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Lever harps

Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 8:31 pm
by Grania
Hi folks

I'm a harpist in training :) I play Celtic/folk harp and I've been wondering, regarding re-enactment...does anyone know when semi-tone levers started to be used (ie, changing an F string to Fsharp, you know what I mean) ? If anyone's got any ideas I'd be really interested. Thanks :)

Re: Lever harps

Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 9:24 pm
by Velund
Since I am a long time harp music addict, from my knowledge I may conclude that harp levers most likely appeared in mid 20th c. with the harp (and the folkmusic) revival. Ancient Celtic harpers' tradition died in 19c. What we normally have now - it is modern approach actually grown on nearly nothing since very few left.
In terms of re-enactment if you want to be a pre. 19c harper - you'll have to change modern carbon stings for metal ones and change your technique for the nail insted of the finger one (apart from many other things).
This is an interesting site on historic Celtic harps: http://www.earlygaelicharp.info/

Re: Lever harps

Posted: Tue Mar 30, 2010 9:51 pm
by Grania
I thought that was probably the case. Thanks for confirming for me! :) Do you play? If so I'd be interested to hear your takes on the subject...I'm rather out of practice due to uni commitments and the fact that my dear friend and harp teacher has an 18 month old and another arriving shortly - I'm in need of a bit more of a kick start!

Re: Lever harps

Posted: Wed Mar 31, 2010 10:50 am
by saracen
Yep, levers are a modern development although I understand they derive from the hooks used for the same purpose from the late seventeenth century. There were gut-strung harps as well as metal-strung, however, and these can be played with fingertips, as I play mine.

Re: Lever harps

Posted: Fri Apr 02, 2010 1:33 am
by Velund
Grania wrote:I thought that was probably the case. Thanks for confirming for me! :) Do you play? If so I'd be interested to hear your takes on the subject...I'm rather out of practice due to uni commitments and the fact that my dear friend and harp teacher has an 18 month old and another arriving shortly - I'm in need of a bit more of a kick start!


No, Grania, I don't play the harp - I play the flute and whistles along with some traditional percussion. Harp music and itinerary harpists - that's just my long time great interest as I think their music is often incredible - really magic).
To begin playing music alone and keep your hand well in you have to be motivated very very much, indeed).
If there is a lack of teachers - you have to try yourself anyway though it may be challenging because you 'll have to find the right path on your own. Long way. At least - if you can't play - just keep the intention) - and it will somehow be realized.

saracen wrote:Yep, levers are a modern development although I understand they derive from the hooks used for the same purpose from the late seventeenth century. There were gut-strung harps as well as metal-strung, however, and these can be played with fingertips, as I play mine.


Saracene, do you have any pictures of what these hooks looked like? I read some mentions of them but - never a description or picture.
Of gut strung harps I only read some mentions in Scottish context.

For the types of levers used now here's a link with pics: http://www.harpcenter.com/page/SWHC/CTGY/LEVER