Reading music

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    renate-kvalsvik on #161250

    I have been teaching myself to play the harp for over a year now, but I still am absolutely terrible at reading music. That is, I can identify the notes on the treble staff, but I am having a lot of problems with the bass staff. When learning to play a new piece, I simply write with a pencil which note it is under the staff, which takes me some time, but it’s working for me.
    The thing is, I am beginning to wonder if maybe I should be actively learning to read music. Is it required if I am to get better at playing? It’s just that I really struggle with it since I’ve never learned it at school or anything. And it looks as though I might be able to find a teacher soon, will I then be looked down upon for not being able to read music?

    alice-freeman on #161251

    I think being able to read music opens doors for you that might be otherwise closed. There are so many wonderful books of harp music available. I would recommend learning to read music, but the thing that makes you a better player is practicing with good technique. You are wise to be looking for a teacher.

    If your new teacher looks down on you for not being able to read music, then I would try hard to find another teacher. In my mind, that is not a good attitude to have

    Tacye on #161252

    Hopefully your teacher will help you: teachers are there for what you don’t know, rather than what you do.

    Michaela Braveman on #161253

    Hi Renate,
    When I read your posting, it sooo much reminded me of myself! I too have been playing the harp for about 1 year and, until about 2 months ago, have been very resistant to reading music. I used to

    Karen Johns on #161254

    Hi Renate, and welcome!

    I too am self-taught. Been playing for almost five years now, started out on a 22-string lap harp and graduated to a larger folk harp a little over 1 1/2 years ago. Also just overcame bad technique habits AND writing in those bass clef notes about a year ago. I learned

    rod-c on #161255


    renate-kvalsvik on #161256

    Thank you so much, everyone!
    I realise that maybe it was a mistake writing out the letters of the notes under the staves, and will try from now on to learn the pieces by identifying the notes instead, although it may take some time at first. I will also try to learn music as best I can.
    It’s not easy for me to find a teacher, and that’s why I have been teaching myself. I live in Norway, and harpists are hard to come by. I only know of three, in fact, and I am trying to see if any of them could give me some lessons. They are all concert harpists, and so they are very busy.
    If I am unable to get a teacher, would it be a good idea for me to buy Pamela Bruner’s Play the Harp Beautifully books and dvd? Maybe it would help me catch any mistakes I am making in fingering and hand position, because I worry a lot that I’m not placing my hands correctly.

    Karen Johns on #161257

    I highly recommend Pamela Bruner’s learning series. She helped me correct my bad habits, especially with my hand position and finger placements. How interesting you live in Norway- we have another commonality. My family originates in Ostby, and I have a goal to learn the song “Nidelven”. Glad I could be

    rosalind-beck on #161258

    All previous suggestions posted are valid.

    carl-swanson on #161259

    Renate- There are lots of good suggestions here. I would summarize them by saying that reading music is a separate skill from playing an instrument, and you need to work on that skill of reading music without the harp. Start by studying your music at the kitchen table, not at the harp. Read the notes aloud, count the rhythms, etc. You could actually take any piece of music to the kitchen table and just practice reading the notes. It will get easier the more you do it. If you can, take a course in music theory, or better yet, in solfege.

    Michaela Braveman on #161260

    I just wanted to add something else to my previous post and in response to what others are suggesting…

    It is important that we recognize that everyone learns differently, especially as adults! There are many roadmaps to learning out there, but ulimately, we have to find and create the one that works for us as individuals, matches our life styles etc.

    A good harp teacher is invaluable in that he/she will make sure that you will not pick up bad habits on the harp. This is especially true if you self-teach yourself and venture out in learning music on your own. If you are unable to have regular lessons, try to take them whenever possible, to get feedback on your technique.

    Some people are able to combine music therory and playing the harp with ease from the get-go, and some of us don’t. If the latter applies to you (as it does to me), make an effort to learn music theory away from the harp…, ideally by joining a class with other students. Practice sight reading away from the harp until you are comfortable reading the notes. And once you do, then try to combine the two, even if it means you go very slow at the beginning!

    For me personally, there are four steps to learning a new song:
    – study the music sheet and read/count the notes until comfortable
    – learn the right hand (treble clef) while reading the music
    – learn the left hand (bass clef) while reading the music
    – combine all the above

    And, most importantly, enjoy every step along the way…, give yourself a break and laugh it off if you end up making mistakes along the way! :-)


    renate-kvalsvik on #161261

    Thanks again for all the advice!
    I will follow it as best as I can, and first thing in January I’m ordering Pamela Bruner’s dvd and books. I still hope I’ll be able to find a teacher, but it’s not looking good. I can’t for the life of me understand why there are so few harpists in Norway… It’s the most lovely instrument! Oh well…

    Michaela Braveman on #161262

    Hi Renate,

    Actually, I have one more suggestion for you….

    If you are unable to find a local harp teacher, you may want to contact Cynthy Johnson, who is a regular contributor to this forum. She is quite an accomplished harpist and offers harp lessons via internet:

    I had some email correspondence with Cynthy not too long ago, and found her

    helen-rudd on #161263

    On line as well as physical flash cards may help two places-

    jennifer-buehler on #161264

    Have you ever taken a look at the Yahoo Harplist?

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