Do I Want a Spruce Sound Board?

It is generally assumed, published and stated that spruce is the ultimate sound board to have for a harp. Technically there is much truth to this conclusion. However, there are many items of practical fact that should be considered regarding this issue.

Unfortunately, it is often assumed that the sound of any harp is almost totally dependent upon the sound board material. Many believe that ONLY harps with a spruce sound board are capable of producing a great sound. Such conclusions are myth rather than fact.

To be fair, it is generally accepted that if we make two harps of identical construction, putting a laminated sound board on one, and a tapered spruce sound board on the other, in most cases we would find the harp with the spruce board delivering a superior sound once it is aged in. However, it is a given that spruce can require up to 15 years to arrive at peak performance. The question becomes, “How superior is the sound of spruce, compared to other, more economical choices?”

While it is true that spruce is among the best of sound board materials, its advantage compared to other possibilities has been exaggerated, especially when practical issues are thrown into the mix. While spruce is the wood of choice for the sound board of a violin, please remember that a harp is not a violin. There are some very good, logical reasons why other types of wood are used for the harp face, typically referred to as the sound board.

Every wood species can have different sound characteristics, and even two harps of identical design, made of the same wood, played side by side, will usually have detectable differences in sound. This is a given for any musical instrument. So while it is probably correct to say that other sound board materials, compared to spruce, produce a different sound, it is entirely not true that a different sound is always inferior. As with vision, the beauty of sound is often in the eye of the beholder.

While the sound produced by spruce is said to be technically superior, for most of us it does not warrant the extra expense. The diminishing curve of realized sound improvement per dollar spent is why you will find many harp makers using alternatives like European birch laminate. The durability and cost savings of laminated birch, as well as its great sound qualities, make it quite attractive as a sound board material.