Friday, 31 December 2010

Seasons Greetings..

And a very happy new year!

I'm all carol-ed out and it's now it's time to waltz into the new year, and an interesting one it will be with the economic climate being what it is, and seeing how that pans out for all those who work in the Arts.

Being a freelance musician for nearly 20 years, I'm well used to diversifying and being creative is the key (I think) to getting through this difficult time.

So my latest project for the new year is harp lessons over the internet via Skype.

I've got a new website with lots of information on there, I've also filmed a few videos for it and I'll be adding lots more to it in due course.

Here's to good health and happiness in the year ahead. x

Sunday, 5 December 2010

Midi harp concerto

If you are in London on the 26th January 2011, then you should definitely go to see an exciting concert featuring the first public performance of the first concerto for midi harp performed (and commissioned) by Sioned Williams with the BBC Symphony Orchestra.

Composed by Graham Fitkin it will certainly be a really fascinating concert.

And the concert is free, but you need to book tickets ASAP via the BBC.

Details on how to book tickets below.

It is also being broadcast on BBC Radio 3 on 1st February.

A real shame it's only on radio and not being filmed for future broadcast on TV, as it's a concert with some significant firsts on this new instrument by Camac.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Lucinda Belle Orchestra

I heard an interview with Lucinda Belle earlier this year on Radio 4 and just found some great videos of her on the web.

She's got a deal with Island Records and an album out.

I'm going to download it from iTunes now.

Go Girl!

Better still - good to see a harp at Ronnie Scott's

Monday, 1 November 2010

Tuning A=440, 441 or 442?

What pitch to tune my harp to has been a particularly nerdy issue I have struggled with most of my orchestral life. I tune to A=442 as tuning to anything less than that makes the harp sound flat in an orchestra.

I use to worry about what long term effect on the harp tuning so sharp would have, so I would tune to A=441. Until I had a chat some years ago to Billy (the main Salvi/L&H technician in the UK) and he told me he regulates all the harps to A=442 as that is what they are built to be regulated at. He also regulates harps across Europe and South Africa. So any worry I had about the harps being regularly tuned sharper than they are built for was ungrounded as they are already built to be tuned higher then 440. German Horngachers, I believe, are built for A=444.

I wondered whether harps were being regulated to the same A=442 in the US and I found an interesting discussion on a US harp forum about it some years ago, so I'm glad it's not just me that has deep (quite sad) thoughts about the subject! Quite a few of US harpists on that thread seem to find issue with tuning so sharp.

I also found an even more interesting discussion on a US violin forum which gave lots of detailed insight into it from a string players point of view, and it makes a fascinating read.

So, when I was at Kneller Hall recently (which is the home of the Royal Military School of Music which trains musicians for the all of the bands in the British Army) I couldn't believe what I saw in their museum cabinet!!!

And there I was thinking tuning A=442 was potentially a tad sharp. Check out the pitch that the British Army bands used to be at! Information about it in picture below.

It makes tuning my harp at A=442 seem quite insignificant.

And yes, that is A=452!

click on the photo to see a larger view.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Ros Savage

There is a lovely review online of the concert by Keziah Thomas at the Carnegie Hall. Also very nice comments in the review about the solo harp piece she commissioned from Andy Scott, Crossing Waves.

Crossing Waves was inspired by Ros Savage who rowed solo across the Atlantic Ocean and happened to be in New York at the time of Keziah's concert so she went along to the concert and spoke to the audience.

I heard Ros Savage speak after a dinner last year in Liverpool and she is a very inspirational woman.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Alison Stephens

My friend and colleague, Alison Stephens, passed away yesterday, 10th October 2010.

We first met in 1988 at Trinity College of Music, when in a musicianship class, the teacher was busy pairing all the students off to do a project. Much like the weedy kids who are never picked for the sports team, Ali and I were last to be paired off, so in desperation the teacher ordered us (mandolin and harp) to "go off and find something to play together". And so began a life time friendship and musical collaboration.

We played together as much as possible, and when we weren't playing we were either researching what music would work on mandolin and harp, scheming about life in general, having a laugh (or cry) and eating or drinking and everything else students fill their time with.

It was with the greatest joy for me that Ali had such a wonderful career. When I had my children and Ali was busy jetting off round the world with the RSC, we always had time to share with each other whether it was with an email, text, phone call or best of all a bottle of wine and a good chat.

As a duo, we always had a very special connection. To have a duo consisting of two plucked instrument you have to a near "pyschic" connection to play absolutely together, and we always had such joy playing together.

Six years ago Ali and I started work on publishing mandolin music and a fantastic catalogue has been brought together. Ali was so keen that future young mandolinists would have music readily available and she worked so hard to provide that music.

I was so glad when Ali finally met and settled down with the love of her life, Mitch, 6 years ago, and it is a comfort to know that her final years were her happiest.

When Ali was first diagnosed with cancer 2 years ago, she was determined to not let it stop her and much to the amazement of her medical team continued with her gigs and recordings, her running training, and with her colleague Mike Maran undertook a massive fundraising initiative for various cancer charities.

When she was diagnosed with cancer for third time, we all thought Ali would beat it like she had before. Ali and I had gigs booked until 2012 and we were finalising the artwork to re-release our CD, Tapestry. Likewise with her other duo partners, Ali had gigs and projects planned with Craig Ogden, was about to record a CD for Chandos with Steven Devine, had just devised a new stage show with Mike Maran and had many mandolin books which she was putting together for publication.

Just two weeks ago, Ali and I had a wonderful day out in London. I was accompanying her as she did two sessions, one in the Abbey Road studios for the new Harry Potter movie, and one later in the evening for an advert. In between we fitted in a girly day out shopping in Oxford Street and a meal in our favourite restaurant in China Town.

Like any creative musician taken from us prematurely, Ali has left us bereft of the creative projects she has left undone. But I am privileged to have worked with her for the past 22 years and I will very much miss my musical partner.

As a friend I will miss her greatly.

Thank you for the music, my lovely Ali.

Duo Mandala - 1993

Alison Stephens 1st March 1970 - 10th October 2010

Ali and me on our girly day out in China Town just after she had done her Abbey Road session on 22nd September 2010

Ali raised lots of money for cancer charities during her treatments. This one was the Big Fun Run at Milton Keynes in September 2009. Left to right, Andy Scott, Lauren Scott, Ali Stephens, Mitch Harris, Craig Ogden.

Duo Mandala at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2009

Sunday, 3 October 2010

And Everything is Still...

1,580 miles is a lot of travelling for a gig! But sometimes it's worth it.... Just back from doing a flute, harp and sax gig with Clare Southworth and my husband, Andy in the Dordogne region in France. What a fantastic part of the world, and it was great weather too!

Clare and I also had a great flute and harp gig in Sandbach earlier in the week too.

There were three premiers by us this week (video clips will be up online soon!!)

And Everything is Still.... for flute and harp by Andy Scott

Paquito for flute and harp by Andy Scott

Salt of the Earth for flute, tenor sax and harp by Andy Scott

All of Andy's music for harp (4 new pieces premiered in a week including the solo work premiered by Keziah) will be published and available from Astute Music this coming January.

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Crossing Waves

Just back from a pleasant jaunt down to London to see a harp concert at the Forge venue in Camden by Keziah Thomas, who was premiering a piece that she commissioned from my husband, Andy.

She played a very ambitious programme to a room packed full of harpists, which must have been pretty daunting!

The programme was, Suite for Harp by Benjamin Britten, The Pearl Divers by Douglas Gibson, American Harp by Elie Siegmeister, Crossing Waves by Andy Scott, Tanzmusic by Glenn Buhr and Spiders by Paul Patterson.

Keziah did a fabulous job with Andy's piece and I especially enjoyed the Glenn Buhr and Paul Patterson pieces.

This is probably a controversial thing to admit in public....... but I really don't like the Benjamin Britten Suite. I was trying to listen to it tonight with a "fresh pair of ears" and to put my long held reservations about the piece to one side.

Unfortunately the performance tonight just confirmed what I always thought, and that the only reason it is performed is because it is by Benjamin Britten. I am a great fan of his music, but the Suite for Harp is just not a good piece of music. Because there is less music written for the harp compared with other instruments, some pieces, and especially pieces by "name" composers are played more than they deserve to be.

Hopefully with harpists like Keziah commissioning new music and breathing new life into the harp repertoire then harpists in years to come will have a real choice of (and this is the crucial point) music to programme.

In the end, it's all about the music.

Bravo Keziah!

Monday, 20 September 2010

Sandbach Concert Series

I'm working on 3 separate recital programmes at the moment for concerts which I have coming up.

I think that is just about my limit before my head starts to implode!

Most of the past few months has been taken up with the concert series which I have been working on setting up. I did all the applications some months back and fantastically we got all the funding, which was amazing especially in this economic climate. I'm chair of the society and Andy is the artistic director, and it has really taken off with lots of people now involved.

As well as a one hour concert by professional musicians, there is also an art exhibition which is open to anyone in the community, a 30 minutes spotlight concert featuring talented young musicians from the area and raffle with money raised going to local good causes. A full seasons listings plus more information about the series on the website.

Special thanks to everyone who has pulled together to make the concert series happen and especially to Caroline who has (and continues to) work her socks off getting everything ready.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

How to tie a harp string

I was so glad when I came across these videos on the web. They are really well demonstrated and there is lots more info about harp care on Steve's site here

Tying a harp sting with an anchor, 0-3rd octaves by Steve Moss

Tying a harp string without an anchor, 4th and 5th octaves by Steve Moss

Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Paris harp joy

Imagine my utter joy when being taken away for a surprise short break in Paris by my lovely hubby and just around the corner from our hotel we come across this amazing sight.... I was peering through the window at night time when I first saw it!

utter joy!!

So, the next day we went into the main harp shop which was 2 doors down from this workshop, and very generously the owner, Alexandre Budin showed me around his workshop. So many wonderful and amazingly historic harps.

I was like a silly kid in a sweet shop that had been given ALL the best sweets.

Alexandre was a total star and despite my chronic lack of French, he gave me a tour in English around the wonderful harps in his workshop.

So the show stopper that had me stop in awe in the window the night before was of course the Pleyel cross strung harp. I have never seen one in the flesh before. And he has TWO in his workshop.

Clockwise from centre, Pleyel cross strung harp (that Debussy wrote his Dance Sacree & Profane for), Erat harp, 2 single action Budin harps at front (made entirely from carbon fibre), the beauty on the left being a Japanese style Erard harp (only 7 were ever made and I could kick myself that I didn't get more of it in the photo, a stunner of a harp.)

So, Alexandre said the Japanese Erard unfortunately would not be playable when they finished work on it, but I'm pretty sure he said that this Pleyel would eventually be playable.

Just when it couldn't get any better (there was a Naderman harp!) Alexandre casually told me that the Erard harp in picture above (foreground minus strings) was unfortunately dead and would never be playable again but they kept it for sentimental reasons because it had belonged to Lily Laskine.

Friday, 6 August 2010

midi harp

So - more about the midi harp in due course, as Sioned Williams will be premiering a midi harp concerto with the BBC S.O January 2011 that she has commissioned from Graham Fitkin.

What an amazing instrument! Here is Arnaud Roy playing on the midi harp.

I'm not personally a fan of blue coloured harps so good to see that Camac have just built a striking black & white midi harp

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

trusty steed

I've clocked up a substantial amount of miles in my car past month, with just short of 1,000 in 4 days last week!

I have a Volvo V70 estate, which I bought second hand a few years back and it's the first Volvo I've owned. What a brilliant car, it fits the harp in with loads of room for other gear and is so comfortable to drive.

So considering the very silly amount of miles it does, recently I've had to have 2 new front tyres, and new ball joint for the suspension and today I needed to get it a new battery. Which is not bad really.

Q. Where's the battery then in a Volvo estate? It has needed jump starting with jump leads the past 4 days hence me getting the new battery this morning, and I got a nice surprise when I opened the bonnet looking for the battery.

Thank goodness for smartphones and being able to google "where's my battery on a Volvo V70" when you are stuck in the middle of nowhere. There is a jump starting point under the bonnet, but the actual battery is not there.

A. In the boot of course. Lift up the little seats in the boot space, lift up the flooring and it's under there silly!

Friday, 23 July 2010

the glamourous life

I bought a Victorian style hooped underskirt from the most amazing "aladin's cave" of a theatrical costume shop in Cambridge today.

I had just gone with a friend who was buying a costume for a show she is doing and went into a frenzy when I saw all the Victorian dresses they had.

However, after trying on a few dresses I decided that the one I already have is best but was in need of enormous hoop underskirt to make it all stick out!

Just need to get a few more props sorted out with Richard then I think we are all ready for our first Queen Victoria's Parlour gig next week. So just about to pop out and rummage through some charity shops for props.

I've just been doing some practice with the hooped underskirt over my jeans to see how it feels playing the harp with it on, and am very glad I did as it is very, very strange. How did the Victorian ladies manage?

I've also got a bit of a cold in my right ear so I need to play with an ear plug at the moment. The combination of hooped skirt over jeans, t-shirt, flip flops and big yellow ear plug sticking out of right ear is not the most glamourous look! Hopefully my ear should be ok by tomorrow for the last of the run of Katherine Jenkins gigs that I'm doing this summer.

Monday, 12 July 2010

My One and Only Love

Just been showing a harp student some harp videos and have stumbled on this amazing video on YouTube which I've just added to my "inspiring harp videos" page on this blog.

Definitely the most tasteful jazz harp I have ever heard. Texan harpist Cindy Horstman in a duo with bass player Michael Medina.

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Old v New

I played on a Katherine Jenkins gig yesterday at the Llangollen Eistedfodd and it's going to be broadcast on S4C this Sunday 11th July at 8pm. I played David of the White Rock as a duet with Katherine again, this time a very different and scarily chromatic arrangement, and there were also a few harp solos in the Welsh Medleys.

So that got me thinking about why I used my black Aurora harp and not the gold Iris, especially as that concert was being broadcast on the telly...

I really appreciate having two harps, especially as I've been managing with just one up until now. The new gold Iris is at the Phil at the moment, so it was convenience really that I used the black Aurora. But actually I was really glad I didn't use the gold Iris!

The Iris is now starting to bed in now that it is nearly a year old and has an amazing rich sound which really carries across an auditorium. For solo and orchestral work it is a truly stunning instrument to play and you can get a real range of dynamics.

For Katherines gigs though all the instruments are miked up and the harp has 2 very close mikes, 1 at the bass end and 1 at the top. The engineers get a great sound (so I'm told) of the harp out at the front, but it is a complete nightmare playing with such close mikes. You have to be so aware of every finger noise, damp and pedal noise.

My Iris produces so much sound that I'm very conscious of having to damp all the time especially the mid range. You don't notice that when you play acoustically but it really shows up whenever I have done some test digital recordings.

I was going to do a CD recording earlier this year, but I've postponed it until the harp settles in and matures a bit more and generally doesn't have so much "boom" on a close up microphone.

So the Aurora came into it's own! It's a really lovely harp with a great sound and I'm very lucky to have two such amazing harps.

Monday, 28 June 2010

Bollywood and Bond

I've just had a very busy few days of gigs. First up was a Katherine Jenkins gig in Whitehaven, which was nicely presented by Katherine after all the recent tragedy there. The next day was a James Bond gig with the RLPO which was fun but it was just page after page of glisses, and there were lots of pages.

Slotted in between the glisses there were a couple of pieces where I actually had some notes to play, namely Schindlers List and then a 2 bar harp solo in Hill Street Blues!!! Then back to even more glisses. Thank goodness for felt picks, otherwise I wouldn't have any fingers left.

In the morning on the way to the Bond gig I had a Bollywood wedding to play at which made the whole weekend a bit of logistical nightmare. Probably more about Bollywood harp music on another post.

This is a new thing which I have recently started doing and the repertoire is very interesting, especially as there doesn't seem to be any sound clips on the web of how it is supposed to sound on just a harp! So I've recorded a few quick clips which although it's not the best recordings, at least give a rough idea of the sound.

Wednesday, 23 June 2010


Andy and I played at the funeral today of a very special lady today, who died before her time. It was a really lovely church service, and it was nice to catch up with some old friends afterwards.

Playing at a funeral is definitely one the hardest gigs you can do, but it was a real privilege for me and Andy to be able to play for her as she was really good to us when our kids were little.

I played some solo harp music before the service, and then just before the service started we (Andy on tenor sax) played "the Water is Wide" which is such a beautiful tune. As Carol was brought into the church we played "Pie Jesu" by Lloyd-Webber, and then as Carol was taken out of the church we played "Fields of Gold" followed by "Autumn Leaves".

Andy and I so rarely play together which is a shame as the harp and tenor sax sound really lovely, but Andy does have to "hold in" the volume so as not to blast out the harp. It balanced out ok in the church though and I'm glad we could do this for her.

God bless you Carol.

Saturday, 19 June 2010

admin v practice

I've been really busy with gigs, but have hardly had any chance to practice. A very unsatisfactory way to be, but thats the way it goes sometimes.

I spent most of this week in between gigs (and during breaks in the gigs) writing up proposals, filling in funding application forms and generally catching up on loads of admin. All the applications need to be submitted in the next few days, so hopefully I can get my life back and get some practicing in then.

Finally got my flyers for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe dates to the printers last night which was long overdue considering the tickets are now on sale. It would be really good if being a musician was just about practicing and playing, but I think at least half of it is about admin. Otherwise how do you get the work in the first place? On reflection I suppose it's not that often really that the admin takes over completely from the playing, it's just annoying when it does!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Daily Dozen

I've been playing through Salzedo's "A Daily Dozen" as technical exercises a lot lately.

I'm a real fan of the "Conditional Exercises" and have been using them for years, and bought "Daily Dozen" last year as something new to try out.

I'm really not sure what I think about these. I find them very good, but have slight reservations about them - especially number 2 with the octave jumping. They do however deliver a condensed version of what you can achieve by going through something like the LARIVIERE book.

Like the "Conditioning Exercises" you can play through the whole book in just over 15 minutes which works as a good technical warm up.

I think the problem I have with them is that they are obviously designed to be done by players who use the Salzedo technique. I've not come across any players in the UK who do not use either the French or combination of French/Russian method of playing, so I must admit that I find the Salzedo technique really odd to look at with the high elbows.... I suppose it's a case of what you are used to!

With that in mind, exercises like the octave jumping in number 2 of Daily Dozen are probably lost on a harpist with French/Russian technique, although they are still fun to do.

Here is a good little video explaining the basics of the Salzedo technique

Unfortunately I couldn't find a similiar video showing French method but here is some text off the net explaining the differences...

There are two main methods of harp technique: the French (or Grandjany) method and the Salzedo method. Neither method has a definite majority among harpists, but the issue of which is better is a source of friction and debate. The distinguishing features of the Salzedo method are the encouragement of expressive gestures, elbows remain parallel to the ground, wrists are comparatively stiff, and neither arm ever touches the soundboard. The French method advocates lowered elbows, fluid wrists, and the right arm resting lightly on the soundboard. In both methods, the shoulders, neck, and back are relaxed. Some harpists combine the two methods into their own version that works best for them.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

kickstarter project

My husband, Andy Scott who is a composer, will shortly be writing a new piece for solo harp.

He has been commissioned by young talented harpist, Keziah Thomas who has recently moved to the US, so the piece will be premiered at the Forge in September in London and then in Carnegie Hall in New York in October.

Andy wrote his flute and harp sonata for me nearly 8 years ago now and I will be re-recording it soon with Clare Southworth on flute for a new CD of all of Andys flute music due out next year. So after 8 years, another harp piece, and this time a major solo work for harp by Andy is well overdue.

Keziah is an exciting young harpist and has set up a really interesting and novel way to raise funding for the commission.

Rather sadly, the ability to access funding for the arts has somewhat gone down the pan over the years and it is harder and harder to do creative things in the arts. So it's really inspiring to see a young artist not being limited by the lack of funding out there by public bodies!!

Thursday, 13 May 2010

blisters solution

Finally - I couldn't take the nasty sound they were producing so I ended up doing what I always normally do when I get blisters. (But usually I don't get blisters quite this thick, which is why I was holding off from the doing this...)

It's probably against all correct medical advice.... but I usually file them off with a nail file.

Takes a bit of a while when the skin is that thick, but they would have split whilst I was playing at some point anyway.

I think filing them so there are no edges is safer, as then you are less likely to 'snag' your skin when you are playing.

So, for the first time in years, I have 3 really raw fingertips and that bottle of surgical spirit which I have had hanging around for years is finally coming into use again as I'm dunking my fingertips in there as much as possible.

Luckily only one of them is really sore to play on and I'm hoping it will have hardened by this Saturday when I'm playing the Mozart flute and harp concerto! Not a piece to have a painful right hand 2nd finger, but c'est la vie! I must remember to smile and not grimace whilst playing.

I'm looking forward to Sunday and not obsessing about my fingertips for a while.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

pomp and stomp

These are the most stubborn blisters I think I have ever had. They are just not going down at all and I'm getting really fed up with them now :-(

I had another Carl Davies gig with the RLPO last night. Usual film stuff ending with that sacred quartet of British proms music.

Wood - British Sea Songs

Arne - Rule Britannia

Parry - Jerusalem

Elgar - Pomp and Circumstance March No 1.

Towards the second half the blisters had popped up again and were sounding pretty horrible. It's such hard work trying to get a decent sound with the damn things.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

thumbs up

This is the part of the stain glass windows in my local church, St Mary's Church in Sandbach.

Not sure I approve of the left hand position but nice to see his thumbs up!

Yesterday I had my second gig in 4 months where I had to sightread a piece I didn't know in a concert. It was fairly straight forward this time - Mass of the Children by John Rutter - but still it was that heart in mouth moment each time I turned the page of hoping the pedal changes marked in the part were actually correct. All good fun & I suppose it keeps me on my toes - so to speak !!

Friday, 30 April 2010

radical re-stringing

Billy (aka The Harp Doctor) stopped over at mine recently when he travelled up to service my concert harps and as an unexpected bonus he unraveled the mystery of why my little clarsach was always so dodgy!

It's a Wilfred Smith clarsach that I first started learning on as a child, and I now only use it on the odd occasion when teaching.

Lots of sentimental value, but to be honest it's never been a great harp.

I never changed the strings as I was always worried that any change of tension would pull the soundboard straight out. So they were only ever changed when they broke, and most of those strings were over 35 years old!

Billy had a good look at the strings and said that all the wrong tension strings were indeed on the harp and that I couldn't just put a new set of lever strings on as it would pull out the soundboard.

So he changed the wires and I think as an extended Su-Duko type puzzle for himself in the evening he worked out what strings I should use for each note.

I'm now half way through re-stringing and it's sounding pretty amazing. The tension is incredibly light and I do find it pretty hard to play as I am a Salvi girl and playing it is like ticking elastic bands. But WOW what a difference already.

This harp originally had really awful blades and about 8 years ago I took it to Pilgrims for them to change the blades over to brass levers. They remembered this harp from their days when they were apprentices to Wilfred Smith, who was a very eccentric chap who had a very particular and unique take (and not necessarily the correct one) on how to make harps. Basically they learnt a lot of how "not to" with this harp. But amazingly enough this harp is still around and in a strange way it's the precursor to the Pilgrim Clarsach!

Obviously I will need to paint in the C's and F's with red and black marker pen but the list is below.

1st A - gauge .58 - use 1st A lever nylon

1st G - gauge .58 - use 1st A lever nylon

1st F - gauge .60 - use 1st G lever nylon

2nd E - gauge .62 - use 1st B pedal nylon

2nd D - gauge .64 - use 1st B pedal nylon

2nd C - gauge .68 - use 2nd D lever nylon

2nd B - gauge .74 - use 2nd B lever nylon

2nd A - gauge .76 - use 2nd D pedal nylon

2nd G - gauge .76 - use 2nd D pedal nylon

2nd F - gauge .80 - use 2nd A lever nylon

3rd E - gauge .80 - use 2nd A lever nylon

3rd D - gauge .80 - use 2nd A lever nylon

3rd C - gauge .84 - use 2nd G lever nylon

3rd B - gauge .94 - use 3rd E lever nylon

3rd A - gauge .94 - use 3rd E lever nylon

3rd G - gauge .99 - use 3rd E pedal nylon

3rd F - gauge 1.05 - use 3rd B lever nylon

4th E - gauge 1.05 - use 3rd B lever nylon

4th D - gauge 1.14 - use 3rd G lever nylon

4th C - gauge 1.18 - use 4th E lever nylon

4th B - gauge 1.25 - use 4th D lever nylon

4th A - gauge 1.32 - use 4th B lever nylon

4th G - gauge 1.36 - use 4th A lever nylon

4th F - gauge 1.42 - use 4th F lever nylon

5th E - pirastro nycor wire

5th D - pirastro nycor wire

5th C - pirastro lever wire

5th B - pirastro lever wire

5th A - pirastro lever wire

5th G - pirastro lever wire

5th F - pirastro lever wire

Sunday, 25 April 2010

silly blisters

so - what do you do?

You are on a gig and you can't play on the blisters when they are really puffed up.

You can't play on the inner side of the finger tip because then the string is up against the puffed up blister when you play and gives off a really nasty pingy sound, and you are then so far away from normal playing position it's just weird.

So that leaves playing on the outer side of the finger tip playing on just the very edge of the finger with the danger of constantly falling off the strings.

I wouldn't mind but I have been practicing and gigging regularly so it's not like I've had days off from playing for them to get into this state.

What the picture doesn't quite capture is just how puffed up and enormous they are!

Somehow I managed to get through the gig yesterday. I have no idea how, especially as it was Karl Jenkins Requiem with it's very, very silly harp solo in the last movement!

Monday, 19 April 2010

odd gliss technique

I'm not sure whether it's a peculiarity of the shape of my fingers, but over the years I have developed a technique for loud orchestral glisses when you just don't have time in the music to grab and use a felt pick. I can only do it with my 2nd finger (in both hands) so it only applies to upward glisses.

Its using the whole side of the 2nd finger

instead of the normal playing part of the finger tip.

So the main part in contact with the string is the boney part just below the first finger joint.

I find I can get a very loud sound - not as loud as using picks but louder than the normal way of playing them, and most importantly I have complete control over the tone and dynamic.

The down side though is that as well getting blisters on the finger in the normal playing position you also can end up with blisters on the side of your finger as well - so double the blisters on your 2nd fingers!

I was playing Elgar's Dream of Gerontious on Saturday (with only 1 harp instead of 2) so by time I got to doing a childrens concert at the Phil the next morning my fingers were really sore. I didn't think there was going to be much for me to do in the childrens concert, but there was the usual thing of not getting the music until the day and finding a surprise harp cadenza right at the end of the concert!

It was just a sort of extended flourish using glissandi but it was really useful using my odd gliss technique as my fingers were so sore.

I really need to find a name for this technique!

Saturday, 10 April 2010


Went for run this morning and still finding it very hard work, but it's so nice to run and feel/see the sun after our sporadic winter running. Hopefully this bodes well for getting back into regular runs in the morning.

Just off for a quick tidy up and prune in the garden and then going to get ready for work later today at the Phil. It's a Stephen Sondheim birthday concert with Carl Davies. As per usual with these gigs the harp parts are disproportionally tricky and are not the nicest to sightread!

I'm in more or less everything except Gershwin's "An American in Paris" which is being played WITHOUT the three saxophone parts. I didn't know there was a version without the saxes? There are three sax parts in the original score.

Friday, 2 April 2010


I'm finding it hard to get back into a routine after having the worst cold I've had in YEARS.

It's been 3 weeks now and I'm still not back to full strength.

Managed to go running this morning - more of a slow jog really, so at least thats an improvement. There is definitely a connection between whether I can get any physical exercise done and my productivity for the rest of the day. So here's hoping I manage to get a bit more done today then I have of late.

I've just finished teaching, and must go and do some harp practice now. I think I will plough through the Salzedo Conditioning Exercises today as a technical work out.