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Egyptian Harp, showing its original bow-like shape

Egyptian Harp, showing its original bow-like shape.png Damsels singing to the Sound of TimbrelsThumbnailsDouble PipesDamsels singing to the Sound of TimbrelsThumbnailsDouble Pipes

The history of the Harp may be traced with much the same clearness. The twanging of the bow probably suggested the original idea; and the variation of sound was obtained by lengthening and shortening a multiplicity of strings. These were made, at first, of some fibrous material, or the long hair of animals. Perhaps even the tresses of wives and daughters were turned to such musical use, as we read in the Greek and Roman historians that the bows of the Carthaginians were thus supplied with strings in their last war with the Romans. Harps, too, like the bow, were portable, about four feet long; and all Oriental harps, so far as we can judge from surviving sculptures, unlike ours, had no front pillar. Their bow-like shape and characteristics long remained. Without entering at greater length on their further and later development, we can easily imagine how soon the need of pegs for tightening and loosening the strings was felt; how a sounding-board was found to add to the body of sound; how Strings of fibre or hair were supplanted by those of catgut, of steel, and even of silver. Whether the fingers or whether the quill and plectrum were the first manipulators of the strings, is a matter of debate. Certainly fingers were made long before either quills or plectra! Be it as it may, after these latter had been introduced, hammers wielded by the hand in due time followed. And thus we see how the "stringed instruments" of primaeval and ancient days became the parent of the dulcimer, the spinet, the harpsichord, and the piano.

A Handbook of Bible and Church Music
By the Rev. j. Aston Whitlock, M.A.
Published in 1898
Available from books.google.com