From what you say, you do not want to quit, you are frustrated because you are not making progress. You have to accept that you have to work as hard as it takes to improve. You may not be working hard enough. It may be your lessons. Unless you have little or no talent, you will progress with time and effort. Reading music takes practice. Everything takes practice. You may not have learned to practice effectively. There are many possible explanations. You might not be working on the right things. A lot of things need time to sink in. The real question is how do you deal with yourself. Do you berate yourself for not instantly getting things? Do you expect everything to just work as if by magic? The only magic is that if you work hard, it start to flow. Ask your teacher. Ask how to practice. Ask how much progress to expect. Look for other approaches to musical theory. Not knowing which chord you are playing seems to mean you haven’t gotten the concept right yet. You may not be ready for it. The brain has to develop into a lot of music. I’m assuming you are a young teen. If you’re an adult, then it’s different.
Another idea to consider Gillian, is taking a break from the harp (as others have suggested) and focusing on the tension and stress issues. These have been a big problem for me and lessons in the Alexander Technique have made a world of difference in my harp playing and overall enjoyment in living.
Check out http://www.alexandertechnique.com/
Well thank you everyone for your replies. The harp is not my first instrument, my first was french horn. I am a late comer to the harp (almost 40). I first got the harp when I was in love with folk music but my tastes have changed and I’ve discovered I much more enjoy early music. But my skill doesn’t allow me to play either well, or even at all. I started with a folk teacher and now have a classical teacher. I’ve hit the same brickwall with both teachers, so I rather think the issue is with me.
I took a 7 month break about 2 years ago and that’s when I decided to find the current the teacher I have now. There are some aspects I seem to pick up easily, like hand position, fingerings etc, but the damn written music thing blocks me everytime. I’d like to be able to claim that I’m a play by ear person but to be honest I can’t do that either. Picking out a tune isn’t something I can do.
I’ve never thought the harp was particularly difficult just my ineptitude with music….sigh….but you are all right that I’m not inspired and it’s probably a waste of time and money right now to attend lessons so I’ll stop again. I think I need to look into this apparent mental “block” rather than push on through and spend more hours at the harp uselessly.
Jonathan, I thought your comment rather funny actually but there’s no way this side of hell freezing over I’ll part with my instrument. It’s the first one I ever chose and bought for myself so it has a special place in my life.
Gillian, don’t give up until you have tried Alla Yashneva’s Russian Method available at http://www.russianharp.com/books.html . I don’t know exactly why it works, but I have been thrilled with the results I’ve gotten- more than when I studied Renie, Salzedo, or Friou. It’s designed so that you can learn it for yourself with tips on hand placement and fingering. After a drill, there is a corresponding etude or piece that focuses on that skill– it is so satisfying! Please give it a try!
I’m a newcomber to the harp–been playing and taking lessons for just over two years. (I didn’t read music at all when I started.) So…I’m no expert…but it’s my understanding that not everyone can sight read well…regardless of how long you have been playing.
DO NOT QUIT. If you really really love playing the harp you won’t be able to quit. I sure wouldn’t anyway. Sometimes you get into a spot where you feel very frustrated. Believe me, I know. I just moved into a couple of advanced pieces. I’m not young, and I started at age 55. I’m not doing this for a concert career obviously…..but I demand a lot of myself. Those pieces are really really hard. I keep chipping away at them, and sometimes I feel like I’m getting nowhere, but I am. I can tell I am when I give it an honest assessment. The main thing I’m finding out is not to get in my own way…..Let whatever happens happen and just do what I know is the right thing to do. In other words, I practice to practice and I try not to have expectations. I do love to practice. So I’m concentrating on just the joy of sitting at the harp and practicing. If I keep doing that, when I play, it will obviously get better…..but I’m not anticipating that.
As far as sightreading, who cares really? Do you have to sightread a lot? I don’t on harp. I do for my job on the piano, but I’ve been doing that since I was a little kid of 6 years of age, so it’s easy now. And that’s one hell of a long time of doing it too….51 years. I CAN sightread okay on the harp, but I just don’t find that it’s necessary really because I also found that I need to practice each thing I play — no matter how easy to get it right.
I do think theory is important….especially when playing harp pieces. To know what key you are in can make a world of difference in your phrasing, playing, musical expression, but theory is something you can learn…..anyone with a working brain can if they work hard enough. But I wouldn’t stress over it. I would keep working if I were you. I’ve never been one to run away from a challenge. I would hate that. KEEP GOING.
Hi Gillian, Yes, take a vacation. But don’t quit, I suggest! Have you thought of trying other styles of harps and playing, e g Latin harps with their lower string tension, and easy technique?
I play a cross-strung lap harp, Latin style, I read music, but do it infrequently, as I play by ear! Coud be worth trying. I work out the melody by ear in a suitable key, then add a simple bass with triads, lastly work in an alto part. OK, I know basic harmony from playing guitar, comes in handy.This approach mabe unconventional, but sounds good and
I can relate to what you are saying in so many ways! It sounds to me like a classic creative block, and I think nearly any artist, writer or musician runs into it at some point. When you think about how most of us learn in school from a young age–grades, punishments,
rewards, tests, and all the attendant anxiety–it’s no wonder we get stuck and frustrated. I suspect it’s the rare person who has no fears or
stuckness about learning new things.
For me, the harp is what is helping me get past a major creative block that affects me in several areas. I think of myself as “in recovery” from early classical music training and also art school. I’ll balance the checkbook or clean the garage before facing my easel and brushes or guitar, despite an almost desperate desire to paint or play music. Given that, I’m approaching harp quite differently. I never force myself to play it, I listen to harp music to inspire myself when I feel stuck, and I stop practicing as soon as I start to feel stress. I may never become really excellent
- The forum ‘Amateur Harpists’ is closed to new topics and replies.