Introduction to note bending techniques used in my compositions, Beyond the Horizon & Celestial Spirals
Written in 2019, Beyond the Horizon and Celestial Spirals share the same 3 note motif and can be played together as a two movement work or individually. Both pieces explore an ethereal ‘out of this world’ soundscape and feature on Lauren Scott’s debut album, ‘Beyond the Horizon’ - New Music for Lever Harp (AVIE2417). Written for lever harp, they can also be played on pedal harp with some adaptation by the player.
Beyond the Horizon features various note bending techniques developed by Lauren to evoke the feelings of floating beyond the atmosphere. Celestial Spirals features a buzzing sound from having a paperclip resting at the base of just one string to create an alternative sound world which underlines the spirals that flow through the piece before coming back to it’s original starting point.
Here on this page, Lauren demonstrates the various techniques and shows how they can be achieved on different types of harps.
A run through of all the different effects in Beyond the Horizon.
A run through of all the special effects during first 4 measures of Celestial Spirals.
Using the paperclip in Celestial Spirals.
Playing the different effects in context within Celestial Spirals.
Demonstrating the different effects in Beyond the Horizon on a heavy gauge string lever harp.
Demonstrating the different effects in Beyond the Horizon on a concert harp.
Beyond the Horizon and Celestial Spirals is now published as sheet music and available HERE
I hope you enjoy learning the music and if you post any performances online of my music please tag me in as I would love to see them!
I am very humbled that several of my compositions have been selected onto the new AMEB harp syllabus. My thanks go to Alice Giles who oversaw the selection of the new harp syllabus for the Australian Music Examinations Board and to the harpists I have met in West Australia who have been so supportive.
The pieces that have been selected are:
Gypsy Dance - (Certificate of Performance Lever Harp) AMEB 2021
Lapkon's Spinning Wheel - (Grade 7) on AMEB Harp Syllabus 2021
Caribbean Daydreams - (Grade 5) on AMEB Harp Syllabus 2021
Habanera Caprichosa - (Grade 8) on AMEB Harp Syllabus 2021
I was hoping to travel to my birth country last year but covid had other ideas, and it seems that a return to Australia will of course be some way off now. So to celebrate Habanera Caprichosa being selected as a Grade 8 AMEB piece I have created an on demand video tutorial.
International travel seems a long distance memory now post covid, but I continue to hope that I will get a chance to return to Australia soon!
Harp Habanera online course is available HERE
I'm absolutely thrilled that my composition Elegy has been selected as one of Harp Columns 30 day practice challenges as a DREAM BIG Original solo for lever harp.
In this blog post I have created a series of mini tutorials which I hope will be a useful aid for anyone taking on the challenge of learning Elegy as part of the Harp Column practice challenge.
If you have any questions throughout the month about the piece please leave a comment below and I'll get back to you.
Here is the audio of Elegy and the PDF of the sheet music can be downloaded from Harp Column HERE
Elegy breaks down into 7 sections and I have created a mini tutorial covering each section of the piece.
This first video is an over view on creating the VIBRATO effect which occurs throughout the piece
1st section - m.1-16
2nd section - m.17-24
3rd section - m. 25-36
4th section - m.37-40
5th section - m. 41-48
6th section - m.49-56
7th section - m. 57-end
I hope these are helpful, and thank you so much for learning my music. If you post any videos on social media please tag me in as I would love to see them! x
In this very short video I demonstrate how to play an effect which I've developed and use in my piece Celestial Spirals. I've called them xylo-harmonics, but essentially they are false harmonics, and it's a handy technique to have 'up your sleeve' if you ever have a problematic string which has a stubborn harmonic and you want to produce a pure harmonic sound.
Here, you can see how they are used in context in the opening and closing sections of Celestial Spirals.
I find you can also have more control over dynamics using this effect than you can with harmonics.
This CD by Scottish harpist and composer Karen Marshalsay is a firm favourite of mine and gets regularly played in my car when I'm driving.
I absolutely love everything about this CD... the sound of the three different harps she plays, the music and the ornamentation is really quite extraordinary. She has a tutor book you can buy to study the different techniques she uses HERE
I find the sound of the wire harp completely enchanting and etheral, and the sound of the bray harp is just bonkers! I'd personally love to get hold of a bray harp at some point to have a play around on, it is just the craziest sounding thing ever - I love it.
Back to Karen's CD - this is a GREAT CD. It's available on spotify etc, but I always recommend to support the artist and buy the CDs direct from the artists whenever possible. so buy it HERE
Brilliant harping, fantastic use of ornamentation, great compositions - bravo Karen!
I've recorded a couple of fun and easy to learn exercises for pedal harp that can be use as a daily warm up.
The first mini tutorial is called "let's get those feet moving!"
I play through the whole warm-up exercise on this IGTV post here
The harder version of that exercise is in a mini tutorial called, "One Step Beyond!", and the video for that is below...
I'm in the middle of learning a solo harp piece with lots of quarter tones. Despite having many years of experience of learning contemporary music, reading quartertones and knowing which pedal setting it refers to is not in a harpists natural comfort zone.
So this chart is an AIDE MEMOIRE for me... not to confuse a quartertone natural symbol for a flat pedal when marking my pedals in the score.
Hopefully it might be helpful for other harpists working on contemporary music with quartertones?
I've just done this chart for a pupil and posting it here in case it's useful for anyone else.
It's tricky if you are new to learning to read music at the same time as learning to play the harp. Very easy to get confused when the left hand of the music jumps about between bass clef and treble clef and you are reading ledger lines. It can take a while to work out which octave a note is in!
For those new to reading music and harp playing - harpists tend to only use 3-4 ledger lines maximum. Advanced players will read more ledger lines, but 3 is absolutely fine for beginners and intermediate harpists and there is no need to learn to read notes with more ledger lines than that.
Composers - If a note needs more than 3 ledger lines than change to a different clef where there aren't any - or use the 8va or 8vb. If you can avoid using ledger lines by using the 8va or 8vb then it's good practice to do so.
This chart has lots of ledger lines that we wouldn't normally use and are there just for note comparison.
Hopefully this chart will help those new to the harp who are also learning to read music at the same time.
Having always tied my harp strings the same way for YEARS, I have very recently started doing them differently!
I'm now using wooden dowels instead of a bit of thick harp gut to secure the knot, which meant learning a new way to tie the knot.
Like Pavlov's dog, it's going to take me a while to unlearn a lifetime of tying a knot a different way!
But this new way is a simpler way (I think) of doing it, and for someone like myself who is a little bit dyslexic at times this is quick and works first time without being too 'fiddly' to remember.
Loop under - tail over the bottom end of the loop - tail now wraps into the loop - wooden dowel at bottom end of the loop - grab hold of dowel and the tail - pull
I don't think I am alone in suffering some "disappointment" when the wheels from my lovely Harpo trolley first started to fall off.
The trolley IS really good and has lots of PLUS points. But the wheels falling off are a real design flaw. (This is of course a massive understatement on how annoyingly frustrating the wheels are.)
But here is how you can fix the Harpo trolley using just a cheap metal teaspoon.
The design problem is very small... it's the teeth on the metal disc which turn the wrong way round with use, meaning that rod can't go full length into the trolley.
The teeth should be pointing towards the tyre and flush with the wheel - the wheel below is ok
If it looks like this (below) then you need to fix it
Grab a metal teaspoon rather than a screwdriver as you don't want to accidentally break off any of those teeth, you just want to push the ring down and at the same time try to push the teeth so it's going inwards towards the tyre.
BE CAREFUL NOT TO BREAK THOSE TEETH - don't use a small screwdriver - use the teaspoon as it's less likely to cause breakage.
Make sure you pull the rod towards you so that it is extended to it's fullest and carefully push that ring down.
and voila! The pesky wheels go on the trolley first time without any fiddling about.
It's a 10 minute job and saves hours of cursing at your trolley when you try to get it out of the car and the trolley decides to be a pain... and the wheels keep dropping off... and you're trying to get the harp unloaded... and it's raining... and you're annoyed because you spent so much money on this expensive trolley and.....
Just done this teaching resource for a student - now there is no excuse not to practice ALL those scales, arpeggios and dominant sevenths as required for the ABRSM Grade 5 exam.
Feel free to share with any harp students who could do with this free handy practice chart.
Double click on each image to open the image fully and then print off.
Tick the box as you complete each one you need to do at least 10 each day if you want to get through the cycle in a 2 week period. Select across different keys and types of scales/arpeggios rather than working down the list in numerical order.
Isabelle Perrin and Barbara Fackler have created a guide to harp notation as used by composer Bernard Andrés with the intention that this collection be shared freely among harpists at no cost.
A Guide to Harp Notation Used in the Compositions of Bernard Andrès
Ahh - snow.... lots of snow. That'll be my weekend of rehearsals cancelled then!
Always nice to have bonus unexpected time to catch up and do things you wouldn't normally have time to do - when you're not building snowmen that is.
So - here is a tick chart for students practicing all the ABRSM grade 6 lever harp scales, arpeggios and dominant sevenths ;-)
To play through all of them over during a months practice you need to do at least 12 different ones each time - assuming 20 days of practice in a month. Although I think it's probably more realistic to do the cycle over a 2 month period and do 6 a day.
Double click on the images to open full version, save them to your computer and then print off.
Want to see more Harpyness Blog posts?
⦿ Click on 'previous' at bottom of page
⦿ use the Search box below
⦿ lucky dip a month under archives!
⦿ Click here to bring you back to The HARPYNESS Blog home page
Lauren Scott is a harpist & composer and has been blogging for over 10 years.
CLICK HERE to subscribe to Lauren Scott's newsletter
If you enjoy reading Harpyness you can send me a virtual tip by clicking on the button below and buying me a virtual coffee. Cheers!