How do 2 of Harps go about writing new songs?

Photography by Fleur Challis

2 of Harps are a talented sister duo who have a passion for writing original songs and instrumentals. They have already released an album of their own music entitled “Moving On” and are now excited to announce that they are currently writing music for commercial use. Their ground-breaking style of music is a mixture of pop, folk and indie. 

Here is a five-minute interview with their manager – Janet.

Janet, “When writing your own songs what inspires you and do you have a particular time of the day when you are creative?”

Adel, “Well, it can be a huge variety of things that inspire me to write the lyrics to our songs. It’s funny – I’m a bit old fashioned, in that I always carry a pretty notebook with me, so when I see anything that has a story – I jot it down. Sometimes I think of a topic and then see how things evolve when I write it down. Or it can be based on personal experiences or largely relatable themes that everyone can have a connection to. Sometimes there are moments when the lyrics just come to me, so if I’m in the shower and have a brilliant idea, one that I simply cannot afford to forget, much to my amusement I have to put down the shower gel, and dash out and write it down before it disappears! Karina also occasionally comes up with material which I can then use as fillers in other songs I am writing”.

Janet, “How do you develop the song, from the first idea to the final piece?”

Karina, “Once Adel comes to me with her lyrics, we then work together in our music room, surrounded by all our different harps, piano, synth keyboard and music books, it’s a place we cherish dearly.  This is the place where all the magic happens and is where we feel most comfortable, relaxed and creative. Being at the back of the house, on the first floor and away from all our pets, it has a very peaceful atmosphere, with very little distraction. We can work in there without disturbing anyone. When we are away on holiday or abroad for work, we use that time to inspire us, but we will from time to time work on our music in our hotel bedroom. We are really lucky in that we can be really flexible on how, when and where we work on our music, which maximises the time we can do it, say if we are on-a-roll”.

Janet, “When making music do either of you have a specific role in the process?”

Adel, “Yes, we do have specific roles which I believe works really well for us. In the first instance, I usually write the lyrics with contributions from Karina. Generally, I tend to come up with most of the lyrics, but importantly we work together to get the structure of each line just right”.  

Adel continued, “For some reason, I find coming up with the backing track a really tough job, I guess that’s because I am better with the lyrics, so Karina takes the creative lead with that aspect of our music writing. I also enjoy coming up with the melody, either before we start working on it together or whilst Karina comes up with the accompaniment on the harp. We genuinely work really well together, and our process plays on our strengths.”

Karina, “After Adel has finished writing the lyrics, I then find a chord progression that fits her words and Adel sings along with her melody line. Initially, we will record a song onto our iPhone with the vocal line and the harp part, and then listen back to it to ensure everything fits. We alter it until the melody and harp accompaniment fit together and we are happy that the chorus is catchy enough. I then write it up on the computer using Sibelius (https://www.avid.com/sibelius), which is a music notation programme we like to use because if we need to perform it with other people, it’s easy for them to pick up. It’s also important when writing songs to copyright them. When the song is complete as part of our process, we always send our original songs to the Musicians’ Union archive (https://www.musiciansunion.org.uk)”. 

Janet, “Do these musical pieces evolve after you have written then?”

Adel, “Inevitably, yes, our songs do evolve as we practice them regularly, and so we are constantly tweaking things. Also, Karina is always thinking of how she will be layering things either on the harp, or the piano, once we get into the studio to ‘put down the track’. She also comes up with several lines of harmonies for the choruses, so there are lots of options when she performs it. Occasionally, I will change some of the words to better sort out the storyline or make the melody line smoother. Our earlier songs, which we wrote several years ago, have been altered and adapted to suit the current style of our music. We also are constantly looking for ways for our original music to improve and tell a message that people can relate to”.

Janet, “Do you professionally record all your own music?”

Karina, “No, we don’t record all of our own music for several reasons. Initially, it all depends on whether we believe the piece is strong enough to be listened to. Sometimes, we combine ideas to create an even better song which we then go on to record. Before we record a new piece, we go through it to see if everything works. We then plan out each track, the vocals, harp, piano, synths, so that when we go into the studio, we record the vocals and harp and then we decide if it needs any more instruments to be added to the backing track.  There is also a cost to go into the studio, so we only like to go when we really think we have something…..

However, I so LOVE the studio time, it is so inspiring, as this is when we really get to pull together the vision that we had for the music. I find listening to the final professionally recorded piece really interesting because in the studio the music can really evolve and change from what it was originally”.

Adel, “The studio time is so important as it really helps us to develop as artists and it makes a huge difference to how we listen to music. Writing our own music is also a way to improve the way we ‘cover’ songs, as it helps us to add our own personal stamp on them. That is why sometimes we go on to record our original music, even if we don’t release it as a single or on an album because the process is a real learning curve and every time it is different. And that is why both Karina and I love being musicians. It is such a creative process from start to ‘finish’”.

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