Instrument Exploration: Harp

CN Instrument Thumbnails

Age Range: Elementary

Learning Objective: Students will learn to identify the harp by sight and sound.

Free Download: Printable Lesson Plan: Harp

ENGAGE students

ASK. “Today we’re going to learn about an instrument that is sometimes used in movies or TV shows as a sound effect for angels, dreams, or clouds. Does anyone have a guess which instrument we might be talking about?” (For younger kids, simply say, “It’s a harp!”)

EXPLORE sounds

LEARN. Show students a video with an overview of the harp. For older students, we suggest this video by Minnesota Orchestra’s harp player, Kathy Kienzle. For younger students, this video featuring Mallory from e(L)ement gives a more simple explanation of the harp.

MOVE. This piece, Fire Dance, uses many harp techniques. While listening, encourage students to use scarves or their hands as paintbrushes to create movement to match the music. Students might bounce the scarf/imaginary paint brush on repeated notes or trace the melodic direction of the glissandos. Actively participate to guide and model movement.

REVIEW. For younger students, ask them to whisper three things they learned about harp to a friend. Ask older students to answer the following questions.

  • How many strings does the pedal harp have? (47)

  • What is it called when you pull all the strings from top to bottom or bottom to top? (Glissando)

  • To which instrument family does the harp belong? (The String Family)

EXTEND learning

  • LISTEN. Choose one or more of the following videos featuring the harp to watch. Come up with a hand signal for students to show every time they hear a glissando. Videos: Atomic Peace, Alice Coltrane; Sprout and the Bean, Joanna Newsome; Danse Sacrée, Anneleen Lenaerts.

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Clean Water Land and Legacy Amendment

This activity is made possible in part by the Minnesota Legacy Amendment’s Arts & Cultural Heritage Fund.

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