Method used to determine the grade of difficulty of the works

The goal of this part of the study is to determine the grade of difficulty of the works whose scores were available to the author. This information represents an invaluable tool for the performers or teachers in the search for new repertoire. For each work that was analyzed and given a grade of difficulty there is a chart that reflects the results.


The contribution of the Latin-American composers to the pedal harp repertoire embraces from works of great technical difficulties to very easy and pedagogical pieces, approaching the instrument from the conventional point of view as well as the experimental one.

The work of Gasse (1993) was taken as a reference to elaborate a referential list of  technical resources in order to determine in each work (a) the  technical resources used by the composer, (b) the frequency of use of each resource (1), (c)  the distribution of the resources along the work, (d) the influence of the tempo in the grade of difficulty of the work, (e) the difficulty to ensemble the piece with the other instruments , in the case of a chamber work or a concerto.


The technical resources that were conisdered for the study are: fast tempo  (tempo rápido), one hand scales (escalas con una sola mano), alternating hand scales (escalas con manos alternadas), one hand arpeggios (arpegios con una sola mano), alternated hand arpeggios (arpegios con manos alternadas),doble arpeggios (arpegios dobles), hands in contrary movement (movimiento contrario de las manos), chords alternating with intervals (acordes con intervalos intercalados), consecutive chords with or without damping (acordes consecutivos con o sin apagados), use of enharmonic sounds (uso de enarmonías), pedal changes (cambios de pedales), consecutive octaves (octavas consecutivas), consecutives octaves alternting with intervals or single notes (octavas consecutivas y notas o intervalos intercalados), chords alternating with octaves (acordes alternados con octavas), wide intervals (intervalos grandes), melody divided between both hands (melodía dividida entre las dos manos), Melody doubled in octaves (melodía doblada en octavas) ,single notes (notas sueltas), big jumps among registers (saltos grandes entre registros),  glissandi, two hands trill (trinos con dos  manos), one hand trill (trinos con una sola mano), more than three paralell consecutive intervals (más de tres intervalos paralelos consecutivos), complex rhythms (ritmos complejos), syncopation (síncopa), metric changes (cambios de compás), groups of notes that accelerate or desaccelerate (grupos de notas aceleradas y desaceleradas),  nonenharmonic repeated notes (notas repetidas sin enarmonías), octave harmonic (armónicos simples de octava), double or triple octave  harmonics (armónicos dobles o triples de octava), fith harmonics (armónicos de intervalo de quinta), tremolo, non convencional notation  (notación no convencional), other special effects (otros efectos especiales): play  with the nail (tocar con las uñas), pedal glissando (glissando de pedal), nail glissando (glissando de uñas), glissando with the tunning key (glissando con la llave), tunning key tremolos (trémolos con la llave), clusters,  pizzicato Bartok, hitting the strings with the palm of the hand (golpear las cuerdas con la palma de la mano), knocking on the sound board (golpear la caja de resonancia), xilophonic sounds (sonidos xilofónicos), thunder effect (efecto de trueno), timpanic sounds (sonidos de timbal),whistle sounds (sonidos aflautados  o silbados), bisbigliando, pdlt (près de la table),  vibrato close to the tunning pin (vibrato en el clavijero), tremolo eólico, non convencional fingerings (digitaciones no convencionales), and convencional fingerings with the following sequences (digitaciones convencionales de secuencias): 4,3,2,1

4,2,3,1;    3,4,2,1;    4,2,1;   3,2,1;    1,3,4,2;    4,1;    3,1;    2,1;  ;   ;    ;   .  

                                                                                              2,1        2,1         2,1          2,1        2,1

                                                                                              4 3        4               4          3           3



Most of the technical resources are self explanatory, for example, «tempo rápido», since generally, the technical resources become more difficult when the tempo becomes faster.  Nonetheless, some of the studied parameters need explanation, as of:


Use of enharmonic sounds

It is indicated when the composers makes explicit use of enharmonic sounds with a specific purpose, and not as my personal suggestion to solve a complex passage.


Pedal changes

The classification of the use of this resource is based on the number of pedals per pulse, the movements of feet between external and internal pedals, simultaneity of movements and the tempo of the work.


Conventional fingering

 It refers to those fingerings that are common in the traditional harp repertoire, placed or single fingered. The naming of a fingering implies its use ascending as well as descending (2) , for example 4,3,2,1 also refers to 1,2,3,4, etc.


Non conventional fingerings

It refers to those fingerings in which fingers 1, 2, 3 and  4 are use in continuous jumps and the conventional  fingerings cannot be placed, instead, fingerings has to be divided between the hands or the hands have to jump continuously among registers.


More than three parallel consecutive intervals.

It refers to any interval different to the octave.


Complex rhythms

 It indicates the use of irregular subdivisions of the pulses like septuplets, quintuplets, etc., sometimes with internal subdivisions, with or without rests and the use of continuous syncopation with or without the articulation of the strong bet.


Other special effects

 It includes effects different from glissandi, harmonics or tremolos.


Application of the chart to determine the grade of difficulty of the works.

The integral evaluation of all these elements lead us to determine the grade of difficulty. For example: If we have to play 20 chords in a work, the grade of difficulty increases if  we have a fast tempo and the chords are to be played consecutively, or it decreases, if the chords are scattered along the work, at the same tempo or  a moderate tempo.

On the other hand it is more difficult to play scales with one hand in tempo Allegro for 10 consecutive bars, than to play the same amount of scales scattered in a work.  When referring to a chamber work or a concerto with orchestra, the harp part might be technically easy, but its grade of difficulty could be modified by the complexity of the assembling of the piece.

A scale from 1 to 5 was used, 1 being the lower grade of difficulty and 5 the highest. In order to establish a referential parameter for each grade of difficulty, we give references of works relatively known and easy to get that represents the media of the grade of difficulty.

1. Dos piezas (Pavana y vals) by Armando Luna.

2. Berceuse #7 Op. 59 c. by Mauricio Nasi, Son by Arturo Márquez.

3. Juegos de niños by Alba Quintanilla, o Los Olvidos by Leticia Cuen.

4. Acuerdos por diferencias para arpa y sonidos electroacústicos by Javier Álvarez.

5. Concierto para arpa y orquesta by Alberto Ginastera.

In some cases grades as: 1-2, 2-3, 3-4, 4-5, were considered, which indicate that even though the work has technical resources of one of the grades its difficulty is affected by parameters like tempo, periodicity, the ensemble in the case of chamber music and concertos, the harmonic or the  rhythmic languages.  




(1) The chart of each work only shows the items of the resources used in the work, eliminating those that are not present and stating how frequently they appear. 


(2) Harp fingerings are ordered as follows: 1 = thumb, 2 = index finger, 3 = middle finger, 4 = ring finger





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