Reply To: Newbie can play folk, can’t play harp.

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Hi Mae, It is possible to play Irish at speed at the harp, but most of the people I know who can do it have many years of study and technique, sometimes classical, behind them. (Listen to Harriet Earis or Triona Marshal for instance, fast tunes can be done.) My advice would be to play chords or other accompaniment in sessions and work on technique and tunes at home aiming for playing all the tunes at speed in about 10 years. Sorry – it is a hard instrument to play fast. (If you look at the Edinburgh Harp Festival you will see it has a slow session every year.) Have you been in contact with Rohan Platts? She does a lot of teaching around Cambridge and I am sure could help with technique, whatever music you want to apply it to.

On many instruments you make each noise individually – if you want an A on the whistle you know how to finger it. On the harp as with the piano which finger depends on where you have been and where you are going. Further, on the harp you make the sound not by placing, but by removing the fingers so need to place ahead. All this adds up to really needing fingering rules so you use the same fingers each time and eventually finger sensibly without thinking too much about it. And relaxed technique so you don’t get muscles fighting each other and can turn under and over confidently for scale runs, and can play evenly or put the accent on whichever finger you wish. Carl Swanson who posts here has a lovely definition of technique – the ability to make the sound you want, when you want it, without damaging yourself. At the beginning stages the guidance of a teacher can help ensure that your technique not only works for early tunes, but will work for more complicated ones too.