How to Play a Ten-Stringed Harp

By Nate Combs
In ancient times, kinor harps could have as few as five strings.

One of the oldest musical tools known to have been used by mankind, the 10-stringed harp is a very calm and soothing instrument that people of all ages can enjoy. This harp comes in lyre and kinnor (also called kinor and King David) styles and differs from classical and Celtic harps in its small size and number of strings.

Tuners, though digital in the present day, function and are set up like scales, because their purpose is to balance sound.

Tune the first string. Typical scales for harps are D for newer harps and Eb, or "E flat," for older ones. Tuning to a particular scale in western culture means that the letter representing the key is the home note, or note that the other notes build off of. To tune the harp to the key of D, locate the highest, or thinnest, string. This string will be tuned to the actual D note. Pluck the note in front of the tuner and adjust the head of the string with the tuning key. The string will need to be repeatedly plucked in order for your tuner to get a signal from it, and you must then tighten or loosen the head until the tuner's indicator aligns with the setting, which will usually be in the center of the device.

Each single note in music has a particular pitch that is exact and stands apart from all other tones.

Repeat the tuning process for all other strings. In order from thinnest, or highest, to thickest, or lowest, the nine remaining strings will be tuned to the following notes: C, B, A, G, F#, E, D, C# and B.

Pick up the harp in the upright position. To position the harp, make sure the thick, wooden body is below the open, airy part across which the strings are stretched.Cradle the harp in your left arm if you would like to play with your right hand and in your right arm if you prefer to play with your left hand. To cradle a harp means to hold it securely while not squeezing it too tightly. Make sure that the strings are facing you.

Begin to play. Even if you know little about music, playing random notes on a well-tuned harp can still sound beautiful if the playing is executed properly. Unlike a guitar, a ten-stringed harp is plucked rather than strummed. Thus, to play the harp, begin with the lower of the two D strings and gently pluck the center of it alone for a soft note. Pluck it a little harder for a volume that will correspond to the strength put into the plucking. Continue plucking other strings in an order that sounds pleasing to you.

Hours of practice a day can turn an inexperienced harpest into a well-rounded musician in a few short months.

Practice often. A number of books and instructors can teach you how to read music and play familiar songs, but you can teach yourself with enough dedication and practice.

Tip

When first trying to play, choose five to ten strings to play in an order you like, and play the strings several times before moving on to a new pattern.

A piano is a great substitute for a tuner.

A tuning fork is a more challenging tool to use than a tuner but works nonetheless.

Several different scales are used in both western and eastern cultures. Try to master them all.

If a string sounds as if it is distorting, also called twanging, try plucking it closer to the bottom rather than in the center.

About the Author

Nate Combs writes in both English and Spanish, obtained a real-estate license and is a certified translator. He has worked as a professional in music and production for more than five years and is an expert at adventure, role-playing, fighting, action and many other types of video games. Combs holds a Bachelor of Arts in Spanish from University of Central Florida.