Hitting the Right Pitch

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—by Anne Sullivan

When it comes to pitch, practice makes perfect…or at least relatively perfect.

The first time I tuned a harp was 45 years ago. I couldn’t even begin to count the number of times I have tuned a harp, and the number of times I wish I had tuned more carefully.

Why do I mention this? Simply because when I learned to tune, there were no convenient electronic tuners. I had a tuning fork. In fact, I believe my first pedal harp came with a tuning key and tuning fork. My teacher directed me to page 42 of the Lawrence/Salzedo Method for the Harp book, and set me loose. Over the years, she gave me pointers and patiently corrected my beginner tuning mistakes.

By the time I began using tuners, they were simply there to check my accuracy or be my ears when there was too much surrounding noise to hear. But basically, I did the tuning.

Before you think otherwise, I am most decidedly an advocate of tuners, electronic or strobe. They are essential, invaluable tools, both for my students and me. And if we are smart, we can use our tuners not just to tune our harps, but to help us train our ears, develop our sense of pitch, and become more confident musicians.

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