Harpists without piano background

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    unknown-user on #164124

    I’m curious if you had trouble learning to read two clefs simultaneously with so many notes and using the left hand.I had wanted piano lessons as a child but my parents refused to send me for music lessons so I only started learning classical guitar at the ripe old age of 18(with my own savings).

    I’m used to using my left hand for fingering the fingerboard (guitar and violin) and I’m strongly right-handed and I wonder if my left hand will be able to cope with plucking.I’m terrified by the idea of playing with both hands! Violin has not many notes to read as a melody instrument, guitar has more but at least it’s only in one clef.

    On the bright side, the instrument will be pretuned and all…

    Audrey Nickel on #164125

    I don’t have much piano background (and what I have was long ago…as in more than 30 years ago).

    unknown-user on #164126

    Hi miso,

    When I was younger my parents offered me a lot of different extracurricular activities, including piano and guitar lessons. I turned them down out of a painful case of shyness… to my everlasting regret! I have a good friend who has been playing piano for over 10 years and I continue to be impressed with his displays of ability. I feel your pain!

    Anyway, the harp is my first instrument and when I started taking lessons I began with the book, “Fun from the First.” (As I suspect many people have over the years!) The lessons start out with simple one-handed melodies, and gradually work up to two-handed

    Tacye on #164127

    Harp was the first time I had come across base clef and I only remember having a little trouble.

    jennifer-buehler on #164128

    Have you found a harp to at least practice on?

    margaret-helminiak on #164129

    Not only do I not have a piano background, I have virtually no music background!

    Jerusha Amado on #164130


    This was my situation as well.

    sherry-lenox on #164131

    I also didn’t have piano lessons as a child. My very dear grandmama told my mother she shouldn’t waste the money on them because I’d probably lose interest. I didn’t, but when I finally began lessons it was terribly frustrating, and although I had to take 6 miserable semesters of class piano in college, the most interesting thing I ever did there was fall off the piano bench, nearly giving our timid little professor a coronary.

    When I learned that there were some similarities between reading harp music and piano music I nearly turned and ran the other way. I could read both clefs with no problem, but I was never ever was able to coordinate two hands. I don’t know why I can with harp but thank God, I can.

    People are so different. I imagine that there are people who can become very good players without having previous experience. I really think I was hampered by keyboard fear. It is a joyful thing to take out something you worked on two or three months ago and find that it’s not the dragon (or cricket), you thought it was. Just keep pluckin’.

    unknown-user on #164132

    I learned the flute as a child (G clef) and sang (again, G clef), so like you I was worried about the bass clef.

    unknown-user on #164133

    Hi Pippin.

    Speaking as one who works with around 30 people weekly on this very thing–note reading–I can say that practice and intent make all the difference. There is a logic behind the notes–when they move up a step on your instrument, they move up on the lines (from a line to a space or vice versa) of the music. Also, someone mentioned not using mnemonics for memory. I second that. I find that my transfer students who rely on Every Good Boy Does Fine keep relying on it long after the others are reading fluently.

    There is nothing that can substitute for hard work. Flashcards, as someone else recommended here, are a great idea. I can tell instantly in a lesson if the student has been diligent on “flashing himself” through the week.

    Good luck! Many adults learn this skill and become fluent at it. You can too.

    Lisa McCann on #164134

    Hi Pippin!

    Don’t feel too badly about your lack of piano background–I have an extensive background in piano (majored in it in college) and it has its advantages, but some downsides, too. For example, I get VERY frustrated when I can’t play a piece, instantly, and perfectly. I know that it’s not reasonable, but I don’t want to start at square one again! Yet I have to, and I’ll have to develop patience about it too.

    I’ll bet that you end up learning left hand much as you the right–rote, rote, rote. Boring and tedious, but it will come. Those of us who learned it early have just forgotten how long it took the first time!

    I think that I had a similar experience to yours when I tried to learn to play the bass guitar after knowing a little bit about “regular” guitar. Even though I knew both clefs, it was just so hard not to “see” those bass strings in treble clef mode. Finally, I had to pretend that I didn’t know treble clef at all in order to change gears mentally and think in bass mode.

    Oh, and I’m also terrified when I play with both hands on the harp. I just crawl along the strings sometimes, so afraid that I’m going to hit th wrong note. Finally, I started playing some of the time with my eyes closed, which forces my hand to recognize intervals, etc. from muscle memory.

    Have patience with yourself and keep at it. For a while you may feel like you are plodding along, but it will come, I promise.


    unknown-user on #164135

    I think its a negative view of a good share of musical society that when one has good knowledge of piano playing, then it is easier for one to start of at the harp with a faster pace.

    unknown-user on #164136

    “A good online site with a free “flash card” game can be found here: Free Flash Cards

    This is great! I’ve never heard or thought of flash cards before, it works! I’m

    sherry-lenox on #164137

    Try this- there’s nothing mystical about it, but I played viola for a good while before I learned alto clef.

    I decided that what I needed was to develop a really solid relationship with the grand staff, so every single night before I went to sleep, I visualized the great staff and the position of middle C (I made that my anchor). Then very slowly, I’d visualize putting the B below middle C on the top space, then add the A and so on. I worked on those 3 notes for a whole week. I also did my visualization when I was brushing my teeth. Of

    rod-c on #164138


    If you have the desire (and it sounds like you do), you’ll do fine with the harp.

    I had absolutely no piano background (and could not read music a year ago). Al most a year of lessons later, I am now in love with the harp…and am in the process of moving from my lever harp on to a pedal harp.

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