Aeolian Harp


An Aeolian Harp is a musical instrument that is played by the wind, not by human hands (YouTube). The instrument sings as if it has a mind of its own, blending melodies and harmonies into a unique, ever-changing improvisation.

The earliest known Aeolian Harps were constructed by the ancient Greeks. They were said to have been the instrument of Ĉolus, Keeper of the Winds.

A few years ago, my wife and I constructed a large, floor-standing Aeolian harp. It was simple to make. A six-foot length of four inch ABS, bits of hardware, scraps of hardwood, and some shark-weight fishing line that was slated to be recycled at the local bait shop.

It has sixteen strings in the round, all tuned to the same pitch. One string rests on an octave bridge, dividing it into two notes, each an octave higher than the other strings. Each string generates multiple notes, rising in thirds and fifths as the wind speed increases. The number of strings increases the overall volume, and having them on all sides of the instrument guarantees at least half the strings will be sounding at any given time, with the wind at any quarter.

It can be in a doorway, hall, or out in the alley or garden. Wherever the wind can reach it, the wind will play it. Click the picture on the left to hear a short sample of the music that this harp generates.

Materials

  • 6′ length of 4″ diameter ABS tubing
  • 6″X12″X1″ hardwood board
  • 12″X12″X1″ wood board
  • 4 2″ #12 wood screws
  • 32 1½″ #16 eye bolts (the kind with wood screw threads)
  • 16 ¼″X3″ eye bolts (the kind with machine screw threads)
  • 16 ¼″ nuts
  • 16 washers that fit 1/4″ bolts
  • 17″X½″X½″ square hardwood molding.
  • shark-weight fishing line
  • 18″ long ½″ wide tie wrap (optional)

Construction

  1. Using a hole saw, cut a few sound holes into the ABS tubing.
  2. Using a hole saw, cut 2 tight fitting plugs out of the hardwood board and insert them into to go the ends of the ABS tube.
  3. Drill 16 equally spaces pilot holes (5/32″) through the ABS into the hardwood plugs at the top and at the bottom of the ABS tube. Take care that the holes at the top and the holes at the bottom are aligned so the the strings will be straight.
  4. Screw the 1½″ #16 eye bolts into the holes.
  5. Insert the ¼″X3″ eye bolts through the top eye bolts. And secure with washer and nut allowing maximum amount of the threads to be available to tune the strings (see figure 1).
  6. Secure 12″X12″X1″ wood board to the bottom of the harp using the 2″ #12 wood screws (see figure 2).
  7. Cut the hardwood molding into 17 ½″ pieces and then cut each piece in half diagonally. Score the apex of each triangle to make a guide to the string.
  8. String the harp.
  9. Position (do not glue) the hardwood triangles at the top and bottom of the harp (see figures 1 and 2).
  10. Put the tie wrap just above top hardwood triangles. Tighten and trim the tie wrap.
  11. Position and glue the hardwood triangle for the octave bridge (see figure 3).
  12. Adjust the nuts at the top of the harp to tune the strings.
  13. Put the harp into a windy place and enjoy.
Aoelian Harp
Top of Aoelian Harp
Figure 1: Top of Aoelian Harp

Base of Aoelian Harp
Figure 2: Base of Aoelian Harp

Octave Bridge
Figure 3: Octave Bridge