My harp teacher could make any harp sound amazing. I was astounded every time I heard her do it. On the occasions when she came to my house and played my harp, her magical touch on my very ordinary harp brought it to life in a way my practice never did. And it was MY harp!
My teacher was Marilyn Costello. She studied with Carlos Salzedo at the Curtis Institute of Music and had a lifetime career as principal harpist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. And she had the warmest, richest, most liquid tone I have ever heard.
Having a beautiful tone wasn’t something I thought a lot about as a young harp student. I was more interested in playing fast and flashy pieces. I didn’t give much thought to having a rich sound. After all, when you're playing pieces at warp speed, who can hear the quality of your sound?
Obviously, tone matters. Like so many other harpists, it was the unique voice of the harp that first attracted me. The sound of the harp spoke to me when I heard it ring through the dense texture of an orchestra. It drew my ear when I heard it in the background scoring of a movie or television show. And it still does, every time.
Today I will give you my thoughts on what makes a beautiful harp tone, what tone really means, how you develop your tone and how you expand your tonal repertoire. Yes, you can - and should - have a repertoire of sounds at your fingertips.
I hope this topic excites you as much as it does me. There is nothing more characteristic of the harp than its sound and nothing more interesting than the unique sound of an individual harpist. We all have our special sound, and today I want to help you find yours.
Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode:
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