I would really love to play the harp, but I’m 24. Is that too late?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

  • Participant
    bella-bella on #155029

    Hello!

    I love the harp and have always wanted to learn to play, but I’m 24 now. I know I’m a bit old to get into learning an instrument, but I would really love to begin playing. It will be purely for a hobby, but I would love to practise enough to be able to play Ave Maria.

    I will have to wait until I get a job to pay for a teacher (ex-student) a can’t wait.
    However, I have taken up a few hobbies within the last year (e.g dress-making, weaving) and my family tell me I’m taking on too many hobbies.

    I would really love to play the harp though. Even the basic tunes sound lovely on it.

    Does anyone have any advice?

    Since I can’t afford to play yet, I was thinking of just learning to read music.

    Also, if you start, how would you decide which harp to play? Or would the tutor go through this with you?

    Thank you in advance!

    Participant
    adam-b-harris on #155030

    No you aren’t too old.

    Learning to read music before you start certainly isn’t a bad idea. I will probably get shouted down for saying this, but it might be a good idea also to pick up a cheap keyboard. Its one thing reading music and another thing playing it. Just learning some rudimentary keyboard will give you some hand eye co-ordination skills and help develop the hand and finger independence you will need.

    It will also give you an idea if you have the patience and the concentration required before you get into the deep end of financial committment.

    good luck with it – I really hope it works out for you.
    adam

    Participant
    bella-bella on #155031

    Thank you for your reply!

    I do have a keyboard and a piano as my Mum and sister play them, so I will start practising on the keyboard.

    I’m excited to start. Life is too short to avoid doing the things you want!

    Member
    tony-morosco on #155032

    “I will probably get shouted down for saying this”

    Actually I think that’s a wonderful idea. Of course 24 isn’t too late to learn to play the harp, but if she can’t afford a harp or lessons now then yes, learning to read music, and also learning about music theory, would be a good place to start, and using a keyboard of some kind is always beneficial to both of those endeavors.

    I would also recommend that she listen to a lot of music. Not listen in the casual, entertainment kind of way. Really listen to what is going on in the music she likes. Couple that with some basic music theory and you build a decent musical foundation that makes learning to play an instrument, if not easier then more enjoyable. Everything is more enjoyable when you really understand what you are doing.

    Participant
    bella-bella on #155033

    Thank you for your response, Tony!

    I was planning to buy a harp CD, and maybe a book which has an introduction to the harp. There’s a harp tutor in my area, and she’s playing in a local cathedral soon, so I’ll go there to see what it’s like 😀

    Participant
    catherine-rogers on #155034

    Join a choir! Singing is a great way to learn to read music, learn about music theory, etc. It doesn’t cost anything and is usually lots of fun and meeting nice people. If possible, find a choir with a really good director, preferably one who has studied and/or teaches voice. Singing is a great foundation for learning any instrument.

    Participant
    angel-zhao on #155035

    It’s never too late to explore something new. There’s also no such thing as having too many hobbies. I’d say if you never try out new hobbies, you’d never know what you enjoy best, what might stick with you for life, and what just might turn into an actual career.

    If you don’t have any/much musical background, I agree that taking up the keyboard will help with getting a feel and visual of reading music. It’s important to have a solid foundation of music theory. Perhaps you could ask your family to teach you the basics?

    Regarding the harp itself, you would need to do some research on your own and decide which style(s) of harp music you like the best, and also which harp’s sound and aesthetics you prefer. Besides watching a ton of Youtube videos, this forum is a great place to read up on people’s impressions/reviews on different brands and styles of harps. There are also discussions on anything from harp strings to the type of construction material used. Do note, though, that every single harp is unique. Even two harps of the same make from the same brand with the same materials could sound different from each other.

    There’s nothing wrong with buying a harp sight-unseen if you’re very sure about the harp and the seller. However, it’s always preferable to try it out in person before you make a purchase. Renting first may also help you get a feel of your preferences for harps.

    If you are able to get into contact with that harp tutor in your area, try to set up lessons and/or consultations. She may be able to refer you to local harp rentals/dealers so that you can try out different harps in person. You could also ask her about recommendations based on your/her preferences.

    Participant
    David Ice on #155036

    I was 23 when I started……and I’m now playing professionally, both solo gigs

    Participant
    sara-tyler on #155037

    This is really hilarious, because I have been asking myself the EXACT same question(s) (literally, exactly the same) over the last 6 months. I am 24 and just touched a harp for the first time January of this year. I am so in love. I have so much to share with you from my experience, but it’s nothing compared to some feedback you will get from the more experienced folks here —

    1. ABSOLUTE BEGINNING – Identify the desire to play and figure out what you want to accomplish (which you’ve already gotten started on — Ave Maria!). This will help you decide which style harp to pursue. It seems good advice to start with a lever harp and work your way up to pedal harp… if you even want to learn pedal harp. If you don’t play any instruments at all, it may be good to start with piano for a year to get used to reading music and keeping time (although the same sheet music doesn’t necessarily work for both instruments).

    2. GETTING A HARP – I started by googling harpists in my town. I emailed several with the same basic story “I’m an adult beginner at harp, I play other instruments and can read music but I have never played harp, blah blah” — I got some feedback from a couple of them and one happened to have a harp I could rent. She is also the principal harpist for the symphony in town and is a Lyon Healy dealer and guided me toward their rent to own program…

    3. MY FIRST HARP – I am renting-to-own the Lyon Healy Troubadour VI — basically, the program works like you pay 6mo rent up front and at the end of 6mo buy the harp, trade it in and put whatever you’ve paid toward a pedal harp, or just send it back to Chicago. I love the harp, but I’m not sure I want to keep it forever because I ultimately want to learn to play pedal harp (it will be the best type of harp for the type of music I want to be able to play) and if I did have a lever harp, I’m not sure I want THIS lever harp…although it is a great sounding and beautiful harp – I just have some anxiety about whether it is THE ONE for me (which tells me it’s really not).

    4. GENERAL ADVICE – Do plenty of research. Talk to as many people as you can. This website seems to be a great place to get feedback. You won’t know what you need/want right off, but you will need to find someone to take lessons from, and you will need support from the community as you grow and learn more and make bigger decisions about continuing with the harp.

    5. You are not too old. Period. To do anything. Ever. You’re the perfect age to learn whatever you want. I’m exactly like you, it sounds like… I really want to do everything and learn everything so I take on a lot of “hobbies” – but I think it’s a beautiful thing to have the opportunity to grow and learn more and do more in this life! GO FOR IT! 🙂

    If you want to know more about my life since I started playing harp, I started a blog where I post rants/videos of my progress…

    Participant
    bella-bella on #155038

    Thank you, Catherine, Angel and David for your replies!

    I wouldn’t have the confidence to join a choir lol, but if I ever get decent at the harp, maybe I could play at church (if they would want one).

    I played the violin when I was younger and loved it at first, but became bored after a while. It was only fun when there was a piano to accompany it, but the harp sounds lovely even on it’s own. I would still consider myself a beginner with reading music though, but at least it’s not from scratch.

    If you practise on one type of harp, is there a learning curve when switching to another? I won’t buy a harp immediately. I would want to have some lessons and rent one first.

    David, was the harp your first instrument, and do you think starting at 23 gave you enough time to progress?

    Participant
    bella-bella on #155039

    Sara, we do sound alike! lol.

    That was really good advice. I still need to do more research into harps though. I will have to do everything slowly as I need to do some job hunting, but when I decided today that I would just go ahead and learn to play the harp, I felt so excited. That ‘Style 100’ harp you have on your blog is so lovely! Thank you for posting your blog. I’ll keep an eye on it and read through it tonight.

    I was wondering why the harp isn’t very popular. There’s only one tutor in my area. My Mum knows her though. She played at my school a few times apparently. Is it because you would only have one harp in an orchestra, as opposed to many violins?

    Participant
    sara-tyler on #155040

    Thoughts on why they’re not as popular as something like guitar or violin (although as you can see from this website alone, they are very popular!!)-

    -I suppose availability/popularity could have something to do with the expense and expertise required to manufacture harps… The price tag is often a deterrent with anything new… “I want to play harp, but I don’t have $4000, so maybe I’ll try guitar for $100”

    -Some of it also probably has to do with taste. For example, I hate the sound of bagpipes and I can’t take steel drums seriously, but there are enthusiasts and experts with most everything! People may associate harp with a certain type of music that they don’t feel passionate about, so they won’t care to see what else a harp could do.

    -Portability also probably affects the availability/abundance of harps… Traveling with it is like traveling with a very special, very giant pet. It needs climate control, it needs lots of space, it often needs lots of gear (stool, dolly, music stand). I will have to get a new car if I buy a pedal harp… I can fit my lever harp in my husband’s car, but I can’t drive a stick! Hahaha! So many complications. Other instruments are just get up and go!

    I think the reason you only need one in an orchestra (vs many violins) is just the way the music is written… it’s probably very difficult for harps to play in unison like violins can, and harps have a more percussive sound because they’re more plucked/strummed than violins where you’ve just got a flowing sound from the bow on the strings (however I LOVE when orchestra music calls for plucking of violins/violas/cellos…it’s sounds so cool). Aside from the generic argument that “that’s just the way music is composed/arranged”… Harps fall under the percussion umbrella – like the vibraphone or marimba. Usually only need one of them to get that cool effect. 🙂

    Member
    tony-morosco on #155041

    “If you practice on one type of harp, is there a learning curve when switching to another?”

    It all depends on the type of harp. There are some harps that are so different from each other that it is like playing two completely different instruments, such as the difference between a pedal harp and a cross strung harp, or a gut strung lever harp and a wire strung lap harp.

    On the other hand there are harps that look very different, but are played very similar.

    Although you might choose to go with one or the less common kinds of harps, most likely you are going to end up playing either a lever harp or a pedal harp.

    It isn’t necessary, but the simple fact is that most people who play pedal harp these days start out with a lever harp. It’s not that the lever harp is any less of an instrument, but it is smaller and less expensive generally. It has some limitations but there are many professionals who are not only magnificent musicians but also specialize in playing lever harp and don’t have any interest in pedal harp.

    So the lever harp isn’t necessarily a stepping stone to anything else. It is a destination on it’s own. But we can’t ignore that it is often used as a stepping stone by people who want to play the pedal harp because you can learn your basic technique and a lot of great music on the lever harp and then transfer it fairly easily to the pedal harp.

    How easy depends on the individual harps involved.

    When it comes to the most common harps, which are the nylon or gut strung single row of string harps the main differences are the size of the harp and the actual strings themselves.

    You can go anywhere from a 20 string lap harp to a 47 string concert grand pedal harp (the kind they use in orchestras), and virtually any stop in between.

    Smaller harps are typically lever harps. They are strung diatonically (think of playing just the white keys on a piano and ignoring the black keys). In order to get some of those black key notes on harps you need to modify the strings. On a lever harp that is done by flipping levers near the tuning pins that make the pitch of the string go up a half step, so that the string now plays one of those black key notes.

    The largest harps are typically pedal harps. Again, same string set up only you have more strings total, and instead of using levers to raise the pitch of the strings you use pedals at the base of the harp to either raise or lower the

    Participant
    Affeltranger@att.net on #155042

    I started at 65 and now get paid engagements.

    Member
    Sylvia Clark on #155043

    I was 20 and in college when I started…so harp was available there.

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