I've finally ordered MC & The 7 Pedals album GLUTEN FREE from Bandcamp. I've been meaning to do it for a while,so I'm looking forward to that arriving in the post. I've posted a blog about Maria-Christina a few years back and I absolutely love her playing, the special effects she does on the harp and the way she uses loops.
Check out the cheeky tuning key in the pedal slot to create a consistent buzz, I am SO GOING TO borrow that idea! I had to do a whole load of pedal buzzes recently and I could have done with knowing how to achieve the perfect pedal buzz.
Her website is HERE
Support her music by buying her CD here if you don't already have it.
I always like to physically buy albums to support music creators if I can rather than use the streaming services where artists get a pitiful amount like 0.0001 per stream
I also love her collaboration with activist rapper Potent Whisper - brilliant video!
info taken from YouTube ~ Rapper and activist Potent Whisper has teamed up with award-winning Electric Harpist Maria-Christina & The 7 Pedals to release new single 'NOW' "The single is a fusion of Harp and Rap; politically responsive lyricism set to the experimental - non romantic - sounds of the Electric Harp. After hearing a preview of the single, a reviewer asked me how many musicians feature on the track and I had to explain that it's just the two of us. Every sound that you hear on the track was played by Maria-Christina, she has one hundred and one different ways to manipulate her Harp; she's a real innovator in that respect." - Potent Whisper
The South London rapper and BRIT School graduate made the papers in 2015 with his anti-gentrification single 'Brixton First' featuring Lara Lee (star of BBC's The Voice). The single was supported by Tom Robinson on BBC Radio 1 and Radio 6, receiving further coverage from The Evening Standard Since winning first place at the Wales International Harp Competition in 2010,
Maria-Christina & The 7 Pedals has gone on to tour Europe and given performances at numerous prestigious venues in the UK, most recently featuring on Later With Jools Holland on BBC2. She is currently undertaking her PhD on the Modern Harp at Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance in London
Maria-Christina Website: http://www.mcandthe7pedals.com
Potent Whisper Website: http://potentwhisper.com/
Download 'Now' - https://amzn.com/B01APVVBFQ
It's been a wonderful month of networking on Instagram thanks to the lovely harpists at @lowpressureharpshare instigating a month of #harpril posts. It's been a great way to find and meet lots of harpists across the world who haven't necessarily met each other online before. (If you haven't done so already, search #harpril on instagram and you will be in for a treat!)
One of the highlights for me, and probably lots of other harpists too, was seeing the posts by @arezoo.amirjamloui and her incredible upside down looking harps - which I must confess to not knowing ANYTHING about prior to seeing them on instagram.
@arezoo.amirjamloui referred to them as Iranian harps, (or table harps?) but the Persian Cheng is more curved and these are very straight. Perhaps these are a new modern interpretation of the Cheng? I know they do play what we consider 'normal shaped' harps in Iran, so I've no idea how popular these particular harps in Iran. I would love to know. If you have a link to more info about these harps please do comment below. I've tried to do a websearch on these harps and these harp players but my lack of knowledge of the Persian language is preventing me from doing basic internet research which is frustrating.
So - in the spirit of sharing what little I could find out - a bit about the Persian Chang in this next video...
and more of these 'table harps" < I wish I knew what there were called!!! >
Video taken from this website HERE <disclaimer I don't know whether this is a legit website or not. This video has been re-shared in good faith. I wanted to share the video but it would only let me download the video rather than the standard embed like we have on YouTube videos. Hence me reposting the source link>
again <disclaimer - this video has been shared in good faith because I don't understand the language on the website to know who to contact for credit. The video has come from HERE >
The Chang is curved so you can reach the upper notes. But it must be hard to comfortably reach the upper notes on these harps? Certainly you couldn't really see them??
More about the CHANG on Wikipedia HERE
24th May 2019 - I've since had some communication with @arezoo.amirjamloui and they are indeed modern interpretations of the Persian Chang and are made (or promoted?) by @shahoo_orchestra www.instagram.com/shahoo_orchestra
I love this live performance by Arnaud Roy on harp with Live Painting by Marie Bouchet
Arnaud Roy is a composer and sound designer as well as a harpist. His website is HERE
He writes music for video games - MORE HERE
I first came across his music on midi harp about 10 years ago - really fascinating to watch and listen to his use of midi harp.
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?
During the 90's I was working a lot with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and for over 10 years I always lodged with the same landlady whenever I was in Glasgow. Mrs M was absolutely lovely and I loved staying with her.
She passed away a while back at the grand age of 92. In researching family history, her daughter went through the Visitors Book that her mum kept and as I was a frequent visitor recently got in touch and has written a lovely post in her blog. I know quite a few musicians lodged with Mrs M at her wonderful apartment in one of those beautiful tenements just off the Byers Road through the 90s-00s. Being able to travel with work and meet wonderful people like Mrs M is the real perk and privilege of being a musician.
Click here to read Mum's Marbles BLOG - All photos from Mum's Marbles BLOG
I've just seen this cracking video of Gwenllian Llyr (harp) playing Haldon Evans: Dros y Mynydd [Over the Mountain].
It's a brilliant piece, brilliantly played by Gwenllian - more about Gwenllian HERE and about the composer Haldon Evans HERE
Edinburgh based Polish harpist, Zuzanna Olbrys, has excellent resources on her website HERE which are well worth bookmarking to visit regularly. She has written some really interesting articles which I have enjoyed reading.
If you sign up to her newsletter you get a free eBook which I would highly recommend for anyone thinking about learning the harp. It contains very good advice and excellent tips for anyone wanting to learn the harp. Do check it out and sign up for her newsletter HERE
You can hear Zuzanna play on her soundcloud here
So pleased to hear that the Hermes Experiment, contemporary ensemble with harpist Anne Denholm, has won the mixed ensemble category of the Royal OverSeas League.
It's a prestigious competition and great that they have won it.
Anne Denholm is a lovely person and a great harpist! As well as one quarter of the Hermes Experiment she is of course the Official Harpist to the Prince of Wales - more about Anne here
Having spent a lot of today learning some complex contemporary music full of staccato notes, I can SO relate to this cartoon.
I wish the music I had to learn was more like the music that Daffy Duck is playing!
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.
I can't believe I haven't done a blog post about this brilliant short film before now on 'Une Chatelaine en sa Tour' by Faure.
Here, Alexander Rider plays this seminal work for harp on an original Erard harp from 1902. Alex also introduces a little of the work's history and that of its creator, the harpist Micheline Kahn (1889-1987).
As well as being a wonderful musician, Alex seems to have an encyclopaedic knowledge on harp history and is also one of the nicest people I know!
When Alex isn't busy performing or researching, he generously shares his knowledge with other harpists as Editor of the UKHA HARP magazine.
For the past few six months I have been involved in the 'Composing for Harp' scheme being run by the contemporary music group based in Manchester, Psappha.
Six young composers were selected to write a new 5 minute piece for solo harp and so far I have had three workshops with each of them as they have developed ideas for their compositions.
Each of the works have been very different in style and I was delighted that two of the composers chose to write a piece for lever harp - all the other pieces have been written for pedal harp.
Both pieces for lever harp utilise pedals as my Starfish lever harp has a built in pick-up. One of the pieces uses these pedals, and the other piece uses electronics and a volume pedal.
One of the compositions for the pedal harp utilises a lot of preparation. This is a photo from the first workshop when we were trying out sounds. That piece has now developed into using coils, paperclips, a pencil with rubber grip, lots of card and picks.
One of the compositions is a tricky one to count with interesting sub-divisions and uses clever de-tuning of some strategic notes. The other two pieces for concert harp are (surprisingly) tonal.
They are all very different in compositional style and I have really enjoyed working on them so far.
Having gone through a few drafts, the final versions of the pieces are imminent and due in in a few weeks time. I'll then be recording all of them in a daylong session in May where they will be filmed. The resulting final videos will be uploaded to Psappha's impressive library of compositions that they have supported since they started doing this scheme.
It's been an interesting project working with 6 composers at one time and I'm very much looking forward to recording all of these pieces.
photo credit - Chris Payne and Psappha
A new harp to add to my wish list... a 32 string travel harp built by Alexander Tremer in Germany. Technically it's not a harp because the strings feed to the side, but it's strung and played as one. It only weighs 3.3 kg and it can be carried in a specially designed back pack. I suspect it will also fit into a large suitcase. For a small harp the sound is HUGE as you can hear on this video played by harpist, Amélie Guiboux playing a cover of Get Lucky by Daft Punk on her Luna harp.
You can get a good idea about the size comparison with a normal 34 string harp with this picture from the Luna harp website.
I've had a quick play on one and despite it looking a little odd (and it not technically being a harp) I'm really impressed. It's well worth having a good look on their website which has lots of info about this harp.
Bertie bonus - it's now comes with Camac levers as standard!
I've been making a concerted effort of late to sort out all the arrangements I have done over the years and to start publishing them. The latest of which is my arrangement of The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba for two pedal harps.
I arranged this back in 2013 for some duo gigs I was doing with my good friend and wonderful harpist, Eleanor Hudson. The idea behind the arrangement was to split the melody line up so that it worked stereophonically between the two harps. The Queen of Sheba is an often requested piece for wedding ceremonies and the melody line is quite tricky to play solo. So the inspiration of splitting the melody line was so that it could be played at a much faster speed than one would normally be used to playing it as a solo.
It's great fun to play, but you have to be careful to work hard as an ensemble to make sure the melody line sounds like one harp.
A list of all my published arrangements is here and I'll update it as and when I have new harp arrangements ready.
It's available to purchase as a download from my online shop on this website and hard copies can be purchased direct from the publisher here.
The world would be a such a dull place without Björk - and the incomparable Tara Minton on harp...
I'm delighted that the good people at Harps North West are using my arrangements of Pure Imagination for lever harp as part of their JaNEWary challenge. They are using two versions of my arrangements for lever harp. The first version is a more straight forward version with no lever changes, and the second version is more complex with lever changes. The pieces are broken up into small sections and they have special teaching videos and play-along videos presented by the very brilliant and inspiring Mary Dunsford.
If you want to join in and learn the arrangements as part of this months challenge you can head over to their website or their facebook page.
I'm looking forward to giving a workshop on extended techniques at the Harps North West summer camp later this year.
I started publishing my harp arrangements last year and Pure Imagination from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is available as one PDF containing all three versions which is perfect for teaching all levels of harpists. For beginner to intermediate harpists complete with carefully thought through lever markings and pedalling. 1. Easy lever harp with no lever changes 2. intermediate lever harp with lever changes 3. intermediate pedal harp.
Pure Imagination is available here and you can see all my other published arrangements here
I was just re-visiting a lovely video of the great jazz standard, 'My One & Only Love' by the bass guitar & harp duo 2tone, when I came across this jazz harp duo version of Ravel's Introduction & Allegro by Cindy Hortsman. I wasn't quite sure at first what to expect when I saw it was a harp duo jazz arrangement of such a well known and well loved seminal piece in the harp repertoire. But, I really quite like it!
The sheet music is available from Cindy's website here
I think I may have posted this following video of 2tone playing My One and Only Love on this blog before. But it's well worth posting again as it's a really beautiful rendition, with an equally beautifully filmed video of Cindy Hortsman on harp & Michael Medina on bass guitar.
Sometimes you can end up down the strangest paths when looking on the internet, and during a late night browse, just by chance I came upon the harp maker Otto Zangerle and his harps.
Your eyes are not deceiving you it's a 6x6 chromatic Tyrolean harp. But he builds even more curious harps...
He is patenting a double neck harp design... details here
But the harp that makes my mind boggle the most is this one where you can have the option of all the pedals on one side (?) so that you can change the pedals when playing the harp standing up with one foot (?)
If anyone has seen any of these harps in real life, or has heard them being played I would LOVE to know more about them.
If you haven't had a good browse around the website then buckle up and have a good browse at these innovative Austrian harps.
It's always a pleasure to play with the Psappha Ensemble, and I had a blast playing in Steve Mackey's epic piece, 'Deal' with them.
I'm not usually happy sitting right behind a drum kit on stage, but it was an absolute pleasure sitting behind Mike Smith for this gig. Wonderful musicianship on display in this video by Mike Smith & Mike Walker on guitar with Psappha Ensemble whilst I spent most of my time furiously subdividing & counting bars!
In the continuing saga of the radical re-stringing I'm doing on my lever harp; having changed all the gut strings to carbon fibre & nylon the original wire strings didn't sound great and needed changing.
I was very wary of changing the wires and wanted to be super careful as I didn't want to do anything that would endanger the harp.
As luck would have it Billy 'The Harp Doctor" was in the area and giving my concert harp a service so I had a chance to pick his brain on the best type of wires to change to now that I had started on this project.
So, after a conversation with Billy looking at my harp and then a very helpful conversation with Salopian Strings over the phone, I ordered Multifilament wires for the first 3 wires 5th B, A & G <I had already changed the original 5th C, D & E wires to carbon fibre> and light gauge wire for the final 4 bass strings.
So, whats in a multifilament wire string then? Normally you have the metal solid core wrapped in silk and then with the wire (silver, copper etc) wrapped round.
As you can see above, there is no solid core!!! Which makes for a very funky & comical looking wire string as you put it on the harp. TBH I really thought that it wasn't going to make any sound at all, but WOW, what a great string. It perfectly bridges that sound gap from the carbon fibre strings above to the wire strings below. I took a gamble on needing 3 of these strings to bridge the gap before moving on to 'normal' wires at the bass end and I'm very glad I did as the sound blends really well.
So how bad were the original wires then?
Personally I hated the sound of them. The top ones were far too 'zingy' which is why I changed them as soon as possible to carbon fibre and the bottom ones had loads of variation of pitch as you played them.
video above the original wires that came with the harp.
video below the new hand made wires by Salopian Strings. This is the wire with the solid wire core (not the special multi filament wire). For my personal taste, it's a much more mellow sound with very little 'wow' variation in pitch as it's played. Bear in mind I've literally just put this string on to the harp, so it needs to settle in to pitch.
Next up on this project is some adjustment that needs to be made to the intonation with the levers. Some (not all) need adjusting now so that the pitch is true when you change the lever.
After that, I'll be posting videos!
Amy Turk does the most amazing videos and this one is no exception! Africa by Toto arranged and performed by Amy. The work that goes into the harp arrangements Amy does & the quality and production of her videos is incredibly impressive. You can support her patreon account here to help her create more videos for everyone to enjoy for free on the internet.
The re-stringing I've done so far as been fairly straight forward and now it's on to the experimental side.
The strings I've used on the upper part of the harp are all NYLON [shock horror] and sound amazing! I'm really pleased with how they feel and sound. They are all the nylons used on the CAMAC Bardic 27 string harp, which is my other lever harp. I have always loved the feel and sound of the Bardic, so when I decided to change the strings on this harp it suddenly occurred to me that I had a spare set of strings for the Bardic so why not put those on instead?
From 4th octave D upwards the nylon strings sound brilliant, but the 4th octave C, B & A sound a bit dead and 'thumpy'.
Going towards the bass end the bardic uses carbon fibre but at a different gauge to normal (here comes the interesting bit). Instead of it being lever harp gauge, it's concert harp gauge but used 3 strings higher on the lever higher. As you can see by this photo, the 4th octave G on the bardic is actually a [concert harp] 4th octave B
So I tried to source the correct gauge string from a harp shop, which was impossible! So I ended up going to a German luthier string supplier that sold all types of strings for different instruments from the Alliance range. They had a harp section online but instead of the strings being listed by octave they are only listed by string gauge. Luckily they do lots of REDs and BLACKs in various gauges so you can experiment with the gauges. Taking an educated guess, I reckoned that the HPK136R was going to be the one I needed.
The important thing for me was to have no jump in sound from the nylon string on the 4th octave D above to the carbon fibre 4th octave C. Which I'm delighted to say that now it's starting to settle in there isn't!!!
I decided that I didn't like some of the wire strings as they sounded too 'zingy' after the carbon fibre strings so I started to replace a few. I carefully removed the wires without cutting them, so I could always replace them if necessary.
I decided to be a bit more methodical with the stringing this time, so I just wound the string on without catching the tail underneath the loops to lock on the pin. I kept tuning it every couple of hours for 24 hours.
After 24 hours I carefully unwound it [see last post] and re-strung it so that I lost the excess (stretched) string. I checked it every day when tuning regularly, and after 5 days it looked like this.
As you can see from photo above, it's a pretty much a healthy 3 coils round the peg. It still needed tuning constantly over the 5 days; but once that initial stretch is pulled through that seems to be pretty much it.
I'm just going to carefully unwind the string now allowing for it to be turned at the point it's reached now and will tie the tail under so it winds over itself.
Next thing is repeating this process with the next wire down which also sounds incredibly 'zingy'. I'm hoping that I can stop there as the B below has a different heavier sound which I think will blend better soundwise.
I've been doing some experimental re-stringing on my lever harp and wanted to use carbon fibre strings. My goodness, those strings are slippery & stretchy and handle completely differently from gut strings. So this morning I finally worked out a way of handling them better and here are the pictures.
[Never mind the time I spent trying to fix a knot into the carbon fibre string in the first place as it kept slipping apart. I'll post pictures of how I ended up doing the knots later. For now, this post & the pictures are all about the major issue (I think) with carbon fibre strings which is just how incredibly stretchy they are!]
When I wound the string onto the peg, there was so much stretch in the string, it took loads of turns to get it to pitch. Then when you left it to settle, it took more turns to get it back up to pitch. It took far longer to get to pitch than a regular gut (or nylon) string.
Which meant more coils round the peg.
The G string above was not too bad an example in that is was only 4 turns round, but it was still going flat and need another twist round to sharpen to pitch.
So I unwound the string making sure to keep the tension by hand as much as possible with the lower part of the string to create as little movement on the knot as possible. Then I pulled the string back up to take out the slack.
Then I re-engaged the string to the pin from this new point. Don't leave any slack in the string - trust me it will stretch. I had over 4 cm of extra string when I pulled it through; that is how much stretch and slack had accumulated over a period of 5 days from first putting the string on the harp.
After one full revolution to then push the string towards the harp, so that now when it wound on it would lock and wind over itself.
The important thing being to then trim the excess, so that eventually you would 'lose' the 'tail' under the coils as it winds on.
You might think this all seems blindingly obvious, but trust me, using carbon fibre strings feels SO different to gut & nylon. I think you need to double or triple the time you would normally spend stringing, tuning and settling in the string. HOWEVER... once it's settled and in tune, I think carbon fibre are brilliant strings.
***I am using these on my lever harp but certainly would not think about using these on my pedal harps***
I'll answer that in my next blog post.
#Allianz #savarez #carbon #fibre #carbonfibre #strings #KF string #corde KF
Yesterday I had a white knuckle gig. Nothing to do with playing the harp, but the DRIVING involved in getting to the gig. It was in a remote venue and the drive was slightly more 'interesting' than usual as for the first time ever my SatNav decided it was not even going to pretend I was on a road anymore.
So I ended up with that nightmare of driving conditions that you don't need on the way to a gig.
Had I known it was such a remote venue I would have been mentally prepared for it. Unfortunately playing harp at weddings in the UK does mean that you get to play in some remote places, but this was a new one for me. It was that (unfortunately familiar) sinking feeling as you drive from Motorway to A road, to B road, to what is essentially little more than a track. Meanwhile you heartbeat starts to race as you go from...
"oh this is getting a bit narrow" to
"hmm, this isn't really a road anymore" to
"I'm not enjoying this" to
"actually I'm a bit scared now and my vertigo is kicking in as I go up this steep bendy hill on a narrow path with a sheer drop to the side".
The actual gig was lovely with a beautiful venue and nice people.
But I have to admit I spent most of the time thinking about the drive back home and being thankful that I would be doing the return car journey during daylight and that it wasn't raining.
Being an outdoor gig meant as well that I was fighting the wind blowing through my strings and being picked up on my amp. I took a couple of short videos on my phone and unknowingly picked up the craziest effect of my strings vibrating.
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