A New Electric Harp

In addition to her pedal and lever harps, Maia is now playing a black Camac electric harp. French harp manufacturer Camac built the first solid-body electric harp in the 1980s and this model, launched in 2010, is the latest development of the instrument.

The harp has 32 piezoelectric pick-up microphones, each one placed at the base of a string. Each microphone is mechanically coupled to its string, reacting to the pressure variations induced by the string’s vibrations. This technology is the most effective way to amplify a harp on large, loud stages, enabling clear, consistent tone throughout the entire range of the instrument without problems of feedback or bleed from other instruments.  Maia uses effects pedals with her instrument in the same way that electric guitarists would, altering in real time the sound of the harp. Of primarily carbonfibre construction, this harp weighs only 5kg, with a harness which allows Maia to move about while playing.

“I have been performing for a couple of years on a small wooden lever harp turned electro-acoustic. It is great for travelling, it is light and fits in the overhead luggage compartment of airplanes. I really wanted to use effects pedals and play my harp like an electric guitarist would, so I set it up with 3 pick-up microphones inside the soundboard. I also had a strap on it to play standing up on stage, something harpists are not necessarily used to doing. This home-made system worked well and allowed me to perform a variety of styles (pop-rock, experimental, hip-hop…), but my new harp takes it all to the next level. It weights almost the same, I can still strap it on and use effects and looper pedals in the same way than I did before. The difference is that it has more strings (including more basses; I can finally play the bass part!), a much better sound quality, louder signal. Saying farewell to the hassles of trying to amplify the harp when playing next to loud instruments! This harp is a solid-bodied instrument so it produces almost no sound when I’m not plugged in.”