Learning Harp

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

  • Member
    Susan Beal on #160732

    Hello, I am new to harp and wanting to learn as much as I can, but nowhere near a teacher! I got myself a Stoney End Eve harp in December 08 and a couple of months ago, a friend give me her 30-year-old Aoyama 120, a 34 string fully levered harp. While I’ve had a few serious relationships with other instruments and flirted or played around with quite a few others, the harp is the instrument I am ready to commit to for life. I’ve got Sylvia Wood’s book, a book of etudes and practice skills, and various books of arrangements for small harp that I use for fun and to practice sight reading.

    Even though I’ve made reasonable (and slow!) progress on my own, I’d love to find a teacher, as I believe I would learn more, faster, and not develop bad habits. Still, I hesitate, because I am so happy and having so much fun dinking around on my own that I don’t want to lose that. I remember some stressful music lessons from my childhood and college years, with teachers who were more into the proper way to do things than they were into the joy of playing ( although I certainly had some wonderful teachers, too). I consider myself “in recovery” from classical music training and all that anxiety that goes with doing things “the right way”, and not at all interested in getting tense about this–I want to learn as much as I can while preserving the spirit of joy and pleasure I feel since I’ve started. I fear that a mismatch with a teacher would be worse than not having one at all.

    I’m willing to travel a bit from my home in southwestern Vermont. Or I would be interested in Skype lessons. Has anyone got advice as to what I should do about lessons? My interest is in folk and Celtic music (I’m a contradancer, too).

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #160733

    How far are you from the Albany NY area? There are several teachers there. Liz Huntley is up in the Saratoga area.

    Member
    Susan Beal on #160734

    I’m about an hour from Albany and an hour and 20 minutes from Saratoga. I’ll look up Liz Huntely. Thank you. Who are the teachers in the Albany area?

    Participant
    Michaela Braveman on #160735

    Hi Susan,

    If you are open to the idea of Internet lessons, I would suggest contacting Cynthy Johnson (http://www.crystalharp.com/CrystalHarp/Private_Instruction.html). She is an experienced Skype teacher and a regular contributor to this forum. I’ve had several personal interactions with her and found her refreshing and very helpful!

    Michaela

    Member
    Susan Beal on #160736

    Thank you, Michaela – I’m open to the idea of Skype lessons. I like Cynthy’s website and and your personal recommendation

    Participant
    Michaela Braveman on #160737

    I agree! I am lucky in that there are harp teachers close to where I live, in fact, my harp teacher comes to my house once a week (how convenient is that!).

    However, if I were in your position, I would definitely consider Skype lessons.

    Participant
    richard-hagan on #160738

    You might want to contact the chapter of the American Harp Society that is nearest to you or a chapter of the International Folk Harp Society.

    Member
    Susan Beal on #160739

    This is a great forum and I am grateful for these suggestions. Yes, Michaela’s set up with a teacher who comes to the house would be perfect (my trumpet teacher used to do that)! But given my initial Google searches, I suspect the closest person I’ll find will be at least an hour away, so I’m leaning toward Skype. Still, I wonder this:

    Participant
    Michaela Braveman on #160740

    Hi Susan,

    I would definitely ask Cynthy Johnson about this.

    Hopefully somebody else will have some other ideas for you. :-)

    Best of luck!,

    Michaela

    Participant
    Geri McQuillen on #160741

    Hi Susan,

    I was very fortunate in finding a professional pedal harpist in our remote coastal area who happens also to teach lever harp.

    Participant
    unknown-user on #160742

    check out http://www.patriciadaly.co.uk harp tutorial

    comes highly recommended by Derek Bell (RIP) late harpist with The Chieftains.

    Participant
    Chris Asmann on #160743

    Hi Susan.

    I don’t have any personal experience with Skype lessons so

    Member
    Susan Beal on #160744

    Thank you, everyone. This forum and your advice are wonderfully helpful. I am amazed at what a sense of community there is among harp players. I’m also amazed at how many others there are who take up harp as middle-aged women (and men)! There doesn’t seem to be that implicdation that if you didn’t start as a child you’ll never be very good. Harps as instruments and the harp community seem to be generous, accomodating

    Participant
    Geri McQuillen on #160745

    Hi Susan,

    I also had classical piano training and, although I loved it, I remember the stresses associated with getting everything just right.

    Member
    Susan Beal on #160746

    I didn’t like the Aoyama at all, at first. It was loaned by a friend who actually detested harp playing but had kept it for 30 years. It had been a gift from her parents when she was in high school, but she ended up switching to cello. The harp had been neglected for all the time since, and had many broken strings.

    I have a little Stoney End Eve that I got a month before the Ayoama was given to me, and the Aoyama sounded horrid compared to the Eve–dull, thunky, dark. Once the Aoyama was in my house, I found myself slightly repelled by harp playing, even by the Eve harp. I wondered why I ever wanted to play harp, anyway! It was odd. Then I remembered my friend telling me how much she’d hated the harp, and I felt as if I was picking up on the emotions she’d aimed at the poor Aoyama–as if it had absorbed them. I resolved to appreciate it. I got new strings and restrung it, and tuned it, and kept telling it thank you. Honestly? The sound improved tremendously each day. Yes, full strings and being in tune make the main difference, but I like to think so does being appreciated.

    Now, I love the Aoyama. It is quite resonant and bright in the higher octaves, especially. I like the size and I like 34 strings. But I have nothing but the Eve to compare it to. I am having it regulated next week and look forward to how much better it will sound. I know Ayoamas have a spotty reputation, and this is an entry-level harp, but I’m really very grateful for it, for how synchronicitically it came into my life and how responsive it has been to me. I loaned my old Bach Stradivarius trumpet to my friend for her daugher, so we’re going to trade–trumpet for harp, as they’re of similar value.

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