What Does the Neck of the Harp Do?

by Robert Alley
Harps weigh anywhere from 50 to 90 lbs.

Harps weigh anywhere from 50 to 90 lbs.

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One of the striking features of a harp is the curved neck. The shape of the curve varies and gives each harp a special look. This large instrument consists of three parts that form the familiar triangle shape. The straight part on one side is the post, while the bottom is known as the sound board. The top is the curved neck, and it plays an essential role in creating the music.

Sound

According to an article in Oregon Magazine, John Westling, who designs and builds custom made harps in Oregon, says that all of the harp's sound comes from the neck, and it has the responsibility of creating the notes of music. The curvature of the neck is no accident; it is designed to provide the exact length for the strings so they line up correctly.

String Tension

Not every string in a harp is the same length. Each one is a precise length that is designed to produce the right sound. Each string carries tension, and the neck is built to withstand that tension. Maintaining that tension while the harp is being played is part of the neck's function.

Beauty

In addition to its vital functions, the neck displays the beauty of the harp. The curvature of the neck is both a practical requirement and a source of the distinctive style of a harp. It would just not be the same with a straight neck. Different curves in individual harps make them that much more fascinating.

Spring Spacing

When assembling a harp, there is a purpose to the placement of the strings; they must be just the right distance apart. For harp makers like Westling, it can be trial and error, and as he states, "If the spring spacing is not right, I tweak it. I might even modify it and create a new neck." The neck shape is crucial to string spacing and ultimately to the sound of the harp.

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