The old Gaelic harps always had metal wire strings. This is very different to the gut and similar soft materials used for historical Continental and modern harps.

Most of the museum instruments don’t have old strings preserved with them, so we need to do a bit of digging to understand the types of strings that were used in the old Irish and Scottish harp traditions.

These pages gather the evidence for old stringing practice, from surviving pieces of old strings and from written descriptions. This historical information can be evaluated in the light of what we know about other traditions, and is constrained by the physical nature of different metal wires.

People who play accurate historical replicas of the old Gaelic harps can use the information we do know about the old stringing traditions, to try and get their instruments set up in the most historical way, to try and capture the ancient sound and explore the old music. These experiments with replica harps give us audible and hands-on insights into the possibilities and characteristics of different solutions.

Simon Chadwick