SM470: Key Techniques for Harp

Sheet Music for Harp
Key Techniques for Harp

Karen Marshalsay

Cover Image100 exercises, studies & tunes - a practice manual of harp techniques, essential for wire and bray harps, and of great advantage to players of gut-strung harps for clean playing and ornamentation of Scottish traditional tunes. Techniques from the Robert ap Huw manuscripts along with some others.

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Artist Profile and catalogue of works - Karen Marshalsay

Contents & Introduction


1-3    Basic skills : damping and placing
4-7    Thumb choke ⃰
8-11   Short plait ⃰
12-13  Break †
14     Thumb slide
17     Study :  The Gentle Fall of Rain
18-20 Practising gestures with both hands
21    Study :  Both Hands Now
22-25  Half scratch ⃰
26-28  Forked Choke ⃰
29-30  Sliding the 4th finger
31  Study : Magnus the Elk (strathspey)
32  Back hop
33  Tune: Humpty Dumpty’s Reel 
34  32 ‘dirrum’
35-42  Bee’s plait ⃰
43  Study :The Beekeeper’s Reel
44   Tune :   Off the Wall (reel)
45-46  Little finger plait ⃰
47     Great plait ⃰
48     Study : Oldshoremore (slow air)
49-50  Beat ‡
51  Study:  Harp Beat
52-53  Four finger plait ⃰
43b  Study : The Beekeeper’s Reel  part B
54-59  Double choke ⃰
60-63  Double plait ⃰
64    Back of the nail ⃰
65-66  Finger Fling ⃰
67-70  Thumb wrinkle ⃰
71    Finger shake ⃰
72-74  Exercises : Decorated Scales
75   Single Scratch ⃰
76-77  Double Scratch ⃰
78   Leap ⃰, Untitled ‡
79  Study : The Leap Year
80-81  Use of compound gestures when ornamenting traditional music
82   Some piping-style decorations
83-84   The coupled hands approach

85    Honey on my Porridge  (march)  wire arr.  &  gut arr .  
86    The Rhymer’s March wire/bray arr.  & gut arr.
87-96 The Lights of Cluanie
97-98  Composite decorations & two-handed variations                                                                                 

99    Thug mi gaol do’n fhear bhan
100    Cumha h-Irteach 

Sources for the techniques & further study  

  from the Robert ap Huw ms
‡ used in the Robert ap Huw ms but not on the list of gestures on  p.35
† from Edward Bunting’s 1840 edition of The Ancient Music of Ireland


About this music

This is a compendium of fingernail techniques, with 100 exercises, studies and arrangements to encourage players and students to learn and use the gestures from the Robert ap Huw manuscript, along with a few other useful ones.

This book will also be of interest to anyone who is intrigued with the music of the Robert ap Huw manuscript, as each of the gestures on p35 of the manuscript are explained and described. These gestures, or fingering movements, are of course essential to play the pieces from the ms, but are also very useful to players of any harp, especially as ways to play decorations and ornamentation in both early and traditional music. They work really well when playing Scottish pipe tunes on the gut-strung harp to clean up the sound and give crisp articulation to the tunes.

A full contents listing is given below. The three links below are to pages on Karen's web site

Recordings of all the pieces in the book are available here.

An alphabetical listing of the fingering gestures in the book along with some errata are noted in this pdf.

An example of how these techniques can be used in arranging Scottish pipe tunes is available here - an arrangement by Karen of Nellie's Strathspey. The easier version uses the half scratch and introduces the idea of placing the thumb onto a string to both clean up the sound and act as an anchor for the hand while playing '3 2' repeated notes. The more advanced version uses bee's plaits, thumb chokes, beats, breaks, half scratches and forked chokes. You can also hear Karen playing each version quite slowly.

Karen Marshalsay
Edinburgh, 2012

Library Information

Title: Key Techniques for Harp
Contents: see "Contents" panel above
Composer/Arranger: Karen Marshalsay
Instrumentation: Wire Strung Clarsach / Lever Harp
Level: Intermediate
Format: Stapled
Size: A4
Weight: 220gm
ISMN: --
Our Ref: SM470
Publisher: Marsharp Music
Edition/Year: 2012
Origin: UK (EU)

Rear cover

Sample of the music