Instrument: Harp

hi my name is Ruth Holden and this is my

concert pedal harp

it's about a hundred years old and it

has 47 strings three courses of strings

are made from guts and the bottom

quarter are made from steel the shorter

the string the higher the sound the

longer the string the lower the sound it

has a range of about six and a half

octaves which is slightly less than a

piano has but we read our music in the

same way that a pianist would with the

right hand playing in the treble clef on

the left hand paying playing in the bass

clip as a visual guide we have different

colored strings the red strings are

seized and the black strings are the FS

a very important thing for the heart

needs to do is to change key and we do

that rather a lot we change key by

pressing down any of the seven pedals at

the base of the instruments each pedal

is named after one note of the scale

I've got my foot on the D pedal at the

moment and at the moment also it'll be

in flat if I press it down it will go

into natural if I press it down again it

goes into sharp

so it's sharpening and flattening it by

a semitone each time and what how this

happens is the pedals activate rods that

run up the column of the harp and plates

that run down the neck of the harp and

then these turn these little disks here

and I'll just show you how they work you

can see them actually turning around so

they're pinching on the strings in harp

playing we never use a little finger and

when we play chords you can see that our

little finger would not be able to

extend further down and play it's just

not long enough so chords have to be

written with four notes in each hand

like this and also when we play

arpeggios it's always runs of four notes

another technique we use on the hub are

harmonics we pluck them and play them at

the same time approximately halfway up

the string and it sounds an octave above

those harmonics are from an extract by

Stravinsky in the Firebird suite if we

to play harmonics in the right hand we

play them in a slightly different way we

would normally position our hands

halfway in the strings to get maximum

resonance but sometimes we're asked to

give different effects and one of these

effects is prayed on a table and it's

notated as PD LT and we place the

fingers much lower near the soundboard

and you can hear that it makes a guitar

like sound and a drier sound

another effect we can use is by using

our nails to pluck the string and that

gives it a more metallic kind of sound

you could do the nail near to the


which totally alters the sound of the


a more modern technique is to hold on to

the string at the top and to bend it so

you play the string extending on from

glissandos we can also hit the harp with

the back of our hand

another technique we use is called abyss

Billy and OH

which means whisper in Italian and we

just repeatedly play the notes left hand

and right hand alternately the famous

technique you can do on the heart is the

glissando and you can really go to town

with ease and some composers really do

this gives it the really heavenly image

that harp is so famous for

roll of the harp in the orchestra we

don't really fit into any category in

the orchestra it is a completely unique

instrument it's kind of got strings but

we don't really belong to the string

sections but it's also a little bit

percussive but we don't belong to the

percussion section either sometimes

there are two hearts in the orchestra

and sometimes there are only one and

it's only really from composers like

belly O's onwards that the heart was

involved in orchestral writing so

composers like Beethoven and Mozart

there's no harp in any of those pieces

the French composers wrote really well

for the harp they had a really good

understanding of the instruments and

this was mainly because they used to

study with harpists and other harpist

that would compose and would help at say

pep the Paris Conservatoire so they had

people like Ravel and WC had a really

strong understanding of how the harp

needed to be written for and it makes it

much easier and satisfying for us to

play those pieces this instrument is

about a hundred years old it was made

between about 1920 and 1930 in Chicago

by the Wurlitzer company the Wallace

accompany weren't famous for making

harps they would have employed a harp

maker from a company called Lyon and

Healy I think they made other

instruments as well and they just wanted

to develop their instruments repertoire

unfortunately the documents were

destroyed in a fire by Wurlitzer and

we're unable to prove who originally

would have bought this instrument but

the rumour was that it possibly would

have been one of Harpo Marx's

instruments he would probably have had

quite a few instruments so I don't want

to say that it we've been his special

one and I have done a little bit of

research to see on pictures to see if

there carvings at the top match them but

as yet I've not found anything one of

the questions that get asked a lot is

why did I choose the harp and I don't

really know why I chose the harp it was

just something I always wanted to do

from about 6 I just remember always

saying that I was going to play a gold

heart one day and Here I am now and I do

play one

the reason I like playing the harp is

because of its unique sound and it is a

really unique instrument you get a lot

of attention when you play the harp a

lot of people want to look at the

instruments and they also want to watch

you play it's just the chords and

everything you can play it's just such a

resonance lovely instruments and the

repertoire is really nice as well some

great pieces written for the instruments

and I just like the what the French

music and the way it sounds and the way

it's been composed for if you've enjoyed

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