THE “IMPOSSIBLE” CHALLENGE OF LEARNING THE HARP
So you want to learn the harp?
For a lot of parents of children who are interested in music, the last thing they want to hear from their little boy or girl is “Mummy, daddy, I want to play the harp.”
I think the response for a lot of parents is: “Can’t you play something small, like the flute, or the violin?” I expect parents whose children announce they want to play the double bass give a similar response.
I do understand this response, after all, as a harpist I know about spending your life accommodating your harp. It affects a lot of things: The type of car you buy, sometimes where you live, ie, you need to know that the lifts work all the time and if not, that there are not too many flights of stairs. And, you need somewhere to store the harp when it is not being played, preferably in a place where the temperature does not fluctuate too much, and of course, where there is room to move around the harp without risking knocking it over.
Take up the challenge
However, I can honestly say that playing the harp has been a great experience for me, it has opened my eyes up to whole new words in terms of the music I play and the people I meet, so if what I have told you so far has not put you off, then you might be ready to think about learning the harp.
First of all, spend some time listening to harp music. There is a huge variety thanks to the increasing inventiveness of those that play the instrument and those that compose for it. I think the harp is a wonderful thing and that you will only fall more in love with it the more you listen to it, but it is still worth making sure you listen to it a lot to make sure it really is the instrument for you.
Before you go out and buy yourself a brand new harp, the best thing to do is find yourself a teacher. If you simply buy a harp and start playing without the support of a teacher, you may find that you develop bad playing habits which are difficult to break and that could mean you take longer than necessary to learn the basics.
Things like posture and strength training are important, so try to get those right with your teacher before you think about embarking on more difficult pieces.
And now the harp
Once you have a teacher, they can advise you on the best harp for you. Playing the harp is a serious undertaking and even a basic harp will set you back between 2,000-3,000 euros. This sounds like a lot of money, but bear in mind that most harps are still manufactured in Italy, France, the USA and Japan, therefore they have to be shipped. And, the average harp takes between six months and a year to make.
It might be worth seeing if you can get a second hand harp. Websites like www.dubizzle.com have listings of musical instruments for sale. It is unusual to see a harp listed but you never know, you may get lucky. Your teacher will be able to advise you on whether any second hand harp you find is worth the money or whether you should opt for a new one.
Once you have the harp, you will need at least one spare set of strings, costing another 200euros. The good news is that if you take care of your harp and tune it carefully, you should not need to replace the strings that often. And, don’t forget, you will need a music stand so you can see your music without developing a crick in your neck and back. Other than sheet music, the real bad news is you need to invest in those all-important scales and exercise books. For most students, these are the worst part of playing the harp, but they will really help your technique and make you a better player in the long run.
If you have some more questions, drop me an e-mail on [email protected]