Lyre vs. Harp:  What Are the Main Differences?

lyre vs. harp

As a fan of musical instruments, you have probably known the lyre and the harp. Yet, do you know how they are different?

The lyre and harp are two different instruments. They have been around for centuries. The lyre features strings and one metal frame, while the harp is one of the stringed instruments. Both instruments produce decent music.

Determining the difference between the lyre vs. harp will give you a great idea in choosing an instrument to start with. Now, let’s dive right in!

Compare Lyre vs. Harp: What Are the Main Differences?


The lyre

Based on the country, the design of lyre and harp might be quite different in appearance. The harp is available in various sizes.

For example, the small harps can be performed with one hand, and concert harps stand nearly ten feet tall!

It is difficult to categorize the lyre designs as they are so diverse. For example, some models are straight while others are curved, and some feature arms while others don’t.

When harpists play, they typically need one stool to sit on, allowing them to reach their harp’s strings more easily.

A normal pedal/lever harp is crafted according to the performer’s needs. It is significantly larger and a little heavier, and its strings control the levers or pedals. The lyre harp is also minor in size, but its pedals control strings.


When it comes to the origin, the lyre available today is the evolution from the ancient harp.

The harp is a more ancient music tool used around 3300 BCE and 300 BCE. The ancient harp is found in certain places, while the traditional lyre appears in almost every corner worldwide.

The lyre has been used for musical entertainment since ancient Greece when this instrument was popular. The Hebrews are also said to use this tool because of biblical accounts of their poetry and music.

People in various cultures, such as those around the Middle East and the Mediterranean, also use the lyre to play traditional songs.


A normal harp features strings that enter directly into its hollow body. On the other hand, a lyre’s strings pass over one bridge, making it function like a modern guitar.


The sounds of lyres and harps are pretty similar, but there is a tiny variation in pitch between these two instruments. Specifically, the harp features a lower pitch than the lyre.

The harp comes with a louder sound than its counterparts. You can hear its sounds in enormous concert halls when pro harpists perform this instrument.

Because of its flat, large sound boxes, the harp is easier to hear than the lyre, dampened by its hollow body, making it difficult to hear.

The harpist may play with two or even three harps to generate richer, larger sounds that can fill a theater or hall.

Lyre And Harp: Comparison Table

The LyreThe Harp
These instruments are stringed instruments, and both are performed with a bow.
Has a curved neck.Have a straight neck.
Play with two hands.Played with either one or two hands.

Lyre vs. Harp: Which Is the Best to Learn First?

lyre vs. harp
The harp is typically more challenging to perform than the lyre.

Before you decide which instrument to start with, you should know that lyres are generally easier to play than harps.

The lyre is easier to set up and transport. This instrument requires four legs rather than six, which makes it more convenient to carry around.

The harp cannot be tucked into one keyboard stand, so it requires full support.

Harps’ necks are wider, so your fingers should be flexible and long enough to span various frets simultaneously. If any of these frets are further from each other or closer, it can change the instrument’s pitch.

Furthermore, harpists often use their whole palm hand to stop their instruments’ strings, adding extra dimension to flexibility and technique.

To play harps, you also need to use a lot more strength on your arm than lyres as its weight will rely entirely on your entire arm while you are playing.

The full-sized harps can weigh up to one hundred pounds, heavy enough to be difficult for many people. Not to mention that sometimes you need to move around when performing, which adds resistance.

In most cases, harpists play their instrument either standing up or seated. So if you prefer to sit down throughout your entire performance, you should prop your arms against something like a table or chair.

The harp also features more strings attached to its neck, requiring harpists to support this instrument from underneath or hold down all strings using one hand while performing.

Generally, most people believe the lyres are easier to use and play. It is lighter, smaller, and does not require you to hold down all strings while performing.

While the harp is an excellent instrument still widely utilized today, the lyre is ideal for beginners as it requires less time and effort to manage.


Is It Better to Buy a Lever Harp or a Pedal Harp?

The lever harp sounds louder than the pedal harp as its strings touch the instrument’s bridge while performing. The pedal Harp has more balance because of its string design, which features a bridge on both sides.

Which Is More Challenging to Play?

The harp is typically more challenging to perform than the lyre. Therefore, beginners tend to choose the lyre instead of the harp.

Are The Lyres Small Versions of the Harps?

The lyres might look like harps, but they are significantly different. A Lyre features strings on one side, while a harp has all its strings.

They have various methods of stretching strings and numerous tones. These instruments are both derived from the musical bow and appear quite similar.

Wrapping It Up

The lyre vs. harp look similar, but they produce significantly different sounds. The lyre generates higher tones, while the harp tends to be more bass-heavy.

Even though these instruments function the same in many respects, the difference is substantial in determining which one to learn first.

You must work harder to play the harp and produce its rich, full sound. If you are looking for an instrument that is easy to use, the lyre is the way to go.

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