- High-Headed Harps
- Low-Headed Harps

- Design Options
- Semitone Levers
- Accessories

'High-Headed' Harps...

...is the name for Irish harps from the 17th and 18th Century. They are also called Clairséach. They are strung with bronce strings and produce a bright, ringing tone.

Type: Sirr Harp

This self-willing and magic-sounding Clairséach has a harmonic outline with extraordinary design elements, together with a very large range of 37 strings (F-g'''). It can also be fitted with an excellent semitone lever system.

The bronce strings in the upper and middle range, in combination with the large bass section, help to produce a resonant, singing and bright sound.

Music example

Irish harp, high-headed
Type "Sirr Harp"

Irish harp, high-headed
Type "Sirr Harp", made of oak

The 17th Century original of this harp resides in the National Museum of Dublin.

With the help of the former HoD, John Thean, who provided all necessary informations and measures, the first of my Sirr Harps came into being in 1992/93 (assisted by Jochen Vogel).

I have made several variations of the Sirr Harp – each of which is unique in its realisation.

Type: Mullagh Mast Harp

Being something like a counterpart of the Sirr Harp, the Mullagh Mast Harp is a no less ideosyncratic Irish high-headed Cairséach from the Baroque period.

The regular version sports a range of 35 bronce strings (F-e'''), which sound very direct and clear. The sound box is very long and provides a powerful resonance.

The shape of this harp is rather soft and straight, including some clearly baroque style elements.
The original was measured with the kind assistance of Thilo Schmoll in April 1996 in the National Museum of Dublin.

I have slightly altered the outline of the harp’s neck, maintaining the string lengths of the original, so that the Mullagh Mast Harp can also be fitted with semitone levers.

Irish harp, high-headed
Type "Mullagh Mast",
made of rosewood

Irish harp, high-headed
Type "Mullagh Mast",
made of walnut

The semitone levers used for metal strung harps are cast in bronce and work smoothly. I had my difficulties finding an appropriate system until a testing series in 1997.

The first model of the Mullgh Mast Harp was made of walnut in 1997/98.
The second – and slightly enlarged – version was made of rosewood in 1999 (38 strings, C-e''').

"Low-Headed" Harps...

... are the small traditional Irish metal strung harps.

Type: Brian Boru’s Harp

Irish harp, low-headed
Brian Boru's Harp is a proportionally enlarged version of the original, which can be found in Trinity College, Dublin.
Similar harps have been spotted on the Irish Euro coins, the Irish national flag and on a very popular Irish beer brand – who wouldn’t know it?

The version that I make is fitted with 30 bronze strings; the historical one has 26.
"Brian Boru’s Harp" is one of the very few remaining mediaeval Irish Low-Headed Clairséachs. It is of a classical beauty and perfect in every regard. The joints connecting pillar, neck and soundbox are held together only with the string tension.

The "Brian Boru’s Harp" produces an enchanting, room-filling sound. Due to its compact size, it is also very portable.

Music example

Irish harp, low-headed
Type "Brian Boru’s Harp",
made of yew

When I build these metal strung Clairséachs, I try to catch the spirit of the original as far as I can—the historical designs are often simply perfect!

Modifications are possible, as far as the construction of the soundbox or additional space for semitone levers are concerned. Futhermore, today’s string tension tends to be a few ticks higher than in the old days, so that I have to balance the construction accordingly.

I do not see myself as a "historical" harp maker. Much rather I feel that the historical imagery inspires me to find my own ways.

As for timbers, surface finishing and design features, please refer to the design page.

Semitone Levers

The bronze semitone levers by Peter Brough are very well suited for metal strings. They do not dampen the sound or damage the string.

Semitone levers
Peter Brough’s bronze semitone levers

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