Masters of Health Magazine September 2018 - Page 64

The harp’s uniqueness is unlike any other instrument. Being a string instrument, the

vibration and sound of each note is made by plucking the string with a finger. The tone

and volume of the note can be affected by how the finger touches the string and how

much energy is transferred to the string from the finger. It can be soft or loud, and each

note has a separate string that is tuned separately from the other string; one string to each note of the scale on the harp.

This is in contrast to other string instruments like the violin or guitar where the notes are

changed by pressing on the string to give it a different length; and thus, a different note

by using finger positions like on a violin, or fret board positions like on a guitar. In other

words, these other string instruments play a multiple number of notes on one string by

changing the finger position on the string. This allows more notes with fewer strings, but it also changes the sound of the note produced by the string.

With the harp, all strings are open all the time. Plus, when one note is played, it continues to vibrate for some time after it is plucked. This vibration produces the note even as other notes are played on other strings, even though it gets softer over time. Under the main body of music, these soft lingering notes produce a wonderful symphony of subharmonics that carry on, giving the harp its unique sound.

There is another unique thing that happens with the sound of the harp. For example,

when a C note is plucked on one octave, all the other C notes in the other octaves start to

vibrate as well, although much softer in sound. And, this happens with each note that is

plucked and adds to the subharmonics that are being carried out upon virtually all the

strings through the music.

All of this sound whether loud and upfront or soft and in the background is what makes

the harp music sound so different from other instruments. I believe that it is also what

makes the harp such a natural for therapy sessions and exploring the frequencies. I wish to add that in no way am I diminishing the importance of other instruments. Each has its own contribution to music and many of them are very beautifully employed in music therapy programs.

When I recorded one of my CD’s the recording engineer that was mastering the disc wanted to take out some of these subharmonics to “clean up” the track. I kept fighting him over this issue, explaining that if he took those sounds out, he would be reducing the effects of the music and stripping the harp of its unique music/sound. I eventually won the argument, and when it was all over, he admitted that it really did belong there.