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Following my Kyrie from the Glory Mass, I got advice to turn some part of it into an own score. That was a flute-harp-section.

Being not familiar with the harp, I did what I could and based the duet (heavily) on the Kyrie.

Here is the duet. I know it's not perfect but it is as good as I can get it at the moment.

Be honest but gentle, please.

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I think this works well generally. My suggestion would be to fill out the range of the harp - double the range of the low chords. Harp is excellent at that kind of thing, an eight-note chord can be spread with ease. Much like larger-scale orchestration, consistent gaps in range are generally avoided, and with harp you can fill those gaps without having to do anything but extend the arpeggio upwards a few more notes. There are some moments where I think the balance is just right and some moments where the piece feels empty.

Harps are tuned to DCB EFGA, either natural, sharp or flat. Accidentals or key changes require foot pedalling, one per note (forgive me if you know this) and changes of more than a couple of pedals at once can be problematic.

Why not get in touch with and see if she'll test out a section for you?

Thank you.

To be honest, I didn't know that. I have been trying to find things specifically for harp (information, that is) but I tend to have a problem finding what I am looking for.

Do you suggest I change the key of the whole score? Or do I interprete wrongly now?

By 8-note chords, you mean per staff or in total, breaking up the chord over two staffs?

Would be a nice idea to get in touch with I've heard about her before. Tnx

Harp seems confusing at first but it doesn't take long to approach it correctly (and in general your part seems well-suited for harp, possibly some changes that might be tricky).

Basics: imagine that harp only has 7 strings - DCB EFGA. Each string is connected to a foot pedal - DCB on the left, EFGA on the right. Each pedal has three positions - from top to bottom, flat - natural - sharp. The flat setting provides the best and most resonant tone as it's the natural tuning of the string (so technically harps are tuned to DbCbBb EbFbGbAb) but tunings with many flats are less common so the default tuning is the natural position. Tbh, the tonal difference between flat and sharp is not great and in a fast piece, especially when the harp is accompanied, it's not going to be noticed - so don't think "I have to write for flats now!" Since the key is indicated differently, you don't need to add one to the staves, though I suppose you could.

The string is wound over a peg attached to the pedal, which is how the pitch is controlled - basically like a guitar, except the pedal moves the peg a set amount.

Now, those 7 strings are then repeated across the range of the harp in octaves, and each pedal affects all strings at once - so set the B pedal to sharp, all B strings go sharp. (The exceptions are I think the lowest C and D, which aren't affected by pedals and need to be tuned by hand.)

Thus harp is excellent for scale glissandi, long spread chords and textures; and very bad with chromatic runs as you only have 7 notes at any one time (your chromatic run in b40 would be impossible). Very, very good harpists can dance around on their pedals but it's not idiomatic.

Notation-wise, the tuning of the harp needs to be indicated at the start of the piece, either by writing DCB EFGA or using the pedal notation symbol. I use the former. Any subsequent changes to tuning need to be clearly indicated, and rather like timpani the more warning you can give the better (though if it's a fast change, writing the change under the note is fine - so if you suddenly need a sharp F you write F# under the note, and when it changes back write F).

Assume that harpists can change two notes at once, if they're pedalled on opposite sides of the harp. So, moving from D to Db and F to F# can be done simultaneously. Changes on the same side need a bit more time.

The fun part comes when trying to decide pedalling and tuning - I struggle with this thanks to my lack of theory knowledge. It should reflect the overall tuning of the piece, but since harp has limitations, is it F# or Gb? D# or Eb? Harpists will often simply rewrite pedalling themselves, but always do it as well as you can yourself first rather than leaving it all to them.

Generally, the bass clef is for the left hand and the treble clef the right hand.

Might seem confusing but look up a few videos and images and this will fall into place!

Well, that is a lot of information and the only thing I really knew was that a harp has pedals and that the bass cleff is left hand and the treble cleff for the right hand (as with any instrument with more then one staff).

So, if you don't mind, I'll reread it a couple of times later.

Do I understand that I have to write (for example) the note under it even if a sharp is in the score? Or when it disappears again (or flat, of course) and that at the same moment, I need to write 'Ped.'? I know there is a special notation for that. ;)

Oh, and 'll change the 'chrom' into 'scale'.

Surprising that it's DCB EFGA and not BCD EFGA...

Thank you for all the info. :)

No worries, it's a lot to deal with at first.

I attached the harp part for one of the orchestral pieces I had recorded so you can see how I signalled changes - it didn't seem to cause any problems, though it's almost entirely drowned in the recording. You can see for a full key change I allow two bars, and I instruct pedal changes when not yet necessary to save time (if playing chords, half the strings are probably going to be unused so you can re-pedal the other strings during those moments.) There might be some slight differences between session scores written in C, as mine was, and classical scores, but the harp fundamentals remain more or less the same I think.

Do I understand that I have to write (for example) the note under it even if a sharp is in the score? Or when it disappears again (or flat, of course) and that at the same moment, I need to write 'Ped.'? I know there is a special notation for that. ;)

If the pedal position of any note changes, you have to write it in. That includes changing back, say if it sharpens for a single accidental and then back to natural - you have to indicate it. You don't need to write "Ped." (as far as I understand, that's a piano-specific notation anyway), you just write the note OR use the pedalling diagram (my software doesn't have it so writing it out suffices.) It looks like this (only much smaller and without the writing), in this case indicating the tuning is Db C Bb Eb F G# Ab - an strange tuning considering the G and A strings will be playing the same note:Oh, and 'll change the 'chrom' into 'scale'.

No need. The gliss line indicates that the player runs down or up the harp between the start and finish notes. (I had to use a straight line in my score but strictly, what you used is correct.) Because the pedals are already set, the scale played is whatever the harp was last set to. It's a great strengthening texture to use in orchestra.

And make sure the accidentals in the part reflect the harp tuning.


Thank you. :) I surely have to reread...

So what is the basic tuning I should use in this duet?

This is something you must figure out! I can see that b 1-7 has a Bb, so the simplest tuning would be DCBb EFGA until the accidentals come in in b8.


Very relaxing to listen to :) I think it gets better and better as it goes further into it. I particularly enjoy the interaction between the harp and flute during the final 1/3rd of the piece. I think it could use a nice little outro to tie everything together. Well done

thank you

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