With Willow Smith sharing covers of Joanna Newsom songs on Facebook, more people are getting into harp music than ever before. Newsom’s songs have topped Billboard’s Alternative Albums charts, inspiring younger artists like Smith to take up the harp. But becoming a good harp player takes constant practice, and with pedal harps weighing 70 to 90 pounds and costing as much as $15,000, packing one with you for a road trip or flight isn’t necessarily practical. So how do you get your practice in while you’re traveling? Here are a few suggestions for how to keep making harp music even when you’re on the go:
One option for traveling is to get a portable harp. Many harp novices and even some experienced players labor under the misconception that smaller lever harps are “baby harps” for people who haven’t learned to play the pedal harp. That’s a myth, says the Celtic Harp Page, which promotes the art of lever harp playing and points out that harps actually come in a wide variety of sizes and types.
Lever harps are typically used to play Scottish and Irish traditional folk music, but they can also be used to play hymns, classical music and diatonic music without frequent key changes in general. Lever harps come in sizes ranging from 27 to 40 strings, so they can be considerably smaller and more portable than pedal harps, with the largest lever harps only about three-quarters the height of a pedal harp.
Some harps are even smaller than traditional lever harps. One of today’s most popular travel harps is the 26-string Rees Harpsicle Harp, which is about two-and-a-half feet tall, weighs about four pounds and sells for less than $450. There are even portable lap harps with as few as 22 strings that are just over two feet tall and weigh six pounds for just under $700. The Harp Connection carries other small harps and travel harps.
Digital Music Learning and Composition Tools
Technically, you don’t even need a physical harp to practice. There are literally dozens of apps you can use to practice and play harp on a mobile device.
For instance, the Music Theory Basics app for iPhones, iPads and iPod touch includes five modules that teach you notes, keys, intervals, chords and rhythms and tests you on basic skills. If you already know how to read music, you can try your hand at writing your own song using a music composition app. For instance, Score Creator lets you use your iPhone to write music notation, lyrics and chord symbols. You can create tracks with different instruments, play back songs to hear how they sound with different instruments and transpose songs into any key. You can also import songs from MIDI files for editing, export them to other apps or PDF files or save them on the cloud.
When you want to record music on the go, your mobile device can come in handy, too. For instance, digital audio station GarageBand works on both Macs and iOS devices like the Apple iPhone 7. You can record music with an instrument or with a wide range of virtual software instruments. You can also record multiple tracks using voice recordings, MIDI keyboards, instrumental effects such as drums, pre-made loops and custom loops from the App Store. You can even use the iPhone 7’s 3-D touch capability to turn your phone into a portable keyboard for playing music.
GarageBand costs $4.99 in the app store, but if you purchased an Apple device within the past two-and-a-half years, you can get it free. For professional musicians who want even more music production capability, Logic Pro X is available for Macs for $199.99.
After you’re done recording your harp music, you can also edit it on-the-go using digital editing tools. For instance, Hokusai Audio Editor lets you use your touch screen to import, edit, mix and export audio tracks. Other top audio editing tools for iOS devices include Energy XT and Twisted Wave Audio Editor.