Frequently Asked Questions About Hiring a Harpist

What type of music can be played on the harp?

Almost any type of music can be played, but not every tune in each type is possible. For example, music like "True Love" by Cole Porter is easily playable on a piano, but is difficult on a harp because of the number of accidentals (places where a harpist must actually change the pitch of a string). A harp player is limited by the number of lever changes that are physically possible within a specific span of time.

Classical, baroque, renaissance, medieval, folk, rock, jazz, show tunes, music from movies and new age music can be played on a harp. However, if you would like a specific song played, it is best to check with your harpist to make sure that song is playable on the harp. And if you would like a specific type of music (like country and western), check to make sure the harpist you are hiring plays that genre. 

Does a harp require amplification?

The short answer is no, it does not. A pedal harp is designed to produce a large sound capable of being heard over an orchestra in a concert hall. Many smaller harps also produce a sound that carries well, even from one room into the next. At receptions, people have often commented that it is nice to have music which can be heard throughout the space, but is not overpoweringly loud.

Some events, however, may be held in locations which are not harp-friendly. For example, very large rooms with carpets and heavy drapes, or events with several hundred people conversing can both prevent a harp from being heard. Another problem situation is an outdoor wedding where the wind is carrying the sound away from the guests.

If you are concerned about whether the harp by itself will be heard, ask the harpist if they have their own amplification system and if they need to be situated near an electrical outlet. In addition, you might ask your venue if they have a house sound system which can be used to amplify a harp and if they are familiar with amplifying acoustic instruments.

Alice Freeman has her own battery-powered amplifier, pickup and preamp for use in appropriate situations. Nearby access to electric power is never needed.

Will a harpist be willing to play for my event if it is outdoors?

This depends on the harpist. Playing outside is hard on both the harp and the performer so some harpists choose not to accept outdoor gigs. Other harpists will add an extra fee for playing outdoors and specify conditions under which it can be done.

For example, Alice Freeman always accepts outdoor engagements because she plays a Carbon Fiber Harp which is very tolerant of many weather conditions. She prefers temperatures above 60-degrees Fahrenheit, winds no more than 20 mph, and likes to avoid playing in the rain, but this harp will never be damaged by adverse conditions.

How does a harpist move their harp to an event?

Harpists use a large trunk to ship their harps to distant locations. Locally, the harpist moves the harp him/herself by putting a soft padded cover on the harp and strapping it to a specially designed furniture dolly. Then the harp can be easily wheeled to an event location. 

Alice's Carbon Fiber Harp weighs only 11 pounds, so she can easily carry it anywhere.

Do I need to provide the harpist with anything?

Most harpists will bring everything they need. This includes the harp, harp stool, music stand, stand light, music books and amplification equipment (plus extra strings, repair tools, water, etc.). Providing a chair or a music stand is sometimes welcome, because it means fewer things for the harpist to unload.

Alice Freeman always brings everything she will need. Since all her music is on her iPad, she also has 6-7 hours of additional music she can play if the start of an event is delayed.

This FAQ has been adapted from information provided by and with permission
from Kari Gardner, harpist in the greater Chicago, Illinois area.
Please visit her Web site at http://blackandgoldharp.com/index.html.