Two harp positioning in orchestra

  • Participant
    unknown-user on #151144

    Hi. I’ve been lurking on this forum for a while but only just registered. I have a question:

    I’ve played principal harp on both the right and left side of the second harp, and I’m just wondering what the ‘standard’ is in orchestral positioning….


    Alison on #151145

    The 2nd harp sits on the 1st harp’s right, slightly behind, I think, so that s/he can look to the left and see the 1st harpist’s instrument and follow the cues, when playing together.

    rosalind-beck on #151146

    I’ve tried it both ways. There may be those who advocate placing the 1st harp on the “outside,” or right side of the 2nd harp, but I prefer to play 1st harp seated on the “inside.”

    r-pista on #151147

    It seems like it makes a lot more sense (aurally and visually) with harp 1 on the “inside” so the 2nd harpist can see/hear the 1st harpist. Is there a website or some source online that backs this up? Many people just assume that the principal player should be on the outside (so as to be closer to the audience) just as it is with the violins and celli.

    tony-morosco on #151148

    At my local symphony

    catherine-rogers on #151149

    “Inside” and “outside” are relative depending on whether the conductor wants the harps stage right or stage left. I’ve most often seen the second harpist on the first harpist’s right for the reasons given above.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151150

    I’ve never seen the second harpist look at the first harpist while playing, only the conductor.

    Anton Sie on #151151

    No…but you can see the movements of the first harpist in the corner of the eye and it’s easier to listen to the first harpist and to adjust.

    louise-vickerman on #151152

    Exactly! Use that peripheral vision, it sure comes in useful esp. when you have a conductor that likes to wave his stick SO FAR ahead of the beat it is useless to follow! We had an experience with a conductor like that a while ago and I had a relatively inexperienced orchestral second harpist hired for that week (our regular subs were already booked). There were a lot of FF solo+orch tutti unison chords that we had together on odd beats & EVERY time she would beat the entire orchestra on the chord because she was following THE CONDUCTOR! When she started following my lead we were consistently together with the orchestra & she could only do that because she was positioned on my right, slightly behind & could see my hands.

    Tacye on #151153

    I keep an eye on the first harp when I play second- though maybe not obviously enough for it to be noticed.

    David Ice on #151154

    I vote with Tacye!

    alice-freeman on #151155

    Fascinating topic. I wish there was a standard. I’ve been playing second harp in a University orchestra behind the first violin section for the last 10 years and the faculty member who plays first harp always insists on sitting on the outside. I do my best to follow her….

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #151156

    It’s funny, because in the performance I was thinking of, the first harpist was watching the second harpist like a hawk!

    paul-wren on #151157

    This is interesting. First of all, when I have to play 2nd, I request that the 1st and I figure out where we play unison and mark on our music when we will pull the harps back and put down together. Relying on a 1st to know where they are in the music is not always a good thing, especially if you are not familiar with this person. I played 2nd to a really bad harpist once, they were constaintly lost, always came in at the wrong time.We were getting close to an entrance and they never pulled their harp back. I fianlly just pulled my harp back on my

    Mel Sandberg on #151158

    I also think this is a fascinating topic.

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