The oldest known depiction of lyre harps, are dated to 2800 BC in Sumeria. The basic design of a lyre is a sound box, or resonator, with two arms connecting a crossbar, and having strings that run parallel with the length of the instrument. The Sumerians held the lyre vertically, with the crossbar at the top. The Egyptians played their lyres with the crossbar pointing out away from their body. The lyre was also known to the ancient Greeks. It was said that Hermes, the messenger of the gods, made the first lyre from a tortoise shell. The use of the Lyre was widespread in the ancient world. In the present day, the lyre is limited almost exclusively to parts of Africa and Siberia. Across time and geography the lyre has changed in many ways. The number of strings, how the instrument was held, and whether it was plucked, strummed, or played with a plectrum has varied. Depending on the style and size, lyre strings have been played from one or both sides.
In the early Middle Ages in Eastern Europe, the secularization of the Jewish worship music gave rise to Klezmer music. Jewish troubadours, known as klezmorim gave the music a place in weddings and other simkhes (joyful events). The Klezmer music eventually blended with Slavonic, Greek, Turkish, Gypsy and even American jazz tempos and rhythms. For Klezmer music try the Misheberakh mode which is: E F# G A# B C# D E.
Two alternative tunings that work well with singers comfortable sing in the Key of G are (again bass to treble): E F# G A B C D E (Natural minor) and D E F# G A B C D (E is tonic). Notice, in the second tuning, all the notes are the same but you're starting on D rather than E.
To see our other types of harps, view our Main Harps Page.
SPECIAL NOTE - No Warranty on Strings: Whether you purchase an instrument on-line or in a neighborhood store, manufacturers recommend that you change the strings on your instrument as soon as you receive it. Your instrument has completed a long journey to your home. During this time the strings WILL oxidize and this may shorten their life expectancy and may reduce their sound quality. On occasion instruments may arrive with a broken string, therefore, it is recommended that you purchase a replacement set of strings and consider changing your strings as soon as it arrives. Learning to change strings should be the first lesson learned when embarking on the journey of playing a new instrument.