Students giving up after about a month

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    Samantha B on #211674

    I’ve been teaching harp for a few years now, although I’m still relatively green. At the beginning of the school year, it seems I’ll always get a student who will try for about a month, and then give up and quit. I also teach piano, and have many more piano students, and this NEVER happens with my piano students.

    I also live in a city without many harpists, harps, or harp students. Getting materials for new students can be a hassle, so when a student quits so soon it can feel frustrating that I made all that effort.

    What I’m wondering is, does anyone else have this problem? Do you tell your students you expect a commitment of a certain number of months? I feel like it’s not my demeanour, I make an effort to make everyone feel welcome and like they are progressing well, and my piano students don’t seem to have an issue with me. Am I being too strict about technique? (Not that you could know without being there for the lesson, but I wonder.) I also wonder if I should try different lesson books. Recently I’ve been using Sylvia Woods’ Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp because it doesn’t need levers and is easy to get where I live.

    Anyway, all thoughts are appreciated!

    wil-weten on #211677

    I like Sylvia Woods’ Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp, but for me, when I was an absolute starter, it went way too fast for me.

    I can imagine other students feeling they are a failure when they just have to practice the same exercises again and again without the feeling of progress.

    You may try whether Pamela Bruner’s series Play the Harp Beautifully Vol. 1-3 would suit slow starting harpers better. They really helped me enjoying learning the harp.

    Samantha B on #211690

    Thanks for the recommendation! I also agree that the Slyvia Woods book moves to fast and I try to make adjustments to make it more accessible, but this year I’m going to look into some different lesson books.

    Gretchen Cover on #211692

    Do your harp students have any musical background when they start harp? Looking back, I think it was helpful I had seven years of piano before l started harp. There is enough multitasking with technique that l don’t know as a child that I could also process learning to read music etc., too. I do not teach, but l would only take a student who had a few years of piano first. You really, really, desperately want to learn harp to stick with the initial learning phase IMHO.

    tanyanoel on #211695

    Ok, from the perspective of a brand new harp student (that’s me!) who has now been playing for 5 weeks I have to say that the book my teacher started me with has made it a very fun experience since it is basically a sweet book of songs that are very pretty and fit very easily under my fingers. Even in the first week I felt like I had made very fast progress and was actually playing music. I think that is very important, learning a new instrument is daunting and I imagine most people give up quickly because they feel it is taking too long to progress to playing music and sounding nice.

    The book is Midnight Fairies by Kelsey Hughes. I think you can order it online and have it shipped or download it from Sylvia Woods website (not positive, I bought mine from my teacher)

    Also, when learning other pieces my teacher would post mp3s of the music for me to play along with and practice, I found that VERY helpful and fun.

    Philippa mcauliffe on #211721

    I am a novice teacher too. All my own experienced teachers have said that they have a high attrition rate at the start compared with other instruments. You give/get basically the same lessons over and over again for a long time. The good news is that the harp at least sounds beautiful even when you only are playing Hot Cross Buns very slowly. You can add in a gliss and harmonics for some variety but basically learning to tune, getting positioned correctly at the harp, how to raise to the strings consistently, finding a comfortable and physiological hand shape and mastering closure and simple movements takes up lots of lessons. In addition if they do not read music then you have to think about how to address that unless you go by ear for a while. I incorporate some note reading and rhythm theory from the start. I quite like Old Tunes for New Harpists Mildred Dilling and A Bouquet for Young Harpists although I learnt with Suzuki Book 1 (goes very fast for many people) but I also make up things and use other books. I accompany students with a secondo part during a lesson (you can make these up as you go along) so they hear their tune embellished and let them experience playing with someone else. I always get them to take video clips of me playing what ever they are doing and encourage them to video themselves to see how they are progressing. I agree that they have to really want to do it though and many underestimate the work it takes. And they have to want to come and see you so you have to find something they like – I think one of mine comes more to visit my cat and get a cat sticker for practising at least 5 times a week! And she always wants to know if there are any Chocolate Afghans in the pantry (a homemadeNew Zealand really good cookie/biscuit). I also bribe them with a promise they can play in the ensemble at my first teacher’s Xmas concert if they can manage a few carols well (one hand only) which is a big garden party with Xmas lights and lots of harp and non-harp items. That seems to keep some going.

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