performances or exhibitions.

Modernization and improvement.

In the late 17th and early 18th centuries, the harp gradually evolved into the pedal harp. A pedal harp is one that uses the foot to control the pedal to raise the chromatic notes. The single-action pedal, with only two grooves and the pedal moving from the upper groove to the lower groove with only one action, was still limited in the number of tunings it could play.

By the early 19th century, S. Erard (Sebastien Erard) invented the double-action pedal harp, which could play three semitones per string because there was an extra groove added and the pedal could act twice.

By this time, the harp had developed into an instrument that could play in all keys, and the concert pedal harp used in concerts today was slowly improved from the Erard harp.
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