Background Music Suggestions

Posted In: Performing

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    Kristen Bruce on #62474

    Hello harpists,

    What are your favorite pieces to play for background music gigs? Any suggestions would be most appreciated.

    Thanks!! 🙂

    Sylvia on #62475

    I tailor my music according to the audience. Most of my audiences are Hispanic, so I play Mexican songs and some other things they like….Love Story, Fur Elise, Schubert Ave Maria, Jesu Joy, Swan Lake theme, A Time for Us, Come Back to Sorrento, O Sole Mio.

    Sometimes I know the audience will be Anglo, or partly Anglo, so I can throw in music like Danny Boy, Over the Rainbow, Some Enchanted Evening, Somewhere my Love. If the Anglos are old, as in a 50th anniversary party, I’d also bring in things like Always, Let me call you Sweetheart, Juanita, Endearing Young Charms…

    Other cross-cultural music…both sides know it…such as Maria Elena, Ceilito Lindo, Green Eyes, La Vie en Rose, How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, Spanish Eyes, La Paloma, Santa Lucia, Vivaldi themes, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik…any light classical stuff.

    Other songs are Memories from Cats, music from Phantom of the Opera, From this Moment, You Raise me Up, Ice Castles, Wind Beneath my Wings.

    Hope this helps, but I suppose that what works for me here might bomb in NYC.
    If you’re just starting out, you have many interesting adventures ahead of you. Have fun.

    Gretchen Cover on #62476

    There are endless background songs. What to play depends on your level of playing and what you think your audience will like. I find going to youtube very helpful. I type in song names followed by “harp” and listen to various arrangements. Many harpists give the information about the music so you can then purchase it. I find and very useful because these sites show a sample page of the music.

    I think the most important thing is to have a few pieces you can play well and then one by one, add a new piece. Your music does not need to be complicated to sound good. It needs to be played well. What I have noticed watching youtube is how choppy and uneven the playing is on so many videos. I find myself being much more aware of that in my playing. I am constantly asking my husband if I played a piece evenly.

    IHMO, the BEST harpist for pop/jazz/standards is Jan Jennings. Her recordings are masterful and worth getting. You would learn a lot from hearing her play. Her website is BTW, in a recent Harp Column article, Jan listed her top 10 requests.

    Sylvia on #62477

    For me, the best way to find out what I sound like…evenness, rushing, etc. is to record myself while I play….either at practice or at an event. Kind of the difference between someone telling you the dress looks pretty and looking in the mirror at yourself.
    Another factor in developing repertoire is if the harpist plays using sheet music or from memory.

    Gretchen Cover on #62478

    One other thought in regards to Sylvia’s first post about tailoring her music to the audience. I test my pieces (or different versions of a selection) on my husband and a couple friends before I really work on them. Sometimes, I think I am in love with a piece, and it gets a thumbs down:( Ask your friends, family etc. for suggestions, too. Love Sylvia’s analogy about seeing yourself in the mirror vs. what someone tells you.

    Also, check out Frank Voltz’s celestial collection pieces. They are not difficult, are playable on lever/pedal harp, and sound great for any occaison. He has sound clips, sheet music, and a CD available at

    Have fun getting your repetoire together. It will really improve your harp playing and enjoyment.

    Alison on #62482

    in dollars? well there is a lot to do and you have to be there, so I’d suggest $90 or $120 and think of it in terms of the number of tickets they sell to cover it..not that many…if they offer $60 well that’s up to you.

    donna-benier on #62479

    Any harp music by Barbara Seeman, Frank Voltz, Kathryn Cater (yes! even student books have great songs!), piano music of easy listening, new age music (Narada Label).

    natalie-wagner–2 on #62480

    Dear Kristen,

    Background music is my absolute favorite thing to do! No pressure from a stage. 😉 You can play whatever your audience wants, which sometimes means your picks. I have had people amazed that the Star Wars theme can be played on the harp. I play a dinky little arrangement I created after figuring out the melody by ear. I played a concert for local youth, I was up on stage alone for 15 minutes. I swear I threw up in my mind! And out of all the pieces I played, STAR WARS was what everyone remembered months to even a year afterwards!

    I also love video game music. I learned Serenade of Water from Legend of Zelda and Dire, Dire Docks from Super Mario 64 by ear too (this is all of my aural training sadly. Three songs. *sigh* ). People enjoy these because both are very soothing and ‘harpy’ sounding. Only my boyfriend recognizes them but they work extremely well as repeatable instrumentals.

    Sylvia Wood’s Groovy Songs of the 60’s and Lennon and McCartney for the harp are both great too, haven’t met anybody who doesn’t love hearing Let it Be or House of the Rising Sun yet.

    Background gig music is just fun! I’m hoping to get a regular job playing at a restaurant soon, and if I do I’m actually looking forward to requests.

    God bless you!

    — Natalie

    Kristen Bruce on #62481

    Thank you all for the suggestions and tips! 🙂

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