Advice on composing for lever harp

Posted In: Repertoire

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    Maya on #212049

    Hello everyone,

    I’m a composer and pedal harpist but for a variety of reasons I want to perform on and compose more for the lever harp. At the moment I feel like I have to simplify everything I write to make it playable on the lever harp and I would like to start composing specifically with the lever harp in mind.

    I am particularly interested in the polytonality and chromaticism that the lever harp can do with an ease the pedal harp can’t. I’m also quite partial to the resonance of the bass wires as well as intricate counterpoint and driving bass lines so I really want to learn how to keep the left hand writing interesting while allowing for lever changes in music that is not diatonic.

    I was hoping some of you might be able to offer some advice or point me in the direction of some resources/scores to study that could help me out with this! I am totally unfamiliar with the lever harp repertoire and it isn’t an instrument covered in many books. I have found a lot of folk music and while good for practice, it is largely diatonic so does not have a lot of use for me compositionally.

    wil-weten on #212053

    I haven’t got a clue, but maybe this little book contains some helpful information for you:

    Biagio on #212057

    Not sure exactly what you are after Maya, but some of Harper Tasche’s scores might be helpful:

    Ray Pool also does a lot of interesting things with his lever playing.


    • This reply was modified 3 years, 8 months ago by Biagio.
    Rachel on #212082

    Hello Maya, there are definitely composers taking advantage of the unique lever settings that are possible (or effects using levers). Here are just a few examples:

    Laura Zaerr – Dancing with the Stars collection, or River Right Rhumba

    Clemens Krijger – Rataouille is a neat collection of shorts pieces Krijger (

    Jakez Francois – Easy Swing collection (jazzy music); Harp Connection carries this

    Inge Frimout – Blue Dream World is a suite of beautiful music, and has some lever slides in one piece (

    Kathryn Cater – she incorporates lever slides, etc. in some of her animal-themed books

    Savourna Stevenson – try Blue Orchid (but she has a lot of great music)

    Alys Howe – Phosphorescence

    wil-weten on #212083

    In addition to my post above: this link: may lead to inspirational examples of composers for the lever harp too.

    Maya on #212088

    Thanks for the list Rachel, that gives me a lot to look into!
    I can’t believe I didn’t think to check out Jakez Francois as I’ve played some of his jazz arrangements on the pedal harp in the past.

    patricia-jaeger on #212109

    Maya, besides lever harps with as many levers as strings, there are now lever harps called single action, that need only seven levers. The C lever can manage to change all the C’s to C#, for example. The harmonic curve contains all the action, so on top of the harp is where all levers re placed. The maker, Douglas (Arsalaan) Fay, invented it for “The First Lady of the Harp”, Mildred Dilling, renowned American harpist and teacher when she wanted to accompany a singer on an American tour, and did not want to use her concert harp but one smaller and lighter. One gains much more repertoire with this model which he patented. Paul Hurst, Emily Mitchell and other well known pedal harp professionals have this model, You can see Mr. Fay demonstrating it on YouTube. Go to Douglas Fay plays Douglas Harp in the search box. Just thought you might enjoy composing for this advanced
    model that is unique, and made near Sarasota, Florida.

    Biagio on #212110

    Dear Patricia,

    It does my heart well that you are an enthusiast of the Joy. Arsalaan named it for Jocylan “Joy” Chang, my first and dearly loved teacher and indeed it is a wonderful instrument.
    Off topic, I suppose. Yet it warms me that harp makers continue to experiment and player to try other things.


    Tacye on #212168

    While the details of the Fay mechanism are his, the concept is not original to him. Egan made his Royal Portable harps a couple of centuries ago with seven switches/ditals on the column. Historical credit where it is due! He also made a few double action ones.

    balfour-knight on #212413

    I just wish that a harp maker would put at least 36 strings, C to C, on one of these! Also, discs on all 36 strings, like on a lever harp.

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