Freelance Chronicles Episode 6 – Handy Harpist Handbag


Here’s the situation: You arrive at your gig with plenty of time, park your car at a reasonable distance and make your way to the venue without issue.  While setting up and situating yourself suddenly you realize… uh oh… you have forgotten something.  Whether it’s a tuning key, music stand, bench, or any number of other small things that we need to feel comfortable forgetting something can ruin an otherwise positive gig experience.  It happens to everyone at some point and doesn’t have to be the end of the world, especially if you are willing to recruit some poor soul to be your human music stand!

If only there were a rescue service like AAA our there for the poor harpist who has forgotten their harp shoes or string bag at home!!  This is where my Handy Harpist Handbag comes in (handbag is a misnomer, but Handy Harpist Car Items didn’t roll off the tongue quite as well).  Below you will find a list of the items that never, ever leave my car, and have saved me on more than one instance!!

Handy Harpist Handbag (HHH) item list:

  • Collapsible music standPeak makes great stands that collapse down into bags that are easy to carry. The SMS-20 model ($34.95) is more sturdy than a traditional wire stand and takes up very little room when it’s all bagged up.
  • Collapsible bench – depending on your seat preferences there are a great number of options out there for travel benches.  I have used drum stools, keyboard benches, foldable cello chairs, and pretty much every other type of easily moved seat.  For me the Keyboard benches have always worked best… but they are so awkward to carry (the seat of mine always flops to the floor if I’m not carrying it properly)!
  • Bungee chords – lots of them at varying lengths.  A bungee chord can come in handy in any number of harp moving situations!!  What if the strap of your dolly rips?  Bungee chord.  Too many things to carry all at once?  Bungee chord your bench to your dolly, freeing up a hand.  Super windy day?  Bungee chords make for great music holders wrapped around a music stand.
  • Snap-Lock dancefloor squares

    Snap-Lock dance-floor squares

    Snap-Lock Floor Squares – This is the newest (and I think coolest) addition to the HHH.  These dance floor squares have been a life-saver for outdoor weddings!!  Just last weekend I played a wedding, poolside, at The Colony Palm Beach.  I had been told that the place that I would be situated would be either dry grass, or on the sidewalk next to the grassy area.  I arrived and was less than pleased to find out that I would not be allowed on the sidewalk (as the bridal party would be using this area for processing) but the “dry grass” I had been promised was much more like sand.  Luckily harpist Kay Kemper had just loaned a few of these handy Snap-lock squares!!  As you can see, I was able to keep my harp safely off of the sand, and because these pull apart they are extremely easy to move!!!

  • Spare Strings – I keep 1 white string from each octave in a bag in my glove-box.  In a pinch (really only if you have forgotten your string bag) a 3rd octave G can substitute for any other note in or immediately surrounding that octave.
  • Spare tuning key and extra business cards – directly next to my spare strings is another bag with an extra ergonomic tuning key and about 100 business cards.  A spare tuning key can make or break a performance (especially if you are expected to play with others)!!
  • Sunscreen/Parasol – I always seem to forget to wear sunscreen to outdoor weddings.  Normally I am very careful to protect my skin, but for some reason my brain is just incapable of making that happen when I am wearing a gown… I’m working on that… BUT, keeping extra sunscreen and a parasol makes protecting my skin much easier.

Other items that stay in my gig-bag:

  • Small toolkit with magnetized screw-drivers – I haven’t ever had to use these, and hope things stay that way.  With that being said, if something does break (a pin for instance) and needs to be removed in order to perform on the instrument a magnetized screw driver is your best bet for getting the job done, and not losing whatever piece you are removing.
  • Basic first aid kit – the importance of having a few bandaids on hand is a lesson I learned not so long ago.  I was moving my harp into the Boca Museum of Art and didn’t notice a park bench directly in my path until the very last moment… I saved the harp, but one of my big toes took the brunt of the damage that would have happened to the instrument had I not taken evasive maneuvers (as a side note… never wear open-toed rubber shoes while moving a harp…).  I then had to walk about 3 blocks with blood filling my shoe (and covering the bottom of my blush colored gown) because I didn’t have any kind of first aid tools in my bag.  A few bandaids go a long way in this kind of situation and thank goodness I was somewhere that was able to assist in that!!
  • Cornstarch Baby-Powder – this stuff is great for when you are playing in hot environments and are experiencing sweaty palms or arms while playing.  Normal baby powder has oil in it, which can leave a gross residue, whereas cornstarch baby-powder has little to no residue and will leave you completely dry and ready to continue playing!
  • Hand Cream – great for winter-time when people blast their heat and the air is just generally drier.  When I lived in Rochester, NY I had terrible try skin problems on my right hand.  I would lose layers of skin off of my right index finger, leaving me unable to play for days at a time.  That’s when Kathleen Bride introduced me to the item that has lived in my gig-bag ever since… L’Occitane Shea Butter Handcream.  It doesn’t leave your hands greasy and, in my experience, doesn’t soften calluses in anyway.
  • iPad – Most of my gig music lives on my ipad anyway… but for orchestral gigs I always make sure to create backup files on my iPad of the orchestral music… just in case…

Have you ever forgotten anything for a gig?  Is there anything harp-related that you never leave home without?  Comment below and start building your own Handy Harpist Handbag today!!


About Author

Miami based Dr. of harp, gown-addict, lover of bulldogs, and fitness enthusiast.


  1. Gretchen Cover on

    My dad was a Wright Stuff test pilot. He often said one of the reasons he lived was because he ALWAYS had a written flight check list. And he went through the entire list EVERY time he flew. Keep a written list of what you need to take and go through it . But, I still can manage to leave something at home – worst one was forgetting my iPad that I had taken out of the bag at the last minute to charge some more! PS/ I leave a tuning key in my van glove box as well as gig bag.

    Kristina, to add to your list: a small microfiber towel and a music stand light.

  2. balfour-knight on

    Kristina, this is a great blog! I enjoyed it immensely. Gretchen, I learned the hard way to buy an extra tuning key and put it in the glove compartment of my SUV, also. Luckily for me, the time I forgot my tuning key, I was playing solo, and the harp actually did not go badly out of tune for that gig! Happy harping, everyone!

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