Amazing Noodling Breakthrough for Harp Players!


NEWSFLASH from CYBERSPACE:  An amazing noodling breakthrough occurred during Deborah Henson-Conant’s Virtual “Hands on Harmony” Beta Retreat earlier this month! After giving the standard “Just start noodling,” direction during a play-along session the Grammy-Nominated harp virtuoso actually explained a simple approach to the mysterious noodling process!


Register for “Hands on Harmony” NOW to get the reduced BETA Rate for this Sunday’s Online Retreat! Then come Live or learn at your own pace via the Replay (or both!) - just make sure to register by Saturday Midnight – even if you’re not coming live – because after Sunday the price goes up $50!

If you don’t know what noodling is, it’s the fine art of playing “anything you want” in a way that makes it sound more or less like music – and it’s used a lot in harp playing, especially when you’re trying to integrate your right hand into a left-hand accompaniment or bass pattern you’re just learning.

All joking aside, learning to noodle is the first step to getting comfortable with the art of melodic improvisation and it’s one of those things everyone seems to tell you to do – especially on the harp – but nobody actually breaks down for you.

I was guilty of that myself until my 2nd Beta test retreat for “Hands on Harmony,” earlier this month when I gave the students a cool harmonic progression to practice, suggested they noodle over it with their right hands and they said – “Wait!  But HOW do we noodle??”

This is one of the things that I love about the live online workshop experience: it’s easy for students in the class to ask questions immediately, in the moment by typing them into the chat window – nobody has to worry about raising their hands or interrupting.  And because my courses always include students of varying technical levels and shyness, there’s always someone who’s brave enough to ask the question that most people think is too basic to ask.

And THAT’S when things get really interesting!! 

I adore those questions because they force me to really break things apart even more than I already do — and to figure out how to explain something I previously took for granted.  And that is one of my all-time favorite things to do because it gives ME a deeper understanding of what I’m teaching.

The other great thing about the live virtual workshop setting is that, at times like these, everyone on line – harpists from all over the world –  become a spontaneous mastermind and their input and questions bring me way more clarity than I would have sitting alone and creating a curriculum by myself.

As it turns out, that question pretty much stumped me.  I had an answer I’ve use for years: you use the same building blocks of melody whether you’re composing, improvising or noodling around, and those building blocks include scales, leaps of a 3rd or more, repeated notes and sequences, to start with.

“Great,” the students said “but when, where and how do we use them?”  And that’s when I realized that we could take the very same notes we were using to build the bass pattern, and re-use them as fenceposts for the noodling.

Without having to learn or remember anything new, players could take exactly the same information they’d already learned and just use it differently.

It was a moment of collective revelation and liberation.

But don’t take my word for it – register NOW for the FINAL Virtual Beta Test “Hands on Harmony” Retreat THIS SUNDAY from 10AM to 6PM EDT.  Can’t make it live?  See below!



Can’t make it to the LIVE event?  Sign up anyway! At least half the students take the course at their own pace via replay — and if you sign up before midnight Sat. May 30, you still get the BETA team price of $139 (after this weekend it goes up to $197!)  PLUS … as soon as you register you get immediate access to replays of Beta Retreats 1 & 2, so you can jump right in and start playing.

Got questions about it?
Use my “Ask A Question” form above and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!  See you noodling around!

Posted in Coaching, Teaching, Students & Learning, Harping & Harpists, Jazz Harp | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Last Chance for “Hands on Harmony” Beta!

This Sunday – May 31st is the final Beta Test for my all-new online course EXCLUSIVELY for harpists called “Hands on Harmony.” Join the Beta Team before the price goes up!

Hands-On Harmony for Harps!

… or …


Now YOU can learn harmony HANDS ON in a one-day virtual retreat – or work at your own pace and watch the replay.  Either way, you’ll cozy up to your computer with your harp, put your hands on your strings and have FUN learning – and playing – harmony.

The Sun. May 31st Retreat is the final “Beta Test” for this new program and when you register now you get instant access to the two previous Beta Replays, PLUS this Sunday’s retreat (live, or work-at-your-own-pace … or both) all for the Beta price of $139.

Did you know that the harp – lever or pedal – is THE PERFECT INSTRUMENT for learning harmony at any level? Harp is the ONLY instrument that actually shifts from key to key, so unlike any other instrument the harp puts a visual, physical metaphor for harmony literally into your hands.

Seriously!  Literally … in your hands!  And I’ll show you how to reach out and grasp that harmony!


Can’t come LIVE this Sunday? No Problem!

No worries!  At least half the people who register actually prefer to wait and watch the recorded version at their own pace.  Others love to be there live to ask questions and take part in the discussions.

How does it work?

If you want to come live, we meet in my online classroom where my online facilitator, Claudia, will help you if you have trouble connecting.  You pull your harp up to your computer (or your computer up to your harp), put your hands on your harp – and we start!  You can come dressed-as-you-are, you won’t have to be on camera and if you want to ask questions you just type them into the chat window.



We start at the very beginning, learning how chords are built and you practice everything on your harp as we go along.  You get a PDF of all the examples and exercises, downloadable audio files you can listen to over and over — and after I edit the live video, you get online access to the whole program, chunked down into bite-sized pieces.

From basic chord building, I show you a few simple chord VOICINGS to use and then we start right in playing PROGRESSIONS, or short series of chords. From there we start EXTENDING the chords – so you can build 9th and 11th chords and ALTERING chords so you can play chords like G7(b9) or Bm7(b5).

By the end of the day you’ll know how to MODULATE from key to key (using my really fun trick of “Diversion”), how to create simple chord SUBSTITUTIONS and how to shift in and out of the RELATIVE MINOR.

You’ll get a sample LEAD SHEET and learn to PSYCH IT OUT so you’ll know where you actually need to change levers/pedals and where you can kick back with the settings you already have.  You also get some stress-savin techniques for avoiding pedals/levers when you’re just not sure whether you should change them or not!

AND NEW FOR BETA 3 on May 31st, by popular request, I’m adding a special new arpeggio game for practice changing chord qualities so you can practice arpeggios AND lever/pedal changing at the same time!




No problem!  You can watch the replay at your own pace or jump right in as soon as you register, since Beta 1 and Beta 2 are already on line.  Either way, you still get the Beta price of $139.  Just make sure you sign up before this Sunday’s Retreat – because after that the price goes up!

And when you’re a Beta-Tester, your comments, questions and suggestions can become a part of the course – you’re part of history!  That means each Beta retreat is a little different, based on comments I get in each one.  For example, Beta 2 moved a little faster than Beta 1 (thanks to a suggestion from Margi!) and has as section on modulation and altered chords.  And Beta 3 has an all-new Harmony-Changing Arpeggio Sequence thanks to a great suggestion from Kevin (thanks, Kevin!!)


Got questions about it? Use my “Ask a Question” Form and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!

p.s. sometimes we have visitors in the classroom



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First-Ever Jazz Harp Masters Lunch in Hollywood

On Monday, May 18th I had lunch with three of the world’s greatest Jazz Harp Masters at a little cafe in Hollywood:  Corky Hale, Lori Andrews and Carol Robbins.


Corky Hale is the Grande Dame and pioneer of Jazz Harp, with a career spanning decades and recording credits from Tony Bennet  to Bjork  .  And when I got an NEA grant decades ago to study with a jazz harpist, it was Corky I studied with.

Carol Robbins  is a two-time Grammy-Nominee who plays with Billy Childs, among others – an incredible improviser and well-known jazz-harp luminary.

Lori Andrews  is a power-house jazz player who introduced me to one of the all-time great harp techniques: slap-bass – and who jumped on stage with me at my Saturday show for a two-harp rendition of “Black Orpheus.

Don’t ask what we had for lunch – I was too focused on the conversation and looking forward to the possibility of interviewing each of these incredible players for an upcoming jazz-harp masters interview project I’m working on.

Want to know when it comes out?  Make sure you’re on my mailing list!

Here is a photo gallery of the lunch!

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