July 17, 2014 at 10:28 am #142493
If a prospective pupil has progressed with the piano first what are the motor skills which might cause obstacles when moving onto the harp. Do you think the lever harp is a retrograde step for a 5 foot grade 2 pianist ? I would ……. I can probably work this out for myself but interested in your experiences.July 17, 2014 at 1:41 pm #142494Janis CorteseMember
Not using all five fingers would be an adjustment, as well as just not being at the level you want to be at on a new instrument. As a pianist, I can sight-read beginner harp music trivially, and this will probably make me want to rush more than I should, and hence not develop the fundamentals of technique that I will need. I’d recommend exercises and etudes, possibly more than pieces.
It’s also tempting to want to play pianistic music on a harp, but the fact that there are no dampers on the strings makes that really problematic. What works in the bass on a piano will sound like mud on a harp. A pianist would need to exert real effort to keep aware that this thing isn’t just piano innards turned on its side but a different device with different “sweet spots.” So I think most of your main obstacles will be getting this pupil to slow down, to grasp that they ARE a beginner even if the music looks brainlessly easy to them, and to grasp the instrument’s unique quirks apart from a piano.
Also, I am a bit jittery about the prospect of developing calluses. 🙂 Your pupil may be concerned about this as well.July 17, 2014 at 2:32 pm #142495
I took piano for seven years before taking harp lessons. At first, the harp seems similar but the more you play, the more different the two instruments become. I would briefly point out the similarities – certainly being able to read bass and treble is a huge advantage – but stop at that. Teach the harp the way you would any other pupil and put the piano thinking aside.
And, no, lever harp is not a step down. I started with pedal harp but got drafted into the university renaissance ensemble in which I had to teach myself lever harp. Both harps have their place, and there is certainly a lot more quality music available for lever harp than in the 1970’s when I started to play harp.July 17, 2014 at 3:08 pm #142496
thanks – so I should be aware of assumptions musically and capability/ expectations. No-one’s mentioned plucking, technique, placing ahead & the awkwardness.July 17, 2014 at 3:46 pm #142498Janis CorteseMember
Placing ahead doesn’t have an equivalent on a piano, so there shouldn’t be any pre-existing instincts to get in the way on that. I think regarding placing, the greatest obstacle will likely be the student’s tendency to maybe work too fast sight-reading the music and figure, “Okay, I’ve got this, easy as pie.” This is part of where I think exercises and etudes will help, so that the student doesn’t just figure that grasping the MUSIC means that they’ve gotten what they are supposed to learn out of the piece.
Basically, placing and plucking are so different from the physical action of playing a piano that I don’t think there will be any reflexes to interfere with them physically. The tendency to think, “That piece was easy, next!” may be the biggest issue.July 17, 2014 at 4:50 pm #142502
I think both of you are way over-thinking this. Figure you are lucky enough to start with a student that you don’t have to teach to read music. Yes, of course the first thing is to let the student know you only use 4 fingers and that the levers/pedals are the black keys on the piano. Go from there.July 17, 2014 at 9:39 pm #142507VictoriaParticipant
I absolutely agree with janis-cortese. The fact that I can sight read beginner harp music quite easily made me neglect technique. Only when I got to more technically challenging music, that it became a problem. So that was a set back.July 17, 2014 at 10:14 pm #142508
Alison doesn’t even have the student yet. I think she will need to make an assessment when she starts teaching. If she finds the student is moving ahead in a way that adversely affects technique, I am sure it will be corrected. I did not find knowing how to read music made me jump ahead. I had enough on my plate just learning technique, pedals etc. etc. I had lessons twice a week for a long time which kept me out of trouble. But, I was also told up front to do what I was taught and nothing more in the start or else…I was motivated enough to want to learn harp that I followed the rules:)July 18, 2014 at 6:22 am #142509
I think the emphasis on etudes is a most helpful point, to establish and build basic technique in the initial and catch-up periods; I have all these to hand, the Grossi’s etc and many intermediate sonatas when the time comes, but for now I will remember the adage that making music in the first lesson is important for any child to take away, otherwise it’s just basic hand positions and working fingers 2+1.
Every child is different !! We all are… for me a piano was always there at home as an option (& I took piano lessons aged 10 having started harp at 8). At home we explored chords and jazz & I could play Scott Joplin in my teens but I never performed the piano in public. Luckily I have a compact 6 octave Eavestaff piano here which is really useful.July 18, 2014 at 3:04 pm #142513
After all this discussion, I hope you get the pianist-turning-harp student, and you let us know how you approached your lessons. Tell us what works and doesn’t.July 19, 2014 at 4:59 pm #142528
I will….!! Here’s my own little story….. I fixed up piano lessons myself but broke my wrist rollerskating home one evening after a lesson, forgetting the hill was dangerously steep…… and then I broke the other arm 10 day after that one came out of plaster !! My schoolpal harpist friend remembers this interlude… By the time I was ready for lessons again, the piano teacher announced she was leaving for Australia, so I reckoned I’d never find another as reasonably priced as her lessons.July 19, 2014 at 6:20 pm #142529SylviaParticipant
I know this is about piano students, but…..I also broke my wrist roller skating … when it hit the concrete. I was off for about three months. I had a fixator on my arm because the wrist bone was in smithereens, the DR. said. They put in a plate in surgery.
Any harpist skating on concrete or ice, I say, wear guards!July 22, 2014 at 1:14 pm #142555
I was a little surprised when she mentioned that the harp was like the inside of the piano, after reading it here…. well now, a very exacting percussionistic style on the piano is quite the opposite of the approach required on the harp and with a tendency to put a lot of finger thro’ the strings, this was technically the trickiest initial lesson I have ever had; with a child who expected it to be easier and wanted to use her hands in the exactly the same way as the piano. Learning to place and replace finger and thumb was hardly successful and placing 3-2-1 (as she wanted to pick out a tune) contravened the principles of her piano technique entirely but of course the brain trains our muscles and touch very thoroughly. So learning new tricks is very slow at first; hence the reason for my query.
BTW using D# and G# on the lever harp produces quite a pretty glissando when you suddenly need a cheerful diversion……..!!July 22, 2014 at 2:03 pm #142558SylviaParticipant
The first lesson? Yikes. I was in college when I had my first harp lesson. Back in the day, my teacher used The First Harp Book by Betty Paret. I started with one finger (Finger 2). Then when those were proficient enough, it went to Finger 2 plus the thumb, and so on. I’m sure I would have fallen apart if my first lesson had been having to use two or three fingers all at once.July 22, 2014 at 2:31 pm #142559
well I quite agree and with a young child I can stay on the 2nd finger until it’s working reasonably well, but today was different because the pupil was different (already a pianist) and whilst I know that taking it steadily is important, I needed to show her something of how fingers work on the harp and can reinforce technique next time.
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