Recording My Harp Practice: What I’ve Learned So Far

Having spent nine months selecting a new digital recorder, and now having the basic instructions for recording and play-back deciphered, I couldn’t put it off any longer. I had to turn on the recorder, sit down at my harp, and play.

The first thing I learned was that I’m much less nervous about playing for my new techno-friend than for a real, live person. Knowing I could completely delete a file and any mistakes I made was very comforting. So what if I totally flubbed that second entrance? Select File 01 -> Delete, and it’s as if it never happened! Oh, to have that capability at a real performance!

Some technical points were immediately evident when I hit “playback”. I repeatedly cut short the long notes at the ends of phrases, which then makes the following phrase sound rushed. And my tempo is not as steady as I imagine it to be – I heard the delays where I’m trying to find and land on the correct strings. No wonder playing in harp ensemble always feels too fast. I’m mushing and slowing the tempo when I practice. So it’s back to playing with the metronome, for sure.

But the real surprise was how beautiful the music sounded. What can be heard at the front of my harp is totally different from what I hear while I’m playing. Suddenly, I understood the complements I received when I played at my friend’s studio, and seven months later, I believed them. I could hear what my audience heard. The tunes I played really were beautiful. Not perfect, but beautiful.

I know some of that beauty comes from the rich, resonant, velvety sound of my harp. But the beauty also comes from my arrangements of these lovely tunes, from how my fingers touch the strings, from my playing. It’s an amazing and sweet thing to hear and believe that I can play the harp beautifully, and play beautiful music.


5 thoughts on “Recording My Harp Practice: What I’ve Learned So Far

  1. That’s interesting to know it sounded different than what your ears hear. When I sold my Dusty the other day, I played it for the woman who bought it. When she sat down to “pluck”, she said “it sounds different when you sit here than when you listen from over there”, meaning the chair where she sat. Where did you place the recorder in reference to your harp?


    1. Given the tone of the Merlin is already so beautiful, I had no idea the sound would be so different from the audience position/perspective!
      I placed the recorder approximately 3 feet in front of my harp, perched on a 2-foot (or so) high footstool. I used just the front microphone for recording, and left all the recording settings on the factory defaults. Interpreting what all the recording settings and controls will do is the next step in this “record myself” project.


      1. This is so intriguing…since I too have a Merlin, I would love to know how it sounds when hearing it as an audience. May need to put this on my wish list. Thanks for all your information, Janet.


  2. I think you make a couple of very key pionts about recording practice here. Firstly that you can hear mistakes that you don’t notice while playing – mind is too busy trying to make the fingers etc work correctly.

    Second, and more interesting for me, is the concept that it sounds different from in front of the instrument than behind. This is a concept that I have great difficulty explaining to my students. Speed is different in front – what feels like a long time behind the instrument is a mere moment in front, what sounds like a big crescendo from behind is a marginal change in volume in front.

    Whether a recorder can help fix these problems I’m not sure – it can however highlight some of these areas so that they can be addressed by another type of practice.

    Thanks for the post 🙂


    1. Hi Mike! Thanks so much for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. I am excited about using the digital recorder to become aware of things I’ve not noticed that I need to work on, like those time dilation effects from behind the instrument that you mention, and then being able to re-record and compare to see if I’ve really “fixed” a problem with my practice. I had fun touring your website this morning. I’ve added a link to it on my blog, in my music practice web link list.


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