Faure’s Impromptu, Variations by Grandjany & Salzedo, Sonata by Bach on Pedal Harp?

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    Dear Harp Column Forum Readers,

    I recently found out that most of January, I am not going to be at home. I had just started working on four huge works.
    Impromptu, Op. 86 by Gabriel Faure
    Variations on a Theme in Ancient Style, Op. 30 by Carlos Salzedo
    Fantasy on a Theme by Haydn by Marcel Grandjany
    Sonata in G Major, Wq 139 by CPE Bach

    I will not have access to a pedal harp to practice on, during my time away from home. This is really bothering me.
    My family helped my located a level harp, however. Is it at all possible to practice these works on a lever harp?
    Sincerest apologies, if I sound clueless. You see, I have very little to no experience playing on a lever harp.
    The harp apparently has 40 strings (1st Oct. E – 6th Oct. A). Any help and information, that you can provide to me – will be very useful.

    Warm wishes of Holiday Cheer & Many Thanks to you all,
    Chadwell Song


    Let me see if i understand this correctly. You are beginning work on all four of these works??? What are you thinking? Any one of them would be a major job. Why are you working on all four? The most productive way to work on pieces at this level is to pick one, work on the first page until you have it memorized and can play it confidently, but not necessarily up to full tempo, and then work on the second page, working on one or two measures at a time until you have worked your way through the whole page and have it memorized. When you can play the first two pages smoothly, you learn the third page the same way, then add the fourth page, etc.

    The least efficient way to learn music is to work on several pieces at the same time, working a little bit on each one each day. You learn next to nothing that way. You don’t spend enough time on anything to memorize what you are working on. You don’t develop any muscle memory for whatever you are working on, and it will take you the better part of a year to learn all of the pieces you are doing at the same time. In addition, you will very likely learn mistakes, and make the same mistakes in the same places every time you play through each piece because you are not devoting enough time to it to learn it in a systematic and thorough way.

    If you have to be away from a pedal harp for a month, then pick one of these pieces and take it with you and study the printed music whenever you can to learn(intellectually) the notes, the harmonic progressions, and basically to memorize the piece, without the harp present. When you do get back to the harp, you will be surprised at how fast you learn to play the piece.


    Dear Carl,
    To answer your question: I am learning these four works at once, at the request of my teacher. She wants me to prepare them for University auditions in 2014. Thank you for pointing out that I never clarified where I am in my stage of development on these pieces. Late October was when I started these works, I’ve got the first two movements of the Bach Sonata under my fingers. Previously about 18 months ago I did some work on the Impromptu. Thinking on it now, I will need to do some refresher work on it. Sincerest apologies for not having clarified this on the posting. These works are a big undertaking. With devoted hours each day on the set pieces, I think they could be ready by Summer. Then I would memorize them, I’m thinking.
    I’m wondering if I could play these works on a lever harp, and how to approach them on a lever harp. My teacher is away in Hong Kong, I tried to contact her – I have not been able to reach her at all. Any wisdom you can doll out to me, would be much beneficial to this challenge, I have encountered.
    Happy Holidays,
    Chadwell Song


    You can keep your fingers in shape on a lever harp, if the tension is not too loose, but it will be really hard to make much progress on these pieces without pedals. You could work out the fingerings and get some of the passages into your muscle memory. It would be very confusing to your ear to hear it without the pedal changes, though, and that may cause mistakes later.. However, it’s better than nothing. Is there any way you can get a pedal harp to practice on while you are away from your own? Is there some way you can take your own with you?


    Thanks Ms. Bligh. I try that when I’m away from home. I don’t think I can take pedal harp with me on trip or borrow pedal harp – It’s very remote place I go to see extended family. I really like your harp pieces videos on youtube.
    Thank you,


    Thank you, Chad! The music is available from


    Hearing yourself play pieces written by yourself -very helpful to me to learn your pieces for playing in ways you wrote it for harp. I own the volume, the pieces move the emotions so much! Thanks for contribution to the repertoire – Ms. Bligh. You said maybe I could borrow the pedal harp to practice the faure, grandjany pieces etc? Is it possible to use a lesser string harp to play them? Like 40 string pedal harp? Im thinking I can rent a smaller pedal harp and then drive it to where I stay on vacation. I dont have the pieces with me – faure, bach etc. I cant check. Thanks so much Ms. Bligh!


    Why not identify sections which don’t have any pedal changes and practise and memorise those sections, that will restrict your options but will be the least frustrating. And then take a similar approach to fingering and muscle memory where you might have to endure wrong notes without pedals. After all fingering and quick location changes have to be worked at to become automatic. Expect less but make the most of it. Also if you have a piano handy, you can make sense of what’s going on and this can feed your appreciation of a piece, timing, harmony and aural register.


    Alison – This is exactly my plan. Except I found smaller pedal harp. Hard to drive about 3 hours to get it and I pay to much for rental. But this was needed to be done so I can worked on my Grandjany and Salzedo pieces especially hard during this trip’s time, There is also a very bad tuned piano here. – I do some work on it, when I find out a way to get this Grandjany and Salzedo pieces.

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