Meeting Review, September 27, 2005
presentation The Acoustics and Vibrations of the Concert Harp including New Design
Developments with Composite Materials. Author Melinda Carney studied the harp and
materials for her master’s thesis, and is currently a faculty member at
PhD candidate at
rigorous analysis of harp physics as well as a live demonstration and recording session with a
classically trained harpist.
The presentation started with an analysis of the harp as we know it today, including a brief
history, wood selection, soundboard construction, and soundboard and string vibration and
radiation. Since wood is susceptible to cracking and changes with humidity and is in short
supply, research into alternative soundboard materials has been ongoing. The author described
her recent research, starting with modal and finite element analysis to determine the wood’s
material properties and determine matching criteria for experimental materials. Carbon fiber
composite materials were covered next, particularly the relationship between the number and
orientation of plies and the resulting mechanical properties. Experimental soundboards were
constructed, and the initial results showed that it is possible to get the resonance frequencies of
either the bending modes or the torsional modes to match, but not both. This observation led to
an additional criterion, more experimentation, and better results, however, the damping of the
composite soundboard was only half that of wood. The author showed the finite element
analysis results for the wood and composite boards, and finished with recommendations for
further research including a full composite soundboard.
The meeting concluded with a lively discussion period, followed by the live demonstration in the
college’s recording studio.