ARRANGING FROM PIANO MUSIC
As a harpist you no doubt have discovered that it is not an easy matter finding arrangements [of the latest hits or special requests]. Even if you are able to buy them, the process of making your own is so convenient and satisfying, it is valuable to know how. In a well-balanced repertoire, there is an advantage to having a variety of styles represented, and the easiest source of music is naturally from piano. As a keyboard arrangement, the voicing and patterns will most likely be playable on the harp, with some modifications.
Try looking over the section in the music store [or online] called Easy Piano. The notes are big, with lots of “white empty spaces” in which to write other filler notes. Also the arrangement is simple, eliminating difficult passages which may be unusable for a non-pedal harp.
Analyze the style and purpose of the piece, which determines the tempo and bass pattern to use. It is helpful if the chord symbols are given, so you can see the chord structure. Try playing what is written, and decide what to keep. Bear in mind that the right hand treble melody is the most important thing in pop and folk music.
You might go through the piece actually singing the melody, in order to feel its phrases, observing the spots where you pause to breathe. After all, the piece was probably written to be sung, and you must compensate for the lack of a singer. This creates phrasing, which determines the flow of the accompaniment. Does the arrangement need simplification, or embellishment? Is it too hard or too simple?
For Lever Harpers, my philosophy about accidentals is this: whenever it is possible to avoid lever changes, I do. Not only is it for physical convenience, but for the visual effect upon the audience. I find it very distracting watching a harpist’s hands jump back and forth continuously changing levers. I would rather eliminate any accidentals in the melody if it is too awkward to make a lever change. Two ways to do this are: substitute a melody note for the accidental by choosing another from the elements of the chord or using another tone . A neighboring tone or one just a few steps away will usually harmonize nicely without losing the integrity of the melody. — from The Creative Harpist by Louise Trotter.
The Creative Harpist is a compilation of the following three books, written over the past 20 years: Let’s Play Country Harp, Getting Started in Pop Harp, and The Creative Folk Harpist. These three books are not available separately anymore, they were combined several years ago into one book, The Creative Harpist. Get started on your new arrangements now!