Diary of an Orchestrator, April 3: Back in L.A.

It’s close to midnight at the end of my first full day in Southern California. I’m about to shut up shop mentally, but have to write a few words about coming back to my birthplace. It’s strange, but I’m feeling a lot circles closing with this performance – returning to places where ideas and thoughts …

Diary of an Orchestrator, April 2

8:38 p.m. I’m sitting in the rehearsal room, typing this as unobtrusively as possible as the LA Doctor’s Symphony Orchestra works out on the Elgar Enigma Variations. The rehearsal for my piece is well finished by now, but I’m just waiting for the break so that a few players can talk to me about bits …

Harp – BAD SCORING – CAUTION!

(and if you tl:dr this tip, it’s on your own head) (*ahem*) The harp is NOT a piano! Do not assume what works on a piano will work on harp – much of the time, it won’t! This is the biggest error I see in early attempts at orchestration. The composer writes out a very …

Harp – Range of Hand Positions

The range of the hands is not unlimited: the right hand cannot reach far below C in the bass staff, nor is it practical for the left hand to play complex lines around the very highest strings (due to visibility issues). This is also something that orchestration manuals barely touch on, but is essential to …

Harp – Fixed Tuning of Highest and Lowest Strings

Some harps do not possess a high Gb string, and both bottom strings of Cb and Db may need to be tuned by hand. The double action of the modern harp has limitations, as each pedal will essentially create tension on 6-7 strings of varying lengths simultaneously. The one or two lowest strings are just …

Harp – Resonance of Flat Keys

The most resonant sound from the harp occurs when the tuning is set to flat keys. This is because of the double-action harp tuning mechanism. The most relaxed, longest tuning of each string is when the harp tuning pedal is in the up, or flat position. To get a natural, the harpist tightens the string …

Harp – “Stomping” Notes

Rapidly repeated notes on harp will result in a buzzing sound as fingers touch already vibrating strings. Some harpists call this “stomping.” This is a simple, incredibly important fact which is not in any orchestration manual I own, and it’s especially true with the lower, more widely vibrating strings. The orchestrator may score a harp …