Learning the harp at 47, need some advice please.

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    sena Teo on #226429

    Hello all!

    I’m ready to make a childhood dream come true and finally start learning the harp. I was wondering if any of you fine people could suggest some beginner books to start with? I’m mostly interested in Celtic/Scandinavian/medieval and folk songs and will be learning by myself for now because with my return to school (studying to become a mortician) and job, for the moment I’m tight on time and budget. I have a background with violin though so can read and write music, if that’s any help with a harp.

    For my harp I was eyeing the Ravenna 26 (Dusty Strings) because the sound is very warm from the videos I heard. I unfortunately cannot try out the harp myself because I live in Canada and no music shop where I live have them, it’s all special orders.

    I would appreciate if there is a cheaper priced harp, or at least one that, for the price of a fulle levered Ravenna, comes with extra strings, or a carry bag or stand. I saw McHugh and Muzikkon harps at a good price but have no idea if they have a good warm sound. I am aware of the Harpsicle but they are way too bright for my taste, though their portability would be awesome as I want to bring my harp to the country to play in the forest on the weekends.

    Can anyone offer advice on harps also? Anyone tried out those McHugh or Muzikkon harps maybe?

    wil-weten on #226433

    As to self-teaching, there are several great ways to do that. I have been intermittently taking lessons from a professional harp teacher and I can only recommend that. Now as self-teaching methods, I love Play the Harp Beautifully 1-3 by Pamela Bruner. There’s an optional, really illuminating DVD for the books 1 and 2.

    You may additionally look at the instructional videos on Youtube by Ray Pool and by Josh Layne.

    As to McHugh or Muzikkon harps, I’m convinced that in the long run you will be much happier with a non-Pakistani built harp. As to the Ravenna 26, this is a really nice harp, but it may the sound clip that made you believe it has a warm sound, as Dusty Strings itself calls their harps to be bright and that is the sound I heard when I saw them…

    As to starting on a 26 string harp. Frankly, I would advice to take a harp with at least 34 strings if possible. A floor harp is much easier to play, has a richer sound and you wouldn’t need to adapt the music all the time. Most music for the lever harp requires 2 octaves below middle C. The Dusty Ravenna only gives you one octave below middle C. The Dusty Ravenna 34 can be bought without levers and is much cheaper then when fully levered. This could give you a great start and the levers could be put on later on. Yes, having a fully levered harp is great, but I’d rather a non levered nice harp than a fully levered so so harp…

    Anyway, does one of the harp shops in your neighbourhood have Camac harps? I am a great fan of Camac harps. I don’t have any idea though of their prices in Canada. What other harp makes are their in the harp shops you could visit?

    If you are not shy of wood working or know someone who is really handy, you may consider building a harp from a kit. Biagio knows some great kits.

    David Kitamura on #226436

    I recall reading this exact post on the r/harp subreddit a couple days ago with an update that you had ordered a Ravenna 26. Did that go as planned or are you still looking?

    wil-weten on #226437

    Thanks for mentioning this, David. I didn’t know that forum and now I do.

    By the way, the OP may need to read this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crossposting. To me, cross posting is really annoying.

    Edit: Here: https://www.reddit.com/r/harp/comments/bbgfd6/learning_the_harp_at_47_need_some_advice_please/ was the original post of the OP a few days ago. The OP already got lots of answers….

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 2 months ago by wil-weten.
    billooms on #226438

    I started 3 years ago at age 65 (having some music background with classical guitar). My teacher started me with the “Levers Up, Thumbs Up” book and that worked well for me.

    Several suggestions:
    Have an instructor (even if it’s via Skype).
    Rent a harp before buying (if at all possible).
    Look for used harps in good condition.
    I also recommend a floor standing harp.

    Biagio on #226442

    Thanks Will and I agree on all points. First, while the “McHugh/.Muzikkon” sdeem to be an improvement over earlier Pakistani harps, they have a ways to go before proving themselves IMO.

    Second, levers: when you consider that each one adds about $20 to the cost, most beginner books assuming open C tuning, and that one will spend several years mastering technique a fully levered first harp seems to me an extravagance. You can always add levers later – it is not difficult.

    Third, kits: I am indeed a fan of a few kits most particularly the Voyageur by Musicmakers if you have some minimal woodworking ability and tools:


    Check the building instructions to see if it seems within your ability and don’t be intimidated by the photo of multiple clamps when gluing on the sound board. Since it is also nailed and screwed you don’t really need them. Earlier instructions suggested just taping it down until the glue had cured. Jason seems to be moving the company more toward finished harps and the picture represents how they do it in their shop.

    Best wishes,

    Have fun!

    harpist123 on #226663

    I started playing the harp when I was about 50 years old, and I am now almost 67 (YIKES!) I have a Bachelor of Music degree (Applied, Music Performance – clarinet) so figured I’d do okay teaching myself with some of the great books and videos that were available when I started. I plucked along, and realized that I really wanted to take private lessons. I had to drive 102 miles one way, and started with weekly lessons. The drive was hard, especially in the winter months. So I eventually went to every-other-week. I took private lessons for just over a year, until I could get my hands wrapped around the basics. My teacher was phenomenal! And since we were about the same age, we found we had alot in common, and are still friends to this day. I highly recommend private or Skype lessons, at least for awhile. It will help you to avoid some bad habits which are typically impossible to break. My first harp was a Blevins “Espre” 36 string harp (2 full octaves below middle C, fully levered). I took it to my first lesson, and then played my teacher’s harp at lessons after that, so I didn’t have to haul it. (Sometimes I rode my Harley to my lesson 🙂 I do recommend a harp about that size, a floor harp, to start out on. Congrats on deciding to play the harp! I am by no means an “accomplished” harpist. But I can play with others, I have 3 students, and playing the harp fills my life with joy. All the best to you 🙂

    lemonyellow on #226891

    I’ve been playing for 1 year on a Ravenna 34, which I love. I have BMus/MMus opera and music Ed, and years of piano, I teach elementary school music. This is by far the hardest instrument I have ever learned. I’ve also played flute, recorders, oboe, trombone, Gamelan ensemble. I noodled a bit on my own with YouTube and some books, but without a live teacher I wouldn’t have learned the ‘thinking ahead and placing ahead’ techniques that are so necessary or proper playing techniques. Even Skype lessons to check in would be better than trying to unlearn bad self-taught habits later on. I started with a Betty Paret book called First Harp Book. My teacher didn’t know it, but found the sequencing mostly logical. Some Sylvia Woods folk music books are good because they usually offer 2 levels of each song. Suzuki method books seem ok too, you can buy them as digital copies online too. After 1 year I’m now working on songs from the Royal Conservatory (Toronto) Grade 4 list. I’m not a very diligent practicer though, something I’m working on. I find harp extremely mentally taxing, and some days I just can’t. Memorizing my music is something new to me, and the sense of panic just trying to map my fingers even though I know C is red and F is blue. I have to do lots of glacially-slow practice to choreograph what each finger is doing and when, and where my eyes should be looking. It really is nothing like piano except that they both have strings. I think I would have outgrown a 26 string harp in the first 3 months, better to go 34 or bigger, you’ll need it.

    Biagio on #226896

    I soon discovered that why teachers and most teach yourself books emphasize harp technique and exercises/etudes so much. Sure, you can pluck out a tube from the score or by ear.

    But the way to raelly learn and progress lies in “muscle memory”. Ideally one should be able to a) recognize a pattern b) place one finger and c) let the rest of the fingers fall where they should while looking ahead.

    Scales, exercises and etudes will make that happen; just struggling with tunes will not (or at least, not very quickly or easily).

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