Pedal Harp Exercises for Wire Harp? Lots of great stuff there!

One of the perks of having a husband on the music faculty at Middlebury College is having library borrowing privileges. We hunt for interesting topics all the time using MIDCAT and check them out with George’s ID card or have library staff put them on reserve to pick them up later.

One of the gems I found recently is Yolanda Kondonassis’ “On Playing The Harp”.

On Playing the Harp

This excellent technique book is aimed at orchestral pedal harpists but I’ve discovered that many of her exercises transfer nicely to wire-strung harp, especially a big instrument like my Triplett Luna, which is a floor harp. You might expect to see a ton of accidentals in her arpeggio and scalar studies, but that’s not the case. Instead everything is very diatonic and you can focus instead on applying the best of what you already know: damping, playing with nails and so on, but adding these beautiful, sweeping motifs to your playing repertoire!

I tend to use a very medieval fingering on my Stoney End Esabelle lap harp – thumb, first, and second fingers only – because that harp is so small and the string spacing is narrow. With Luna I do use my ring finger but occasionally revert back to using only three as the situation demands. What’s great about her book is you can experiment – modify the exercises, use the medieval fingering and then use the modern pedal harp one that she’s indicated. Both will work!

Chapter 29, Broken Chord Configurations is a good workout, but I found a better place to begin before this is with the pdf harp exercises at Alison Vardy’s fabulous collection at West Coast Harps. (Note that these aren’t expressly stated as being wire harp exercises, but I do find that they also work very well on both of my instruments.) Number two on her Level 3 page has the first phrase of Yolanda Kondonassis’ broken chords exercise in each measure but then it stops and gives you a break while you play with the other hand.

Lastly, there is a good warm-up section at the end of Kondonassis’ book, again for pedal harpists, intended for three different levels of ability: beginning, intermediate, advanced/professional. If you like to think outside the box and are looking to develop a new sound and/or create your own style on the wire-strung harp, here’s a good place to start building. I started with Early Music, etc. but I certainly don’t play the wire-strung harp in the accepted/conventional/trad. manner! I play with my pads half as much as I do with my nails, etc., listen to orchestral harp for playing ideas, etc.

(I understand that there is a Paraphrase on Hasselmans’ La Source available for lever harps… :-) )

Anyways, in the meantime. Fellow wire-  and Celtic harpists, enjoy!

Photo 104911240 / Pedal Harp © Dmitry Petrov Korsukov |

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