Kari Gardner,
Chicago Harpist

Hiring a Harpist
by harpist Kari Gardner


These quick navigation drop-down links can be used to go directly to questions that interest you.
| What kind of music can be played on the harp? |
| Does a harp require amplification? |
| Will a harpist play for an outdoor event? |
| How does a harpist move their harp to an event? |
| Do I need to provide the harpist with any equipment? |

 

Question: What kind of music can be played on the harp?

Answer:
Practically any type of music can be played on the harp, but not every piece/song of each type is possible. For example, some jazz songs can be played on the harp. But not every piece which is jazz is suitable to for the harp. One of the main limiting factors is the way in which a harpist changes the strings from natural to sharp or flat (See the discussion on Lever and Pedal harps on the Types of Harps page). The lever harp is more limited in repertoire choices because one of the harpist's hands must stop playing to make the changes, and only so many changes can be made at one time. The pedal harp is capable of an expanded repertoire, but even with the harpist's feet making the changes on the pedals, only so many changes are physically possible within a span of time.

So all these types of music and more can be played on the harp: classical, folk, rock, jazz, showtunes, music from movies, new age. See the Repertoire List and Audio Samples pages on my main site for more examples. But if you have a specific song in mind that you want to have played, it is best to check with the harpist first to make sure that song is playable on the harp. And if you would like a specific type of music, check to make sure the harpist you're hiring has that type of music in his/her repertoire.

| Top | Types of Music | Amplification | Outdoors | Harpmoving | Equipment |

Question: Does a harp require amplification?

Answer:
The short answer is no, the harp does not need amplification. The concert harp is intended to produce a large sound capable of being heard with an orchestra in a concert hall. The sound of the harp carries well even from one room into the next, and it is often commented to me that it's nice to have an instrument which can be heard, carries well throughout the space, but is not overpoweringly loud.

Some events, however, may be held in spaces and in circumstances which are not friendly to the harp. For example, very large rooms with heavy carpets and/or drapes or events with a guestlist of 400 people all conversing (or often a combination of both). Or perhaps simply an outdoor wedding in which the wind is carrying the sound away from the guests.

For this reason I take with me to every gig--just in case--a small battery-powered amp which does not need to be plugged into either electricity or a sound system. It adds that extra volume to carry above the room noise.

If you're looking into hiring a harpist but worrying about whether the sound of the harp by itself will be enough, ask the harpist if they have their own amplification system and whether or not they need to be situated near an outlet to plug it in. And/or ask your venue if they have a house system that can be used to amplify a harp.

| Top | Types of Music | Amplification | Outdoors | Harpmoving | Equipment |

Question: Will a harpist be willing to play for my event if it's not indoors?

Answer:
That depends on the harpist. Playing outside is hard on both the harp and the harpist, and some harpists choose to not accept outdoor gigs. Other harpists will add a fee for playing outdoors and/or specify conditions under which it can be done. For example, I ask for a flat, level place to play preferably out of direct sunlight.

Under no circumstances can a harpist be expected to play outdoors if it's raining or continue playing if it starts raining. If water starts falling on the harp, you can quite reasonably expect the harpist to start covering up his/her expensive instrument and taking it to shelter no matter what else is going on. Most outdoor events will have an alternate rain location or other provisions for rain, make sure your harpist knows what those provisions are. A tent may or may not be enough, wind might drive the rain through the sides of the tent. I remember at least one occasion in which I moved my harp through the guests to the center of the tent where it wouldn't get splattered with water in order to continue playing.

| Top | Types of Music | Amplification | Outdoors | Harpmoving | Equipment |

Question: How does a harpist move their harp to an event?

Answer:
There is a large harp case/trunk for the harp which is used for shipping it. But for most situations in which the harpist is moving the harp him/herself, a soft padded cover is put on the harp, and it is strapped into a specially designed harp cart. There are many different types of harp carts, some are more complex than others. For example, in addition to wheels on the bottom for wheeling the harp around, my harp cart also has wheels on the side to help with getting the harp into the car.

Harp-moving vehicles include full-size station wagons and minivans. I myself have a station wagon, you put the back seat of the car down flat and slide (in my case wheel) the harp in.

Below: Packing up the harp, wheeling out the harp and gear, and the process of getting the harp into the car.


| Top | Types of Music | Amplification | Outdoors | Harpmoving | Equipment |

Question: Do I need to provide the harpist with anything, such as a chair or music stand?

Answer:
While I can't say for sure for every harpist, I bring everything that I need. That includes the harp, harp stool, music stand, music books, battery-power amplifier, and microphone for the amplifier.

The two things on that list a harpist might be less likely to have would be the mic and amp. See the discussion above about amplifying the sound of the harp. Also, I don't bring a light for my music stand to every gig. If the lighting will be low or dark, mention it to the harpist so he/she can bring a stand light or ask you to arrange for a lamp to be nearby.



| What kind of music can be played on the harp? |
| Does a harp require amplification? |
| Will a harpist play for an outdoor event? |
| How does a harpist move their harp to an event? |
| Do I need to provide the harpist with any equipment? |

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