Learning about the Harp in music class

These are just a few ideas for writing a music lesson plan about the Harp.

Have a look at the length of the string, and discus the effect on its pitch Have the students guess if longer or shorter strings will produce higher or lower sounds. Ponder this with your students: Why do you think people use the word “low” to describe pitches of lesser frequency and “high” to describe pitches of greater frequency, when it actually has nothing to do with physical lowness and highness relative to the ground?

Here is another great topic for discussion: Why is the harp built with the short strings close to the player and not the other way?

Here is an activity to help students understand the harp’s pedal mechanism:

A modern double action pedal harp has seven pedals. What happens is each pedal changes all the strings of one note name. Each pedal has three positions: top (flattens pitches by a semitone), middle (no change), and bottom (raises pitches by a semitone).There are three positions for each pedal: In the top position it lowers the pitch by a semitone, in the middle there is no change, and in the bottom it raises the pitch be a semitone. With all the pedals in the middle position, the harp plays a C major scale.

Procedure: On the whiteboard, draw seven pedals laid out from left to right (simple ovals or rectangles will do), and label them with the note names from C to B. You can then have the students follow along the whiteboard while you play the C major scale on a keyboard instrument. You can then play the scale again, and alter one note by either a semitone up or down. Ask the students which note was altereed, and in what direction it needs to be moved. You can then have one student run out the pedal in question and draw it again in the position you played. Repeat as desired with different notes altered. For a greater challenge, alter two or more notes.

If you have access to an electric guitar and an acoustic guitar, you can easily demonstrate the need for a resonator, both on the guitar on the harp. The electric guitar only uses electrical amplification instead of a resonator, so it produces only a faint sound if it is not plugged in. By contrast, an acoustic guitar is readily audible because the guitar body acts as a resonator. The harp also would be far to quiet to hear without a resonator, so you can point it out to the students and demonstrate its function.

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