The Harp

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 35,318
    Cynthia Cathcart, a teacher, recording artist, performer, and author discusses the basics of playing a harp.

    Cynthia Cathcart

    Cynthia is one of the world's experts on the Clarsach, the wire-strung harp of the Highland and Islands of Scotland and of Ireland. Performing and teaching internationally, she is leading a new wave of interest in the wire-strung harp. Based near Washington, DC, Cynthia represents Ardival Harps of Strathpeffer, Scotland and is their North American Artist in Residence. Cynthia is a recording artist, and the author of several books for the clarsach. She holds a number of prestigious awards, including two-time U.S. National Scottish Harp Master Champion, three time winner of the Clan Lamont Trophy (in Virginia, Texas and Ohio), and holder of the Pennington-Grey Award for service to the wire-strung harp.

    Hello! My name is Cynthia Cathcart, and I am a teacher, recording artist, performer, and author about the wire-strung harp, and I am here today to introduce you to this really fine instrument. The defining characteristic of this instrument is probably the fact that it is strung with wire strings, literally strings of metal. These are available from specialty music shops. I use brass. I also use silver. You can use gold, and some people use bronze.

    Sometimes its helpful to know what an instrument is or something is by looking it what it is not. I want to very briefly show you a harp that is a little more common. This is a nylon-strung harp or gut-strung. The strings are made of a different substance than wire. You also see these mechanisms here; these are levers, very rare on a wire-strung harp.

    Let me just play a little piece on this for you so you can hear the contrast between what this harps sounds like and what the wire-strung harp sounds like. [01:55-02:17 Music]. I dont play the nylon-strung harp professionally; its a different technique okay. Let me play a little bit of that same tune with a bigger wire-strung harp. They come in different sizes. [02:41-03:04 Music]. Wire-strung harps tend to be a little smaller than the gut or nylon harp. The strings dont need to be as long to get the same pitch because they are denser. So, they tend to be a little smaller. They tend to be harps that you hold on your lap.