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The longest side of the harp is called the column or pillar, though some earlier harps, such as a "bow harp", lack a pillar.

On most harps the sole purpose of the pillar is to hold up the neck against the great strain of the strings.

In Germany in the second half of the 17th century, diatonic single-row harps were fitted with manually turned hooks which fretted individual strings to raise their pitch by a half step.

In the 18th century, a link mechanism was developed connecting these hooks with pedals, leading to the invention of the single-action pedal harp.

As European harps evolved to play more complex music, a key consideration was some way to facilitate the quick changing of a string's pitch to be able to play more chromatic notes.

While all harps have a neck, resonator, and strings, frame harps have a pillar at their long end to support the strings, while open harps, such as arch harps and bow harps, do not.On harps which have pedals (largely the modern concert harp), the pillar is a hollow column and encloses the rods which adjust the pitches, which are levered by pressing pedals at the base of the instrument.On harps of earlier design, a given string can play only a single note without retuning.Around 1900 BC arched harps in the Iraq–Iran region were replaced by angular harps with vertical or horizontal sound boxes.By the start of the Common Era, "robust, vertical, angular harps", which had become predominant in the Hellenistic world, were cherished in the Sasanian court.

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