Playing Harp and Secondary Instrument

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    Nancy Edwards

    Those of you who play other instruments as well as

    Karen Johns

    Well, it does stretch you thinner- I’m sure if I concentrated on harp only I would probably be farther advanced. You know what they say- “Jack (or Jill) of all trades, master of none”. I currently play harp(celtic and irish), flute, hammered dulcimer, voice, and irish whistle. I do recall a thread about playing piano and harp, and many posts agreed that


    While divided attention can be an issue if you don’t have the time to devote sufficiently to both, I think that generally studying a second instrument can be extremely helpful.

    Piano is particularly helpful because it is so clear to see the structure of what you are playing on it. If you want to understand theory the single best way is to study it on the piano because visually it shows you the relationships between the notes of the chromatic pitch collection better than any other format (I should say ‘keyboard’ rather than just piano because it is the keyboard that works the wonder).

    However, I think studying instruments that work differently than your main instrument can give you insights into music and possibilities that you might not grasp due to the limitations of your particular instrument. All instruments have their limitations, and playing a second instrument that has different limitations (and thus different possibilities) can be enlightening.

    Anything that increases your overall understanding of music can’t help but make you a better musician.


    Truly, my whole life is that of a musician. I am always and forever practicing something. I play piano, did my bachelor’s on organ and voice and my master’s in voice. As an organ major, I studied harpsichord. I’ve also played and studied flute for many years, and play French horn on the side. None of this interferes with my harp practice. It always comes first. I wedge in the other stuff here and there. I never really concentrate on more than 2 instruments at the same time anyway. For instance, I recently acquired an organ gig so I had to practice my chops on organ for awhile again. But my harp practice is a daily event and takes most of my practice time. I sing everyday on the job, so that keeps my voice in shape. I play the piano everyday too, so that keeps that going. I also play my flute regularly on my job. I love my job. 🙂


    Fairy Reel

    Dear Nancy,

    I started off my music career by playing piano, which I still love and believe prepared me immensely for playing the harp. Since I began studying the harp seriously, however, I dropped piano lessons to concentrate solely on the harp. I can still play piano, and I have no idea where I would be with my music if I hadn’t begun with piano. That being said, I have recently begun the violin! I sound absolutely horrible and am absolutely thrilled.



    Nancy, harp comes more easily after violin study, for me. I play both professionally.

    Kay Meek

    My primary instrument is the classical guitar and the harp is another new found love. I’m finding that it takes a lot of concentration to think of the lower strings being farther away from my face as opposed to the guitar’s lower strings being closer. Somehow it all seems opposite.
    I think that as I learn and practice more, it will become more natural. I can’t wait for the day that I feel like the strings of the harp are simply an extension of my fingers and it is just automatic to know how far to stretch for that next string to make a chord or to play the melody.
    I play the piano, accordion, organ, flute, recorders, guitar and now I’m learning the harp. I think that learning any musical instrument helps makes it easier to play another.

    I do see that playing 2 instruments does split that time on each.
    My time is always an issue… but playing the harp is something that I
    very much want to do, so I’ll make time for it. I just might not spend
    as much time on the internet, or cooking supper, or washing clothes, or
    vacuuming, or other mundane things.


    I think singing is almost necessary for a harpist, but what is more helpful than music is dancing, ballet and/or ballroom.


    I started in piano which gave me a foundation for transitioning to harp. When I started harp at the university, I focused primarily on the physical technique that was different from piano which made the transition fairly quick. Professionally I focus more on harp as a performer, but fill in with piano for teaching. I think in some ways the two instrument focus both helps and detracts. I took a gig to play the variations and adagio from the Schubert Trout Quintet on piano and yeah, that took me off

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