As a professional harpist, my career is multi-faceted and oddly specific. Over the years I’ve built up multiple systems for managing the equipment, the merchandise and the information that goes with the job of being a professional musician. I’m always curious to know how other harpists organize their stuff so I thought I would share my way of doing things, with pictures.
I have a separate room in my house for a harp studio, so my harps live “out in the open” rather than covered or in storage. I like to have them set up so I can sit down at the slightest whim and start practicing.
But what to do with the harp cases?
Luckily, my studio has a closet. Though rather small, it has two deep overhead shelves and several hooks I installed in convenient places.
In the above picture you can see my big blue Lyon and Healy harp cover folded over the harp dolly.
Two of my other harp cases (one for my Musicmakers Jolie harp and another for my Musicmakers Sonnet harp) hang along the side and back walls on hooks.
Hanging the cases keeps everything cleaner, crisper, and less crumpled than if they lived on the floor or shoved in the back of the closet. It also frees up a bit of floor space for my suitcase of CDs.
I have a green fabric case (designed and sewn by my aunt for my Musicmakers Gothic harp) which compacts neatly, so I store that on the shelf, on the far left. The base of the blue three-part transport case balances way up high on the top shelf and the inside frame of closet door. I only use the base in very cold weather since it makes my harp wobble too much on the dolly.
Also pictured is my small battery-powered amp in a bag I got at the American Harp Society Summer Institute (with a shoulder strap for easy transport).
On the other side of the shelf I store a number of my CDs for easy access if clients or students ask about them. I store a box of business cards up there as well as several types of tip jars for different occasions.
In front of the CDs and tip jars I have room for my folding music stands. The stands (and the upholstery in my car) were getting damaged until I made some black canvas cases. A case always looks more professional than having the sharp(ish) end of the music stand poking out of a gig bag.
Speaking of gig bags
Of course I have one, but I’m not bothering to include a picture here. Every harpist has his or her own way of organizing that. But one thing that I always make sure to have in my gig bag is a full set of extra harp strings.
I switch out which of the above sets I use, depending on whether I’m playing a Celtic gig or a Classical gig, but I like the fact that both of these containers are stiff enough to protect my strings, but compact enough to make them fit easily in my gig bag. I also store my stand light in there, to keep it from accidentally turning on and running out of batteries at an inopportune moment.
PRO TIP: Check out thrift stores for cases like these. There is absolutely no need to buy some very expensive new case when there are lovely, clean, and professional choices available in abundance at your local thrift store.
More equipment? Yes! (This is part of the reason harp players are expensive: we need to pay for all this stuff.) In addition to equipment for gigs, musicians obviously own a lot of music.
I found this cabinet for free on the side of the road, so I can’t help you find one like it, but I will suggest the following features in a music storage system:
1. Look for something where you can store your music horizontally, so it does not get bent or twisted when standing vertically for long periods of time.
2. Look for dividers that are only a few inches apart, so you never have to flip through more than a few inches of music for the book you need, and so you do not end up with a lot of wasted space between stacks.
I ran a line of Washi tape along the left side of the cabinet to label the various cubbies. Some of my labels include: Classical, Pop, Soundtrack, Sacred, Renaissance, Sylvia Woods, Celtic, “To Learn”, Christmas, “To Sell”, Wedding, Theory, Methods, Teaching, and Ensemble. The Washi tape is easily removable so I can adjust the shelves as the volume of music I have in each category changes.
I have a room in the basement that I devote to CD storage. (This could easily be just a closet for most people, but I have the space.) I store CDs, envelopes for packaging, and spare bubble wrap all on the same shelf.
PRO TIP: Check out the thrift store for packing materials. I’ve never seen bubble wrap at a thrift store, but most of my mailing envelopes come – still in the packaging – from the thrift store.
For gigging, I transport my CDs in this vintage suitcase. I include a variety of my albums, a sharpie, an email newsletter signup sheet, cash and my credit card swiper. I love that I can leave everything in the suitcase and just close the lid when I’m ready to pack up.
I have a few of these smaller file boxes, in which I store random pieces of sheet music I don’t want to do anything with yet, notes from workshops I’ve attended, arrangements I wrote out and have since transferred into the computer, etc. Originally I had a tab for chamber and ensemble parts, but that has overflowed these bounds.
Harpists who play in the orchestra understand the importance of keeping records of ensemble parts. Marking a new part can take hours (or days, depending on the length of the part) so having copies of your previous markings will save so much time.
As you can see, within this file cabinet I use a very sophisticated cardboard divider system to organize my copies. Currently I have them alphabetized by composer’s last name and split into groups of four letters of the alphabet or so. Eventually I will probably switch to a divider for each individual letter. I’ve only been doing this for a decade or so, and my system here is still developing.
I keep a journal where I scribble all my client info. Of course I have this information on my calendar, in my email inbox and on the contract, but I like to be able to write notes as I talk with clients, AND to have a physical copy in case my email crashes at just the wrong moment. I note down all the pertinent details: contact info, payment info, repertoire info, and any special notes like, “they really like the song, “A Thousand Years.” I draw a big “x” over the whole page once the event is over and paid in full.
What about you?
If you are a harpist, professional musician, or even an amateur musician with a system, I want to hear about it! Comment below on how you organize your equipment, merchandise or information.
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Twin-Cities harpist Stephanie Claussen invites audiences to explore new locales and eras through her music. Influenced by her love of fairy tales, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the world music section at her local library, she performs a unique mixture of Scottish tunes, J.S. Bach, and anything rich in medieval or French harmonies. Sign up for her e-mail newsletter to receive important announcements and notifications of upcoming performances.