- Harp: Interview and demonstration with principal Nancy Allen
- Violin: Interview and demonstration with concertmaster David Kim
- Viola: Interview and demonstration with principal Rebecca Young
- Cello: Interview and demonstration with principal Jerry Grossman
- Bass: Interview and demonstration with principal Alexander Hanna
Created by All Star Orchestra.
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- At3:43she says you can make a sound no-one else can make, the glissando. What about trombones and the viol family?(11 votes)
- The glissando is very unique when played on a harp, because all the notes continue to ring out simultaneously, whereas on most other instruments you only hear one note at a time being manipulated. There are a few instruments in percussion that can achieve the same effect, but on the whole they have a rather "cold" sound, while the harp's glissando is very warm.(26 votes)
- Can the inside "harp area" of a piano be transformed into a usable harp?(6 votes)
- While removing the frame and strings from the actual piano, and then reworking those components into a harp, would be extremely tedious, keeping them in the piano, and then playing on them like a harp is a real technique that has been championed by a few modern composers.(15 votes)
- Is the harp very useful in the orchestra?(6 votes)
- It's not a question of usefulness, there's harp in the orchestra if the composer wrote a part for the harp. It is not decided by someone's preference...(8 votes)
- Are harps by default played in C major? Do you actively have to manipulate the pedals to produce the sharp/flat notes required for other keys?(2 votes)
- Most modern concert harps are tuned, by default, to C-flat major (enharmonically B major). Compared to C-natural major, everything would be tuned one half-step down. This produces the best starting position for the pedals and their tuning techniques and abilities. Oftentimes, a harp will be tuned, using the pedals, to a different key to make performing a piece simpler, but with all pedals "off," the key is C-flat major. (Technically, the default setting is C-major, with all of the pedal on once, but with them all off, it makes everything flat, making the actual natural tuning C-flat major.)
As for manipulating accidentals (the sharps and flats of piece), that is done by employing the pedals of the harp. Today's modern harp pedals have three positions; they be completely off, or change the pitch one, or two, half-steps higher. This arrangement allows the performer to play almost all combinations of sharps and flats. All of the notes on the harp can be tuned through this way, except for the two lowest notes, and the highest note.(7 votes)
- How is the harp to transport? How heavy is it?(3 votes)
- That would depend on the harp. Some harps are very small, sometimes having as few as 12 strings. These harps weigh around 10 pounds or around there depending on some other factors. Then there are the harps such as the one that Nancy Allen plays which can weigh up to around 100 pounds. Some harps have straight sides, while others flare out towards the bottom, for a lack of a better phrase. If the sound board widens out, it adds a good bit of weight. Mine is not full size, but rather the size right below, and weighs 80 pounds.
Harps are somewhat difficult to transport. First, the harp gets put in a case to prevent scratching and such. Next the harp is loaded on to a dolley. The dolley is a cart that has a bottom with two wheels placed on the back, then it has a back that holds the harp up straight and has a handle. The harpist pulls the handel back which tips the weight onto the wheels and then the harp can be pushed around somewhat easily. To get the harp into a car, we have to have a somewhat large car like a minivan. You also have to have a small mattress in the back and extra cushions so that the harp does not get banged around. The harp is tipped onto its side and slid into the car then you carefully drive to where you are going.(3 votes)
- I all ways thought harps were just wood and strings. This is cool. But what is gut ?
She said for the stirrings there is mantle and gut and something else.(2 votes)
- The gut (often called catgut) used for the strings of certain instruments are made from a fiber that is naturally found in the intestines of animals (often sheep or goat). Even though that name references cats, cat intestines are not used for these types of strings. Today, gut strings are reserved for the very finest instruments, with all other strings being mostly made of steel or synthetic polymers.(3 votes)
- How does a harp relate to a piano, I play the piano but I was kind of confused about how it relates(2 votes)
- Let's see, a harp specific to piano relationship includes their use of strings to produce sound, and their use of pedals to alter their sounds (except in special cases). There are probably more reasons, but in general all instruments share a common notation system in which you are able to read for their range of sounds. A piano is one of the widest ranged instruments holding about 7 octaves for the modern piano, and even though the harp comes actually really close at normally 6 and 1/2 octaves, they do share common notes among the two. If you ever research into "instrument ranges" you will usually find the piano as the basis for including the range of all instruments, and when considering that you can understand that really all instruments share a musical range somehow, and speak the same "language".(5 votes)
- What is the odinary harp's strings made by ?(2 votes)
- The lower notes are made with metal strings, middle notes are made with nylon, and then higher notes are made, on some harps, with animal intestines. I don't know how quickly it's being phased out of instrument building, but I do know that it's still used somewhat.(2 votes)
- How does Nancy make the strings very loud?(2 votes)
- She plucks them with more or less force and you can muffle the notes by placing your hand over them after playing the note.(2 votes)
- why is the harp so beautiful?(1 vote)
- The harp has the unique ability to produce overtones, which is when strings other than the ones being played vibrate when one is played. This causes all the harmonies and intervals to "wash over" you in a sense, which, believe it or not has the same effect on your brain as emotional flooding.(1 vote)
("Daphnis and Chloe, Suite No. 2" by Maurice Ravel) - This is a very important member of the orchestra, it's a harp. It's a very large instrument. A harp is made out of wood. It has 47 strings which are made out of gut, and nylon and metal. And, it's a large triangular shape. It makes beautiful music when strummed. (bright music) But, the mystery of the harp is that it has a mechanical system within it. It's not just about plucking the strings, it has a mechanical system that runs all along the top of the instrument and this consists of over 2,000 moving parts. It's connected to a system of pedals at the bottom of the instrument, seven pedals. Each pedal has three positions, so I have 21 slots to choose from. The pedals are a way of changing the pitches by turning little levers which exist at the top of the instrument. They're called forks, and they actually turn because they're connected to a rod which runs up the column. This is actually the house, the container, in which there are seven rods connected to seven pedals. Why are there seven? Because there's seven notes of the scale: C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. So, the C pedal, which is located on the left side of the instrument, and I press with my left foot, controls all the C strings. Together at the same time. (light music) And, it does that, by going from an open string, C flat, and then when I move the pedal, it turns a little disc which makes the string shorter. It's like putting your finger down on the fret of a guitar, or on the fingerboard of a violin, or even like putting a key down on a flute to make the air stream shorter or longer. I change the pedal and it turns this little disc, because I'm busy playing with my hands, so I can't do that manually. On the old, old folk harps, you did it manually with your hand, but this is too complicated. So, C flat and I move the pedal down into the next position, and it shortens the string by about a quarter of an inch. C natural. C sharp. C natural. C flat. The same thing for the Ds. The D pedal controls all the Ds, which are a white string. (light music) And, if I wanna make it very noisy, I can. (light music) So you can really hear it going through the action. We call it the action of a harp because that's where all the action is happening. These things are turning and turning up there on the top of the instrument, while we're just playing with our hands. ("The Firebird Suite, Finale" by Igor Stravinsky (1919)) The harp has a unique role in the orchestra because it can make a certain kind of sound that no one else can make. That's called a glissando. Now, a glissando is different from plucking the strings. Plucking the strings in a scale (light music) is one thing. But, then when you change the pitches of the strings with your feet, you can actually make chords like an auto harp would, the way an auto harp changes the pitches of the strings and you get a chord, for example, if I wanted to play a whole tone scale, I can do that by setting my pedals and it sounds like this. (light music) ("Daphnis and Chloe, Suite No. 2" by Maurice Ravel) The important thing is that you pull the harp back on your shoulder when you play, and you're looking down the strings. Now, it looks like a lot of vertical strings to me, but I bring my head a little bit to the side, and the color coding: red, white, and blue, is very handy. I can always find my Cs because they're bright red. And, I can always find my Fs because they're black or navy blue. And, everything else is white, so everything else is in between but it's a normal scale: do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, ti, do. ("Symphony No. 5, III. Largo" by Dmitryi Shostakovich) The harp sounds always beautiful. You don't have to produce the sound with a reed, or a bow, we only use our fingertips, and that's perhaps the most magical part of the harp, is that it's just finger power. We don't have anything in between our skin and the strings, no pick, nothing. So, we have to be very careful about the fingertips and the quality of the skin. If you practice too much on the harp, your sound can be rather harsh, abrasive, or even thin. We don't use our fingernails, except occasionally for a special effect. (light music) We have to only use the pads of our fingers, so we keep our fingernails short, and we have to actually fit our fingers in between those vibrating strings, which is not easy, because if you look, how much vibration there is laterally, you have to be careful that you don't buzz. So, we fit them in between. The other thing that we do with our hands is we also stop the sound. There's no airflow, we're not using a woodwind instrument. There's no other way, there's no pedal that stops the sound, so if I play a glissando on the harp, (light music) it lasts for a long time, and the only way to stop the sound other than waiting all afternoon is to use our hands, and we call that muffling, or etouffer, so we're etouffering all the time. We stop individual strings. (light music) Or we just. (light music) Or. (light music) Or we just play a chord. (light music) and we stop the sound. That's very important about playing the harp is that it's a two-part procedure. ("The Firebird and Her Dance" by Igor Stravinsky) Many harpists start on the piano and then transfer to the harp or play both instruments alongside. And, we steal a lot of repertoire from the piano as well, but it looks like the inside of your piano, because it's exactly what the inside of the piano is: lots of strings. Now, the piano strings are metal, wound around steel. But we have gut strings, which are like tennis racket gut, only a little bit more refined, and those strings make a beautiful, warm, (light music) make a beautiful warm, sound, whereas the metal strings. (somber music) are very brassy and wiry sounding, and we need that for projection of the low notes in certain works we play. And, in the top of the instrument is strung in nylon, it's very bright. (bright music) Very short little strings, and so it's a fun instrument to play, but it's very complicated because a lot is going on in your mind. Your fingers are playing, and by the way, we don't use our fifth finger. Our little pinky just hangs alongside. So, all the fingerings that we do, although somewhat related to the piano fingerings, are very different, because we only use eight fingers. And, the other difference is that when we play the harp, you play with your hands suspended in the air, and the fingers go in the same direction. Fourth finger to thumb. On the piano, it's the opposite. So, when you're a kid, you have to get used to that. You suddenly transfer from your thumbs meeting each other to the harp where the thumbs are doing the same positioning. ("Symphony No. 2, I. Allegero maestoso" by Gustav Mahler) I started the piano first when I was about five. I loved the piano, and I had a harp in my living room. And my mother wanted me to play the harp. She loved the instrument. She lived next door to a harpist in Phil Spitalny's All-Girl Orchestra back in the late '40s, and she became enamored with the instrument. So, she bought an instrument, and it was in the living room, and I loved the harp, but also, had to play an instrument that was a single line. My mom believed that everyone should have the experience of playing a melodic instrument. I have a terrible singing voice, that's probably why she assigned me to the oboe. So, I played the oboe until I was 19, and I play the harp, and I play the piano, and I learned to sight-read on the piano. But the harp I just found the most fascinating for me, it suited me. And, I got a lot of jobs playing when I was young because there aren't lot of harpists in every community, like there are flutists for example, or violinists, so it's sort of a novelty, although I saw it my whole life. When I was about 12 is when I really started practicing hard. My mother took me past Julliard which was uptown in New York City, and she said, "That's the Julliard School." And honestly when I saw that, I said, that's what I want to do. And I won my very first, very small, but national competition when I was 14 years old, and that's when I thought, I can do this. I love to play. I enjoyed playing. I didn't get very nervous. I thought it was a beautiful way to express myself musically, and I still play the piano a lot, but not as well, and it's such a competitive field: the piano, and such a big repertoire, I felt that this was a manageable instrument for me. It just suited me very well. So, I really made a commitment to it when I was, I would say, 13 years old. That's when there was no going back. ("The Firebird Suite, Berceuse" by Igor Stravinsky)