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Just starting to teach harp and need some tips

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  • #86185
    phoebe-powell
    Participant

    Hi, I just have 1 harp student who started last week. She’s a mother of 3 boys who also learn other instruments with Mum and 2 brothers. So I have a couple of questions on teaching.
    1) Does anyone now a good book to use? My teacher had some, but lent them to someone and never got them back (we now how that feels!).
    2) What should I teach first?
    3) She also has arthritis so what should I do about that?
    4) She’s starting on the Celtic harp because of budget. Mine has a square sound box (for a bigger sound) and it really bothers her shoulder (I have found this as well with it but because I’ve played it for so long I’m used to it) and she thinks that might be giving her arthritis more pain because pain is usually connected to something else. So should she try and make a shoulder pad?

    That’s all the questions I can think of for now, but if there are any other teaching tips then I’ll be happy to hear all of them!

    Phoebe

    #86186
    Karen Johns
    Participant

    Hi Phoebe-

    I too have a harp student and I am new to teaching. My student is older and has similar issues. I actually use three instruction books, using music and exercises from each section as they apply. The books I use are Sylvia Woods Teach Yourself The Folk Harp, Pamela Bruner Play The Harp Beautifully 1&2, and Exercises for Speed & Agility by Deborah Friou.

    I started with the basics- body and hand position. First question: does she need to rest this harp against her shoulder? I have a mid-size lever harp and although I tilt it back, I position it on an angle so that my knees grip and support the soundbox and my shoulder does not contact the harp. Having the harp angled slightly also enables me to see the strings better without having to crane my neck. There is an excellent article by Laurie Riley on proper body and hand position that I think might benefit you- email me and I’ll try and send it along to you.

    Really the proper hand and body position is what I think you should start with. Good habits established are much easier to maintain than breaking bad habits- and this I know from my own personal (and painful) experience.

    #86187
    phoebe-powell
    Participant

    Thanks so much Karen!

    I thought I should start with hand position. I just wasn’t to sure, but I’m glad that you’ve confirmed it 🙂

    I will look into ordering the books for her as well. I have a lot of Deborah Friou books and love some of her arrangements.

    The harp is half resting on her shoulder and with her left knee. It’s a 32 string Celtic harp and I had it commissioned (side trim is made out of African Lace Wood, trim is Blood wood and the pillar and neck are made out of Curly Maple. Beautiful instrument) for my by a man in Cremona, Canada. It sits on a stool and it is hard to try and get at a good angle.

    #86188
    Tacye
    Participant

    To stop the harp slipping off the stool you could try a layer of non-slip drawer liner or mat.

    #86189
    phoebe-powell
    Participant

    Thanks so much Tacye!
    I will definitely try and get some of that. I certainly didn’t want any stick on foam what would ruin the varnish and wood.
    Thanks again!

    Phoebe

    #86190
    phoebe-powell
    Participant

    Thanks Hannah!

    I agree with everything you say 🙂 I will definitely keep all of you posted on how she goes.

    All of you are so great!

    Where can you get the harp column magazine?

    Thanks again Hannah 🙂

    Blessings,

    Phoebe

    #86191

    Phoebe, those all sound like good ideas. Also, I understand that Heartland harps (made by Pamela Bruner’s husband) do not require leaning back, because of their “banana shape” of the whole sound chamber, based on the way Tyrolean harps have been made for decades. Also, look at two good beginner harp books, available from all harp music dealers:”

    #86192

    I recommend “Fun From the First” by Milligan, Vol 1 and 2, which was already recommended. Also the MacDonald Harp Olympics series is excellent, and the Suzuki Vol. 1 is good.

    I also include scales I just assign and show the fingering on. Sometimes I use an exercise or two from the Friou book, but I’m not nuts about the progression in that book.

    #86193
    phoebe-powell
    Participant

    This is great! I looked at the Heartland harps and they definitely look just the thing for my student. I’m going to look further into it for her.
    All these books sound sooooooo wonderful!! I have a huge list of them now 🙂 But this is perfect and is definitely going to help start off teaching!

    Thanks so much again!

    Phoebe

    #86194
    phoebe-powell
    Participant

    Thank you Briggsie!

    I forgot to mention as well that I do have the Fun from the first by Samuel Milligan, but the other books sound great as well!

    Phoebe

    #86195

    Hi, Phoebe,
    At the first lesson, I always work on hand position in many different ways.

    #86196
    phoebe-powell
    Participant

    Thanks Susan!

    I just taught her on Friday and was working a lot on hand position. She tends to twist her wrists sideways when she takes her hand away, and her fingers are rather double jointed which makes it a little hard for her to pluck the strings! I think her back problem is going to be solved though, because I just got my little lap harp back from my conductor. It’s very light and so I think her back is not going to be a problem anymore. I’ve attached a picture of my big Celtic harp (well just copy and paste it onto another tab and the image should show up) It is very harp do grip it with your legs because it tends to slip of the stool but I’m getting a little pad to put on the stool which will grip on to to wood and then help it not to slide, which is my biggest fear….

    Improvisation is something that I actually didn’t really think about. I think it’s a great idea though!

    I was thinking that it would be good for her arthritis…

    Thanks again! I’m having so much fun planning out her lessons 🙂

    Blessings,

    Phoebe

    file:///Users/phoebe/Desktop/DSCF5851.JPG

    #86197

    Re the harp cutting into the shoulder. The harp should never rest on the shoulder only on the knees at its natural balance point – every harp has a natural balance point where it will almost stand up on its own and the strings point down to the floor straight. Find this point then get your student to sit towards the harp and hold it in the knees (the harp should be slightly angled towards the music stand) the student should be able to lean back away from the harp and the harp stay where it is.

    If the harp rests on your shoulder you can quickly get bad backs no matter whether its a celtic harp or a concert harp.

    My tutor Helen Arnold is adamant about this and so am I with my students.

    Helen

    #86198
    phoebe-powell
    Participant

    My harp tends to lean at a very odd angle, but I was just practising and I tried moving closer to the harp and it works a lot better that way. It’s still rests a bit on the shoulder, and I always have held with my knees. With my Celtic harp I don’t get back pains as much, but I get more back pains with my pedal harp. After reading an article by Laurie Riley, which I got from Karen Johns, I figured out what the problem was…my right shoulder tends to come up when I play! The Laurie Riley article helped a lot and I’ve found out a lot of problems I’ve had with my back, and now even after 2 days, it seems to be getting a little better even though a bad habit is very hard to break!

    Phoebe

    #86199
    Karen Johns
    Participant

    I highly recommend the aforementioned article. I broke so many bad habits after reading it, and it has done wonders for my comfort level. I’m really glad it helped you out, Phoebe! Anyone else who is interested in this article, and also

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