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Harps & Dulcimers

Known for their beautiful sounds and unique designs, harps and dulcimers make great instruments for the aspiring musician. A little technique can go a long way towards grasping these musical instruments’ tones, and you needn’t be a master to get started. While they pair well with other instruments, both the harp and dulcimer sound sweet on their own.

What kind of harps and dulcimers are there?

Harps have come a long way in history as their predecessors stretch as far back as Ancient Egypt. The common variations available are the Celtic and pedal harp, the latter being better-known. Other variations exist, including those without pedals or made to fit on your lap. Some vary based on the number of strings strapped to them.

Dulcimers come in two main forms, their ancestors notwithstanding: the hammered dulcimer and mountain dulcimer, also known as the Appalachian dulcimer. A simple way to tell them apart is by shape, since the hammered is rectangular and the mountain looks more like a violin. Some other versions include the banjo, resonator, and bowed dulcimers.

How do you know your instrument is good quality?

Quality wood and ease of tuning are two of the obvious marks of a fine dulcimer. What are also important, but more personal, are the length and shape of the instrument. You should pick length based on your arm length and shape based on how familiar you are with playing.

Similar to the dulcimer, size and shape matter when picking a harp, so choose those dimensions based on your own body. Also consider what kind of music you wish to play, as certain harps have more strings and are better suited to playing a variety of genres as a result.

How do you take proper care of either instrument?

For both, be sure to pay attention to the sound of the strings and quality of the body. If you plan on keeping the instrument for a long amount of time, the following tips will help you take care of it:

  • Keep it clean by wiping it with a soft cloth; polish isn’t necessary. To help it stay clean, store the instrument in a dry environment free of excess humidity. If you have a case for it, use it.
  • Replace broken strings in a timely manner.
  • Keep your harp or dulcimer out of excess heat and out of extended sun exposure. When transporting the instrument, keep it in its case, and a protective blanket to keep out light and heat is a good idea.
  • Don’t tune any strings to a higher pitch than is recommended as this causes unnecessary wear on them and can contribute to faster breaking.
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