Lyre vs Harp: Differences to Know in 2023

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The Lyre and the Harp are two of the oldest stringed instruments in music. Although they look very different from each other, a non-experienced ear may mistake a Lyre for a Harp.

I will show you the distinct differences between both instruments and give you the information you need to choose one if needed. First, let’s look at the Lyre.

What is Lyre?

What is Lyre

The Lyre instrument is from the string family that originates back as early as 1400 BC in ancient Greece. It is perhaps the most popular musical instrument in Greece.

The string instrument is made of two arms that support the seven strings that stretch over the crossbar. The arms have a tuning peg for tuning the Lyre, the tuning pegs are either made from wood, bronze, ivory, or from bones.

The Lyre is held in hand and can be played while sitting or standing. Often a strap can be worn around the shoulder to support its balance.

What is a Harp?

What is a Harp

The Harp is a plucked instrument from the string family and belongs to the chordophone musical instruments.

The Harp is often regarded as the oldest known instrument in the history of music, and it’s dated as far back as 2500 BC in ancient Egypt.

The constant innovation of music brought about different types of Harps.

How do Lyre and Harp differ?

How do Lyre and Harp differ

The Lyre has a string and a metal framing, the Harp is basically a string instrument. The sounds are also unique and different, they both make great music.

The first noticeable difference between the Harp and the Lyre is their build. While the Harp is usually triangular, its body is carved from wood.

The plane of the string is exactly upright to its soundboard. The Lyre on the other hand had a hollow body made of a turtle shell for the first version, while its modern versions are made from wood and shaped like a shell.

The Harp has a straight neck, while the Lyre has a curved neck and though the Harps are usually larger than the Lyre, they have fewer strings.

The Harps can be played with one or two hands depending on how you wanted to play it, and you can pluck it either by using your finger or spectrum. The Lyre is played with two hands because one hand holds the instrument while the other hand plucks it or uses a pick.

Similarities between the Harp and the Lyre

Similarities between the Harp and the Lyre
  • The first similarity between the Harp and the Lyre is they are both obviously from the string family. Both make music by plucking their strings and are perpendicular to their soundboard.
  • Both instruments are accompaniment instruments and are used to accompany singers, though they serve as solo instruments sometimes.
  • Another similarity between the Harp and the Lyre is their sound. Though Lyres have an octave about a pitch higher than the Harp, they still have similar sounds.
  • They are both two similar instruments in terms of physicality, though the Harps have strings on all sides and the Lyre has strings only on one side.

Is the Lyre the same as a Celtic Harp?

Is the Lyre the same as a Celtic Harp

The Celtic Harp is a triangular frame Harp that originates from the Celtic nations from northwest Europe.

They can be considered as the modern-day Harp as it is made from wood, though the old Celtic Harps have a different technique for playing compared to the pedal Harp of today.

The Celtic Harp is traditionally held against the left shoulder, the right hand playing the lower string and the left hand playing the upper string.

But in the modern days, the technique was changed and the Celtic Harp is being played with the left hand playing the lower string and the right hand playing the upper string.

Lyre vs Lute: Differences

Lyre vs Lute

The lute is a string instrument that comes with an elastic neck and a rounded back. All its components can be seen through a void cavity on its soundboard, including its strings.

One noticeable difference between the Lyre and the Lute is their size. While the Lyre is typically smaller, lutes are bigger and heavier as they need extra support for balancing.

FAQs on Lyre and Harp

Is Lyre Harp easy?

The Lyre Harp is a great instrument for every music lover and it is one of the easiest string instruments you can learn.

Did King David play the Harp or Lyre?

The instrument that king David played is referred to as “Kinnor” in Hebrews which means Harp. However, the actual instrument is more similar to a Lyre.

Wrap up

Though the Lyre and the Harps come in various sizes and shapes. Harps are found in almost every part of the world, though their shapes and sizes might not be consistent. They are both great instruments.

Jennifer Max


Hi, I’m Jennifer I’m a passionate singer and an audiophile from Detroit, MI. 

I’m on a mission to help music creators to create fine music that help them position uniquely in the saturated music space.

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