It is played by running moistened or chalked fingers around the rim of the glasses. Each glass is tuned to a different pitch, either by grinding each goblet to the specified pitch, in which case the tuning is invariable, or by filling the glass with water until the desired pitch is achieved.
Musical glasses were documented in Persia in the 14th century. The glass harp was created in 1741 by Irishman Richard Pockrich, who is known as the first virtuoso of the musical glasses. Pockrich called his instrument the "angelic organ" and it was played with sticks, rather than by rubbing the glasses with a moistened finger. It was reported in 1760 that, "Pockrich played Handel's Water Music on the glasses." His successful concert career was brought to a premature end by a fire in which both the inventor and instrument perished in 1759.
The instrument was popular in the 18th century. Pockrich's contemporary, Ford, published Instructions for the Playing of the Musical Glasses while Bartl published a German version. In 1929 Bruno Hoffmann invented a glass harp consisting, "of 46 individually tuned glasses fixed on a resonant table."
This instrument, consisting of a number of tuned glasses, adapts itself excellently for the accompaniment of a Zither, owing to its delicate tonal-quality. The following is its usual compass: [image: G3-E6] But some possess a compass of only two octaves from [image: C4] to [image: C6]. Its tone [timbre] is very similar to the harmonics of a Zither, and if treated skilfully can be easily produced, in all tonal-shadings, from the most delicate 'pianissimo' to a moderate 'forte.' It is very effective as a solo instrument, with the accompaniment of a muted string quartette. Only sustained songs and melodious passages are adapted for this instrument.-- Prof. Henri Kling, The Art of Instrumentation (1905)
On March 9, 1938, Bruno Hoffmann performed on the glass harp at the London Museum in a program including Mozart's Adagio (K. 356) and Quintet for harmonica, flute, viola, oboe, and cello (K. 617), accompanied by Geoffrey Gilbert, Leon Goossens, Frederick Riddle, and James Whitehead. It was an "exquisite performance, in which the flute and viola in their upper registers were almost indistinguishable from the glasses, [which] held spell-bound a large audience, crowded over the floor, stairs and galleries".
On February 18, 1979, Gloria Parker performed as a musical glasses soloist with the Hartford Symphony Orchestra at the Jai Alai Fronton in Hartford, Connecticut, USA. Richard Hayman, noted for his arrangements for Boston Pops conductor Arthur Fiedler, was the guest conductor for the 90-piece orchestra that accompanied the musical glasses which included songs such as "Lara's Theme" from the movie Dr. Zhivago, "Lover" and "Amor".
There are several current musicians who professionally play the glass harp. Among them are the Glass Duo from Poland, Philipp Marguerre and Clemens Hofinger in Germany, France's Jean Chatillion and Thomas Bloch, Brien Engel, and Dennis James in the United States and Canada's Real Berthiaume. Glasses have been also used by famous rock band Pink Floyd during the recording of "Shine On You Crazy Diamond" on their Wish You Were Here album, recorded and released in 1975. Igor Sklyarov played the glass harp on the same song during two 2006 concerts recorded in Venice, Italy by former guitarist David Gilmour. Gilmour also used the effect during his August 26, 2006, concert in Gda?sk, Poland, with the help of Guy Pratt, Phil Manzanera and Dick Parry. Both recordings are available on Gilmour's Live in Gda?sk CD, although the Venice recording is only available on the five-disc version of the album or as an internet download with the three- and four-disc versions.
A colorful set of water tuned glasses is depicted as being played with a pair of metal sticks in several key scenes of the extremely successful 2009 Korean TV drama Queen Seon Deok, showing the series' main anti-heroine Mishil (Go Hyun-jung) playing her own haunting theme melody Yurijan (Glasses) on that instrument.