Types Of Harps – Explanation & Visual Guide

There are two main types of harps. They are the pedal harp and the lever harp. Harps can be of a variety of shapes and sizes. They can also have different names: crwth harp, bell harp, wire harp, etc.

If you ever need to know what are little harps called or what does a folk harp look like, here are all the different types of harps, an explanation, and a visual guide.

Lever Harps

Lever harps are one of the basic types of harps along with pedal harps. The lever harp is a kind of harp with a lever at the top of each of its strings. The purpose of the lever is to allow for the playing of different notes by tightening or loosening the lever.

Pedal Harps

The second of the basic harp types are called pedal harps. These types of harps feature pedals in place of levers. The harpist uses the pedals to play high, middle or low/flat, and natural or sharp notes just like they would with levers.

Crwth Harps

Crwth harps have a rectangular shape with a flat back where the upper part is open while the lower back resembles a sound box.

The crwth also called a crowd or rote, is a bowed lyre, a type of stringed instrument, associated particularly with Welsh music and with the medieval folk music of England, now archaic but once widely played in Europe.


Paraguayan Harp

The Paraguayan harp is the national instrument of Paraguay, and similar instruments are used elsewhere in South America, particularly Venezuela.

Modern Wire Harps

Gaelic harps or wire harps are wire-strung harps. Most harps today use nylon but true wire harps play a different sound that nylon-strung harps. The sound is more bell-like.

Multi-Course Harps

These types of harps have two or more rows of strings. The majority of them are double or triple-string harps.

multicourse harp is a harp with more than one row of strings. Harps with two rows are called double harps; harps with three rows are called triple harps.


Bell Harps

Bell harps usually consist of roughly 8 strings. They are also known as English harps or fairy bells. They get their name because of the bell-like sound that they produce when played.

Earth Harps

These are a large variety of harps that require at least two people to play. A typical earth harp has about 42 strings and the longest string is over 300 feet in length. To describe the sound would be near impossible as you have to hear it for yourself to really believe it.

Electric Harps

Electric harps produce a full sound where you can hear each note, the ones with good amplification systems, at least.

The electric harp is an instrument based on its acoustic original. There are both solid-body and hollow body electro-acoustic models available. True electric harps have a solid body versus a hollow body electro-acoustic harp, which can be played either acoustically or electronically.

woman playing electric harp.
Electric Harp.

Harp Guitars

These are fairly new types of harps that came about circa the 19th century. And, as you probably already guess, these types of harps combine the sound and features of both a guitar and a harp.

Psaltery Harps

You play these harps using a device known as a plectrum (similar to a guitar pick). However, you can also pluck the strings with your fingers. But, those aren’t the only ways to play psaltery harps. You can hit them with hammers or use a bow to play it as well. Although, most musicians just play them using their fingers.

Medieval Harps

Medieval harps were the first types of harps to have a triangular shape and they were usually small harps. You know, since musicians back then didn’t have the luxury of modern transport, these harps had to portable hence they were small enough to carry on horseback.


A stringed instrument like a small U-shaped harp with strings fixed to a crossbar used in ancient Greece. Modern instruments of this type are found mainly in East Africa.

Aeolian Harps

Aeolian Harps or wind harps are instruments that you play using the wind. These harp types can be as big as a regular harp but they can also be as small as keychains.

Celtic Harps

Celtic harps are the kinds of harps that most people would envision when they here the word harp. They are also known as Irish harps or folk harps.

Celtic harps are pedal harps and they sound different depending on the material used to make the strings or the way its made. The sound even varies from musician to musician.

If you like musical instruments then you can also check out this article about the different types of accordions.

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