Lynne Lewandowski's MEMLING HARP 1975

MEMLING HARP with brays 2007



" ...the strings of the harp also rattle and crackle..."

-- Michael Praetorius, 1618

Bray pins are the ancient crooked pegs which both secure the string into its position on the soundboard and act as a wedge against which the plucked string vibrates. They can be set to produce a range of timbral effects from a soft hum to a loud snarl. Often described by modern listeners as having an "Eastern" tone color, the bray harp was the characteristic harp sound of the Renaissance. The brays can be tuned aside when the buzzing is not desired, and the harp regains its original timbre.

Lynne Lewandowski's

Flemish, fifteenth century
The Memling Harp has become the trademark of the Lewandowski Workshop. Inspired by the tall and slender harps painted by Hans Memling, this design expresses Gothic style, with height, tracery, and upward movement. This harp is the perfect voice for the polyphonic music of the Renaissance.
The Memling Harps are offered with brays. Bray pins may be turned aside when the buzzing effect is not desired. If you prefer, non-bray buttons may be substituted.
Two styles of Memling Harp are available:
With 22 strings tuned from tenor C to c"’. Height 35"/89cm. Weight 2 lbs.
The Memling Harp is also available with extended range of 26 strings (from F below tenor C). Height 45"/114cm. Weight 4 lbs.

The Bosch Harp
Flemish, fifteenth century.
Drawn from the "Garden of Delights" painted by Hieronymus Bosch, this elaborately sculpted harp features inward-curving points of the string arm, oval pillar with chevron scrolls, an eliptical soundbox, and bray pins.
Designed by Lynne 1980.

Medieval Harp with 14 strings.
Tuned with g drone, then from middle c.
Optional brays.

Zoomorph with 16 strings

Birdfish, 1980.

Often the first question people ask me is "What's the biggest harp you make?"
Here are the biggest bruisers of the First Millennium: lap-held, with a range from 12 to 16 gut strings.
Zoomorphic means carved with creatures. These harps are also available with smooth lines and no carving. Cherry with brass tuning pins. Weight about 2 lbs.

Zoomorph with 16 strings
I designed this twelfth-century style harp as a tribute to the three aspects of every concert, personified by each of the three creatures. The first one is performing (top of soundbox), the second one is listening (end of neck at pillar) and the third one has fallen asleep (foot of pillar at soundbox.)
A Latin inscription painted in gold runs along the top of the neck and down the length of the pillar: et fecit Deus bestias terrae iuxta specias sua - et vidit Deus esset bonum ("and God made all the animals, and saw that it was good.")

7-string cythara teutonica
(six or seven gut strings)

Sutton Hoo Lyre (six gut strings)

What can YOU do with six strings? Find out with a harp drawn from the 7th-8th century. The variable gapped tuning spans an octave. Materials include various woods, bone, leather, metal, hemp. Shapes and details vary. Please inquire.

At the Sutton Hoo excavation display at the British Museum, there is a helmet with eyebrows that terminate in tiny filigreed animal heads. Guided by such exquisite detail, you could decorate these early harps with bosses and escutcheons. Or keep it simple, and let your performance ornament the harp.


The diminutive size of the Chant harp is particularly appealing. The harp can rest upon the lap, or be held with one hand for processions and performance while standing. The Chant harp can be strung with gut or nylon for a clear, penetrating tone. Nineteen strings tuned from g below middle c. Built of cherry with brass tuning pins. Weight 2 lbs.

Here are three full octaves, unusual for an early medieval harp. These little harps are favored by sound healers and music practitioners (formerly known as musicians and harpists.) The sweetly resonant, flutelike tone projects well but is still demure enough to be played by someone' bedside. The harp rests lightly upon the lap and against the shoulder.
22 strings tuned fron tenor c to c’". Built of cherry with brass tuning pins. Weight 4 pounds.

Feather weight and loud, in a style favored by Burgundian and Flemish painters. This is a sleek harp for teaching, and a snug traveler. Held between the knees when seated and lightweight enough to be carried by one hand in processions. Astonishing voice.
Nineteen very close strings, so it's also good for fingernail technique.
(Gut or nylon strings tuned from g below middle c). Weight under 2 lbs.

Paloma (alias Big Bird)

From harpa de Topaga, (Colombia, circa 1650)

Nuela Iberian Harp



Harpa de un ordene, harp with one row of strings

Here is the Iberian “lute harp,” born in 17th century Spain and Portugual. This style of harp continued to be played in the New World: it is the elegant ancestor of the Paraguayan Harp.

Named lute-harp partly for the dramatically staved back, Iberian harps are tall and flared in body, scrolled and notched in frame. (The historical examples are highly ornamented much the way a Spanish guitar might be.) The tone is loud and sweet, with amazing sustain. The string tension is light. You barely touch the string to make it ring. Gut strung with 4 octaves from Great C. Please inquire as to the current style available.

Iberian, Trapezoidal and Trecento Porco. Strung with brass wire.

Here I wish to advocate for the psalteries already out in the world. I encourage everyone to pull out your old psaltery (or zither, dulcimer, santir, cymbalum, and kanun) and try it again. Anything you can do, they can do. Celebrate this multinational family of instruments, and have some fun. Save the Psaltery!

Ancient Irish Harp, 29 strings.

(Picture to come)
Wire-strung harp with 23 strings.


"Hang the Harpers Wherever Found and Destroy their Instruments"

The medieval wire-strung harps of Ireland and Scotland feature rich overtones and a profound bass. The closely spaced strings favor traditional fingernail technique for
clear and rapid articulation. The player can “damp” the brass wire strings, selectively stopping some strings to enhance the ring of chosen harmonics.

NOTE TO NEW PLAYERS: You do not need long fingernails to play on wire strings.
Short nails are fine, if they are strong. You can play without fingernails, though the sound will be softer and the articulation less crisp. Artificial fingernail technology has advanced remarkably. Inquire of your local manicurist.

from "Kearnagh Ui Donnell"
" The Kearnagh took a loud-toned, sweet-stringed harp; the train below heard him among the rocks, even they who cast the soothing strains which leave the passions captive; which cause some to dissolve in tears, some to rise with joy, others again to sink in sleep. But sweeter than all was the song of Kearnagh. The fell woundings, diseases, and persecutiions of this world seemed to cease, while its sweet strain lasted. He took the harp, and it sent forth warbling sounds. Wounded men, and women in travail, and the wily serpent slept while he played. Again he tuned the harp and roused the note of war, wondrous and terrible. He struck thick chords of bold and fiery notes; then the slow and deepening tones of tragic grief, full of melancholy and gloom, intermingled with melodious strains."


Lynne Lewandowski Harps for Early Music • 126 Atkinson Street • Bellows Falls 05101
(c) 2008 Lynne Lewandowski. All Rights Reserved.
All photos property of Lewandowski Harps for Early Music.