Harp Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Harp Tattoos: History, Meanings & Designs

Whether you have two sleeves or just a couple of meticulously placed pieces- getting a tattoo done is always an exciting experience. Paired with that excitement always comes a little bundle of nerves, especially if you’re unsure what kind of design you want to get done…

…but we’ll let you in on a little secret: it doesn’t have to be as serious as you think. Your tattoos can be personal, done on a whim, or have no meaning at all. Whatever your reasons may be for getting one, they won’t change your tattoo’s value to you. 

A unique design you can have immortalized on your skin is a harp. They’re stunning, multifaceted, and personalizable to your own unique style. In this guide, we’ll break down everything you need to know about harp tattoos.


What Is The History Of Harp Tattoos?

Harps adorn the bodies of countless people all around the world, and for different reasons. They could mean something deeply personal, or simply be a loose symbol of a happy moment in your life. Since the dawn of folks getting ink done, the stringed instrument has been a prime choice in body art.

One of our favorite features of harp tattoos is their versatility. They can be masculine or feminine, masculine or dainty, and be customized to suit the personal aesthetic of the one getting tattooed. Regardless of who’s donning the design, they’ll age beautifully (with the help of a trusted artist) and will hold meaning for years to come. 


What Do Harp Tattoos Symbolize?

When one thinks of a harp, it’s likely that they liken it to the music from the angels. For those who are looking to get a religious tattoo done, but aren’t wanting it to be too loud, this is a great choice. They’re subtle, while also being clear enough of a symbol to be noticed by those who share the same beliefs.

Some people liken the instrument as a way to bridge the gap between heaven and earth, since the angels use the music from the strings to convey messages to us in a way we can both understand. This communication link is a beautiful message to share on your body. There aren’t many designs that can convey that relationship in quite the same way.

Another classic symbol that the harp can be thought of as is a way to pluck beauty from unassuming, or unlikely, sources. If one was unfamiliar with the instrument, they may initially think the harp may sound like a guitar with the way it’s played, and may be surprised to find that it actually sounds magical and almost otherworldly. 

However, maybe you’re not one to go too existential with what your tattoo designs mean. If that’s the case, harps are first and foremost thought of as symbols of beauty and love. They’re commonly used at weddings, and are likened to the regal, intricate times of the romantic period of history. 

In spite of the plethora of meanings behind the instrument, one of the biggest things you need to keep in mind is that the harp should never be tied down to one single meaning. It can mean whatever you’d like, or nothing at all, and still be a beautiful design to adorn your body with!


What Do Harp Tattoos Mean?

They’re one of the most prominent instruments in the bible, and hold a ton of symbolic messages- specifically regarding God and his presence in people’s lives. In fact, the instrument is the only one that is noted in the Bible as being a way that God commanded his followers to worship him, and it would be played upon his entrance.

If you have any doubts about the praise of the harp in the bible, you should know that it’s actually the only instrument that the Scripture regards as having a pleasant tune or noise. That’s right- step aside guitars and pianos, harps are (apparently) God’s favorite tune!

Harps actually hold a ton of importance and significant meaning to those with Irish heritage! Back when the country was still under lordship, there was a lot of strife, but all of that changed once the government converted to a kingdom- the subsequent flag was navy blue, adorned with a harp wearing a crown. The symbol gained high importance to the citizens.

Historians can attest to the importance of the harp in musical history. They’re regarded as one of the first instruments to ever be created (or even the first overall!) and were actually fashioned out of the body of old hunting bows. All cultures, countries, and time periods have harps in their history, truly setting them apart from other musical instruments. 


Where Do Harp Tattoos Go?

If you’re well seasoned in the tattoo world, know the ins and outs of painful locations, or are trying to complete a larger piece, you probably already know where you want your harp piece to go! However, if you’re a tattoo beginner, or if this is your first piece ever, you may need a little extra help choosing a place.

First and foremost, we’ll have to advise you to take a look at this great video by Katrin Berndt about the dos and don’ts surrounding your next tattoo placement. Of course, take this advice with a grain of salt in regards to your own personal preferences, but she speaks the truth:

Picking a Tattoo Placement: Do’s ; Don’ts


Shoulder Blade

The curves and silhouette of the harp go beautifully on the shoulder blade, and it’s in a hidden enough area that you can keep it away from curious eyes if need be. Fittingly, if you’re getting the tattoo for spiritual reasons, the shoulder blade is where an angel’s wings would lay.


The thigh is such a fantastic place for body art. It’s fleshy, so it doesn’t hurt as bad as skin directly over bone, and is just a general wide area which makes it the perfect blank canvas for tattoos. This would be a great area if you want a larger harp tattoo.

Inner Arm

If you’re looking for a more minimalist design, the inner arm is a tattoo location that’s rising in popularity for the indie crowd. Be forewarned, this area can get particularly painful (especially the closer you get to the armpit), but if you tough it out, you’ll be left with a gorgeous piece in an inconspicuous area!


Styles Of Harp Tattoos

Here are some of the most popular designs that harp tattoos can come in:

  • Minimalist They can be one-line, or just super subtle, but a defining feature of most minimalist tattoos is that they’re done with a thinner-tipped tattoo gun. These are beautiful and very trendy, but can age and fade a bit more aggressively than traditional tattoos- be sure to go to a reputable artist.
  • American Traditional These are among the most popular tattoo styles, and for good reason. They’re deeply saturated, can come in black and white with intricate shading, and look stunning on the skin. This is a perfect style for sleeves or large arm pieces.

Personalized If you’re looking for further customization to your design, you can adorn the body of the harp with an important year, or even ask an artist to mock-up a design after a harp you or a loved one has owned (making your body art even more special).

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