Am I too old to learn harp?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    HBrock25 on #157617

    Hello everyone 🙂

    After falling in love with the music of Joanna Newsom, I have decided I want to play harp. I absolutely love the sound of this beautiful instrument and would love nothing more than to be able to play it aswell as she does. From a very young age I have been interested in music of all kinds and remember dancing around my room to classical music at the age of 5. I was always discouraged from any sort of musical path by my mother so I am now 23 with no experience whatsoever in playing any instrument.
    I know anyone of any age can learn to play music, but I dream to be able to play harp for a symphony orchestra some day and I wonder if at my age if this will ever become a reality. I have no idea how to go about it either, I plan on taking local harp lessons to begin with, but where would I go from there? I consider myself a quick learner in most areas, especially those that I am passionate about.

    Any advice/help is appreciated 🙂

    deb-l on #157618

    your certainly not to old to learn how to play harp very well.

    Karen Johns on #157619

    Oh good heavens no you are not too old! 23? I wish I were that age when I started (well, actually, I built my first harp kit at 19, but didn’t learn to play until I was 35, long story). For a symphony orchestra it still may be doable. Just make sure you get a teacher that will work with you towards that goal. It has been said that it takes 10 years, 8 hours a day to master an instrument. Are you willing to commit that kind of time? Even 1/2 that amount per day should get you to intermediate level or better in that amount of time. I myself play lower intermediate music and I have realistically only had about 3-4 years of

    loretta-o-driscoll on #157620

    I have two adult students. One started harp in her 60’s, the other in her 70’s. So, you are certainly not too old!

    barbara-brundage on #157621

    No way are you too old to learn the harp. However, as for your symphony aspirations, that depends on what you mean. Yes, you can probably get to the point where you could play with a community-type orchestra and enjoy it.

    However, realistically, even if you were seven instead of 23, becoming the harpist in a regional or national level orchestra is an almost impossible goal these days. The competition is unbelievably fierce, and even local-level professional orchestras have no trouble finding exceptionally good harpists who are willing to fly in and play for a pittance when they need a harpist, and the number of symphonies is very much on the decrease in the US, particularly. Only a few harpists ever made all their income from orchestral work, and the number is dropping all the time, unfortunately.

    I don’t like orchestra playing myself (much rather do chamber music), and I’m glad, because I’m seeing a lot of very good harpists who’ve played for years in local symphonies being pushed out because it’s possible to get an amazingly good harpist to come in on a per-service basis at a personal loss to herself/himself, just to have a chance to play. And a lot of the old standbys like ballet are moving more and more to recorded music/synthesized music rather than live, further limiting the options for orchestral playing.

    So yes, by all means you can learn to play, but I don’t think it’s realistic for any harp student these days to view an orchestral career as a given or likely to happen. It’s a very dicey thing for anyone, now.

    barbara-brundage on #157622

    > and I’m glad

    Just clarify, I meant I’m glad I don’t care about doing orchestra, not that I’m glad to see my colleagues getting pushed out for out of town fly-ins.

    kreig-kitts on #157623


    Besides professional orchestras, there are many very good amateur orchcestras, symphonic bands, and chamber groups where a skilled musician could play challenging, rewarding music. I’ve played in groups where many of the members had degrees in music and some had played professionally in the past and changed careers but still enjoy playing in a group. So even if an orchestral career (and of course tons of professional harpists make their livings outside of orchestras, probably most I’d guess) doesn’t work out, you can still have music be a huge part of your life.

    But you must start somewhere, so go find a teacher. If you’re in college, you might be able to take elective music lessons for a reasonable price with either the music faculty or graduate students, and this would be the place to start taking music theory classes, which will be especially important if you haven’t had much musical training.

    Michaela Braveman on #157624

    Hi Jade,

    As others already stated, anyone can learn the harp at any age, so go for it! I’d suggest starting out,

    jessica-wolff on #157625

    What Barbara and Michaela said. Except that I would add that the harp is considered the most beautiful instrument by some of us but surely not all! Back to what Barbara said, we’re currently living in a rotten economy, which is affecting everybody. A lot of harpists are making a living primarily by playing at weddings and other events, which means worrying about getting that large and expensive instrument unscathed to and from the event.

    Tacye on #157626

    Hi Jade,
    I would advise you to make sure you are learning ideally on a harp which has pedal tension strings (and preferably gut strings as this is what most pedal harps have) with a teacher who will teach you orchestral technique. You can hire lever harps with this sort of stringing.

    marti-hall-powers on #157627

    I took my first harp lesson at age 55. I am now 61 and play well enough to begin

    playing some advanced music.

    patricia-jaeger on #157628

    Jade, yes, follow your passion for learning harp . Take lessons locally but also go to for a free interactive site so that your teacher’s lessons will become more meaningful. It would not hurt to invest in “Beginning Harp Book” and companion DVD by Phyllis Schlomovitz, to supplement weekly harp lessons. There are other DVDs out there but that late harpist studied with Henriette Renie in Paris and so her book reflects thorough pedal harp technique whereas the others seem to come from Celtic influences. The main thing to invest in, however, is your time at the harp. Try to break up your practice time into several sessions per day,

    harperboy Fuller on #157629

    Too old at 23???I started at 51 – so the only limits on what you can learn and how proficient you become are the ones YOU place in your own path. I have no aspirations to be a concert musician, but I have learned to play some pop, ethnic and sacred music. I play by ear, mostly and really like it. With the right training, desire and concentration you can get that degree in music and pick up lots of experiences along the way to the orchestra pit. Don’t try to be the NEXT anyone – be the FIRST Jade Woods. You can do this!!!

    Sylvia Clark on #157630

    I was 20 when I started lessons, and I had never played an instrument.

    lydia-sander on #157631

    Too old??? NO WAY!!!

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