Looking to learn how to play the harp? This guide will teach you the basics of how to play the instrument, including proper hand positioning and how to create beautiful music.
What Kind of Harpist Should You Hire?
Anyone interested in learning to play the harp is encouraged to do so. The harp is first and foremost a people’s instrument. The harp has a long history of suiting everyone who desires to learn it, from professional orchestras to medieval Celtic peasants.
Even bedridden patients can benefit from little therapy harps. You should give it a shot if you want to learn to play the harp. There are more reasonably priced harps on the market today than before. There are now renting options that are less expensive than a phone bill!
The Harpist and the Harper
A harper is a musician who performs by ear or memory, generally without the use of written music, and specializes in folk and traditional music. A harpist’s skills include reading music and playing classical and jazz on a pedal concert harp.
How To Play A Harp
Selecting a Harp
Step 1: Become familiar with the many types of harps.
Most people imagine a big, golden pedal harp in an orchestra or a harp being played by angels on a Christmas card when they think of a harp. Harps are available in a range of shapes and sizes. Lever harps and pedal harps are the two most prevalent harp styles.
- Sharpening levers at the top of the harp adjust the sounds.
- Pedal harps have seven pedals, each of which can produce flat, natural, or sharp notes.
- Wire-strung harps, double-strung harps, triple-strung harps, Aeolian harps, and other less frequent forms are also available.
How many strings are there?
“How many strings does a harp have?” is a question I’m frequently asked. It’s difficult not to respond with a witty remark like, “how long is a length of harp string?” A “harp” with as little as ten strings is available, albeit it is just a toy.
Harps with as little as 22 or even 19 strings are also available, although it isn’t much you can do with them. We produce a 27-string harp because it’s a harp with a good range—a lot of music you can play on a 27-string harp.
Of course, harps with 44 or even 48 strings are available, and triple-strung harps have even more! However, these are as expensive as a new car.
Another factor to consider is whether you wish to take the ABRSM and Trinity exams on your first harp. Most people would upgrade before finishing their grade examinations, and grade 8 requires at least 34 strings on a fully levered harp.
However, many harpers skip over the grades entirely. Whether you’re looking for folk clubs, campfires, music halls, or orchestras, it all depends. Do you want to be a harper or a harpist, to put it another way?
What is the new musician’s range of motion? Children and individuals with physical limitations frequently find it difficult to reach around the huge body of a 34-string harp or a pedal harp. Anything with 34 strings or more will be hefty, so think about whether you can handle it. Even a 34-string harp, much alone a pedal harp, won’t fit in every car.
Step 2: Decide what kind of music you want to play.
This will have an impact on the type of harp you select. While a pedal harp can play Celtic music and a lever harp can play classical music, these two types of harps are quite distinct instruments with very different purposes. If you’re not sure what kind of music you want to perform, inquire at your local music store about the best harp for absolute beginners.
Step 3: For classical music, select a pedal harp.
If playing in an orchestra is one of your dreams, this is the harp for you. The pedal harp may be heard in an orchestra, and the pedals make it easier to play the notes required by classical music. It’s enormous, heavy, and has a complicated mechanism that must be adjusted regularly.
The pedal harp is one of the most expensive harps available.
Step 4: If you don’t want to play classical music, get a lever harp.
Classical music can be played on a lever harp, but it is better suited to a modified classical repertoire. The tone of the lever harp is usually softer and warmer, yet it is also lighter and more portable. It’s also a lot cheaper than a pedal harp.
Celtic-style lever harps are popular among fans of Celtic music.
Step 5: Experiment with a harp that isn’t as well-known.
Harps come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Performers at Renaissance Fairs may opt for a “Gothic” harp with a high-headed head. If you prefer to play unconventional music, you might want to consider a cross-strung, double-strung, or even triple-strung harp. It’s fantastic to try new things, but if you’re a novice, start with a pedal or lever harp.
Step 6: Purchase or lease a harp.
You’ll need to get a harp to practice on once you’ve decided on the type of harp you desire. If you aren’t sure how committed you will be to the harp, you might wish to rent a harp at first. Because it’s such a large expense, you should only acquire a harp if you’re serious about learning to play. A used pedal harp will set you back around $15,000.
While it is preferable to be able to play an instrument before purchasing one, harps can be purchased online from trustworthy harp vendors. However, some of the less expensive ($300-$400) harps should be avoided.
Only acquire antique or used harps after consulting with a professional harper/harpist. Before a cheap antique harp can be played, it may require thousands of dollars in repairs.
Holding the Harp
Step 1: Get close enough to the harp to pluck the strings comfortably.
Take a seat in a chair that is both comfy and sturdy. You should be seated with your arms at a slight angle to your torso, somewhat below 90 degrees. You must be able to play the harp strings in the middle easily. The minor strings should be the ones closest to your body, while the longer strings should be further away.
If you have one, you may need to rest your lap-base harp’s on a box in front of you.
The chair should be set at a height that allows you to reach the harp easily.
Step 2: Place the harp’s body between your legs.
Lean the harp on your right shoulder and tilt it. If it’s appropriately balanced, it shouldn’t feel overly heavy. The harp does not have to be in front of you in a straight line. You may tilt it to the side a little to see the strings.
Your feet should be firmly planted on the ground.
Step 3: Properly position your hands.
Hand position is a contentious topic among harpers and harpists. There is no single technique that all harpers and harpists should use. Keep your hands parallel to the floor and in the center of the strings.
Step 4: Keep your hands relaxed to avoid injuries.
While plucking the harp strings, you may need to tense your hands, although this isn’t required. While playing the harp, try to relax your hands as much as possible. This is plain sense and will aid in the prevention of injuries.
After playing a note, most teachers encourage closing the fingers and thumb into the palm. This will allow you to get more sound out of your harp while reducing the chance of harm.
Learning to play
Step 1: If at all possible, take lessons from a tutor. It’s best if a professional teach you the fundamentals of harp playing. Try to find someone who understands the sort of music you want to perform and can teach you the proper harp technique for it.
You can also buy a self-teaching approach, such as a book or instructional DVD, but this does not substitute a teacher’s knowledge.
You can also learn the basics by watching videos on YouTube.
Step 2: Make sure your harp is in tune.
New harps must be tuned, and you must tune your harp a few times before playing it. Using the tuning key with the harp, you can carefully tighten or loosen the strings to adjust the tones. An expert musician will be of tremendous assistance in this area. You can use an electric tuner if you don’t have a good ear for music.
Before tuning your pedal harp, ensure all of the pedals are disabled. Place each pedal on the top-notch of the flat key.
If you have a lever harp, ensure all the levers are off. You’ll probably initially tune your lever harp to the key of C Major.
Step 3: Look over the strings.
They’re like piano keys: A,B,C,D,E,F,G are the red strings, whereas Fs are the black or blue strings. If you already know how to play the piano, the strings will come more readily to you, and you will most likely become accustomed to them far more quickly than non-piano players.
Step 4: Use your thumb and first three fingers to play the harp.
The soft sides or tips of your thumb and first three fingers are used to play most harps. Fingernails must be maintained short when playing a lever or pedal harp unless you want a brassy sound. Fingernails are used to play wire-strung harps, and some advanced skills for other harps.
Step 5: Experiment with different string combinations.
To make a lovely sound on the harp, you don’t need to know all the notes or even know how to read music. Using what you’ve learned thus far, softly pluck the strings with your fingertips. Play around with the harp until you’re comfortable with it.
If you are serious about learning the harp, you will need to master the notes and read music at some time, but don’t stress it too much as a beginner.
Step 6: Practice a simple glissando.
Hold out your playing hand’s thumb. Place it as far as you can on the harp strings. Push it away from you swiftly and downwardly so that it slides and rings out each string. Then, in an upward motion, pull it fast towards you.
As you do this, be careful not to let your knuckles collapse, as this will reduce the sound quality.
Step 7: Try a simple tune. “Row Row Row Your Boat” is an easy tune you can try to play. Pluck the “C” string first. Close your fingers into your palm to form a light fist after you’ve plucked it. This will be done after each note you pluck. Pluck the following notes to perform this song:
- C C CDE EDEFG
- C C C GGG EEE CCC
- GFE DC
Step 8: Continue to study the fundamentals.
As you practice, broaden your skill set and expand your skill set. Before attempting more complex techniques, work on the fundamentals. Techniques like legatos, arpeggios, and harmonics can be added later. You can learn a lot on your own, but you should consider enlisting the help of someone familiar with the harp in the future.
You can do so through various methods if you want to learn how to play the harp. Here are a few options to consider:
Pros: You’ll get access to all the resources you require from a professional teacher who will adapt the class to your specific requirements and objectives.
Cons: It is the most expensive method of education, and not everyone has access to a teacher.
Lessons in groups
Pros: They are usually inexpensive, friendly, and enjoyable learning methods.
Cons: You’ll get less attention from the teacher, and group classes might be difficult if you’re hesitant about playing in front of others.
Pros: If you want to be a bedroom harper(/ist), this is an excellent place to start. Books are generally inexpensive and allow you to work at your own speed.
Cons: You won’t get technique advice from anyone; if you make a mistake and don’t realize it, it might not be repaired. This is also the strategy that necessitates the most self-determination and is likely the most difficult to master.
Lessons using video on the internet
Pros: This is one of the more cost-effective learning methods, and it can be completed at your own pace. Technique and sound are demonstrated in the videos. Hands-on Harps’ online training lets you ask questions and receive comments from our expert coaches by sending us recordings of your playing.
Cons: The disadvantage of online lessons is that they are not particularly social and demand you to be self-motivated because you will not be interacting with a teacher regularly.
The Rainbow Method
The Rainbow Technique is a brand-new approach to studying the harp. You’ll need a harp with rainbow-colored strings for this. This harp not only looks lovely, but it also comes with sheet music with colored dots. You don’t need to know the difference between a crotchet and a mini if you learn how a song sounds before playing it; follow the colors.
Fidlar hope that this information aids you in making judgments regarding your first steps in learning to play the harp. We encourage everyone who wants to play the harp to do so. If you have any concerns about getting started with the harp, please don’t hesitate to contact us!