THE AELLENRHIM HARP

DESCRIPTION - CONSTRUCTION - PLAYING - USAGE - HISTORY/ORIGIN

The Aellenrhim Harp is one of the native instruments commonly used among the Aellenrhim elves. However, due to its rich timbre this mellow harp is becoming more of a popular instrument with human harpers as well. They are usually made from the glinting wood of the canopine tree, and differ greatly from the rest of the harp family by the fact that that Aellenrhim Harps are semicircular in shape. And that this harp gives up the simplicity of wire and gut strings, and is strung with durable vine. It can come in a variety of different sizes from the 5 string “Faery Harps” which are played on the knee to 59 string “Mountain Harps” which are played on the floor. Aellenrhim Harps are always strung by strands of thin yet tough vine woven together to create a string. It has a rich, mellow tone as a result of its unique strings. It is a fairly versatile instrument, although it is mainly used in ensembles and accompaniment, it is also a prominent solo instrument.

Description. There is a great range of sizes of the Aellenrhim Harp. From the 5 stringed “Faery Harp”(a palmspan in height) to the 59 stringed “Mountain Harp” (2.5 peds in height). These two however are rarely used, for the “Faery's” note range is too small and limits it to selective (uninteresting) pieces that contain few notes, and the “Mountain” is far too expensive to build on a mass scale, also the full extent of its 3 and a 1/2 pantheon range is never rarely taken advantage of. The 36 string “Minstrel” is a happy medium and is a great instrument for students and humans who are not so fluent in the traditional elven ways of an Aellenrhim harper. Return to the top

Construction. Aellenrhim Harps are usually made of golden
canopine wood that is lightly polished to give a natural yet refined look. It is an ancient tradition among Aellenrhim harpers to build their own harps (according to the size required and the experience of the player). Themselves, using wood from the elegant canopines of the Bolder Forest, it is also a tradition to decorate them with carvings of the forest wildlife and relevant proverbs and idioms.

Aellenrhim Harps have a vertical, cylindrical sound post and a one piece capital D shaped neck. This is attached onto the sound post by the means of hammering wooden protrusions on the “D” shaped neck into slots in the sound post. So no nails or glue are required in this process.

It sounds complicated, but it is a really simple process. The whole harp is supported by wooden “feet” at the bottom of the cylindrical sound post that are carved to look like the roots of the tree. (The Aellenrhim Harpers of old would actually use an uprooted tree as their sound post!).
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Playing. Aellenrhim Harps are not usually tuned in Ey, because this limits the harp to only playing sharp keys, but are tuned in Ah, which greatly increases the amount of keys available. The Aellenrhim Harp is tuned by turning the pegs on the neck of the harp clockwise or anticlockwise Deosil (left to right) “Flattens” the string and Widdershins (right to left) “sharpens" it.

The peg is basically a rod of iron stuck through the neck of the harp so it is not possible to turn it by hand, but an even simpler way is used. It is tuned by the means of a wooden tuning key that grips onto the peg allowing it to be turned freely, however the turning of the peg either greatly flattens or sharpens it and is not at all accurate, so tiny delicate turns (and a good ear )are required.

The Aellenrhim Harp’s strings are strung in a slight diagonal tilt, this means that when it is being played it will need to be lowered between the legs and lent on the shoulder so that the strings are vertical. The Aellenrhim Harp is usually strung with thin durable vine, which is woven into a string. The lower pitched the note the thicker the vine will be. The vine is wound round a metal peg which is stuck through the neck of the harp, it will then be passed through the sharpening lever then down to the sound post where it will pass through a small hole and then through another larger hole at the opposite side of the sound post where it will be wound and tied onto a twig. The Higher the tension of the strings, the higher pitched the sound it produces will be. The tension is regulated on the Aellenrhim Harp by how much vine is wound around the twig.

Most other members of the harp family only use four fingers to play them (harpers count the Hiltfinger as a finger) because the page is too small to reach the strings and would disrupt the hand position if it tried. But the Aellenrhim Harp is among the few that actually uses all five fingers to play, probably because of its unique hand position. The Aellenrhim Harper Hand position is quite difficult to explain in words so we will give you step by step directions so that you can see it for yourself:

Usage. The Aellenrhim Harp is a very versatile instrument that can play in a variety of different styles. Although it is restricted mainly to folk music, for the “sharpening” lever mechanism that it uses to create sharps and flats does not allow it to play accidentals easily. It can be used as a solo instrument, or part of an orchestra or ensemble. But the Aellenrhim Harp is more commonly used in a duet or trio with other Aellenrhim Harps or as an accompanying instrument for voice or other high to average pitched instruments.

Aellenrhim Harp music often involves the left hand playing 5 or 4 note chords and the right hand playing the melody. This is what makes it such a good solo and accompanying instrument.

Because of its Mellow and rich tone, the Aellenrhim Harp is a very soothing instrument and produces the most effective lullabies. As a result it is often used (strangely) in the therapy for sleepless invalids, and has a great success rate.

There is only one way to play the Aellenrhim Harp and that is with the hand position (mentioned above), although slight variations have been made to accommodate different styles of music. For instance one of these variations is to bend the pinkie over instead of having it vertical. This allows more fluid movement of the fingers when a note is being repeatedly played over and over.
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History/Origin. The origins of the Aellenrhim Harp are relatively clouded, as most records were destroyed in the great orc raid of 207 b.S., however some ancient archives are still intact today, and along with oral tales these archives help to add more pieces to the jigsaw. The oldest of which dates back to 964 b.S. and states that the Aellenrhim Harp wasn't invented by the Aellenrhim elves at all, in fact a primitive form of the harp had been in use by the Cyrathrhim for centuries.

Although this Cyrathrhim harp ("elíanar-cár'ámn") looks entirely physically different from the Aellenrhim Harp, the principles are still the same. The elíanar-cár'ámn is more triangular in shape and has no semitone sharpening levers. It has a maximum of 23 strings and is strung in with the same vine and method as the Aellenrhim Harp. The elíanar-cár'ámn is too small to be played comfortably on the floor, so it is played on a small stool or on the knee. Although it is not as widely used as its younger sibling the elíanar-cár'ámn is still used today, especially by minstrels and travelling bards because of its size and portability.

A later document explains that by the 400's b.S. the Cyrathrhim harp building tradition had died out (because of the elves hunger for knowledge over culture), Except for one old Cyrathrhim, who continued to construct and teach the elíanar-cár'ámn. Because of the sheer complexity and skill involved in making these small harps, only she and her young Aellenrhim apprentice "cár'reollthé" knew the secrets to constructing them. Eventually the old Cyrathrhim passed away leaving the future of the elíanar-cár'ámn in cár'reollthé's hands.

Fortunately she was more logical and enterprising than her deceased master and came to the conclusion that in order to keep the elíanar-cár'ámn out of the history books she would have to make it a more attractive and appealing instrument which was also simpler to construct. Cár'reollthé began to develop her new design of harp, with added features while still incorporating some of the traditional techniques. Her new instrument had:

News of Cár'reollthé's wonderful new instrument spread fast and soon people were queuing up to purchase one. Because of its mellow and wonderful tone her new harp spread throughout the forest like wildfire and became the fashion among the nobles to have an Aellenrhim harper in their household.

It wasn’t until after Cár'reollthé's short lifetime did the "New-elíanar-cár'ámn " become known as the Aellenrhim Harp, and because of its relatively simple construction there’s not going to be a lack of production anytime soon.

Despite the sudden surge in the technical advancement of the Aellenrhim Harp, it had nowhere near reached its current form. It was still lacking mechanism to provide semitones and as a result it could only play in Ey. Unless the whole instrument was re-tuned to another key.

The Aellenrhim Harp remained "semitoneless" Until around 107 b.S. when an unknown someone noticed that if pressure by her/his ring was applied to the string it could be raised up in pitch. This idea was developed when a harper noticed a dwarven silversmith tampering about with a wire mechanism, tautening the wires by applying pressure with a brass circlet. And so the "sharpening ring" became widely used until the development of the brass levers. This smart technology was added when a harper adapted the levers from a simple wire mechanism, used strangely in the slicing of cheese and nailed them to their harp. The sharpening ring has not completely been thrown away for it allows quick semitone changes when both hands are playing.
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 Date of last edit 12th Burning Heavens 1668 a.S.

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