SM003: Pathway

Cynthia Cathcart

Cover Image: Pathway by Cynthia CathcartPathway - A Primer for the Wire Strung Harp
by Cynthia Cathcart
Illustrated by Michael Glenn Stewart and edited by Laurel Wright.

Pathway is a tutorial for people new to the study of the wire strung harp. Starting with descriptions of the instrument, the student is led on a journey into the basic damping and ringing techniques of the clarsach, the wire strung harp of Ireland and the Highlands and Islands of Scotland in 21 lessons. The book is complimented by a 39 track recording which includes tuning tracks and all the tunes in the book with the Gaelic titles pronounced.

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(Note CD is not shipped with book but is available as a free download - details in book)


View Cynthia Cathcart Profile & index of music

New 2014 EU Edition printed and distributed by Creighton's Collection


Pathway - A Primer for the Wire Strung Harp
Revised and updated 2nd Edition - 2013
by Cynthia Cathcart
Illustrated by Michael Glenn Stewart and edited by Laurel Wright.

Pathway is a tutorial for the wire strung harp. The book is complimented by a 39 track recording which includes tuning tracks and all the tunes in the book, with Gaelic titles spoken by Liam O'Caiside.

The book can be used either alone or with a music teacher. The twenty one lessons each begin with a discussion of a new concept and exercises for practice. Every lesson ends with a practice task for the student, to aid in learning the concept presented. There is also a summary at the end of each lesson, so the student can be assured he or she has mastered the new concept before moving on to the next lesson. The 34 tunes are evenly distributed among the lessons.

There are also discussions about making music, such as advice on practicing and memorization, dynamics and phrasing.

Contents & Lesson Guide

Guide to Reading Music
The Instrument: Parts of the Harp
Tuning the Harp
Holding the Clarsach
Hand Position

Lesson One The First Steps to Making Music
A Musician's Rule of Three
Lesson Two Putting Fingers to the Strings
Patterns of Music
Lesson Three The First Melody and Damping
Lesson Four The First Melody and Ringing
Practice Techniques
Lesson Five A Traditional Tune from Ireland
Lesson Six A Traditional Tune from Scotland
Lesson Seven Two Tunes from our Primary Sources
Lesson Eight Introducing the '6/8' Time Signature
Memory Techniques
Lesson Nine Repeated Notes
Lesson Ten Striking Strings Simultaneously with Different Hands
The Pickup Note
Lesson Eleven Damping Two Strings in One Hand
Relaxation vs. Tension
Lesson Twelve The Free Stroke
Tension and Release
Lesson Thirteen Ringing Decisions
Lesson Fourteen Introduction to Ornamentation
Practicing is Teaching Yourself
Lesson Fifteen Building Blocks ­ The Walking Pattern
Lesson Sixteen Two Notes Struck Together in One Hand
Lesson Seventeen The Flexible Thumb
Interpretation in Music
Lesson Eighteen Repeating Notes with Different Fingers
Music with a Purpose
Lesson Nineteen Breaking Free from Fixed Fingers
Lesson Twenty Figures of Music
Goal Setting
Lesson Twenty-One Moving Around the Harp
Appendix A Tunes adapted for this book
Appendix B Bibliography
Tune index  

Score Information

Title: Pathway
Composer/Arranger: Cynthia Cathcart
Instrumentation: Wire Strung / Lever Harp
Level: Late Beginner
Format: Wire bound
Size: USA Letter
Pages: 150
ISMN: 979-0-57046-118-9
Our Ref: SM003
Publisher: Highland Circle Publishing, USA
EU Printer & Distributor: Creighton's Collection
Edition/Year: European Edition 2014
Origin: UK

Sample pages from the score

Sample page


Sample page

Sample page



There are other extremely good books on the wire-strung harp, but Cynthia Cathcart's new primer Pathway is so clear, well-illustrated, and comprehensive that it may well become a standard. Pathway is designed to take newcomers to the wire-strung harp and ground them in necessary techniques in a methodical way, often using primary (i.e. traditional) sources for tunes.

This is probably not a book for someone looking for instant gratification. It's very methodical and focuses on mastering techniques in a step by step fashion. While this is important for anyone playing the harp, it's especially crucial for those playing wire-strung.

The book is arranged in lessons. Just like a lesson with a teacher in person, there is an introduction, an overview of the goal of the lesson, new techniques, musical concepts, then pertinent exercises. Each tune is preceded by a section called "preparing to play", which points out what to be looking for, and also contains background information on the tune (these are terrific reading!). After the tune, just like a teacher assigning homework, there are suggestions for things to do on your own, and a review of what's been covered. For a motivated learner, all the tools are here to gain proficiency.

A special commendation for the drawings by Michael Glenn Stewart. In a book like this, the illustrations can either help or frustrate the reader. These are simply great, especially the "harper's-eye-view" ones.

The book is also superbly augmented by a companion CD. Finally, I must add that although it's intended for wire harp students, Cynthia's scholarship and 'mini-essays' on topics like relaxation, interpretation, practicing, and goal setting make Pathway recommended reading for any harp player.

Review by Cindy Ellen Morgan
Taken from Thumbs Up! , "harplight" summer 2003, page 5