New to harp: rentals and music questions

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    Jennifer Van Vliet on #255322

    Hi, everyone!
    I’ve been thinking seriously about learning the harp for the past few months and I have a few questions that I’m hoping to get feedback on.
    1) After doing a lot of reading, I’m leaning towards a Ravenna 34. It seems like the most reliable entry-level instrument that has a high enough quality to still be considered a good fit for more experienced harpists. My question is mainly about rent-to-own programs. I live about 2 hours from the Atlanta Harp Center and I’ve seen it mentioned on the forums here, but does anyone have experience with renting and then purchasing a harp there? I’m thinking it might be the economic choice since it’d give me some extra time to commit to the instrument while saving up for a purchase.
    2) My second question is about music. I’ll be honest- I’ve never been great at sight reading sheet music. It’s embarrassing, but I think it’s one reason I gave up on learning the piano. My brain just doesn’t seem to be wired that way. However, I’m great at reading tabs for bass and guitar. Is there a resource for harp tablature? When I search for that term online, I see harmonica music! I know I could do that notation myself, but I thought I’d ask. I do get that tabs aren’t practical for instruments with larger ranges, like the harp, and I’m working on improving my relationship with sheet music, but it’s been 30 years of playing one instrument or another and it hasn’t gotten much easier!
    All the best,

    catherine-rogers on #255323

    I’m afraid there’s no such thing as tablature for harp. Probably the nearest thing would be a lead sheet. Someone correct me if I’m wrong. There are lots of great teachers and instructional books (and videos) to help you. Mainly you need a teacher for hand technique so you can play well and not injure yourself, but they are great resources for everything you need/want to know.

    Biagio on #255324

    I agree Catherine wrt lead sheets and definitely on the desirability of lessons.

    But Jennifer, let’s be clear about the difference between sight reading and just understanding a score; not the same thing. If you can understand scales you can pluck out the tune and play thence forward by ear.

    One of the best players I know is dyslexic does exactly that.

    Renting a Ravenna 34 would be a wise choice.

    Have fun!

    Jennifer Van Vliet on #255325

    Thanks for the response! I am looking into harp teachers who use skype or zoom (only options right now given my location and COVID).

    Jennifer Van Vliet on #255326

    Thanks, Biagio. I suppose my concern over sheet music is wanting to be able to have a quick reference point for classical pieces that I don’t know as well by memory. I can definitely read and understand scores but it take a lot of time and effort for me depending on key signatures. When I tried to learn piano, I ended up having to mark every note as sharp or flat (and sometimes indicate which would be left hand and which right) rather than instinctively translate that in my mind. After playing a song a few times, I could memorize it and start seeing notes as a cluster of finger positions, but i’ve always found tabs much more intuitive. I’m fine with putting in the extra effort to learn the harp, but I suppose I definitely should go the rental route in case I really can’t manage to progress without my issues with sheet music holding me back!

    andy-b on #255338

    The staff at the Atlanta Harp Center are great. They’re very knowledgeable and reputable. They know all about the harps they carry and will make picking out a harp a smooth process! I’ve not rented from them, but I have purchased several harps and wouldn’t hesitate to buy from them again.

    Cheers, Andy

    wil-weten on #255347

    Hi Jennifer, where you live, the Dusty Ravenna 34 may be your best chance of a quality entry lever harp. Still, you may like to have a look at the other kinds of harps that Atlanta Harp Center is selling, especially the Camac harps and the L&H Harps. Perhaps, you would like the Salvi harps too.

    I think starting with renting a harp is a great idea, as it allows you to find out in a relaxed way what kind of qualities in sound and feel you prefer for your harp.

    By the way, apart from renting, you may also consider buying a second hand harp at Atlanta Harp Center.

    talfryn on #255348

    Hello Jennifer
    I have a bit of experience with both your questions. I live in France and have played harp for around 20years starting when one of my children started Harp at school. In 2010 I had a work posting to Pennsylvania which went on for 4 years, I was away from the family and missed playing Harp so I paid a visit to Virginia harp over the bridge from Philadelphia and rented a Camac Telenn on their rent to buy. The terms were good and eventually I paid the balance to buy the Harp after a year, the harp is well loved and living in Europe with my son now. It actually worked out cheaper than buying here in France at the time because the dollar was low compared to the Euro and I was still paid in Euros. That was just lucky timing.
    On your second point I can relate to what you say about sheetmusic, I play a lot of trad music Celtic and European so mostly play by ear. Harps work well with different key signatures, because you just set the levers or pedals (up or down) to the key signature and then follow the dots, you only have to worry about moving levers or pedals for the accidentals, and most music at least at the beginning follows the key signature.
    I understand the points made about reading music and sight reading they are different. My Dad is a classically trained pianist, still playing in his late 80s he can play straight off from the manuscript, it’s both impressive and infuriating. I can read music but it’s more like a decoding exercise for me, but I infuriate him with my freedom to interpret and change things easily. So it’s swings and roundabouts. So for sure don’t be afraid of the harp if you don’t sight read, playing by ear, leadsheets or just making it up as you go along all work. Particularly once you have learned some appegios and chords.


    talfryn on #255360

    Oops I just seen I’ve made a mistake, Jennifer you mention Atlanta Harp centre and I confused them with Virgina Harp centre, my apologies for my confusion

    Jennifer Van Vliet on #255361

    Thanks so much for the response, Talfryn! I suppose the gift of having levers (or pedals) set is that it does allow for more improvisation without hitting notes that sound completely off. I’ll definitely work on learning arpeggios and chords first and hunt down pieces that feature them heavily. I’m really hoping that I’ll fall in love with the harp (still feeling guilty over not giving the piano more effort!). I have a doctorate in British literature and would love to track down songs that might have been played by characters in some of those novels!

    Meanwhile, I know I’m lucky to be in driving distance of the Atlanta Harp Center so that, when the time is right, I’ll have the chance to rent a harp that I can one day purchase. The Ravenna 34 seems attainable budget-wise but I do keep checking the website for used harps coming in. Meanwhile, I wish there were some skills I could practice even before I get the instrument! I’m mainly reading the forums here and watching youtube videos:)

    balfour-knight on #255377

    I also heartily recommend the Atlanta Harp Center. I have been doing business with them since they opened in 2007. For lead sheets, be sure to check out the offerings of Angi Bemiss. The Atlanta Harp Center carries all of her publications.


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