What Is a MIDI Harp?

A MIDI harp, or Musical Instrument Digital Interface harp, is a harp that uses the MIDI system to control a variety of other instruments or software programs. Some MIDI harps do not produce any acoustic sound, instead sending musical data via an electronic signal to an amplifier or another MIDI-enabled instrument. Others can generate both acoustic and MIDI signals. The pickups, which are either attached to individual strings or spread across several strings, detect the vibrations of the strings plucked the player.

Harps are traditionally acoustic instruments, which means that when the strings are plucked, they produce an audible note. Electronic pickups that measure disturbances in the magnetic field created vibrating strings have been made possible thanks to technological advancements. This means that harps can be created that don’t make any physical sound when plucked, but instead convert the vibrations of the strings into an electronic signal. Another device can then recreate the signal from the pickups to produce the original note. These two elements are required for the construction of a MIDI harp.

MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) is a universal electronic musical language that allows many different instruments and computer programs to communicate with one another. There are a total of 16 MIDI channels, and each device is configured to transmit and receive on one of them. The MIDI signal informs the receiving instrument of the note played, the length of time it was played, and the force with which it was struck. This basic functionality allows the user to use a MIDI harp to play notes on a MIDI-enabled keyboard or synthesizer and to control MIDI-enabled computer programs. When a harp is equipped with MIDI, it can produce as many tones as an electronic keyboard.

MIDI’s musical language is divided into 16 distinct channels. Because the devices must be set to transmit and receive over the same channel for communication to be possible, these channels work similarly to the channels on a two-way radio. With a MIDI harp, users can only communicate with another instrument if both instruments are set to use the same MIDI channel. When two devices transmit MIDI data to one another, the receiving device will only produce the note data sent down the designated receiving channel.

Different MIDI harps have slightly different characteristics, but the majority of them share a few commonalities. A MIDI harp will, in general, be portable and comfortable to play, with features like pitch-bend control, which allows a note to be raised half a step. Electronic pickups are used on MIDI harps, and they can be found on each individual string or strategically placed throughout the instrument. The majority of MIDI harps have 31 to 47 strings.