From what date was music written specifically for double action harps?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    Gillian Bradford on #162374

    Do any of the excellent musical historians know from what date music was written for the double action harp? More specifically music that would be impossible to play on a single action harp.

    I am considering a single action harp but wanted to know how much music I would be missing out on by having one. I am not particularly into Jazz or Pop styles so that doesn’t bother me at all.

    Thanks in advance

    Karen Johns on #162375

    Are you referring to a double-strung harp? I’m not familiar with the term single action or double action.

    barbara-brundage on #162376

    Karen, pedal harps are either single or double action. A single action harp has one row of discs, so you can have two positions for every string: flat and natural or natural and sharp, kind of like a lever harp does.

    A double action harp has two rows of discs, so each string has three positions: flat (no disc engaged), natural (one disc engaged), and sharp (both discs engaged).

    carl-swanson on #162377

    Gillian- There is no ‘date’ after which music was written exclusively for double action harp. In fact, there was initially enormous resistance to the double action mechanism. Naderman, in his Universal Methode for harp, goes on a long diatribe about the double action harp, in essence saying that anything that can be played on double action harp can be played on a single action instrument, except cheap effects like harmonic glissandos and who wants to do that. That sort of thing. Remember, Naderman built single action instruments.

    For many years after the introduction of the double action harp(in 1812 or so) harpists bought the double action instruments, but they continued to tune them in E flat and to use only half the mechanism, because that is all they knew.

    As far as I can tell, it was Parish-Alvars who wrote the first music that could only be played on a double action harp. Before him, harp music was basically the same as piano music in every way. With Parish-Alvars, it could no longer be played on piano or even the single action instrument. So it’s impossible to establish an exact date for the change over from single to double action harp.

    Gillian Bradford on #162378

    Wow what a can of worms! But I guess I can assume that a great deal of music is playable on a single action harp and really I wouldn’t miss out on much if I didn’t have a double action one. Just that a double action harp would be more convenient in some respects.

    Thanks for your input everyone.


    Karen Johns on #162379

    Ahhh- I see. I strictly play Celtic folk harp so I had no idea what that meant. So I learned a new thing today! :-)

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