How Much Does a Harp Weigh?

Female playing heavy pedal harp.

One of the main questions which pop up when you need to choose a Harp is how heavy it will be. Portability can be a crucial fact for most musicians. Some harps can be massive in size and as tall as a human being, starting from 25” to 76” in height and can accommodate 15 to 47 strings. Some are small and weigh less to allow for children to play or for street musicians to carry around easily.

The weight of a harp depends on the size, shape, and if it has pedals, levers, etc. You can divide harps into two groups according to size – floor harps and lap harps.  

Let us consider some approximate sizes of each type of harp depending on their features, uses, and history.

Weight Range of Various Types of Harp

Lever Harps

Lever Harps may come in a weight range of 20 – 50 pounds and the lightest weight and portable of all. The low weight is because this type does not have any pedals and is strung with steel or catgut strings. Originating in a range of shapes and sizes, Lever harps are reasonably smaller than Pedal harps. These harps are suitable for children who wish to learn and are widely loved for their ability to be accommodated to play any type of music.

A Lever Harp is an instrument that was revived by music enthusiasts during the 1970s and widely used by the Celtic community, hence the name “Celtic Harp”.

A Lever harp is diatonic, meaning that you can only play a limited number of notes and keys. These harps use levers to reach a wider range of notes and some Lever harps can be remodeled to include levers but consequently adds onto the weight.

Pedal Harps

Pedal harps are majestic and imposing instruments that range from around 1.7-1.2 meters in height (approximately 6 feet high) and are played sitting down beside it to use one’s feet to maneuver the pedals.

It is strung with nylon, catgut, and wires and has a wide range of 5-6 octaves with 40-47 strings. With all these contrivances, a Pedal harp can weigh a substantial 30-40kgs (88 pounds) 

The heaviest part of the pedal harp is the pedals and there are usually seven located at the base of the instrument.

The harp produces a voluminous majestic sound that is as impressive as its design and is usually played using the thumbs and the three first fingers of the hand. A Pedal harpist has to tune the pedals, in line with the harmonics presented by the conductor before a concert begins.

Folk Harps

Folk harps or Lever harps are a non-pedal variety and are much smaller in size than Pedal harps. They are lighter in weight due to the non-availability of any heavy pedals. However, there can be several levers on every single string of the harp, which are visible on the crown of the instrument. Folk harps are usually used in folk dances or cultural performances and thus the name. 

Folk harps can weigh from 9-50 pounds (up to about 22 kgs) and usually contains around 19-40 strings. Most folk harp strings are built using nylon, catgut, or wrapped metal. Due to the smaller size, it is very portable and can be plucked using the fingers. However, several manufacturers in the present-day have constructed tall and large-size folk or lever harps.

Lyre Harps

The Lyre harp was invented in ancient Greece during the 3rd century BC. Similar instruments have also been discovered within Middle Eastern historical documents. A Lyre Harp is the infamous instrument that Cupid is seen carrying in paintings and is also in painting angels singing. Ancient songs remark that the music in heaven is played on these harps. 

In ancient Greece, the Lyre harp always accompanies Lyre poetry. The unique feature of a Lyre Harp lies in the fact that it is strummed rather than plucked, using a pick similar to a guitar pick.

The ancient Lyre with 7 strings appears in the famed “Sarcophagus of Hagia Triada”. A Lyre harp’s construction is dissimilar to other harps as they appear to have strings open on four sides of the instrument. The weight could range from 7 – 12 pounds (6 kgs) dependent on the model and any ornamentations.

Celtic Harps

The Celtic Harp aka the Gaelic or Irish Harp has remained almost unchanged for centuries. These are wire strung and found in two subcategories, floor standing or lap harps. 

The Celtic Harp appears on the Irish and British Coat of Arms and this fourteenth-century harp is still visible in present-day currency. Harpists were considered the counselors to Kings and honored with wealth and titles in ancient times. Often, Irish troops consulted the Harpist before leaving for war, and the Harpist led the battle and would sing songs of victory. Therefore, the harp was essentially lighter weight to be carried easily in battle. 

It is a triangular frame harp, traditionally carved out from a single piece of wood, generally willow. And are decorated with intricate fancy ornamentation. The player uses his left hand to pluck the 27- 40 number of strings and the technique is described as extremely difficult to learn.

Celtic harps can reach weights of up to 24 Pounds (10 kgs) and heights of 1 meter.

The sound of the Celtic harp is likened to a rich and full loud bell. The Wire strings on the upper part of the harp create a tinkling, sweet sound that is noticeably different from other varieties of harps.

Lap Harps

Smaller harps designed for children were named Lap Harps due to their size and usage. Although smaller in size that does not compromise on their sound quality. Also known as Psaltery, these harps are portable and cheap but create a heavenly sound of tranquility.

These smaller harps are increasing in popularity today due to economic options and portability and are used by street musicians or travelers today who love to continue their hobbies while travelling.

This brilliant little instrument consists of 22 strings and weighs around 2 – 3.5 kg (5 pounds) and sometimes comes with an optional shoulder strap for ease of transport.

Paraguay and South American Harps

The Paraguayan harp also called the South American Harp; is the National musical instrument of Paraguay and is used in traditional dances of South America. It consists of 32 – 46 strings according to designs and uses tropical wood like pine and cedar in construction. Played using fingernails, this harp stands tall at around 5 feet and weighs a substantial 10 pounds (5 kgs).

South American harps have two main families; Llanera and Paraguayan harps. Llanera harps are the larger variety and are played standing, while the Paraguayan harp is smaller and compacted to be played sitting on a bench. The Paraguayan is much taller but light weight, and conveys a more responsive sound.

Electric Harps

These harps use electricity and similar to an electric guitar, are played through an amplifier.

Electric harps gained recognition recently due to musicians such as Kiki Bello, The Harp Twins, and Andreas Vollenweider. Kiki Bello a Colombian artist who created over 40 songs using the electric harp in his compositions. The Harp Twins performed rock and pop versions with Electric Harps.

Most electric harps weigh within the range of 3 to 14 pounds and have a shoulder harness to enable ease of use. The number of strings varies from 24 – 36 strings. There are levers on every string.

These harps allow a wide variation of music genres since they can be processed electronically and preferred by music bands and groups who play on a stage.

Travel Harps

The smallest harps were designed for children or beginners to learn, but most experienced harpists too love being able to have an additional harp to carry around during travel. It makes an ideal candidate for music lovers to engage in their pastimes at all times.

Most travel harps are string with 22 – 28 strings and weigh around 13 – 17 pounds. They are generally shorter and lighter in size and include features that make them as compact as possible.

However, one perceived issue is that reducing the size of the harp also lowers the volume and at times these harpists struggle to be heard. 

Manufacturers usually include the option of a shoulder strap for this type of harps.


Harps are one of the largest instruments in an orchestra and have been around for centuries. It is a member of the Chordophone family string instruments and comes in all varieties and sizes, that have been adapted to suit our busy lifestyles of today. 

Selecting the best harp to fit your requirements depends on the music genre you love and what you intend as its use.

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