P5 - B4

Tone quality, sound production and damping

  • Create a warm and clear sound:
    • Play with correct thumb placement using appropriate pressure on strings to create a warm tone and project sufficiently (without over-pulling) within more technically demanding passages
    • Recognise beats/bars where notes require careful and considered finger placement to avoid buzzing
    • Use the full range of damping techniques with fluency as required to maintain clarity
    • Play with a dynamic range appropriate to the musical requirements, taking into account the acoustics.  Controlling changes in dynamics with confidence.  Defining the phrases and overall structure of the music through dynamic shaping and rhythmic flexibility.  Control the dynamic levels of each hand with confidence and the tone quality when using different ranges of the harp
    • Use a range of accent and emphasis appropriate to the style
    • Draw out a melody using tonal emphasis within a passage of arpeggiated notes
    • Exercise tonal control between the hands and within one hand in polyphonic textures
    • Control the tonal balance within a chord or a succession of chords

Encourage learners to listen carefully to the sound they are creating and to aim for a warm, rounded tone, squeezing gently before playing e.g. the melody in The Knappogue Melody by O’Farrell.

Suitable repertoire for the pedal harp includes Étude No.3, Bach/Grandjany.

Maintain an upright thumb (apart from within large stretches), avoiding playing with just the tip.

Demonstrate repertoire that allows for a greater exploration of phrasing and rubato, e.g. Nataliana by Henson-Conant. Suitable repertoire for the pedal harp includes Au Matin by Tournier.

Encourage learners to listen to a wide range of harp repertoire, e.g. Images by Tournier, Danses by Debussy, La Source by Hasselmans, Rhapsodie by Grandjany, Harp Concerto in B flat by Handel, Absidioles or Parvis by Andres.

Encourage daily separate hand practice of repertoire, ensuring dynamics and performance markings are observed within both hands.

Demonstrate how certain passages require single finger damping, primarily of bass notes, in addition to étouffez thumbs in order to maintain clarity. Refer to the Bach/Grandjany Études and encourage learning Nos. 6 and 9.

Encourage learners to listen to the original violin version of the Bach/Grandjany Études being performed and discuss how this might inform/influence our performance decisions for harpists.

Making videos to check on clarity are useful at this stage. Remember that it is vital to check the policy of the school or other organisation you are working in with regards to any form of recording. Children must never be videoed without parental consent and all policies regarding use and storage of recordings must be adhered to.

Choose a piece of repertoire such as La Source by Hasselmans, which requires tonal control of melody in the top line, even arpeggiation between the hands, and fully closing octaves in the bass. Begin the process by practising chordally. Ask learners to use their experience so far to phrase appropriately.

Choose a 20th/21st century piece of repertoire which focuses on rhythmic textures and varying articulation to practise control, e.g. Absidioles by Andres, Firedance by Watkins.

For pedal harp, encourage learners to practise the top octave of melodic minor scales, ensuring the pedal change at the top is fluid and silent. Start with melodics that have a pedal change on each side, before progressing to two changes on one side, e.g. A minor.

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