Position Affecting Volume?

  • Participant
    Suzie Q on #151017

    I wouldn’t consider myself a professional harpist, but I do play in youth symphony. I’ve constantly been told to increase the volume and play louder, but there’s only so much I can give, being the sole harpist. I was wondering if the position of the harp affects how the sound carries, or where the best position is. Right now, the harp is in the strangest place. The conductors have me right on the edge of the stage, on the right side of the conductor, if looking from the audience, behind the cellos but in front of the bases. Again, right on the edge, slightly turned out. Its quite strage having the harp right there, and on the right side of the stage, in plain view of the audience.

    I’ve heard many people say the harps are somewhere behind the voilins or near the woodwind section.

    However, I’m curious as to if this position could be affecting the sound. And also, if you have any advice for playing louder or projecting more. Although for that issue, I don’t think there’s much more I can do to make the harp sound louder.

    carl-swanson on #151018

    Harps tend to project straight forward. So if you are in profile to the audience with your harp facing stage left, then that is where your sound is going. You should be facing directly at the audience. Even better, you should be up on a platform or riser, which helps to amplify the sound.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151019

    The position of your hands will also make a difference. Just playing the strings where the harmonics are, in the center, will add to your volume a noticable amount. Having space in your hand, between your fingers, a rounded palm, will help, too. Definitely sit angled toward the audience, behind the first violins is a good spot.

    Fearghal McCartan on #151020

    Hi, this was sort-of discussed in an earlier post as well. The link for that is here: http://www.harpcolumn.com/forum/message-view?message%5fid=5205677

    I have played both sides of the conductor – usually between the 1st and 2nd violins but each conductor has their own style so I do end up shifting about from time to time.

    I find that over by the violins is best for hearing cues etc as the cellos, basses and brass can drown out a lot of those on you if sitting near them.

    One thing you should definitely make sure about though is that you never get placed by the bass drum or timps in Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms – I had to walk off the stage in one rehearsal due to the pain in my ears when I had been re-seated there. It was impossible to think let alone play!

    Thankfully the conductor reconsidered my positioning and I was reinstated with the violins.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #151021

    I heartily endorse all of the above, and especially the use of a riser. It amplifies the sound, and it also helps you see the conductor over the tall violinists’ heads!

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151022

    I’m not convinced about a riser. Joan Mainzer always played on a podium, and it may have enhanced her lower register, but it didn’t help the higher register at all, and she was placed between the violins and winds, and was often covered up by their sound. If the harp actually had a small bandshell around it, that might project the sound.

    I just got a Stokowski recording of Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet, and the harpist, at the end, lets out with a volcano of rising chords (Miss Lawrence, I believe) but as soon as the tutti resumes, it is obliterated.

    barbara-low on #151023

    Putting the harp on a riser will amplify the sound – it acts as a resonating chamber. Don’t put a rug on it. New strings, especially bass wires, will also help. I’ve been placed where you’re sitting. Also have sat between the 1st and 2nd violin sections.

    What are the dynamic markings for the other orchestral instruments? Maybe they’re playing too loud – just a thought. Talk to your conductor about the situation. He/she most likely doesn’t know much about the harp and would appreciate knowing more of what you and the harp can do.

    Fearghal McCartan on #151024

    Good points. Also, whilst on dynamic markings – I was told by my tutors to remember that all markings for the harp are ‘soloistic’ markings so play slightly louder than they actually read. That does help as well.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151025

    Yes, but if only the bass is resonating more, it throws off the balance of registers, which is not good.

    steven-todd-miller on #151026

    Should one face the harp toward the audience at a church/wedding situation as well? Plus this may explain a volume debacle I had: no matter how softly I played at a dinner for the president of a major company, they kept asking me to tone it down – I distinctly remember being pointed straight at the head table…

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