The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp

Welcome to the official companion page, with resources for composers and harpists.​


Internationally acclaimed harpist Yolanda Kondonassis announces the release of her new book, The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp (Carl Fischer Music), a comprehensive guide and conversational text on composing idiomatically for the harp. The book features 22 detailed chapters on a full spectrum of topics, including technical logistics, chromaticism, notation, context, resonance management, special effects, and more.

Read the Full Press Release >

Special Effects Symbols

My sincere thanks to Bob Zawalich, who developed this resource for reproducing the special effects symbols that appear in my book, The Composer's Guide to Writing Well for the Harp. Some of the symbols in my book are widely used already, while others were created by me. All should be available for use in Sibelius scores with the tools provided here by Mr. Zawalich. He has also written a very informative article on his process of developing this resource. - YK

PDF for Reference > This document is a reference for composers to see what all the various special effects symbols look like.

Sibelius Files for Copy-Paste > This folder contains Sibelius (.sib) files which composers can use to copy-paste the symbols into their scores.

Download the Custom Font > You will need to download the Norfolk Harp Std font in order to use Mr. Zawalich's symbols.

Article with More Directions > This document contains more information about how to use and customize the various special effects symbols.

Companion Demo Videos

with Yolanda Kondonassis


An Introduction to the Harp

Special Effects on the Harp: A Personal Tour






  • Chromaticism and navigating the harp’s pedal system

  • Physics of writing idiomatic music

  • Practical guidance on register, volume, and resonance

  • Comprehensive index of traditional effects and notation

  • Over twenty pages of contemporary special effects with notation

  • Props, electro-acoustics, and media integration

  • Candid advice on writing for the harp in every context

"The Composer’s Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp is the most thorough and valuable guide I know of for students as well as professional composers who wish to gain further understanding of idiomatic harp writing. Full of musical examples, notational hints and insightful commentary, it covers the gamut from standard to extended techniques in a clear and informative manner. I would recommend it highly to anyone writing for the instrument." 

— Lowell Liebermann

"Yolanda Kondonassis' The Composer's Guide to Writing Well for the Modern Harp is THE book that composers have been waiting for. It is a must-have for everyone who wants to understand that most beautiful and mysterious of instruments, the harp."

— Keith Fitch


"I find Kondonassis' book the single best source I can think of to recommend to anyone interested in composing or transcribing for the modern harp. It is extremely well structured, very informative, fun to read, and full of great musical examples. It also contains a complete glossary of over 50 'special effects' clearly pictured and explained. Finally, genuinely funny and apt cartoons created by Jeffrey Cunrow delightfully enhance the book. Big thumbs up!"

The Harp Column

"Reading about the instrument’s limitations, but also its imaginative extensions and immense capabilities, makes me want more than ever to write creatively for it."