Teaching flats to lever harp students

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    One of the most difficult theory lessons to teach is teaching the

    concept of flats to lever harps students whose harps are tuned to C. I

    would like to expand my ideas on different approaches to this. Having

    the harp tuned to C helps some beginning students because they can

    make a direct comparison to the white notes on the piano. Sharps make

    sense because they can simply raise a lever to obtain a sharp. When it

    comes to the concept of having to tune a string down a half step to

    have a flat, it then becomes very difficult for many students to

    conceptualize this. What are your ideas on presenting this simple, but

    abstract concept?

    Laurie Muirhead

    Take the E, A, and B levers, raise them and tune to the key of C; therefore, when you need a Bb you lower the lever(s)…same for E and A.


    I tune the classroom lever harp with 3 flats.

    Evangeline Williams

    I only have one student, so my way of doing things may not apply…and I’ve only been teaching for a year.

    I skipped the pieces with Bbs at first, and then did the ones in the book all at once.


    I like the idea of colored rubberbands to differentiate between levers are that are raised for naturals vs. levers raised for sharps. Evangeline make a good point that oftentimes a string is less resonant with a lever up. This bothers me a bit even on professional quality lever harps with loveland levers. I haven’t use other types of levers yet. I’ve especially noticed the resonance issue is most problematic when playing forte.

    I introduce students to the concept of major and minor scales at the same time they are ready to play with all four fingers since they can build two tetra chords playing a scale with left, then right hand. It’s difficult to know the best solution- whether flats should be introduced a little later, or just have them tune some strings to flats. It’s easiest when they are on their own to tune to naturals with their tuners. Tuning with select levers up would keep this simple for them, but there is a tiny bit more tension on the string above the lever than below it when tuned levers up, so when the lever is lowered the tension redistributes. But perhaps when just starting out one must choose their battles.

    These are helpful suggestions and I welcome more.

    Evangeline Williams

    I’vefound the performance levers better about tone, since they are metal, however they seem to wear down the string a lot more…the Bb above middle C on my Shamrock I sometimes will keep as B natural, since the string lately is a bit icky at that spot and the lever makes it kinda buzz….I haven’t gotten around to just replacing that string but maybe I can do it this weekend since I don’t have to play out on that harp anytime too soon.

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