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Best Lyre Harp In 2023 Is…? 12 Mini Harps You MUST Try!!

What is a good beginner lyre? We say the best lyre harp is...

SPOILER: the best lyre harp does not exist! There… we said it.

We say so because despite the lyre being a slightly ‘unconventional’ instrument, if you take a look online you’ll see there’s no shortage of lyre harps for sale. Kind of surprising, considering that you don’t catch many kids attending lyre lessons, nor them being played as part of a concert.

In fact, it’s only when you realise what a lyre is, that the fascination with this instrument suddenly makes sense. So while lyres aren’t what you’d call the stereotypical instrument of a pro, for casual play they’re actually a whole heap of fun. Factor in their size & they’re portable too. Pretty much the perfect instrument to take on holiday or play around a campfire. In that respect, lyres are a LOT like a ukulele.

However, with the lyre descending from Ancient Greece, there’s more to this nifty string instrument than what meets the eye. So if you find yourself asking question like “what’s the best lyre for beginners?” or “Is a Donner lyre harp any good?”, keep reading. We’ve put together a rundown of the best 10 lyres to make your decision that bit easier.

After something specific about the best lyres? Or just curious as to what a good lyre costs? Use the menu below to get all the info you need in record time…

person sat on a step playing a lyre

NOTE: If compact stringed instruments are up your alley, be sure to also check out our reviews of the Best Soprano Ukuleles + our Favourite Concert Ukuleles.

Which is the best lyre harp?… that’s a tricky question.

See, despite the fact a lyre is somewhat an unconventional breed of instrument, that’s not to say there’s little choice. Anything but! You can have lyres with 16 strings, as well as those with just 7. Factor in all the various wood types + the whole host of designs you come across nowadays & it’s safe to say that pinning down the best lyre harp for you, is a tougher task than it ever has been. However…

Luckily for you, we’ve actually done 90% of the legwork for you. So, all you have to do is sit back & read on – as we reveal our picks for the best lyre harps for sale today…

1: Donner lyre harp (16 Strings/ Mahogany)

2: Mid-East Lyre Harp

child playing a lyre

3: Aklot 16 string Lyre Harp

4: 22″ Aklot 15-String Mahogany Harp

5: Oscarina Wind Lyre Harp

6: NAkhan Traditional Irish Lyre Harp

buy a lyre harp online

7: AAR Lyre Harp

8: Mr.Power Ancient Greek Style Lyre Harp

9: LV Pets Lyre Harp

10: Champions Legacy 10 string lyre harp

a band using stringed instruments to create a new sound

That’s right – if you’re one for being creative, you can actually design your lyre yourself – pretty neat huh!

Especially when you consider that doing so can not only work out cheaper, but can also double as a great DIY project for kids. With everything being computerised these days, it has to be said that kids (now more than ever) need practical tasks like this to develop their problem solving skills & creative thinking.

As youngsters, we’d have loved to make up an instrument like this. Never mind paint it all colours of the rainbow & take it with us on family days out. All you need is a bit of elbow grease & this lyre kit…

11: Happyyami DIY 7-String Lyre Kit

In the case you’re not an experienced Lyrist, but want to try your luck with a lyre harp, then we’d suggest sticking to something small.

We say so because aside from being cheaper, a smaller lyre typically will have less strings. Something that should allow to at least get a feel for playing the lyre before investing a good chunk of £$€. Plus, for you as a beginner, a 7 string lyre is FAR less daunting – opt for full 16 strings & you may even decide that playing the lyre is too difficult… i.e. give up before you’ve even got started!!

So with that in mind, if we were a beginner, we’d be opting for the small 7 string lyre from Donner…

12: Donner lyre harp (7 string/ mahogany)

is a donner lyre harp any good?

Putting a finger on the best lyre was (for us at least) quite a task. Each lyre on this list has it’s own distinct character + with there being that many decent lyre harps out there, narrowing it down to just 1 seems a tad… narrow minded.

So instead we’ve decided on 2 top picks which we think have the potential to be the best lyre. The first of which being the…

Aklot Lyre Harp (16 string) = Best Full-Size Lyre

An instrument that we were pleasantly surprised by. And that’s not just because of its solid feel of that mahogany & maple. When coupled with the price, this lyre is also tremendous value! Yes, it may not be as good on a ‘price-quality’ ratio as the equivalent Donner lyre harp, but we’d say that it’s a premium worth paying.

Reason? Well, aside form the design, which is good deal more funky, the sound of this lyre is (if you ask us) that bit better. Aklot have done a great job with the acoustics of this lyre. Ergerniomiyally, you can really tell that it’s been thought through. Its sound is mellow, yet punchy & you can achieve a good range of tones per strings. A lot more than you can with the typical min harp. We really didn’t expect plucking this instrument to be so involving… but it is.

Saying that though, if you’re a beginner & 16 strings seems a bit daunting, then you may be better off with the…

Donner Lyre Harp (7 string) = Best Budget Lyre

A mini harp that caught us by surprise, especially considering he price.

See, while this mini harp does only have 7 strings, it performs a LOT like lyres that retail for twice the price. The range of tones you can achieve with this lyre are pretty darn good, especially considering its small number of strings! Team that with its solid mahogany build & you can soon see why we think Donner have hit the nail on the head for beginners.

For anyone who’s daunted by the thought of a 16 string lyre, this baby 7 string is a great introduction. Plus, those who’re after a compact travel instrument, won’t be disappointed either. Bar being small, the case Donner give you with this lyre, is also pretty substantial. Great for keeping your instrument protected during a hectic road-trip.

Hats off to you Donner – as an overall lyre package, we genuinely find it hard to pick fault.

Enjoy this review of the best lyres and eager for more? Don’t miss out on all our latest Stringed Instrument Reviews,as well as the lowdown on all things Instruments. Recently, we also did a rundown of the Best Kalimbas + another on the Most Popular Guitaleles, which may also be a good read.

10 VS 16 string lyre

Or, if you’ve still got as burning question about what makes the best lyre, keep reading to discover even more about this pocket-sized stringed phenomenon…

Now, while the ‘lyre VS harp’ debate may sound complex, in actual fact it’s pretty simple.

See, for the most part the lyre is similar to the harp. It’s an instrument, usually made of wood, that has strings stretched across, which when plucked create a sound. However, the lyre & the harp aren’t all the same – there are some noticeable differences

  • String length – The overall length of the strings you find on a lyre tends to be a lot shorter than those you find on a harp. Plus, on a lyre there isn’t much difference in length – all the strings are virtually the same length. Whereas on a harp, string length varies quite substantially. Some are 2, maybe even 3 times the length of each other!!
  • Creating Sound – Arguably the largest difference between a harp & a lyre is how they create sound. With a lyre, sound waves are generated by the vibrations from strings, which are channelled over the bridge & reflected off the backboard. Something you don’t incur with a harp, as the strings are suspended across a hollow space.

While traditional lyres are tuned to the ancient pentatonic scale, which can be quite restrictive, if tuned differently lyres can be used to play alongside other instruments.

Ask us & a lyre is not so much a solo instrument, but more of a backing instrument, which is best used to add an extra (super-delicate) layer of depth to a composition. Saying that though, learning the lyre isn’t a walk in the park, unless of course you’re coming from another stringed instrument.

Tuning aside, lyre harps do have a surprising amount of range, especially if you opt for a 16 string variant. Then consider that each lyre is different & you soon realise that learning the lyre isn’t as easy as it first sounds. In order to get the best out of it (just like any instrument), you need to spend a great deal of time with it .

The stronger the relationship between you & your lyre, the more intricate & impressive pieces you’ll be able to play. Pardon the cliche, but when learning the lyre, practice really does make perfect.

Nope – lyres are NOT Celtic instruments. However, they may have been inspired by them.

As early as 300BC, you could find harpists playing a Celtic harp. A small handheld harp, which many believe laid the foundations for the lyre. One of (if not ‘the’) most widely known instruments of the greek world. Back in the day, lyres were used to accompany lyrical poetry or as the foundations of a song. Although, Greek lyres were just the start.

As the Western world changed & civilisations evolved, so did the lyre. Therefore, aside from the Greek lyre, there’s also an Anglo Saxon lyre, a Viking lyre, Irish lyres & even a Nordic lyre too. All of which have their own unique style, sound & number of strings.

Pretty simple this one.

A person who plays a lyre is known as a lyrist. However, don’t be mistaken. Buying a cheap lyre & plucking 1 string doesn’t instantly make you a lyrist. Those who’re known as lyrists tend to be teachers or professional musicians, who have a noteworthy ability when it come to strumming the lyre.

In other words, they’re at least capable players. Something to consider before adding ‘Professional Lyrist’ to your CV.

Fun fact for you – Yes, David did play the lyre.

In the Hebrew bible, he’s referenced as playing an instrument called the ‘Kinnor’. And while this does translate as ‘harp’, it was actually a lyre! The instrument itself consisted of 4-8 strings & wasn’t usually plucked. Instead it was strummed with a pick, similar to how you’d play a modern guitar.

Although David (being a Bible big shot) wasn’t your usual lyre player. According to Samual 16:23 “David took a harp & played it with his hand”. Something that’s often thought to suggest that David’s technique was more advanced & did involve plucking in a similar fashion to that of a harpist.

That really all depends – lyres can have anywhere from between 3 & 16 strings. Although, we have come across some custom lyres that have over 20 strings!!

It’s rumoured that the first lyre had just 3 strings, as it was shown on several Greek vases. It was only later that they evolved into 7/8 string instrument & from which came the popular 16 string lyre we know & love today.

It’ also worth noting that the sound of the lyre has evolved a lot over time too. So what with the great understanding of sound we have today, lyres are not only much more precise in terms of sound, but also tunable too. Team that with the advanced wood formulations + bridges you find on many lyres today & it’s clear that as an instrument, they’re FAR more accurate than their ancient ancestors.

So while in the past 50 or so years, their string count hasn’t increased all that much, the quality of lyres has evolved at a record rate. Just goes to show, string count is only half of the story.

While there is no right or wrong answer here, we’d saying buying a lyre harp online is the most sensible method.

Don’t get us wrong – if you buy a lyre in person you can have a tinker with the strings & get a better feel for what it’s about. Just as you’d be able to do with any instrument for that matter. BUT (key caveat here) that all takes up a serious amount of time & effort. What’s more, you’ll probably have to travel to get to a physical music store, so you’ll also have to content with fuel/ transport costs. Costs that are likely to outweigh the couple of £$€ you pay in postage.

And besides, it’s not as if a lyre is a large instrument anyway. So while with something bulky like a Saxophone or French Horn, going to a store may make more sense. For a pocket-sized instrument like a lyre that costs virtually nothing to return, we’d say you’d be downright silly not to buy it online.

Hence all our helpful links above to the best picks on Amazon :)