Newbie to the harp world!

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    tony-morosco on #163919

    Becky,

    First, I can definitely relate to wanting to play the harp that much. Before I actually started to play it was such a strong desire that I often had dreams about it.

    And I can also relate to having a hard time finding someplace to try or even see a harp in person. I’m among the many here who started before nice things like the Internet made finding about harps relatively easy. Back then the main resource was the phonebook.

    I remember calling every music store in the phone book and none of them had anything they could do to help me. Finally I got the idea to go to the library and look in the phone books for other counties and areas and that was how I found International Music in Manhattan. I called, made an appointment with Mr. Henry, and that started it all. He helped me find a harp that was right for me and helped me find a teacher.

    These days you can just go on line. Technology can be wonderful.

    As for which harp, if you have your heart set on the Ravenna then go for it. What different people like in a harp is very personal and individual, so one person may not care for the tone of one harp, but another will love it. So that means that if we remove the more subjective aspects from judging a harp and do it based on more objective things, like quality of construction and reliability, overall good projection, decent volume etc… Then anything by Dusty Strings ranks extremely well.

    As others have said, definitely get a harp with a full set of levers. It may seem like a good compromise to not get levers, or to only get them on selected strings, but I think most people will eventually get to the point where full levers will be necessary to play all the things they want. It is better to get them right off the bat than to try to have them put on later.

    Lessons are great, but there are plenty of very talented self taught harpists out there. Not in the world of classical music perhaps, but hobbyists who play just for fun but are very good at it. What I recommend is to take a few lessons at first at least to lean good basics, and then take a lesson every now and then to make sure you aren’t developing bad habits.

    I find that if you can’t take regular lessons then taking a few now and then is better than taking none at all.

    Good luck and feel confident that you are not alone or the only person to go through this stage.

    You know its almost funny. Like you I play other instruments, but it was the harp that captured my imagination more than any other. I can play other instruments but if I had to give up all but one I would choose to keep the harp without needing to give it a moments thought. And I really can’t explain why.

    Every now and then a person comes across an instrument that is just for them for whatever reason. Some take up an instrument in an almost casual way, but because the harp is still relatively rare compared to many other instrument those who learn it tend to be those who are strongly drawn to it for some reason. People often learn guitar because they are so common, of flute because that was what they needed in band the year they started in school. But people tend to take up the harp because something about it draws them and compelled them.

    So if I can take a moment to be a snobbish, elitist harpist I will say that makes the harp a very special instrument, and those that choose it also special in some way.

    Participant
    unknown-user on #163920

    Thank you so much for all your posts!!

    Sherry, that’s funny that you have a hair-pulling spouse as well. Glad to hear they come around. 😉

    As for all the other comments, they’re so many I don’t know if I can single them out individually! But you have all given me very helpful advice and food for thought.

    I really wish I could get a harp with 30 or more strings and full levers right from the start, but the fact is my husband and I are only in our 20s and overwhelmed with student loans, mortgage payments, and the like, so I’m just going to have to make do. I am thinking (unless I see some harps in person and change my mind) that I will try to rent-to-own the Ravenna 26 through Harp Connection starting around Christmastime, and that I will take a few lessons with a teacher here in Charlotte, NC, beforehand, if my husband doesn’t mind. 😛 I think I’m making him nervous with this new expensive hobby!!

    Anyway, there’s a teacher here who I think I will try going to, and I think she rents harps so maybe I’ll try a Ravenna for a month or something (if she has one) before I buy it/rent-to-own long-distance. Those shipping fees hurt!

    The other reason I don’t think I can get a larger harp right now is because we live in a really small place and there simply isn’t room for a big harp. It already feels crowded. 😛 In any case, I have plenty of time to mull over the options! So I guess I’ll probably just start small and add on things like full levers, a case, a stand, etc. as my budget allows.

    Tony, I know it seems crazy but I think you’re right–there really is something special about the harp. Almost everyone who plays it seems to be absolutely in love with it. I think the fact that harps can be so rare and unreachable makes those feelings even stronger.

    All right, I’m off to do a little more daydreaming before my lunch break ends…

    Participant
    Briggsie B. Peawiggle on #163921

    Becky, I can totally and completely relate with your obsession. I was fortunate to get an old worn out (levers and pegs) Troubadour I in Jan. 06 for next to nothing. I started lessons using that to practice, and within 3 weeks I had to have a pedal harp….became completely obsessed with harp and everything to do with harp. I knew I had to keep it quiet because my obsession was so great it was becoming obnoxious. My husband listened politely, but he was really involved in his obsession with Japanese swords. HAHA…..He is, however, a musician so when I spoke of my absolute NEED to get a pedal harp he understood. Of course I led into it…..”Honey I might be needing a pedal harp one of these days,”

    Participant
    unknown-user on #163922

    I recently started harp lessons (January 1 of this year) having never been up close and personal with a harp before.

    Participant
    Audrey Nickel on #163923

    Welcome to the world of the happy harp obsessed!

    I’ve also wanted to play the harp for a very long time (I’m 46, and the first time I remember drooling over harp music was when I was about 15).

    Participant
    unknown-user on #163924

    June, that’s so funny about your husband and Japanese swords. I’m glad you finally got the harp you wanted!! 🙂 You must be so happy.

    Gwen, thanks for the welcome. I’m surprised how many harpies haven’t seen a harp before taking lessons! It really is kind of exasperating to want to see one and have to wait.

    I’m looking forward going to a free lesson once I get the chance. I’m just waiting to get the OK from the hubby. He’s worried that if I go to one free lesson I’m going to end up going every week and renting a harp or something. Do teachers tend to be pushy like that or do you think I can get away with just one lesson and saying I won’t be able to take any until probably October or so and then it’ll be once a month just to be sure I want to get a harp for Christmas? It’d be easier if I didn’t WANT to take weekly lessons and rent a harp. 😉

    Audrey, I’m so glad to hear that you got the Ravenna with C and F levers and love it. The funny thing is, the first time I saw it, I didn’t really like the two tones (black and white) but the more I look at it, the more I like it, and now I feel like I have to have it! I’m also glad to hear that the extendable leg does work, even if it isn’t as good as the stool. One thing at a time, I guess. 🙂

    Participant
    Tacye on #163925

    Becky, I agree, teacher first and then rent, or your teacher may even know a good second hand harp in your area which, with care in the purchase, is another way of getting more harp for your money.

    Participant
    barbara-brundage on #163926

    Well said, Tacye.

    Becky, I totally agree with Tacye that it’s at the very beginning when you most need regular lessons. Once you’ve got a basic technique it’s okay to go less frequently. But you can get into a lot of technical trouble in even a week at the beginning, especially coming in as someone who can play other instruments where you aren’t slowed down by notes and such and will want to push ahead.

    Participant
    unknown-user on #163927

    Thank you both for the advice. I hadn’t thought about it that way. I guess I can just take the introductory lesson now to appease myself, see what the teacher thinks, and maybe take four lessons in November and rent a harp during that time and see how it goes. I’d hate to take the lessons now, have to stop, and forget what I learned before I do get a harp.

    As far as my piano background, I mostly played by ear (even though I did have a few years of lessons as a child) so I’m probably going to be relearning a lot of music theory. I guess I’m a very causal musician (which may make somem teachers cringe!) and I really just want to play for sheer enjoyment. 🙂 I still would like to play well and not develop bad habits, so I won’t skip lessons altogether.

    Thanks again from the tip! It’s nice to have teachers reading these posts.

    Participant
    sherry-lenox on #163928

    I wanted to mention a little point that you have already encountered here, and since I went through it just a few months ago, I think you should be aware.

    After about 2 months of lever harp lessons I began to think that I was interested in the possibility of going to pedal.You have seen that a lot of beginners have that particular yen really early in the game, and that’s a wonderful goal for anyone who has been bit by the bug.

    Instead, I began to become aware of some of the contemporary composer/players who are writing for lever, and I realized that there was so much wonderful music available for lever that I’d be more comfortable staying right where I was. For me, it’s a perfect decisiion.

    The one point where there’s a decision to make is when you consider orchestral repetoire, which is really only doable on a pedal, unless you have an extra hand or two to flip faster.

    Just another point to throw into the mix!

    Participant
    unknown-user on #163929

    Actually, I prefer the lever harp, so I doubt I’d ever want to change. But thanks for the thought! That is an important factor.

    Participant
    Tacye on #163930

    Becky, what you can do now is start teaching yourself that music theory, reading music (tapping rhythms, ideally sight singing, treble and base clef, chords etc) etc.

    Participant
    barbara-brundage on #163931

    Hi, Tacye. In case you missed it, Becky said:

    > I have a piano background

    Participant
    unknown-user on #163932

    Barbara,

    I have a piano background but I don’t play regularly and I never advanced all that much. I mostly used to write my own music as a student so I still play those songs and a few others I learned, but I never have been able to put sheet music up in front of me and just start playing. I used to write the letter names on the notes (not professional, I know) and practice very slowly, and once I learned it I just wouldn’t look at the sheet music anymore. As you can guess, I had a very laidback teacher, which I liked! But I’m guessing things will change with the harp.

    I know a lot of basic music theory but I still have trouble sight-reading, so I’ve been going through Sylvia Woods’ books, reading the lessons, and trying to read the notes in my head. I used to sight-sing in middle school but unfortunately, the “use it or lose it rule” applies here and I haven’t been using it.

    I guess I’ll just have to do a lot of studying and practicing to get up to speed!

    Participant
    Audrey Nickel on #163933

    Sylvia Woods has a good basic theory book that is directly applicable to the harp, and that might be useful for you.

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