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Like electric guitars, electric harps are based on their acoustic originals, and there are both solid body and electro-acoustic models available.
A solid body electric harp has no hollow soundbox, and thus makes very little noise when not amplified. Alan Stivell writes in his book Telenn, la harpe bretonne of his first dreams of electric harps going back to the late 50s. He designed and had made a solid body (after different electric-acoustic harps) electric harp at the turn of the 70s-80s, about the same time as Rudiger Oppermann. Alan Stivell later (early 80s) had a meeting with Joel Garnier who decided to create a model. Alan Stivell went on independently to design and have different single models been made with Leo Goas-Straajer( before the Camac - Alan Stivell last experiment). The first such commercially manufactured instrument was made by Camac also helped later by the request of jazz-pop harpist, Deborah Henson-Conant. The result looked like a light framed Celtic style harp, but each string had a crystal (Piezo) pickup at its base. They can be plugged into various amplification systems, and players are able to use effects pedals similarly to electric guitar players. Another part of Henson-Conant's request was that she should be able to move around the stage with the harp, and thus the smaller electric harps usually include a system to strap the harp to one's body.
Solid body electric harps are usually lever harps, though solid body pedal harps have also been built. Since the cost of a pedal harp is so high, it is more economical for a harpist to purchase an electro-acoustic model of pedal harp as it can also be played without amplification.
An electro-acoustic harp looks nearly identical to a regular acoustic harp, whether lever or pedal. It too has pickups at the base of each string, and some also contain a separate pickup inside the soundbox, enabling the harpist to mix the signals from both kinds of pickup to produce special effects. Often such harps include an onboard preamplifier. One of the most famous electro-acoustic pedal harp models is Camac's "Big Blue", finished in a striking electric blue colour.
Electric MIDI harps are also produced, as well as harps featuring built in optic fibre and LED lights.
Electric harp manufacturers
- Camac Harps
- Lyon and Healy
- Mountain Glen Harps
- David Kortier
- Bernhard Schmidt, Harfenbau
Electric harp performers
- Alan Stivell performing on his own designed electric harps (since early 80s).
- Rüdiger Opermann performing on his own made electric harps.
- Deborah Henson-Conant performs on a solid body Camac electric harp, as well as amplified and regular pedal harps. Her style is mostly jazz, blues, and pop.
- Dee Carstensen, a singer-songwriter, plays Lyon & Healy pedal electric harp as her primary instrument.
- Andreas Vollenweider plays New Age and pop style music, sometimes compared to Vangelis
- Zeena Parkins plays and composes avant-garde and experimental music. Played on several Björk albums and tours.
- Electric Angel, an electric harp trio from California plays pop-fusion
- Lisa Lynne, electric and celtic harpist from Germany
- Hilary Stagg, died in 1999, an American harp builder and electrician, influenced by Andreas Vollenweider
- Seddon, Patsy and Macmaster, Mary, Scottish harpers, playing in The Pozzies and their own duo Sileas. Their music is mostly traditional Scottish.
- Camac Harps
- Lyon and Healy
- ElectricHarp: Solid Body Electric Harps
- Moutain Glen electric, MIDI, and special effects harps
- Electro-Acoustic lever harps by David Kortier
- Deborah Henson-Conant
- Zeena Parkins
- Andreas Vollenweider
- Electric Angel
- Linda Rice
- MIDIharp, Electro-Acoustic harp, Electric harp, by Bernhard Schmidt