Online Group-Tuition Programmes

Academy Programmes

Beginning - 06 May 2023

Harps of the world


Expand your horizons and enrich your own music making by exploring the music, history, and playing techniques of harps from around the world. Begin your journey by exploring the history of harps over several millennia, from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to the present day. Then, each week, international experts and masters of their traditions will introduce you to harps from countries and regions across the globe. We will explore five harps in depth: the saung gauk of Myanmar, the arpa Paraguaya, the pedal harp, the adungu of Uganda, and the kugo of Japan. You will learn, first-hand, about these historically and culturally important harps, their histories, music, and how they are played. This course will introduce you to a rich world of instruments and music, and is designed to help you gain a deeper understanding of a range of harps,  their traditions, and playing techniques.

Course Duration

6 Sessions



Class Time

5:30 – 6:45 pm (GMT+1)




Saturday | 5:30 – 6:45 pm (GMT+1)

06 May

Session 1

Harps through time and place

In this introductory lecture, we will trace the history of harps from ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia to the present day, and explore the rich variety played around the world. You will be introduced to the instruments featured in this course, and other harps, as well, and we'll begin to look at their music and traditions.

13 May

Session 2

The saung gauk (Burmese harp)

This presentation, co taught by Koko Naing and Htike Aung Kyaw, will introduce you to the saung gauk (Burmese harp), the national instrument of Myanmar. This harp has been played continuously in Myanmar for well over a thousand years, and for much of its history was a high status instrument played within the royal court. In this session we will explore the saung gauk, how it is constructed, strung and tuned, and its music and history. You will see and hear a demonstration of the instrument, and will be shown the basics of how it is played.

20 May

Session 3

The Paraguayan harp

Frustrated due to the lack of information about the Latin American harps, in 1979 Alfredo Rolando Ortiz published his first book: Latin American Harps: History, Music and Techniques for Pedal and Non-pedal harpists, the first book ever written about these harps. Learn about the fascinating history of the Paraguayan Harp and its very important influence in other Latin American countries and beyond the Americas.

03 Jun

Session 4

The pedal harp: its history and development

This lecture will explore the history and development of the pedal harp, from the end of the seventeenth century through the nineteenth century. Topics covered: the first pedal harp, French pedal harps, political and industrial revolution and the pedal harp, decorative design, competition and patent registration, and globalisation of the pedal harp.

10 Jun

Session 5

The adungu bow harp of Uganda

Harps play an important cultural role in countries across the African continent, and are present in a wide variety of forms. In this presentation, James Makubuya will share his knowledge of the adungu bow harp of Uganda, its history, culture, and music.

17 Jun

Session 6

The Silk Road Journey of the ancient Asian harp (kugo)

The angular harp is first shown in archaeological records, circa 2000 BCE. This instrument is no longer played, but dominated Asia for a long time, and was played across the continent under various names. The Japanese called it “kugo”, and many fine examples have survived in Japan since 750 CE. On a replica, Tomoko plays pieces from periods and places where the kugo was played. Her Chinese and Japanese repertoire hails from the ninth and eleventh centuries.

What to Expect

In this course, students will

  • explore the history of harps, from thousands of years in the past to the present day
  • be introduced to harps from countries and cultures around the world: their form, music, and how they are played
  • understand harps as a group of instruments, and what distinguishes them from other instruments with open strings
  • learn to distinguish between bow harps, angular harps, and frame harps, and understand their unique characteristics
  • gain a deeper understanding of a wide range of musical traditions
  • be able to inform their own music making through exposure to performance within other musical traditions
  • learn about a range of traditional playing techniques

Technical Requirements

  • A laptop, desktop or tablet computer; we do not recommend using a phone to participate
  • Speakers or headphones
  • Access to a printer for downloadable course materials
  • Access to the Zoom platform; further information to help you get set up for participating over Zoom will be sent after you have registered

Enrollment is now closed

You can no longer join this course