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How a Harp Works

The harp, of course, is a beautiful instrument. It's associated with angels, Ireland, and last but not least, Harpo Marx. But not that many people know how it actually works. Why the colored strings? What do the levers do? How many different sizes are there?

Overview of the Harp

This is the full twenty-two minute video, which you can watch in its entirety, or you can jump around to the different sections by clicking on any of the 

five segments below.

I can tell you all this and far more about the harp. 

To start off with, the harp is an ancient instrument and a straightforward one at that - simply a frame with strings stretched across it. Many people think that the harp came from hunting with bows and arrows. If you take a bow that already has one string stretched across it and add more strings, it becomes a harp. Regardless of the exact origins, almost all cultures developed some sort of harp over time. If you want to do fancy things with your frame and strings, such as tune it, play using sharps and flats, or have a big enough sound to compete in a full size orchestra, then it gets a little more complex.

Below is an Overview of the Harp video that I put together. It covers a few basics about how you play, talks about different types of instrument, includes information about the strings, goes over the names of the different parts of the harp, and explains the mechanics of the instrument. Feel free to hit play!


However, if you don't want to watch a twenty-two minute video right now, I split the full video up into five shorter videos which are below. This way you can hop directly to the topic you're most interested in. 

General Considerations

 This video is a introduction, going over some general considerations and basics in playing the harp. 


Here you can find out about the order of the strings, the different colors, types of strings, and the gist of how to tune and change strings. 

Types of Harps

This starts with the difference between a lever and a pedal harp, and then goes on to  discuss make and models of harps, as well as different sizes of instruments.


Want to know the names for the different parts of the harp? That's covered here.


Harps are surprisingly mechanical instruments, and lever harps and pedal harps have some major differences in how they work. All of the mechanical aspects relate to chromaticism on the harp. Since this is a big topic, this video is a bit longer than the others.

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