How many pieces can you play right off the bat?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    Sharon O on #156887

    I’m fairly new here – I have a Dusty Strings 26-string harp, and I love playing Celtic music. I’m probably an advanced beginner/low-intermediate. Unfortunately, I have an underlying health issue, and in the past 5 years have had 3 surgeries, including 2 to the shoulder! (not the best thing for someone that loves playing the harp!) so I haven’t played much for a long time.

    I’m finally getting a little stronger and have started playing again, and as I dust off the pieces that I knew, it made me wonder about other harpists – how many pieces do you all know that you can just sit down and play right off? Or to put it another way, if someone said that they loved listening to harp music and would listen as long as you played, how many pieces could you play?

    I’m terribly rusty on the 10 or so pieces I played well before the surgeries, and I want to play more pieces, but I thought I should get those pieces back up to where I play them well before I started too many new pieces. But that made me wonder – do other harpists use the “cheat” books a lot so that they can enjoy playing a wide variety of pieces beyond just those that are on sheet music? Maybe that’s a good idea for me – I can get those 10 pieces up to scratch again, but also just bring out a cheat book when I want some variety.

    How do you all play pieces? Thanks for any input :-)

    deb-l on #156888

    I can only keep so many pieces under my fingers then I start to forget them.

    Sharon O on #156889

    OK, thanks – that’s what I was wondering. It seemed like about 10 or so “piano pieces” (pieces that have actual stuff in the left hand AND the right hand, not just chords in the left) was getting to my limit, and sometimes, it just seemed like … well, not enough – even though I love the harp, sometimes it was getting just a tad boring. It finally hit me that maybe having an easy sightread book with chords in the left hand might be the solution, so I wanted to hear from others. Thanks!

    Any books you recommend?

    deb-l on #156890

    Sylvia Woods has a lot of chords in the left hand.

    Sharon O on #156891

    Do those pieces that you recommend have the Celtic “feel” to them? Although I like classical music (Mozart, Bach, Beethoven, etc.), I don’t care for classical music for harp. I just like the Celtic-type pieces – love those Dorian and Mixolydian scales! I’m used to re-arranging things to fit on 26-string – do you think those pieces would be re-arrangeable, or would the integrity of the piece be just too compromised?

    That’s a good idea to get something a little below the level I usually play at – I’m rusty at sightreading, and that should help. Plus if I really like the piece, I always re-arrange it anyway! and it’s easy to make simple pieces more beautiful and complex. But until I have energy to do that, I can just play the simpler arrangements and enjoy the variety.

    adam-b-harris on #156892

    Sharon, you asked for my input so now I”m here. I didn’t reply to this when I first saw it as I figured it didn’t really apply to me so I’m not sure what I can tell you will be much help to you,

    deb-l on #156893

    hi Sharon, I mostly play contemporary music, but played traditional and folk for years before I discovered that I really like to keep my left hand busy. I think your right hand is faster in folk and left hand does more in classical.

    Sharon O on #156894

    Adam, thanks for replying :-) You sound like how I’d like to play some day! Realistically, though, I’ll never be able to have the kind of training that you do, or put in the hours that you do, so I’ll just have to do my best and enjoy hearing people like you!

    Where do you perform, btw? and do I search your name for your CDs?

    Your tips are helpful, except it made me wonder – how do you decide what key to do a piece in? (you said to not do two songs in the same key back to back). Is it just kind of a feeling that a certain piece would be nice in a certain key based on your experience?

    Although I play what I call “piano” style (not just chords in the left hand) for the pieces that I play and arrange, my mom played only to accompany herself singing and couldn’t manage the piano style. However, she had a good teacher who taught her many ways to vary chords in the left hand, and her arrangements sound nice. I think I’ll get some ideas from her, and then get that “fake” book.

    Thanks again! and I look forward to seeing more of Minimally Clothed Man :-D

    — Sharon

    Sharon O on #156895

    Hi Deb – that’s an interesting observation, I never thought of it that way before. I think you’re right – the right hand is faster in folk. I think I’m somewhere in the middle, because my teacher gave me sheet-music pieces to learn that had a fairly complex left hand, and I liked that and arrange pieces that way now. But my right hand is definitely faster than my left, and I like it that way – I like to put in lots of little grace notes and embellishments in the right hand.

    i was fortunate enough to once take a group class with Grainne Hambly, and she taught us some cool little embellishments for the right hand. I love that quick little triple hit she does in her pieces (not a true pluck – it’s just hitting the same string quickly with three fingers in succession).

    Anyway, thanks for your input, and I’m glad you found a style that really suits you.

    adam-b-harris on #156896


    I live in a farming community called Goomalling (it means place of possums – needless to say, no possums here). I drive about an hour to the nearest tourist towns to perform (places like York, Toodyay and Bakers Hill). Some periods of the year I will load up the van and go further afield in Western Australia.

    You can check out the CDs at my website or at CD Baby

    Although I don’t play a piece the same way twice, I generally play them in the same keys in which they are written (if I know it). If its a casual request that I haven’t played before, I usually play them in G, pretty much because many songs are written in G and there is a good chance it could be the real key!

    If you are looking at developing things to do with your left hand, there is that excellent technical excercise book by Deborah Friou that you can get on ebay, also a book called Cool Chords and Groovy Rhythms (or something like that) by Valerie Schermer. I think Ray Pool does some books on this kind of thing as well that I haven’t seen but come recommended highly.

    Working on a video over the next couple of days for people interested in what techniques I use in recording the harp. Was thinking of posting a link on the “professional” board as questions often come up there about microphones and such. And who knows, your friend may make a guest appearance.

    have a good weekend


    Sharon O on #156897

    Well, I live in Arizona, USA, so I guess I won’t be dropping by to see you perform :-(

    Thanks for the book references – that sounds like a good idea!

    Looking forward to seeing MCM,

    — Sharon

    adam-b-harris on #156898

    Well I thought you were a bit keen wanting to come out and have a look. Finished the video with your friend:

    Sharon O on #156899

    I can see he is a bit coy after hearing some of the comments on the thread, but I was glad to hear his dulcet tones offscreen, and catch a glimpse of his noble forehead at the end – alas that I am already married! ;-)

    adam-b-harris on #156900

    Oh yeah, he’s a charmer alright.

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