Welcome to Soundtree Harps
This is the website of Neil Craig, a Scottish maker of therapeutic, organic lyres.
My lyres are therapeutic to hold, play and create melodies with. This year 2021, I am concentrating on building pentatonic lyres. The pentatonic scale is a universal 5 note tuning found in many many cultures all over the world. A 10 string lyre with pentatonic tuning offers wonderful opportunities for melodic creation and exploration and can be tuned either major or minor.
The lyres are created by entirely by hand from one piece of wood. There are no joints involved. (This may allow the sound vibrations to pass through the instrument more freely). The different shapes are inspired by historic classic lyre designs with a touch of my own design sense. I use kiln dried Scottish timber and make them in the small town of Forres, Scotland, UK where I live.
Some of my lyres have traditional harp or zither pins fitted for tuning, others have broken from tradition and feature guitar tuners. These can make tuning a bit easier and more precise. All wood used to make the lyres is quality kiln dried, sustainably sourced and originates from Scotland, with the exception of the front soundboards.
All the lyres are strung with acoustic guitar strings. This makes finding replacement strings a piece of cake. Before stringing I apply linseed oil which soaks into the wood and brings out the deep grain patterns, then I apply thin layers of a blended oil which hardens and gives a protective coating.
All lyres come with a tuning key and string tuning info. A custom fit bag with handles in a choice of colours is also available.
More on the benefits of playing in the Pentatonic scale…
This oriental sounding scale allows the player to interact with the lyre in a completely different way. The 5 notes in the scale are all best friends with each other, in harmony with each other. This takes away the need to know which string to play next, as any one will sound great. This can be tremendously freeing. Playing then becomes more about listening and feeling, rhythm, muscle memory and harmony allowing the thinking mind to take a back seat. This has a therapeutic effect on the player as they are no longer constantly engaged with the mental process and creates relaxation. Thinking actually uses a lot of energy and can create tension, especially if one is trying very hard. Stroking the lyre strings and hearing lovely notes singing together brings a sense of inner harmony, builds confidence and a feeling of hope.
Ok…you might be asking yourself, where are the harps?! I have found most people relate to the word ‘harp’ and not so much ‘lyre’, so I have borrowed it for convenience, even if technically my creations are lyres, as the strings are parallel to the soundboard. ‘Chordophones’ doesn’t really slip of the tongue very easily!