Can’t learn, whats an option

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    Gillian Bradford on #157741

    I’ve had my harp for several years and two harp teachers in that time. I haven’t been able to progress beyond a basic level since everytime I sit behind the harp I get overwhelmed and incredibly frustrated. I can’t explain it other than it feels like anger and then no practice is ever useful after that.

    It’s not my teachers. They were both experienced harpists who are highly regarded as teachers as well. It’s just me. It’s sad because my harp has sat in it’s present location with broken strings for over a year now untouched. I can’t bear to sell it, but I hate it sitting there just collecting dust too.

    Is there anyway for me to find a way to enjoy this instrument?

    Carm Zephyr on #157742

    Hi Gillian, It sounds as though you’re being very hard on yourself 🙁 It’s okay and perfectly normal to hit a wall on progress. It happens. Are you part of a harp circle or something like that? Maybe getting together with other harpists might help rather than playing on your own. I’m just trying to think of some ways you can put the fun back into playing.
    The same thing happened to me whilst learning to play the piano. I got very bored and frustrated that I couldn’t read and play the music very fluently. I eventually learned that my learning style was to play by ear rather than reading music itself. What is your musical style? Perhaps you can talk to your teacher about your concerns also. I’m sure other harpists here will be able to give you far better advice than what I’m giving now. I’m just offering support in saying that you are not alone in the issue 🙂

    lisa-fenwick on #157743

    Gillian, Are you sure you are working on music that is at the right level for you and is appropriate for the harp?

    deb-l on #157744

    maybe listen to youtube videos of easier level songs that you love, find a song that you really want to play, be kind to yourself and enjoy the sound of the instrument, remember it’s for your enjoyment not something you need to do perfectly.

    kay-lister on #157745


    First, I would step back and truly ask yourself if and why you want to play the harp.

    Karen Johns on #157746

    What is overwhelming you? The music you are trying to play? Or maybe the feeling that you should be “better” than you are, like you need to live up to the instrument? Broken strings would certainly frustrate me, is that part of the problem as well? How about the harp itself? Is it comfortable to sit at and play, or do you find yourself getting stiff and sore quickly?

    I think you really need to try and pinpoint why you are feeling this way. Then think about why you wanted to play harp in the first place. Create a mantra for yourself- mine is “I create magic around me with my simple, beautiful music”. The key word here is simple. It doesn’t have to be complicated to sound good, unless your harp is horrible sounding- and broken strings and lack of tuning would be the culprit there, if that’s the case.

    Also, how long have you been practicing, and how long has that been steady practicing? Did you practice at least three times or more per week, or did you practice heavily

    Autumn Spencer on #157747

    Dear Gillian,

    I’m going to suggest an alternate course here.

    jessica-wolff on #157748

    And replace those broken strings!

    Recommendation: try to get hold of some of the Suzuki pieces for harp. I know, I know: basic. But your success with those may push you on.

    jessica-wolff on #157749

    AFTERTHOUGHT I hear this all the time from banjo players who seem to think they’re in some kind of competition to get to a certain level lickety-split. They aren’t, and you aren’t.

    Gillian Bradford on #157750

    Thanks everyone.

    I can’t explain what is that makes me so tense with the harp. No I wasn’t trying to play it with broken strings or untuned. I have a lovely instrument with a beautiful sound. It’s just fallen into disrepair because I haven’t touched it for so long (around 18 months now).

    But I get pain in my shoulders where my muscles are like steel, this tension never goes away. One of my teachers was a classical teacher and I always felt highly stupid during lessons. The pieces were boring to me and I hate reading music. I can do it, but it’s hard and I avoid it at all costs. I had lessons with this teacher for 6 months during which time I practised the same piece over and over never moving on from it.

    The teacher before that was folk, and while she helped me to move through pieces I always felt she was kind of lax. Once I got the fingers down on one piece she’d just push to the next one, instead of polishing that piece. I never felt like I ever finished anything.

    I’m not that interested in classical pieces, yes I like to listen to them but playing them doesn’t inspire me. I have a lever harp and that’s fine with me to stick with it. Maybe I will try the self-learning route for a while. It’s always frustrating to me to try and find a new teacher then end up not liking them much.

    kay-lister on #157751


    I think you just haven’t found the right teacher for you.

    jessica-wolff on #157752

    Pain in your shoulders, at least in the right shoulder, sounds as if you’ve been playing Salzedo method, elbows up, but raising the shoulder at the same time. I did that and really had to work on relaxing that shoulder. Suggestion: massage, exercise, or a long hot soak.

    Before you hook up with another teacher, do you have a good idea of what you want to play (obviously not classical)?

    For me, playing harp (or guitar or banjo) does just the opposite. It takes away the tensions of the world outside.

    deb-l on #157753

    Gillian, It sounds as though you are a perfectionist and that is why you preferred your second teacher, however, it doesn’t sound as though she was a good fit for you since she wouldn’t let you get past the first piece and that’s when the tension started.

    Gillian Bradford on #157754

    Yes my classical teacher was Salzedo. Drove me bonkers quite frankly with the elbow thing.

    Definately folk is my thing. I love the lilting melodies and simple arrangements. It’s easy to find classical teachers in my area but folk teachers are pretty much either unheard of or all self-taught and consequently not that good at imparting technique onto others. I guess I’ll just have to keep searching.

    Karen Johns on #157755

    Well Gillian I am a self-taught folk harper who also teaches, and I do know good technique.

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