Gothic and Celtic harps… Differences?

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    kaseymitsuri on #190670

    Hello, sorry, I would like to know what are the differences between a gothic and a celtic harp, if you could help me..?

    I know that a gothic harp has less tension in the strings, while the celtic harp has more tension and more volume…

    Sound wise, what do you think?

    Thank you very much in advance….

    Biagio on #190671

    Both terms are used very loosely these days it seems, so it is a bit difficult to answer. Tension however is not the main issue but shape; this may affect volume but then again it may not in comparing the two.

    A classic gothic harp shape will be quite tall with a thin neck and narrow sound box, horse hair strings and – typically – bray pins if it is a historical recreation. That would indeed have a soft voice and to many modern ears an unpleasant one.

    Modern luthiers have borrowed the shape and widened the box, stringing with nylon and gut but whether that would be lower tension and less volume than a “celtic” depends on the latter design. A friend of mine is selling a “gothic” recreation by David Kortier. It does indeed have a softer voice but that is because the sound board grain runs vertically so tension must be lower than if it ran horizontally. However it has levers, is strung with fluorocarbon and no bray pins. Basically, David copied the shape from an old painting but modernized it otherwise.

    A “celtic” is even more difficult to pin down as to what is meant, aside from the general shape: usually a shorter neck but not always. When I hear “Celtic harp” I think of low headed wire strung – most people probably think of something else. On the other hand I have a Clark Irish harp which was originally strung with gut back in 1926. Relatively softer voice now with lighter tension nylon strings so it’s pretty hard to say.

    Sorry I can’t be any more accurate; probably the best approach is to decide on what one wants and then compare three or four different models.


    kaseymitsuri on #190697

    Ohh, thank you so much, Biagio. It’s wonderful to get to know so much about the different styles of harp! Thank you for sharing all your knowledge 🙂

    balfour-knight on #190699

    Thanks, Biagio! I LOVE my MusicMakers Large Gothic 36 string harp. Jerry Brown, the maker, also copied the Gothic shape and made this into a gorgeous modern harp, with medium-firm string tension. Of my three harps, my audiences respond to the sound of the Gothic the BEST! “Bella” is one nice-sounding Gothic harp. If she had pedals, she would be PERFECT, ha, ha!

    Best wishes to you all,

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