Monday, April 11, 2016

Tips for Playing Harp at a Formal Event

or What I Learned from Playing Harp at a Formal Event....  :)

Awhile ago I was hired to play harp for a benefit fundraiser.  It was an amazing opportunity and I was happy to be able to help with the musical atmosphere for a great benefit!  Here are some things I learned from playing at the benefit as well as a few additional tips:

Number 1: Find out what the dress is for the event-- then dress the part!  I wore formal clothing and was so glad that I did!!  When I arrived to the benefit I was surprised to see how fancy and very formal everyone was.  Wearing anything else I would have been under dressed.   

Number 2: Arrive early with time to set up, tune, decide where the instrument should be placed, become familiar with your surroundings, and if you don't bring your own chair-- get comfortable with a provided chair.

Number 3: Find out exactly what time you are expected to start playing and what time they would like you to stop.  Wear a watch or have one nearby!

Number 4: Bring a mat that will stick to the floor so that your harp will not slide on the flooring. 
I played in a room that had wood flooring and boy did my harp slip!!!  I had to keep it squeezed tightly between my knees the entire time which made for a very uncomfortable position, sore legs, and worry over keeping my harp from sliding.

Number 5: It is ok to play the same song twice....  or three times!
Just add in some ornaments the next time through, play up an octave, or do something creative!  I think as harpists we get away a bit on this.  It's a harp and to everyone else it's angelic or some sort of an amazing instrument they've never seen up close before....  so yes some random broken chords before starting the next verse will sound heavenly. :)

Number 6: It's ok to play the same song again later on!
Seriously no one is going to notice!!  That is unless they are sitting next to you listening to every single song and making check marks.  But, hey no one is doing that!  

Number 7: Bring extra music!!!
Nope, not for the audience...  Bring extra music for YOU!!  As background music in a crowded noisy room no one is going to notice when you play piece a third time through, but YOU are going to notice and you'll probably start to get bored over some of the same music especially if you are playing for a long time.

Number 8: Have some music to fall back on
Have something or a few favorite pieces memorized.  Pieces that you can be creative with-- without sheet music.  There were a few times when I was playing that I just needed to go to a solid piece-- so I played through of the very first Irish piece I learned on the harp.  It's a lullaby which I've played around with and experimented with in my practice times so it's the perfect piece for when there's a lull in playing or you just need something to play.

Numbers 4, 7, and 8 were especially great ones for me!  I did get bored with my music and I don't ever want to have a sliding harp experience again!!

Have you ever played at a formal event?  What would you add to the list?


  1. Really good tips! I've learned these over the years as well. I have a reperatoire of music that lasts about 1.5 hours, so thankfully I don't get bored often, but I have a couple times, when I played for longer than expected. But others don't notice if you play songs over a couple times, and it gives you the chance to improvise and experiment. I also just like playing through a hymnal or a melody line (with chord symbols) and improvising that way. I prefer background music for all these reasons. I'm not so much a performer, but I love doing background music for special events. :)

    1. Thank you for sharing, Kaleigh! :)