Rob MacKillop

Playing Edward Light’s Harp Lute

In Music on January 6, 2015 at 9:51 am

Ian Grant loaned me his original Georgian Harp Lute, invented by Edward Light in the late 18th-century.

Sadly, I only had the instrument for four days before Ian flew back to Australia, during which time I made this video. It has a delightful sound.

Ian sent me not only the instrument by Edward Light, but also Light’s publication, Introduction to the Art of Playing On the Harp-Lute & Apollo-Lyre with suitable Lessons &.c Composed and Adapted BY Edward Light, Inventer.

This volume gives some instruction and twenty seven or so pieces of increasing difficulty. I recorded three pieces from pages 10 and 12, ‘Dance’, ‘Haunted Tower’ and ‘Scotch Air’. I offer them here as an introduction to the instrument and its repertoire. I’m told that it was immensely popular in its day, and that there are many hundreds of pieces for it.

The tuning, from bass to treble is, G CDEFGA Bcegc’ – the last five notes lying on the fingerboard. Three of the basses have semitone levers, or an early version of such, and therefore keys other than C Major can be played. The tuning is not too far from the so-called English Guitar, or ‘guittar’ of the second half of the 18th-century, and much of the repertoire is similar – Scotch Airs, popular songs, a little bit of Haydn…etc.

  1. Very interesting. There have to be quite a few ‘obscure’ instruments which were once more widespread. Would it take off as the uke has done though? Thanks for posting, I enjoyed your playing.


  2. That’s a lovely instrument and sound. Sorry you had it for only four days but ah, better than not at all! Thanks for sharing that video- lovely sound.

  3. Rob, this is just beautiful and your playing is, as always, so musical. We listened to your playing instead of reading the news first thing this morning and we can recommend this plan as a soothing and preferred alternative.Thanks.

    Ron & Donna

  4. […] the Harp Lute, an instrument he had on loan for only a few days and on which he learned to play lovely music in no time at all. Yesterday, we were treated to Rob’s performance of a French courante from […]

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