An introduction to the lap harp family of musical instruments.
What is a lap harp?
Lap harps are the cousins of the ordinary harps which everyone is familiar with and which are sometimes called Celtic harps. Lap harps come in a variety of sizes ranging from about to about. As the name suggests, the key point about lap harps is that they can fit in the harpists lap as he or she plays them.
There are two quite distinct looking flavors of lap harp. One resembles the familiar type made famous as the symbol of Guinness beer. But the other type is quite different in shape and is probably not all that well known outside specialist circles. Which is a shame because as explained below this latter type of lap harp is ideal for musical beginners to play attractive music on before they have even mastered the basics of music.
The plucked psaltery
Despite its slightly odd sounding name, and its strange looks, this is a lap harp. It is made of a trapezoid shape with strings stretched across the base which are plucked to make music like any other harp. You only need to use one hand to play this kind of lap harp, although you can use your second hand to make the sounds vary in interesting ways if you like. The key benefit of this instrument is that you don’t actually have to have any musical ability to sound good. The secret to this is that under the strings the plucked psaltery can store music cards which contain simple instructions for playing a tune. All the harpist has to do is to pluck the strings as the card indicates to create the tune. Of course accomplished musicians need not use such cards and will be able to enjoy playing the plucked psaltery just as they would any other instrument.
The Celtic style lap harp
This is a smaller version of the more familiar style of harp. It has fewer strings and does not have the pedals the larger version possesses. This limits its range, but the ingenious use of hand operated levers in better quality models makes up for this. Although this kind of lap harp can literally be played in the lap, a more comfortable arrangement is to use a frame or harp sling. Unlike the plucked psaltery type of lap harp, it does require some musical ability to play.
Why choose a lap harp?
In a word, portability. The lap harp is a go anywhere instrument. Ideal for taking round to friends and family in the holiday season for example. Many experienced harpists have a lap harp as a second harp for just this reason. Lap harps are a good solution for people without the room to store a larger instrument.
Their simplicity makes lap harps also great to learn music on, especially for kids. For those without the time or inclination to learn music, a plucked psaltery style lap harp is the perfect way to play for pleasure effortlessly..
If you would like to learn more about this wonderful instrument, then this lap harp site is a great place to start.