School “interview” about harp making

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    Even though I am a harpist and know a lot about harp, I wanted to ask a few questions for my essay (even though I know the answer to some – I just need a complete answer and my knowledge is mostly assumed). If you only know the answer for one of the questions, that’s okay! Feel free to guess! Here are my questions:

    My topic: How does a harp work?

    – Why is it curved?
    – How does it make sound?
    – What are the levers and pedals for?
    – How do the different strings make different sounds?
    – Why are A-flat and B-sharp the same?
    – Why wood?
    – How does wood help conduct sound?
    – What is the difference between a pedal harp and a lever harp?

    Or if you have any other ideas for questions, you can tell me!

    Thank you!


    Here is your chance to do some research. Get a copy of Roslyn Rensch’s book Harps and Harpists. Check your local music library for books on acoustics. The internet is a playground of knowledge now; all you have to do is google a subject. Check the web sites of harp manufacturers, harp builders and harp technicians. They are full of information. There are old conversational threads about harps and strings, etc. on In fact, there is tons of information in archived threads on Harp Column.


    Leora, in your question “Why are A flat and B sharp the same,” I’m sure you meant either A flat and G sharp, or you meant C natural and B sharp. Those pairs of notes have one and the same sound, because there are twelve half-steps in any octave, but only seven alphabet names. White piano keys are all natural letter names, mostly spaced two half-steps apart, But that precise spacing means seven natural key names would not fit inside one octave interval unless two names “agree” to have only one half-step before the next letter: B is followed directly by C, and E is followed directly by F, creating the familiar pattern of black and white on all piano keyboards, necessary for being able to find one’s way. Those “enharmonic” spellings can occur elsewhere besides the pairs mentioned, and are helpful to both players and composers. Harpists understand this well, since each of the seven pedals can produce three different sounds of the same alphabet letter named note.


    Other sources of information: (1.) “Happiness is a Contented Harp”, 22-page booklet published in 1982 by Lyon and Healy Harps.


    Thanks, both of you! I’m sure this will help!

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