The modern harp.
The musical instrument with 47 strings is the modern concert harp, also known as the pedal harp. This majestic instrument stands as one of the staples of orchestral music, recognized not only for its unique sound but also for its distinctive and graceful design.
The harp has ancient roots, with variations of it appearing throughout history in various cultures around the world, from the lyres of ancient Greece to the multi-stringed instruments of Africa and Asia. However, the modern concert harp, with its complex system of pedals, is a relatively recent development in the grand timeline of music.
Each of the harp’s 47 strings corresponds to a different pitch, and they are made from a variety of materials, including gut, nylon, and steel, depending on their position and the desired tone. The strings are color-coded, usually with red for C and blue or black for F, to help the harpist navigate the extensive range of the instrument.
What sets the concert harp apart from earlier harps is its intricate pedal mechanism. There are seven pedals at the base of the instrument, each corresponding to a musical note (A through G). These pedals allow the harpist to change the pitch of all strings of a particular note by either one or two half-steps, facilitating sharp, natural, and flat variations. This mechanism enables the harpist to play in various keys without having to retune the instrument manually.
The concert harp’s expansive range, combined with its capacity for lush chords and glissandi, makes it a versatile instrument in many musical settings. From the delicate arpeggios that often characterize its solo repertoire to its supportive role in orchestral and ensemble pieces, the harp’s sound can evoke a wide spectrum of emotions, from serene calmness to dramatic intensity.
The harp demands a high level of skill and dedication from its players. Mastery requires not only dexterity in both hands but also coordinated footwork to manage the pedals, all while reading the music and maintaining a proper posture.