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Easy traditional tunes for your small harp

Have you ever noticed how people who play the harp often have more than one (or five)? Each harp has its own voice, it's own personality and purpose. When you take the plunge and invest in a larger harp with more strings and more beautiful sound, you soon realize that it would be so convenient to have something that is easier to toss in the car or take to the cottage (or in my case walk to the lake). There always seems to be a reason to have another harp. 

In my family of harps I have a special little instrument called a Waring harp. Perhaps you've heard of it. The soundbox is made of cardboard! And it comes in a kit that you can build and decorate yourself. It weighs about the same as a loaf of bread. Seriously! It has 19 strings going down the to G below Middle C. And you would be shocked to hear how well it stays in tune. 

I made mine several years ago. After a weekend of glueing and clamping and painting it was ready to play. The first thing my husband said was, "that little harp has no business sounding that good."

Waring cardboard harp

Now that the warm summer weather has arrived, I've been eager to get outside with my harps, so I dusted off my little Waring and tuned it up. I usually improvise or adapt lead sheets for the limited string range, but I felt like this little harp should get some music that was written and voiced specifically for 19 strings.

My first instinct was to tune this harp to C major because of course there are no levers. But when I started working out tunes they often were too high or too low to highlight the harp's best sound. So I thought let's retune those Fs to F sharp and rework the pieces to G Major. Ahhhh so much better!

Then I sat down to think about the tunes I wanted to arrange. I let the harp decide. Sometimes we force our big harp repertoire onto our small harps and it can be frustrating. This is a harp with a sweet, light personality and it needs to be played very gently. So I selected a set of seven traditional tunes that I thought fit that character.

7 Easy Traditional Harp Tunes for 19 Strings

Everything I create comes from a teaching perspective. I frequently get comments from people saying, "thank you so much for adding the fingering" or "thank you for including the chords that really helps me". So I worked out these arrangements with the fingering, brackets and technical simplicity to suit an elementary to early intermediate player. 

If you are more advanced or are playing on a larger harp, the chord symbols can guide you to dress up your arrangement. You could play through as written and then repeat with the left hand exploring bigger chord patterns. Or create introductions, endings or improvisations using the chord progressions as a guide. This little set of 7 easy traditional tunes could easily provide half an hour of music with a little creativity and know-how.

Here's the set list:

  1. Early One Morning
  2. Skye Boat Song
  3. Annie Laurie
  4. Eleanor Plunkett
  5. Bridget O'Malley
  6. Southwind
  7. Garryowen

Interested in hearing these tunes on my Waring cardboard harp? Watch the YouTube video below.

You can get all 7 Easy Traditional Tunes for 19 strings in one easy download. Click here to find it quickly in the Shop

Have a wonderful summer! 

p.s. Interested in the Waring Harp Kit? Learn more here

Do you like to get outside in the summer and play music on your small harp? Let me know in the comments.

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  • I have been wanting something like this such a long time! My manual dexterity still very good in both hands . Wee bit of arthritis in my right thumb would not stop me from playing this fabulous instrument..Maybe a mini tug of war as I know my felines will want to play a string or 2 now and then..

    Norma Dofflemyer
  • I recently brought my 22 string rosewood harp to the beach and sat on a picnic table to play. I have a crate that I set it on to support it at the right level and it also amplifies the sound. I keep a folder of arrangements just for that harp. I am eager to get your new music. Thank you for doing this!

  • For those of you wondering about how I sit with this harp… I find it works best to sit on a bench so the harp is resting at the same height in front of me. I’m actually using my piano bench lengthwise. For this video the harp is also on a piece of foam because the microphone was picking up a lot of movement noise and I’m stabilizing it further with my knees. Hope that helps! – Anne

    Anne Crosby Gaudet

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