Three Scenarios of Amplification:

There are basically three scenarios that the wire strung harper will face when it comes to technology:

drawing of a harpist in a recording studio tuning a harp while the engineer sets a microphone

Recording is a complex subject, and may well be best left to an expert. Depending on the scope of your project, it may be well worth the investment to go to a professional recording studio where you can work with a professional sound engineer. This will give you a quality recording. The engineer will have all of the tools of the trade, so your only job is to do your best as a player. Let the engineer fret over what kind of microphone placement will work best for the session.

On the other hand, there are times and situations as well as budget realities that may lead you to want to do what is often called a home recording, some suggestions and experience are offered in the article Adventures in Home Recording with a Harp.

Concerts: The promoter or presenter for your concert will likely hire a professional sound company or live audio sound engineer, sometimes known as an “A1” to provide sound reinforcement. This is another situation where it is usually best to let the professional engineers do what they do. They know their equipment and should also be responsive to your needs. Once set up, you will have a ‘sound check’. Be sure to be on–time, have your harp tuned, and be present in the hall for this important procedure. Your main responsibility is to tell the engineer if you can or cannot hear yourself. They can bring you ‘up’ in the mix or ‘down’ in the mix so you can hear yourself play. You generally do not need to bring anything except your harp, though some artists will supply their own preferred microphone or a special mic–stand of just the right height and articulation. Generally, though, the sound engineer should have everything you need.

You may be asked for a “Technical Rider” in which you will indicate what equipment you need for your performance. Your ‘Tech Rider’ tells the engineer if you need a monitor, whether or not you need a vocal microphone, and your preferred placement of those items with a diagram. As a professional, you should have an understanding of what things are called and why you need them. A basic explanation is on our page describing Basic Components of a Sound System.

Gigs are the meat and potatoes of any working musician. These are those independent jobs you get, either through your own personal efforts or from a broker or agent. This is when you need to know how to be on your own without the help of sound engineers. If you are very lucky, you will not need to amplify your instrument because the performance space and audience size will be such that your harp can suffice on its own. But in many cases you will need to be louder than your harp’s acoustic sound can supply. Perhaps you have been hired to play a wedding ceremony. Perhaps you have been asked to play in a noisy environment, whether inside or outside. You may be offered a job to play background music in a pub or restaurant, or for a community event. If you are on your own, the first thing you need to ask yourself and the person hiring you is, “do I need to bring some sound reinforcement?” If the answer is yes, then you will need to borrow, own or purchase an amplification system (and tell your client that you’ll need a little extra money for supplying that equipment and set–up). The next question that needs to be asked is, “Will electricity be available?” because all amplification requires electricity, though battery–powered systems can sometimes do the job. Do remember to ask this question. It's never a good surprise to show up for your job and find that there is no electrical outlet nearby, or that it is being used by the caterer.

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