Lap Harp Frequently Asked Questions

General

What is a lap harp?

The lap harp can be one of two things: a plucked psaltery style instrument, or a normal folk harp on a smaller scale. The first type of lap harps are built in a trapezoidal shape and have 15 strings. Only one hand is needed to play, although it is possible to use the other hand to help vary the sound. The small scale folk harps are small enough to hold in the lap, need both hands to play and are more complex, with levers to alter the sound.

How do lap harps compare in size to other harps?

Lap harps are much smaller than other harps. As the name implies, they will at the very least fit into an adult's lap. The plucked psaltery type of Lap harp is about xx. The smaller folk harps are under two feet and weigh less than 5lb, although 32 to 36 inches is more typical.

What are the features and advantages of Lap harps?

Plucked Psaltery lap harps

Plucked psaltery lap harps have been around for centuries. The Old Testament mentions them. A psaltery lap harp consists of 15 metal wires strung across a flat soundboard. They are relatively cheap and have one great advantage for novice or casual users: you don't have to be able to read music to play them. The plucked psaltery lap harp usually has music cards that can fit under the string area which show how to play a song. By following along the song is created. Plucked psaltery harps are therefore ideal as a first instrument for very young children. But adults who want to make music without having to spend time learning to play or read music will also enjoy them. However this simplicity does mean that the harp is tuned to a single key (usually G) and has a range of only two octaves.

Folk lap harps

These lap harps have the familiar shape of their larger cousins. They can play a wider range of music than plucked psalteries - by using sharpening levers, a top end lap harpist can quickly get to 7 keys and are easy to tune. They are useful for harpists for whom space is at a premium, for example when on the road. They are often used by music therapists because they are easy to carry to clients. There is an extensive selection of music composed or arranged specifically for this type of lap harp.

Technical FAQ

What are sharpening levers?

Sharpening levers raise the pitch of a string by a semitone. Lap harps come with many sharpening lever configurations. But adding levers costs money, so the cheaper the lap harp, the fewer the levers. A fully levered design has a lever for each string.

Why do I need them?

Without sharpening levers you must retune individual strings if you want to play in a different musical key. A fully levered lap harp lets you get to 7 keys (E-Flat, B-Flat, F, C, G, D, A or E.) merely by flipping the relevant levers.

What is a bridge pin?

Bridge pins space the harp's strings precisely so that the strings are all flat to the same plane. Bridge pins help prevent your hand from accidentally brushing the wrong string whilst playing.

How about the tuning pins?

Tuning pins can be either "zither" pins or "tapered" pins. Zither pins are metal pins that go into the left of the harmonic curve which you tune with your left hand. Tapered pins are larger pins that go through the neck, which you tune with your right hand. Tapered pins are stronger than zither pins and are suitable for higher string tension which can produce a slightly larger sound.