Debbie Ridpath Ohi reads, writes and illustrates for young people. Every few weeks, she shares new art, writing and resources; subscribe below. Browse the archives here.

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« harp insurance | Main | flying woes »
Saturday
Jun242000

harp playing

I've been trying to tune and play my harp a little bit each day. Tuning is a major chore on the harp right now, partly because the harp is so new and the strings aren't "broken in" yet, and also because I'm such a newbie at it. I used to think that tuning a 12-string guitar was time-consuming! My harp has 34 strings.

I went to Steve's Music Store yesterday and bought a pick-up to plug into my tuner (I also bought a new tuner since my old one was starting to get a bit flakey, even with a new battery). The pick-up has a suction cup, so I can attach it right to my soundboard...I can see how useful it will be for my guitar, too, allowing me to tune even in the midst of a noisy filk.

If a string is off, then I have to use a tuning key to adjust the pitch. The key is actually a sort of wrench which attaches to the tuning pins. Anyway, it took me AGES to do a full tuning the first time. I'm starting to get the hang of it now, but it still takes a while and I have to do it several times a practice session. Each time, I find that the strings "warm up" a bit faster and stay in tune for longer.

The basic theory behind playing the harp is pretty straightforward, especially if you have any experience playing the piano (two-handed coordination required), but the technique is more tricky. There's something called "placing" that I'm still struggling with...it's awfully tempting just to pluck the strings, but I've been told by several pianists-turned-harpists that it's well worth learning proper placing technique from the beginning, or you eventually hit a "wall" in your progress and have to unlearn all your bad habits. Looking forward to my lesson with Sharlene Wallace next week!

I've learned a very simple arrangement of "All Through The Night", working my way through Sylvia Woods' Folk Harp instruction book. I'm also tackling an arrangement of "The Water Is Wide" whose difficulty level is probably more difficult that I should be attempting right now. I don't care...I'll just work my way gradually through the piece, one measure at a time. Hopefully I'll know it by next March, when Urban Tapestry goes to Consonance. :-) Wow, do I ever like that song. When I die, I want "The Water Is Wide" played at my funeral. I'm one of those morbid types, by the way, who has already planned out her own funeral. I suppose it's because I've known too many close family and friends who have died unexpectedly and have realized that you should never take time for granted.



Anyway, it's the melody of "Water Is Wide" that I like the most, and I only got curious about the lyrics today. Here's one version of the lyrics I found on the Web. I like this better than another version I found, which was rather depressing and talking about love not being able to last, etc. My favourite verse is:

    "The water is wide
    I cannot cross over
    And neither have I wings to fly
    Build me a boat that will carry two
    And both shall row
    My love and I"

So here's a question for similarly morbid types like me: If you could choose a few songs to be played at -your- funeral, what would they be? :-)

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