Do I need to learn Pedal Harp?

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    unknown-user on #88807

    I’m 52 and I need to give up the double bass for health reasons. I

    had thought of taking up the Folk Harp, so I can play at church. My

    goal is to accompany by playing off chord charts, or playing simple

    Christmas tunes during Advent. I met with one very good teacher, who

    tried to “strongly” encourage me to take up the pedal harp. My first

    lesson involved learning the pedals. I became real discouraged. I

    thought I could get by on a nice, folk lever harp. Do I really need

    to take up a pedal harp?



    unknown-user on #88808

    The folk/lever harp is fine to learn. If you plan to play with a church, though, you will most likely need to play in a variety of keys. You can play a good number of keys on a lever harp, but you will not be able to play them all or transition quickly. You can definitely play chords and Christmas carols and a lot of other music on the lever harp, but you would not be able to play every key that you may be asked to play in. You would also need amplification if you play a lever harp, while you can get away without it on a larger harp. If you are more interested in playing solos or in choosing the songs you accompany, then the lever harp should be fine.

    carl-swanson on #88809

    Brian- Find a teacher who is willing to teach you on a lever harp.

    Tacye on #88810

    Whether you need amplification will depend on the harp, venue and audience.

    unknown-user on #88811

    Julia, Carl and Tacye,

    Thank you for your thoughtful answers. I accidently posted the question in the “Teaching” area and I appologize if my posting was out of place. I appreciate your thoughtful answers. The one thing that bugged me about double bass was it’s size. So, imagine trying to lug a pedal harp! However, I have an opportunity to rent a pedal harp at a very good rate from a retired musician. But the first lesson, which involved learning the pedals, how to press the pedals, was really intimidating. At hour church, I just assumed that I would have to amplify the harp.


    kreig-kitts on #88812

    I was curious about something for the harp teachers out there.

    unknown-user on #88813

    Isn’t this one an interesting thread???

    unknown-user on #88814

    What’s so bloody awful about the pedal harp? It’s a fantastic instrument. Yes, it makes sense to introduce the pedals at the first lesson. They are not such a big deal. As I said elsewhere, decide what kind of music you want to play. Given you have the opportunity to rent and learn pedal harp, why not do it? But if you really identify with a folk harp, get that. The same person can probably teach that, too.

    unknown-user on #88815

    Saul, your argument basically is the discussion I had with the teacher. The bottom line was that I could get my hands immediately on a lovely pedal harp, at an affordable rate, so, why not? Then we went to the pedal and I went “oh my gosh, shouldn’t I learn a C scale first?” I have trouble keeping my thumbs up and now I have to grope for pedals. The harp suddenly became unattainable in my view.

    unknown-user on #88816

    Scales and keys are a part of music, so they are part of learning how to play the harp. Many harpists have poor understanding of music theory (including myself!) because the levers and pedals make it unnecessary to think much about it. It is a part of learning music, and there is really no reason why one ought to put off learning it. Hand position is extremely important and can be difficult to master; I would assume this is even more the case for adult students. Do not let yourself become frustrated or overwhelmed. If you sincerely want to play a folk harp, then that is great, and all you need to do is tell your teacher. I expect that your teacher will be fine with that. If not, then definitely find a new teacher. If, however, you are simply scared of learning the larger pedal harp, which may look more complicated to a brand new harpist, then I suggest you take advantage of your wonderful opportunity to start on a pedal harp.

    unknown-user on #88817

    Well, then you need to start with the one key you are comfortable in, and slowly add more. If you look at ABC of Harp Playing, by Lucile Lawrence, which is an excellent book for beginning on the pedal harp, it is all done very gradually, incorporating reading and playing together. You will get it with just a little more time. Good luck and plucking.

    Denise Grupp-Verbon on #88818

    I disagree that the levers and pedals make it easy to not study music theory.

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