Harps, unlike other stringed instruments such as violins and violas, do not require the use of bows. A harp’s strings are made to be plucked or grazed with the fingertips. For the many different types of harps available, there are several different types of strings. Harp strings are made of a variety of materials, including nylon and copper, and come in a variety of lengths to fit different types of harps.
Wires made of a variety of metals are used to string wire-strung harps. Copper, brass, and bronze are some of the more common metals used in harp string construction. Harp strings are made from a variety of materials, including precious metals like silver. Metal strings are less flexible than nylon strings, but they last longer and are more durable.
Monofilament nylon harp strings are usually only available in a few colors, such as red, black, or blue. Nylon strings are suitable for a wide range of harps. They’re flexible, simple to install, and typically less expensive than metal strings.
To allow for ease of use and to prevent the strings from touching one another, the strings on a harp must be spaced apart as much as possible. Excessive vibration can be caused placing strings too close together, resulting in a buzzing sound. Larger harps are often fitted with several different types of strings to achieve a certain range of sounds, whereas smaller harps are usually designed for use with just one type of string.
Lever harps have a lever system that extends their range and allows them to play both flat and sharp notes. A string attached to a lever can be used to play two different notes. When each string is plucked, a switched lever shortens its effective length, allowing for a different pitch to be produced. These harps have the advantage of producing a wider range of sounds with fewer strings.
Pedal harps use pedals instead of levers to produce a variety of sounds from strings. These harps usually have seven pedals, each of which can be adjusted to one of three positions. Pedals in the middle positions have no effect on the notes produced a string; however, pedals in the topmost positions produce flat notes, while pedals in the lowest positions produce sharp notes. This type of harp has the advantage of not requiring the user to use his or her hands to produce a flat or sharp note, but it is much bulkier and heavier than most lever harps due to the additional mechanical components required.
Irish harps are traditionally metal-stringed wire-strung harps. However, the term “Celtic harp” refers to any harp that has its origins in the Celtic tradition. Traditionally, these harps are lever-type harps with nylon, wire, or gut strings. Double-strung harps, on the other hand, are typically designed to be played with nylon strings.