The harp is a beautiful instrument that many people admire but fear they will never be able to play. However, you can learn to play the harp with a little hard work and knowledge. It is never too late to start learning the harp. There are beginners of all ages and backgrounds who will discover great joy in playing the harp. To do this, you must start by choosing a harp and learning to hold it in the correct way. After mastering the basics, you can start learning more advanced music.
Part 1 of 3: Choosing a Harp
Step 1. Learn about the types of harps
When most people think of a harp, they envision either a large, golden pedal harp in an orchestra or some kind of harp played by angels on a Christmas card. There are several types of harps and they come in various forms. The two most common styles of harps are lever and pedal harps.
- Lever harps have levers at the top for changing notes.
- Pedal harps have 7 pedals that can make notes sharp, natural, or flat.
- There are also wire-string harps, double-string harps, triple harps, Aeolian harps, and other less common styles.
Step 2. Determine the type of music you are most interested in playing
This will influence the type of harp you choose. You can play Celtic music on a pedal harp or classical piece on a lever harp, but these styles of harp are very different instruments for different purposes. If you're not sure what type of music you want to play, check with your local music store for the type of harp they recommend for complete beginners.
Step 3. Choose a pedal harp for classical music
This is the type of harp you should use if you dream of playing in an orchestra one day. The pedal harp is loud enough to be heard in an orchestra, and the pedals make it easier to play the notes needed for classical music. It is large, relatively heavy, and has a complicated mechanism that requires periodic adjustments.
Also, the pedal harp is one of the most expensive types of harp
Step 4. Opt for a lever harp if you don't want to play classical music
While you can play classical music with a lever harp, it is more suitable for a modified classical repertoire. The lever harp tends to have a softer, warmer tone, and is lighter and more portable. It also costs much less than a pedal harp.
People who like Celtic music often choose Celtic-style lever harps
Step 5. Experiment with a less common harp
There are many different types of harps. Those who played at Renaissance fairs could opt for a high-headed "gothic" harp. Some people might choose cross-string, double-string, or even triple-string harps if they like to play more unusual music. While it's great to experiment, it's best to start with a pedal or lever harp if you're a beginner.
Step 6. Buy or rent a harp
After choosing the type of harp you want, you will need to find a harp to practice with. If you are unsure about your commitment to the harp, you may need to rent one first. A harp is an expensive investment, so you should only buy one if you are serious about it. Even a used pedal harp will cost around $ 15,000.
- It's best to be able to play an instrument before you buy it, but you can order a harp from a reputable harp dealer online. However, watch out for some of the cheap harps ($ 300- $ 400).
- Buy only old or used harps on the advice of an experienced harpist. You may have to spend thousands of dollars to repair a cheap antique harp before you can play it.
Part 2 of 3: Holding the Harp
Step 1. Sit close enough to her to pluck the strings comfortably
Sit in a comfortable but solid chair. You should sit so that your arms are at an angle of just under 90 degrees to your body. You should be able to easily play the center strings of the harp. The shorter strings should be closer to your body and the longer strings will be further away from you.
- If you have a lap harp, you may need to rest the base on a box in front of you.
- The saddle should be at a height where you can easily reach the harp.
Step 2. Bend the body of the harp between your legs
Bend it over and rest the harp on your right shoulder. It shouldn't feel too heavy if it's balanced the right way. The harp does not have to be directly in front of you but you can turn it a little to the side so that you can see the strings.
The feet must be flat on the ground
Step 3. Position your hands appropriately
The position of the hands is a subject of much debate among harpists. There is no one-size-fits-all technique. In essence, the hands should be parallel to the ground and in the center of the strings.
Step 4. Relax your hands so you don't injure yourself
You may feel the need to tense your hands when plucking the harp strings. However, it is not necessary. Relax your hands as often as you can when playing the harp. This is common sense and will help prevent injury. For the most part, teachers also emphasize closing the fingers and thumb against the palm after playing a note, which will help the harp produce louder sound as well as minimize the risk of injury.
Part 3 of 3: Learning to Play
Step 1. Take classes with a teacher if possible
Ideally, have a professional teach you the basics of playing the harp. Try to find someone who respects the style of music you want to play and who can teach you the proper technique for your style of harp. You could also purchase a self-taught teaching method (for example, an instructional book or DVD), although this is not a replacement for a teacher's knowledge.
You can also watch YouTube videos to help you learn the basics
Step 2. Tune the harp
New harps need to be tuned, and will need to be tuned every few times you play it. You can carefully adjust or release the strings with the tuning key that came with the harp to change the notes. This is an area where an experienced musician will help you a lot. If you have not acquired a good ear for music, you can use an electric tuner.
- If your harp is a pedal harp, make sure all pedals are unlinked before tuning. Set each pedal in the key of flat, which is the highest notch.
- If your harp is a lever harp, make sure all the levers are disengaged. On a lever harp, you are likely to tune first in the key of C major.
Step 3. Look at the strings
They are like the keys of a piano: la, si, do, re, mi, fa, sol, and this is repeated over and over again. The red strings are the C note and the black or blue strings are the F note. If you can play the piano on your own, the strings will come out more naturally, and you will most likely get used to them much more quickly than someone who doesn't play the piano.
Step 4. Play the harp with your thumb and first three fingers
Harps are mostly played with the soft sides or the tips of the thumb and the first three fingers. When playing a lever or pedal harp, you should keep your nails short unless you want to produce a shrill sound. The wire-stringed harps and certain advanced techniques in other types of harps are played with the fingernails.
Step 5. Experiment with the strings
You don't have to know all the notes or even know how to read sheet music to produce beautiful sound on a harp. Use what you know so far and gently pluck the strings with your fingers. Experiment until you feel comfortable playing the harp.
If you're serious about the harp, you'll need to learn the notes and read sheet music at some point. However, don't worry too much about it when you are a beginner
Step 6. Try a basic glissando
Extend the thumb of the hand you are playing with. Place it on the harp strings as far as you can go. Quickly push it away from you in a downward motion so it slides and makes each string snap. Then quickly pull it toward you in an upward motion.
Be careful not to let your knuckles collapse when doing so, as this will decrease the sound quality
Step 7. Try a basic melody
A simple song that you can try to play is "Row Row Row Your Boat". First, pluck the C string. After plucking, close your fingers into the palm of your hand into a light fist. You will do it after every note you pluck. Pluck the following notes to play this song:
- do do do-re-mi mi-re-mi-fa-sol
- do do do sun-sun-sun mi-mi-mi do-do-do
- sun-fa-mi re-do
Step 8. Keep learning the basics
Diversify and develop your range of skills by practicing. Work on the fundamentals before trying more advanced techniques. Eventually, you can work your way up to techniques like legatos, arpeggios, and harmonics. While you can learn a lot on your own, consider finding someone who is an expert on the harp to help you in the future.
- You can find a harp teacher by searching online and asking people you know. You could try a local or neighborhood college or orchestra to find the name of a professional harpist near you. You can also search for harpist websites that list teachers in the area.
- Check out a CD of harp music or attend an orchestra concert. Watching and listening are great ways to get to know the instrument.
- Be aware that you will get some calluses when learning to play the harp, which is normal.
- Ask your teacher and see articles online on proper instrument care and maintenance. You could damage the harp with improper care.
- Poor hand posture or position could lead to injury. Get started with good habits by learning from a professional harp teacher.