When the chords are above the melody…

Posted In: How To Play

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    Biagio on #228799

    Oh goodness Stardust, you are not “doomed to mediocrity” by any means! Just will need to go as slowly as necessary and study what is available in other books or on the internet. Just keep at it and have fun!

    Stardust on #228802

    That raises my spirits. 🙂

    Does Bruner’s book contain warm-ups, scales etcetera?

    wil-weten on #228803

    Vol 2 contains lots of exercises and tunes. Several of the tunes are disguised exercises.
    Vol. 3 contains a lot of information on playing with chords and learning to make one’s own arrangements or ‘spice up’ the arrangement of someone else.

    Frankly, at this moment of your harping voyage, I would use the exercises you already got in Woods’ Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp, like:
    page 39: exercises 6A-6C
    page 45: exercise 7
    page 49: exercise 8
    page 53-54: exercises 9A-9C
    page 58: exercises 10A-10D
    page 61-62: exercises 11A-11C
    page 64L exercises 11D-11E
    These exercises of Sylvia Woods are all really valuable exercises to start your harping sessions.
    When these exercises don’t offer you any challenge any more, I would start with Deborah Friou’s Harp Exercises For Agility And Speed. That book will serve you a lifetime. The Kondonassis book is nice too, but I much prefer Friou.
    I also got Maria Grossi’s Metodo per Arpa, but it gives hardly any explanations and I think you may not really profit from it without the instructions from a teacher.

    emma-graham on #228804

    Had to delete as I wanted to include an image but for the life of me I can’t get it to be small enough to be accepted. Sorry.

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by  emma-graham. Reason: Photo won’t attach

    carl-swanson on #228809


    To answer your question: I haven’t given any thought to doing the second volume of Bochsa. I might do it at some point in the future, but I’m too busy right now with other projects for Carl Fischer. About a month ago, my edition of both Fauré pieces(Impromptu, and Une chatelaine en sa tour…) was released. I’ll do a big email blast for that probably in September. And I’m proofing the next edition, which will be released before the end of the year, which is 10 pieces by Marcel Tournier. I’m really excited about that one. The galleys that I have received so far look fantastic.

    Stardust on #228817

    Good point, Wil-weten. I do still find some of those exercises challenging. I hadn’t thought of using them as warm-ups (silly me), but just spent over half an hour working through them again, and will start all of my practice sessions thus henceforward.

    I have also downloaded the op.26 now (which Charles-nix suggested), and will probably get Bruner’s second volume as well as the Harp Exercises for Agility and Speed, to begin with. All your suggestions are saved and looked at, though!
    You people are wonderful.

    (Emma-Graham, shame about the size limit. I got your initial reply on my email, and was just about to respond to it. You seemed to have deduced the problem quite well, and I was curious to see the photo. I do find the fingering kinda awkward in this piece, but I’m sure I’ll work my way through it in time.)

    Evolène on #228819

    Coming back a bit to the discussion to see a lot of interesting things!

    Speaking of the lack of teachers, that’s just something one has to deal with. I personally found my harp teacher immensely useful when starting for a year and a half, and will start taking leçons again when I have the financial means.
    However, when there simply are no harp teachers around, one must make do…


    Concerning the need for etudes and such : it really comes down to a lot of things! Many people only want a relatively inexpensive instrument, that they can learn quickly since they don’t necessarily want to play at high level.
    Others are looking at classical music and must have the best practicing habits right away, like people in professional sports league. And I believe you can’t go wrong by training that way.

    For me, the benefits of having a good hand position (as demonstrated by a good teacher) comes down to two things :
    – The first : not hurting yourself. Repeating the same movement badly is a high risk for injury and one must do everything to prevent that (you only have two hands for the whole lifetime!)
    – The second : like Carl said, being able to play what you want : fast pieces, slow pieces, technical pieces, loudly, softly… And learning bad habits can hinder that.


    @ Stardust, I can’t vouch for theses books but there is quite a bit of help online if you want to practice without the means for a teacher.
    Tiffany Shaeffer did a YouTube video listing free harp teaching resources. They don’t replace an actual teacher that places your hand and fingers correctly but still useful!

    I also second Biagio : many teachers offer skype lessons. You can try one out, and see if that works for you!


    Coming back to your specific problem of the delay in the melody :
    perhaps theses videos could help?

    Coordinating two hands while playing the harp – Harp Tuesday ep. 79

    Dealing with tricky rhythms – Harp Tuesday eps. 37

    Good luck!

    Edit : do make sure that the video appearing corresponds to the name I put above → HarpColumn seems to have trouble showing the right video although the YouTube link is the correct one! Very strange

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by  Evolène.
    • This reply was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by  Evolène.

    Biagio on #228823

    The Irish bards supposedly said about the Harp “Seven years to learn, seven to practice, seven to play.” Of course that was meant for professional bards on the wire strung harp, but it does make a good point, I think: that one must go slowly and be patient with this instrument (or any other, LOL).

    The good news is that one can make beautiful music practically from the first day! That’s what drew me to the harp anyway – so OK I’ll never play like Kim Robertson but I have a lot of fun.

    Speaking of Kim, her book Arranging for the Folk Harp is another worth getting. It is more concise than Woods’ arranging book but I think better in some ways, not least because it walks you through a tune from simple to complex.

    Unlike Woods, Robertson does not throw a ton of tunes at you (nothing wrong about that of course); she uses a selected few to illustrate how one might go from just the melody to a full and varied arrangement.

    Like an etude, so to speak.

    Biagio on #228825

    ” Many people only want a relatively inexpensive instrument, that they can learn quickly since they don’t necessarily want to play at high level.”

    I’m sure you do not mean a cheap harp Evolene but if I may….if one wants to actually play without frustations one really should avoid the lower cost ones. That is not to say that one must shell out $6000 or more US but as I think everyone here would agree it is better not to start with a lap harp nor with one that is poorly made…of which there are many out there that look good and perform poorly.

    You can expect a decent 34-36 string harp, fully levered, to cost $900-$1500 in materials alone depending on the selected woods and levers. Add on labor and overhead and you are looking at around $3500+/-. In light of that investment, books and lessons don’t cost all that much.

    Edit: WRT expense, it is instructive to know the major cost component’s. For a goo 5 octave fully levered harp they are:

    Levers – $300 to $800 (Lovelands at the lw end, Camacs or Truitts at the high end)
    Soundboard: $200 – $500 (high grade laminate low, solid wood high)
    Strings – $200 – $500 (nylon & SFB vs gut & BFN)

    So…from about $700 to $1800, or around 30-35% of the total cost depending on frame which can vary widely depending on type of wood and so on. Compare for example the Dusty Ravenna 34 at $2145 vs The FH34 at about $5000.

    Here’s the bottom line: You cannot expect to enjoy learning on an inadequate instrument, and an adequate one is a major investment.

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by  Biagio.

    emma-graham on #228845

    Stardust, I’m so sorry the image wouldn’t work. It was a suggestion to change the L hand fingering. I’ve added it to an online photo site so maybe this link to it will work?!


    It may help you time the right hand more easily.

    Tacye on #228853

    I have difficulties getting the timing right. I know, theoretically, that the chord is supposed to begin not on the beat, but just before it (so that it ends on the beat), but no matter how many times I seem to practice going as slow as possible, I still end up playing on the beat when I try to speed up. Either that, or there is a forced delay instead, so the melody comes in too late and sounds ‘chopped’.

    So you are aiming for the first two notes of the chord just before the beat and the left hand melody together with the top right hand note on the beat? Is timing the LH with the end of the arpeggiation a technical problem for you – you can (and should) practice this with any chords. Another practice angle to approach the timing would be turning the bottom notes of the chord into two right hand grace notes before the beat before turning them back into an arpeggiated chord. For balance between the hands you can also practice it without any arpeggiation.

    I too prefer Emma’s fingering.

    Stardust on #228857

    So many replies! – I love the enthusiasm you all are showing 🙂

    First, Evolène: thanks for the links; I have spent some time looking through most of these accounts now, and have tried out some of the exercises from the videos. (The videos did correspond with the name you put up – no worries) Definitely helpful!! Like stumbling on a treasury.
    I have now officially gone from mostly playing pieces, to mostly playing exercises…

    Biagio: The harp is a delightful instrument. Just playing a few simple notes in succession sounds magical. I have even composed a few little melodies already 🙂 And tried to make an arrangement of a song I couldn’t find any sheet music for, just for fun.
    I ordered Robertson’s arranging book, to help me get that finished. Thanks for the tip.

    My harp is a Musicmakers Voyageur, a bit pricey for me but not too much, and definitely worth the investment as it sounds wonderful and feels nice to play. I’m glad I didn’t end up with a lap harp.

    Emma: The link worked! Yay, and thank you! I have tried to change the fingering, and do think it feels and sounds much better now, as well as being more fun to play! 🙂

    Tacye: Yes, that’s what I’m aiming for. To be honest, I haven’t practiced grace notes much yet – I actually had to look it up on YouTube to be sure what they were – so I am not sure I understand what you are suggesting.. *ashamed* The pains of being a complete music theory ignoramus…
    But I will experiment, and then maybe I will get it.
    I love grace notes, so ought to practice them anyhow.

    – – –

    By the way, Christy-Lyn linked to the English version of the Grossi book in one of her newest videos! Thought I would share the link with you all, too:

    I haven’t bought it (yet), but ordered Friou’s book yesterday.

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by  Stardust.

    Evolène on #228883

    Great to see that you’re getting where you want to be!

    And happy to be of assistance 🙂 I’m not very far along too, and it’s very frustrating wanting to play something but being just not quite there. With patience though, we improve!

    @Tacye : I, too, don’t really understand what you mean. What do you mean by “grace note” in this context?

    @biagio, I absolutely agree with you about the price of a harp. This is really an instrument where you get what you pay for!
    However, I know quite a lot of people that just want to fool around with a cheap(er) instrument : I always advise the guitar… You can easily find a cheap second-hand guitar around $100 and don’t need to learn music theory if you want to strum 2-3 songs.
    The harp, though, is far more magical… And worth every second of playing!

    Biagio on #228890

    Hi Stardust and Evolene,

    First…I’m glad that Stardust now has the Voyageur; it is one of a handful of 5 octave harps that are relatively inexpensive yet still excellent designs, and which I’d recommend when financial constraints are an issue.

    On that note (haha) a good harp is not really all that expensive to buy if you can do without levers – although few offer the “no lever option.” Or build for that matter if one can follow a blue print. There is nothing tricky about it; indeed, the Voyageur can be elevated to a concert instrument by simply using a spruce sound board in place of the laminate that comes with the kit. That spruce SB will set you back only about $200 if you buy one ready made.

    As my friend Rick Kemper (Sligo harps) says, “Building a good but simple harp is no more complicated than building a dog house” and several good full size plans are available. People get the idea that it is all very mathematical and you do need a string analysis program if you design it from scratch. With a plan that has all been worked out already.

    If someone loves the harp sound but just wants to fool around and knows someone with a basic wood shop I often suggest they buy the plans for the Musicmakers 29 string Studio harp. In fact at least one teacher I know does that for her student rentals.


    • This reply was modified 7 months, 1 week ago by  Biagio.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #228972

    You cannot learn to play the harp with any skill from looking at videos. Find a teacher.

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