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The ‘traditional’ style of playing

Traditional music which is an ‘oral tradition’ (‘taught or learned by ear’) requires players to be spontaneously creative applying ‘ornamentation and variation’ to the melody and harmonic bass accompaniment to the music. Every player is expected to develop their own style of playing – from fiddles and flutes, concertinas and uilleann pipes – each applying ornamentation and variation of their choice (within the traditional style) to the melody, thus ‘making the music their own’. This is the goal of every traditional player!


Harpers have twice the challenge! As well as applying ornamentation and variation like all the other melody-only instruments, harp players are also expected to ‘add an accompaniment’ – a ‘left hand’ – a ‘bass part’ – equally creatively with a multitude of choices and creative options between chording choices, basslines, harmonies, complements and counterpoints. This is the phenomenal ‘other dimension’ that is a creative ‘blank slate’ offering players a tremendous opportunity to showcase their creativity and to thrive with the potential for unique and characterful arrangements.


Not everyone is creative however! This is human nature – some musicians are more ‘creative and flamboyant’ than others who may be ‘careful and predictable’. But all have their place in the world – and to copy a creative player is a complement to them – as long as they are duly acknowledged – for otherwise, the performance is an act of theft. This might sound strong, but one’s creativity is one’s ‘soul song’ – and the sacred offering of the creative spirit. There is no embarrassment in playing other harper’s compositions or arrangements – but there is the responsibility of at least acknowledgement. If there is financial gain in the performance of the music, there will also be a licence fee or royalty due. For more information on this, please write to me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..