Things You'll Need
- Rubber bands (optional)
- Plastic container (optional)
- Woodworking tools (optional)
- Tuners (optional)
- Wood (optional)
- Bucket (optional)
- Bowl (optional)
- Dental floss (optional)
- Wire (optional)
- Paint (optional)
- Varnish (optional)
- Glue (optional)
- Decals (optional)
- Permanent markers (optional)
- Piano (optional)
- Electronic tuner (optional)
Making a homemade stringed harp may be as simple as stretching rubber bands across a plastic container or as complex as building a 10-foot harp using professional woodworking tools. Harp shape and size, number of strings, tuners, tone, cost, attractiveness, playability and durability vary. Invest under $300 with your time and effort to build an orchestral quality traditional or Celtic harp similar to those that retail new for more than $10,000. Or make a free, fun-to-play lap harp in 10 minutes.
Decide what kind of harp you want to build. Consider size, portability, durability, cost, construction time and effort, and availability of materials.
Assemble building materials and instructions. You may purchase these from music stores or online. For professional quality instruments, choose wood, strings and tuners based on tone, strength and durability rather than cost.
Make a harp base from a bucket, plastic bowl, sturdy box, wooden plank or frame, or lidless plastic container of any shape.
Decorate your harp. Paint or varnish the base. Paste on decals or decorate with permanent markers.
String your harp. Stretch strings across the harp‘s base, thread them through drilled holes or wrap them around tuners screwed into the base. Create different looks and sounds by stringing with multicolored rubber bands, varied colors of dental floss or several types of wire.
Tune your harp by turning tuners or tying strings at different lengths to adjust pitch. Match pitches with a piano or use an electronic tuner purchased from a music store. Wooden harps may need to be tuned in stages over a period of days to allow the harp’s base to flex and strings to stretch without breaking.
Before making your own harp, try out several to find wood, string types and tuners that suit you. Talk with, watch videos by, or read construction and performance notes from others who have built harps. Visit music stores and talk with other harp players.
Choose building materials carefully. Some types of wood are too soft for harp bases and will not withstand the pressure exerted by tightened strings. Other woods are too hard and will not carry vibrations to produce pleasing resonance and musical tone. Tuner and string performance also varies.
Jill Marie Maier is a registered nurse, landscaper and writer. Her articles have appeared in “Alverno Today” and the literary magazine “Inside Out.” Ongoing passions for health, nature and the arts and sciences spurred her to earn English and biology degrees from Alverno College. Her best ideas surface while kayaking.