Learn about Bobbie Jo’s Amazing lifetime of passionate Harp, Voice, Flute and Musical Performance

Expand Your Horizons With More Styles of Music in Your Harp Playing


Expand Your Horizons With More Styles of Music in Your Harp Playing

There is much freedom in allowing oneself to play anything your heart desire…not just what’s normal for a harp. I was classically trained in piano and voice, but was in a rock band for 10 years and a folk/rock quartet for 7. In that time I developed a love for so many styles of music that can really work with a harp if you flow with it.

As a young person and activist in our quest for Earth Healing, I felt drawn to songs like “Sunday, Bloody Sunday” by U2 and worked it out on the harp. It had a powerful effect, not only on me, but on my audiences as well. All of a sudden they are exposed to a different side of the harp. I am also a singer and have accompanied myself since a young age, so singing and playing come quite naturally to me. When you sing along with what you play, there is so much more you can do then just playing a piece. Your voice is the melody and your hands the harmonic structure. This means you can fill out the musical accompaniment with fuller chords, more inversions, grace notes and passing tones. You are not limited to play the melody with your right hand and the chords with your left.

If you are interested in Reggae, try some! You will find you use more dampening techniques and maybe playing closer to the soundboard for a more percussive effect. You will play more backbeats and block type chords, unless you are trying to mimic a steel drum. You hear lots of arpeggios on steel drumming.

Pick one of your favorite bluesy or jazzy songs and try it out. Pick out the melody, then the bass line, and then try to fill in the rest. Substitution chords are always handy if you are not a ‘lever flipper.’ I call myself a ‘lever flipping maniac’ because I love to do the “hammer-on” and “pull-off” techniques you hear on guitar.

One of my favorite pieces to do at any event is F
űr Elise, although it is not a harp piece. When you attempt a song like this you have to choose your musical voicings very carefully. I play a levered Woldsong harp that has blade levers, not flip up levers. These are quite a bit faster (in my opinion) then the flip ups, and it’s all I’ve really ever played. My harp maker, Paul Culotta (RIP dear one), was very different in his style of harp making. Hardly any harp makers use the blade levers, but I wish they’d make a comeback. In as much as they chew the strings up a little more, they sure are a lot quieter and faster when you are doing blues or heavy modulating.

Expand your horizons when you are thinking of pieces to play. Just because it’s a Celtic Harp, doesn’t mean you have to stick to Celtic Music! Play what you love,…play what you feel.