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1st harp on the way....now what?

  • Unknown
    Unknown User

    Hello all!
    I think I've chosen my first harp....now what? I've spent so much time and energy into researching which harp to buy that I've neglected to research what I need to do next.  So far I have purchased a teach yourself dvd, as lessons are not an option yet but maybe some day. I've taught myself other instruments without even a dvd so I think I'll be okay for awhile but that was also a decade ago :)
    What do I need to know now?
    I've seen some posts on chapped fingers. Is there a way to avoid this?
    I haven't purchased a tuner yet, which one is best?
    How long do you devote to practicing each day as a beginner?
    Where do you purchase your music? Or I'm guessing I need to learn scales, arpeggios, and technical exercises first :) I do have a music degree, but again, it's been a decade since I've used it!  I'm wanting to play quite a variety of music...hymns, celtic, classical, and showtunes - I found an Andrew Lloyd Webster collection already at the harp connection.
    Ok, so what am I forgetting?
    Thanks in advance for your help!

    replies to "1st harp on the way....now what?"
    • Audrey
      Audrey Nickel

      First, relax and enjoy the anticipation.  You'll be amazed at just how much pleasure that alone can give you.

      I've never been troubled by chapped fingers, so I don't know what to tell you on that score.

      A simple, inexpensive, Korg tuner will work just fine.  Get a pickup with it, so you can tune even when there are other sounds around.  I usually clip mine to one of the holes in the back of the harp.

      As with any physical endeavor, start off slowly.  It's easy to get carried away and end up with sore fingers, shoulders, etc.  A few short sessions a day is better than one marathon session.  As you practice be aware of your body:  Is your chair the right height?  Are you sitting up straight?  Are you twisting your neck to see the strings?  Are your hands and forearms tiring quickly?  Pain is not a "normal" part of learning...if you find your back, neck and arms are getting sore, experiment with different positions, and check your posture often.

      There's no reason to start off with technical exercises.  My teacher believes in taking exercises directly from the pieces you're learning.  Does this piece require a cross-over?  Practice making that cross-over up and down the harp, with either hand.  Does it require broken chords?  Practice those up and down the harp, playing them slowly at first so you can be sure to keep them even.  Drawing your exercises from the pieces you're learning keeps things more interesting.

      There are lots of places to buy music.  I get a lot on line...for example, from the Sylvia Woods Harp Center (www.harpcenter.com).  She has several books that have two versions of each tune...one for beginners and one for more advanced harpers...which can be very satisfying.

      So, what kind of harp are you getting?


    • Paul
      Paul Knoke

      Congratulations on your new harp!

      Next you should get a humidifier if you live anyplace that requires central heating. The best are those that just use evaporation from a fan blowing air through a belt or filter. Try to keep the relative humidity in the harp's room in the 40% to 60% range. This will keep the harp's tuning more stable in the short run, and increase the harp's lifetime in the long run!


    • Audrey
      Audrey Nickel

      The humidifier is less of an issue if your harp is made primarily of laminates.  I've never needed one for my Ravenna and Harpsicle, but now that I have a harp with a hardwood body (my Dreamsinger) I'm thinking seriously of getting one.


    • Geri
      Geri McQuillen

      That's wonderful, Michelle!  Are you getting a pedal or lever harp?  What kind of strings and how many?  And what make of harp did you decide on?  With your musical background, a little patience (well, maybe a lot of patience) and learning good technique, you will find the charm and enjoyment of this wonderful instrument filling your life as well as others.  One of my favorite places to find old Irish music is O'Neils on-line.  They have hudreds of down-loadable music.  Although the pieces show only the melody line, you can add whatever bass line you like.  There are also other places to down-load sheet music, some of which is also free and public domain and some of which you can pay a small price and download and print.

      I love my little Korg tuner.  It has a built-in metronome and other great features and cost less than $40.00  I didn't get a pick-up, but that's a really good idea.

      Now that the shopping (Phase I; this gets addictive) is done, sit down, take a deep breath and enjoy your new journey.

      Best wishes,


    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      I'm on the same boat as you. just waiting for it to get home already. I got an exercise book by Deborah Friou..... seems like a great book. covers everything  it think..... all kinds of arpegios, cross overs, thumb under, scales, 3rds,5ths etc. even has some songs . But im still stuck on what book/dvd i should get.  I want to learn all kinds of music on this thing..... not too much folk though, im more into classical. but still.  im looking for a book that I wont get bored of too fast. not too simple, but not too hard. 

    • Tony
      Tony Morosco

      Friou's book is great for exercises, but it really isn't a "teach yourself" book. It assumes you know decent basic technique to begin with.

      You can get the Sylvia Woods book, Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp. It also has a companion DVD that you can get as well so you can see her demonstrate good posture, arm and hand position, how to properly pluck strings etc... Seeing helps greatly. The book IS mostly folk music, but honestly until you get a decent foundation down many of the classical arrangements are going to be too hard.

      Some exceptions I think would be Sam Milligan's books. Fun From the First Vol I and II. They give some good basics on playing, good photos of proper hand position, and I think even diagrams on how to tie the knot to change a string.

      But what is nice is it has a good range of graded pieces that cover every thing from folk to classical.

      Another good classical collection is The Junior Bach Collection by Chertok. Classical pieces by Bach arranged for the beginner. I used this book when I first started and was able to play some of the pieces fairly quickly.

    • don
      don morin

      if you want amazing books for begginners go with pamela beuners "play the harp beautifully" series..yah they are a bit pricey but they are one hundred percent worth it

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Hi Michelle,

      I just my first lever harp, too!  I tried to do my research as best I could, and actually decided a used Blevins Ellyn 29 string floor harp. (Craigslist)  It's about 5 years old, and in beautiful condition.  I'm just waiting for a new set of strings, and a tuning key to arrive from Blevins so I can see how she really sounds.  I have my first lesson coming up.  I've been playing the autoharp for years, but the lever is much different.  I might have to really learn how to read music now!

      Good luck!

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Another book is Play the harp beautifully, I have been learning off of and it works very well for beginners.

    • Unknown
      Unknown User

      Thanks for all of your input and suggestions!!! 
      I got Laurie Riley's teach yourself harp dvd and it came in the mail yesterday. I watched it and play my "air harp." It's a great video and I can definitely see how I could be playing "real songs" in even a day!
      Thanks again for all your help!

    • Lily
      Lily Reagan

      Congratulations on the harp!

      Is there a local teacher that you could just check in with, after you have worked to a certain point yourself? You don't have to start weekly, lessons, but it is good to also have someone check your technique, as well as your seating, and so on. Also, it would be good to look into different techniques because it will truly shape how you sit, practice, and overall play. Everything you learned will come back, and the showtunes/hymns will really help!

      What kind of harp did you get?

      Again, congratulations!