I’m thinking about trying to balance both Cello and Harp.
This reminds me, I think it was one of the Israel competition finalists, who said he was really interested in violin or something with more of a singing tone and didn’t know if harp could meet all of his musical needs. I think for sure people experiment with other instruments, and there are many “doublers” on
I focus on the harp, and play the other instruments as I can find the time. I have been playing some things much longer than harp so with them it is more about keeping up my ability and doesn’t require a lot of time to actually learn new things.
Someone commented about doubling with very different instruments and how rare it is. True. I was always very impressed by Derek Bell. He held positions as principal Oboe with several orchestras as well has principle harp for the BBC Northern Ireland Orchestra.
Doubling is one thing, but to win positions as principle on two different instruments is very impressive. Not to mention that he didn’t even touch the harp till he was almost 30.
I will say, playing other instruments has definitely made me a better harpist. I often think of what can be done on other instruments and it inspires me to try new things on the harp, and to just look at music in general from different perspectives.
… has made me a better harpist. So true! My three instruments are guitar, harp and banjo. All plucked strings, but all different. Speaking for myself, splitting practice time definitely slows you down, but after all I’m not in a race with some abstract standard.
Deb, I’m glad you’re not dropping the cello after all.
I think that it’s more of a question of How can I NOT play more than one instrument?!
I’m primarily a flutist, but I pursue harp as a side instrument. And then there’s piano, and the dozens of ethnic/folk flutes that I play…
In terms of balancing them all out though, I have found that they really balance each other. Piano and harp really help my sight reading on the rest (reading music vertically instead of horizontally), and my technique on flute has to be MUCH faster than technique on harp (for my music preferences at least), so it helps with speed of finger placement.
When I play, I guess I think more about ideas and concepts rather than specifics. I think about how things span the gap between the instruments. When I roll chords I think about them as if they are fast arpeggios on flute and that they must be clear and even (and vice versa). When I think about internal resonance when playing flute I think about how my harp vibrates and how it feels.
In all honesty I find my various pursuits to be very gratifying. They all express something that the others cannot. I am looking forward to a gig I have coming up this summer. I’m going to be doing a regular series of performances at a Renaissance Faire nearby. I’m going to be performing on celtic flutes/whistles, lever harp, and will be teaching about the instruments. Considering that the Renaissance Faire is supposed to be set in 14th Century Scotland, I’m really looking forward to teaching audiences about my flutes, and our beloved harps! I get to blend all of my interests into one performance series. Yay!
Oops… sorry. Tangent at the end!
Funny thing–I was listening to a CD with some particularly impressive harp playing on it when my daughter said (jokingly?), “You’re never going to play like that, so why bother? Stick to playing banjo on the back porch.”
I don’t get it. Especially since I play harp better than banjo. (And guitar better than harp; it’s a question of how long I’ve been playing each instrument.) I hope she was just being funny.
Oh, it’s much more than that – playing any instrument, especially one that requires 2 hands working simultaneously but doing different things (like harp!), increases the number of connections between your brain cells and dramatically reduces your chances of developing Alzheimer’s, memory loss, or dementia!
I’ve played a bunch of instruments in the past (guitar, bass, highland pipes, recorders, viola da gamba *very* briefly, baritone horn in grade school)
For me, harp, guitar, and bouzouki fill a harmonic niche that I can’t get in woodwinds. They also fulfill the “relaxing” niche – I can pick up a stringed instrument and burn through several hours of playing – most of it purely for my own enjoyment. I don’t know a lot of pieces on these instruments and I play a lot more improvisationally. Also, my interest in harp tied in with an interest early music (Medieval) and it’s hard to find people to play with at the hobbyist level for this genre. Stringed instruments are my “self-medicating” instruments, in sum.
Wooden flute and penny whistle play a very different role – I’m a bit more accomplished at these and have performed in public on winds since age 12. Also, the Irish flute/whistle are a bit part of my social life owing to sessions, house parties, and summer workshops. I met my partner at a session, in fact:) When I play at home, it is almost always to a) learn new tunes or b) work on old tunes or specifically practice my breathing and embouchure.
So I guess it boils down to strings: introvert / winds: extrovert.
Interesting discussion. Yet again, the strong harp/flute connection is apparent.
I’ll chime in an agreement here with the strong harp/flute connection. I’ve played flute for over 20 years now, and picked up the harp a little over 5 years ago. Also added the hammered dulcimer, irish whistle, bodhran, and various wood flutes to my musical menagerie. Love the flexibility of being able to bounce between strings, percussion, and wind instruments. Thinking of taking on a lute or mandolin for fun next.
I think learning different instruments makes you a well-rounded musician. Winds have taught me melody, percussion rhythm, and strings harmony.
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