The Harp – Holding a Wirestrung Harp

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 12,934
    Cynthia Cathcart, a teacher, recording artist, performer, and author demonstrates how to comfortably hold a wire strung harp.

    Cynthia Cathcart

    Cynthia is one of the world's experts on the Clarsach, the wire-strung harp of the Highland and Islands of Scotland and of Ireland. Performing and teaching internationally, she is leading a new wave of interest in the wire-strung harp. Based near Washington, DC, Cynthia represents Ardival Harps of Strathpeffer, Scotland and is their North American Artist in Residence. Cynthia is a recording artist, and the author of several books for the clarsach. She holds a number of prestigious awards, including two-time U.S. National Scottish Harp Master Champion, three time winner of the Clan Lamont Trophy (in Virginia, Texas and Ohio), and holder of the Pennington-Grey Award for service to the wire-strung harp.

    Cynthia Cathcart: My name is Cynthia Cathcart and we are now going to talk about how to hold this instrument.

    Most important part of holding a Wire-Strung Harp or any harp, any instrument, make sure youve got a comfortable chair, which should be a good sturdy chair that you feel good sitting in. If you dont feel good sitting in your chair, things arent going to get any better or more comfortable as you pick up your instrument.

    With a small harp like this because the Wire-Strung Harp tends to be small, we can often just hold it on our lap. If it has post this is a marvelous thing you can grab it with your knees. If your harp does not have a post, some makers make them without; you might want to put a non-skid pad of some sort on your lap. Dont wear slippery cloths if you dont have something to hold on with, it let your harp sliding away from you.

    Even this harp, a little bit bigger, I can still hold it and I literally I am just giving a little bit of a clutch between my knees, its not going anywhere.

    Some people will drop the instrument, cross the legs of their ankles and rest of body of the harp inside their knees like this.

    Give it a try and see if it makes sense for you, if its comfortable.

    If youve got a large Wire-Strung Harp, this is the biggest one I happened to have, I could not hold this in my lap, and it weighs so much that it rested inside my knees, I dont think I could do it for more than 5 or 10 minutes. So what I did with I got a block of wood to set it on. You can get a block of wood or a wee stool and you just put your harp on it and hold it.

    This block of wood, my dear husband made this for me. I determined how thick I wanted it to be by simply stacking books on the floor and changing the height of those books until I got the height that was just perfect for this harp. We measured the books, took wood, glued it together to get that height and then this is just like non-skid rubber like you put on stairs in a commercial building. Thats all that is we glued it on there, put a handle on it so I can carry it around and I think we stained it as well.

    Now, one of the questions that comes up with holding this harp is which shoulder to put it on?

    Its a good thing to think about.

    This harp really doesnt care. You see how this is perfectly centered, theres no levers, I can hold it on either shoulder, either one works. I am done with my harps care, but, if youve got a wire-strung harp that has an arm thats off-center, chances are youre going to need to put it on your right shoulder.

    If you have levers or any kind of blades or sharping devices on your instrument, youre going to want to be sure that you put your harp on the shoulder and it gives you access to those. You dont want to be in that situation.

    Other considerations, when you are trying to decide which shoulder to put it on, because you do want to figure that out at the beginning.

    If you are a pianist or an organist or some kind of instrumentalist that has a strong left-hand base preference, chances are pretty good. Youre going to want to put the harp on your right shoulder so that your left-hand is the base hand.

    If you play a guitar or a lute something of that sort where youve got nails on one hand to strike the strings and no nails on the other hand for your fretting, you want to put the harp on the side, you shoulder the side that has nails. This way your nails are available to play melodies and fancy ornaments and all that pretty stuff and the base hand can take care of the less -- well, lets say less important but the parts that doesnt need to stand out so much. Grow the thumbnail on your fretting hand, and that way its available to help with melody production.