Hannah Warren Harpist - Hannah Plays Harp - Ottawa-based wedding and event harpist - Lauren McCormick Photography-1

What’s the difference between a pedal and a lever harp?

There are many different kinds of harps, from the towering pedal harps seen in orchestras across the globe to the smallest hand-held Clarsachs. The ones you’re most likely to come across in your research for a wedding harpist in Canada though are the pedal harp and lever harp.

Hannah Warren Harpist - Lever Harp

The lever harp

Lever harps are usually smaller in size than pedal harps (although some can reach almost the same range as a concert grand pedal harp!). Notes are changed from flat to natural or natural to sharp by way of levers attached to the top of each string. The harpist will flip the levers up or down while playing in order to play different notes as needed throughout a piece. Most celtic music is written with the lever harp in mind. While the lever harp is often more portable than a pedal harp, the pop and jazz repertoire is limited.

The harp shown in the image is my 22-string lever harp, built by local harp maker Stanley & Stanley. It is not available for performances.

Hannah Warren Harpist - Pedal Harp

The pedal harp

The pedal harp is the one you’re probably most familiar with, and the one you probably think of in your mind if someone asked you to picture a harp. On a pedal harp, notes are changed by pressing a foot pedal into one of 3 positions, which then changes all the strings of that note to either flat, natural, or sharp depending on the position of the pedal. Orchestral harpists play pedal harps, and they’re required to play many jazz and pop pieces due to the number of note changes through the pieces.

The harp shown in the image is my 40-string pedal harp, built by Salvi. It is my current gig harp, used for all performances.

Which is better for my wedding?

There’s no right or wrong answer to which kind of harp you’d like at your wedding, primarily it depends on the harpist as some specialize in one type of harp or another. It’s always a good idea to check a harpist’s Instagram or website to see what kinds of harps they feature, and ask what performance instrument(s) are available. Each kind of harp has a different look aesthetically, which might factor into your decision. Regardless of which harp or harpist you choose, you can rest assured that you’ll be serenaded with gorgeous harp music on your big day!

What kind of harp do you play?

My performance harp is a ¾ size pedal harp in a gorgeous shiny piano black-like finish. It’s the perfect combination of being able to play all genres of music as my couples request, while still being portable enough to fit in my small car to bring along to venues. It’s relatively smaller size also means that I can carry it short distances over rougher terrain, allowing me to play at more venues than a harpist whose performance instrument is a full size concert grand. Overall, it’s the best of both worlds!