Sitting adjacent to the great resonance organ in the physical orchestra, and instrumental hierarchy is the newest addition to a harpist’s arsenal, the great Pedalos Harp. Its novel design and intricate mechanical innards provide it with tonal capabilities that weren’t even dreamt of a few years prior to its creation. Boasting seven pitch altering pedals, the instrument gained a pitch changing fluidity that puts all petty folk harps to shame. Standing over 2 and a half peds tall these harps are anything but portable. But because Pedalos Harps are usually plated with pure aurium, encrusted with gleaming jewels and are graced with painfully detailed carvings and etchings, these harps are also magnificent and awe inspiring decorations, which flamboyantly show off their owner's taste in music and depth of purse. These gorgeous instruments are not only a wonderful occupation for the eyes, but also submerge the ears in a blanket of sheer musical delight with each graceful pluck. Its resonant and passionate tones can play practically any musical genre or dynamical occasion with miniscule difficulty.
"An aura of elegance permanently surrounds these instruments. Words alone cannot
do the sheer beauty of this harp any justice" stated an aristocrat, who sadly
purchased a Pedalos Harp not for its sound, but for its looks. But this makes it
clear that a lot of painsteaking crafting hours have gone into perfecting the
The whole two ped mass is supported by a wide circular base (around 3 handspans in diameter) although not as visible as the rest of its gorgeous body, the crafter will in no way let the standards of his detail go to shame, when adding décor to this vital piece of the Pedalos Harp jig-saw. The circular base (or the oblique) also houses the ingenious mechanical pedals, spread in a small fan-like structure, the pedals are easily accessed by the player's feet. Occasionally in instruments that are crafted for children or the vertically challenged, a few sturdy feet are added to the base, slightly raising the overall height, and greatly decreasing the need to retrieve a higher chair.
Slightly further up its divine stature, one comes across the dazzling yet projectionaly perfect sound box. Running at a rather steep angle, the sound box extends from the depths of the harp all the way up to its pinnacle, the 65 strings threaded neatly through perfectly symmetrical “holey” intervals. The back of its amplifier is delicately rounded for comforts sake, as this is the part that will be lowered onto the harpist shoulder when playing. Boosting its projectional abilities further, the sound box also has seven large ellipse shaped cavities punctured in a descending order, so that the newly sound box amplified sound has means to dance towards the audience's ears.
In order that the orchestra does not blanket over the Pedalos Harp’s beautiful timbre, the orchestral harp is gifted with what harpists call an “extended soundboard”. An extended soundboard is basically a bulbous widening in the lower sound box region, allowing even more amplification to take place. There are some harps that are deliberately crafted with no extended soundboard however; these are originally named “straight soundboard” harps. Although not as cacophonous as their extended counter parts, straight soundboard harps provide a more closed and rather restrained tone, which is preferred by some harpists. Just adding to the sound box’s sheer importance, the sound producing 65 strings are carefully threaded through metal lined holes in its front face. Once through, the string is then tied onto a small metal rod, stopping it from firing back through the hole at a great velocity. This rod method was imitated from an elven folk harp, as it was identified as the best method for harps with high string tension. Keeping to the string theme, the Pedalos Harp is also very novel in the fact that it takes advantage of the sound qualities of several different types of strings:
To counteract the huge vibrations of the lower pantheons, wire strings are used.
To provide the utmost resonance, gut strings are used in the middle pantheons.
To create a beautiful sparkling tone, metal (usually mithril) strings are used in the upper pantheons.
The String length of this
massive harp measures from a whopping 1
handspans to a miniscule 6
grains! Because of its huge
5 pantheon range, the Pedalos Harp has a tonal range matched by none except the
King of the Santharian orchestra, the
resonance organ. The total range of the Pedalos Harp is deep Ey to true Ey!
Making it very useful in the tuning of all other instruments, whether it is a
shrill flute or booming violone.
At the very front of the Pedalos Harp is one of the most vital, and highly decorated parts of the harp, the supporting column. Standing at a vertical 2 peds 5 handspans, the supporting column is by far the largest piece of the instrument. The column is practically the canvas for the crafter to show off their exquisite skills, so humble can never be used to describe its façade. Usually plated in aurium, carved with elegant descending patterns, topped off with a flat crown encrusted with jewels and surrounded by solid aurium miniature maidens the supporting column is worth a large fortune by its own.
And finally, the part that bridges the gap between these important parts - the neck. This solid chunk of hardwood is exquisitely shaped and planed to form a slender yet sturdy gap filler, connected to the column and sound post by slotting it into exact holes on the two pieces. The neck is also carefully hollowed out, so that the pedal cords and string rings have a place to reside and conduct their pitch changing business.
In its debut years the harp was classified as a "glammed up" model of ancient folk harps, and shockingly shunned from the current harp scene. Most likely because of jealousy, and the fact that the vast majority of stuck up harpers could not afford this wonderful new toy. A stubborn yet masterful and famous harper Mirinda Gabriel (a personal aquaintance of mine), was finally convinced to go and check out the so-called piece of evil. Let me tell you that she went into that hall, with a smirk and a gloat here and there, "I dont know why im even doing this!"..."Whats the point in pedals, levers are easier!" And came out with wide saucer eyes and low dropped jaw. She said, and I quote, "What in the name of Coór is that thing, its a weapon that will lead to the destruction of the folk harp world... Is it even legal?" She then laughed probably the most her hoarse lungs had in years, and within a few days the veil of cautiousness over the Pedalos Harp had been at least partially lifted. Company registers state that one Ms. Miranda Gabriel was first in line outside the Graceful Alms workshop during their Santhran harps debut.
Production. Pedalos Harps are not just a simple instrument, but are works of art. Because of this Crafters usually take a minimum of three whole months to complete just one harp. Two of which are consumed by the adding of highly decorative detail to their instrument.
Because the decorative possibilities for the harp are endless, but some of the most beautiful and unique harps are forged from the imaginations of the crafters from the “Graceful Alms” workshop in Bardavos. One of their most unique designs ("The Proud Arvins") is a curious sight indeed. The column on these harps are left in their natural wood finish, and present little competition to their slightly decoratively over the top counterpart “The Santhran”. The real curious beauty lies in the fact that the column bases of Proud Arvins’s are hollowed into a bowl like shape, a moat around the central column as it were. The hollow channel is then filled with fertile loam, and various climbing plants such as ivy and honeysuckle are planted into its shallow depths. Over a short period of time, these plants adapt to their new musical home, and twine around the full length of the supporting column, their sweet smelling flowers gracing its façade. How satisfying would it be to counter the boasting of an owner of a Santhran, with the fact that your harp is a natural ecosystem?
Despite the daunting and intricate appearance, basic Pedalos Harps are constructed using a fiendishly simple method of slotting parts together in a highly secure fashion. But when it comes to the addition of the mechanical pedals, that’s when the task becomes a daunting one.
How the pedals work is simple to understand, but applying to their highly decorated wooden chassis is quite the opposite. The pedals are attached to tough rope cords that travel up the full length of the sound box from their origin at the base. Each of the seven chords is attached to a pedal at one extremity, and a large hook at the other. Once they have reached the box’s summit, they are threaded through a large brass arch, so that they now lie horizontally along the hollow innards of the neck. All of the 65 strings that have been threaded through other metal lined holes in the neck, are tied to a small wooden ring. This ring is then attached to the designated cord via the large hook. For instance, all the Ey’s will be attached to one hook, all the Je’s to another etc. The chords are kept at a regular tension when the pedals are in their middle position, when they are raised the tension in the cords lowers which in turn lowers the tension in its designated note, flattening the string. If they are pushed to their lower position, cord tension raises which raises string tension causing the string to sharpen. It’s a fairly simple concept to grasp!
Unfortunatly these huge harps are not the most robust of instruments, and need to be serviced regularly if they want to be kept playable. One of the main problems with these beauties is that the tall wooden support colunmn will warp if exposed to an extremity of heat. The unlucky orchestra of Thalambath had recently invested a few gold bards in the purchase of a new harp, only having its column snap violently in the middle of a recital due to the intense heat. The huge mass of wood knocked several flautists in the proximity and its harpist to the floor, before tumbling off the stage and smashing itself (and the unlucky flooring) to pieces. Although the money had been severly wasted, and a new harp would have to be obtained, the Orchestra gained at least quadruple their usual income when word had spread about the first ever Santharian Comedic Orchestra.
Playing. Because of the gradient of the sound box and strings, the harp has to be lowered in between the legs and onto the shoulder, in order to have the strings vertical. Although because of the sheer size and weight of Pedalos Harps, male harpists often prefer to grasp the harp in between the knees as a compromise.
As far as fingering is concerned, it is one of the few things that the Pedalos Harp extracts from the folk methods; as a result talented folk harpers find it rather easy to become a successful Pedalos Harpist. But for those used to hand operated levers to change the pitch, the addition of foot operated pedals may be difficult to grasp. Because the Pedalos Harp has a string tension, much greater than any folk harp, the weak pinky has been made redundant when it comes to available fingers. So, only four fingers are ever in use on Pedalos Harps. The pinky is occasionally used to “dampen” a string when loud reverberative pieces are being played however.
Usage. As mentioned above (on various occasions!) the Pedalos Harp is the true representer of genre multi talent, and can be used effectively in practically all musical pieces. This is thanks to its HUGE pitch range, and ability to play a large compass of dynamical contrasts. Unfortunately as a result of its very recent debut, these Harps have very little scores that contain its very own part. Although arrangers have began to extract notes from the bass line and notes from the melody, and incorporated them into a Pedalos Harp part. So in no way is this elegance harp an uncommon sight to orchestral performance, wizened eyes.
The resonance organ may be the powerful King of the Santharian orchestra, but the Great Pedalos Harp is its glorious Queen!