Which exercises to pick?

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    Often we have only half hour or so to practice. How much of that time do you spend on exercises?

    Eric Allison

    With thirty minutes, no more than five minutes of scales, thirds, or fifths in the beginning, and another round to end the session. I play the day’s routine in various keys, raising one set of levers at a time, until the harp is in the key I need for the first piece. Then I repeat that process at the end of the session, lowering one set of levers a round, until they’re all down.

    Cindy Cripps-Prawak

    As a neophyte harpist, I just did my Grade 2, I drive my husband nuts working out new scales, triads, arppegios and then cherry on the cake, keep practicing the pieces for the exam. How do I mix it up so that he does not run away or try to lock me and harp in the closet for my practice sessions? (joking but almost not a couple of times)

    thanks in advance,




    I only joined this group today, and even though your post is 11 months old, seeing it made me smile, and think of my situation.

    My husband has “banned” me from playing a particular piece of harp music that shall remain nameless.  The solution to this practice issue was to allow him to buy an expensive pair of wireless headphones (with noise cancelling, not that what we play is noise, but you know what I mean), so he can wander around the house listening to his music while he does important things like washing the dishes.  Peace and serenity now reigns allowing different music to be played at once.



    I don’t grind on scales, arpeggios and finger exercises. There are much nice things to play that help train technique at the same time.


    You might try my book, BOCHSA REVISITED, which is an updating of short 19th century etudes. They’re fun to play, and drill one aspect of technique at a time. They sound like real pieces and are not just repetitive exercises. The edition is published by Carl Fischer Music and is available at a lot of harp stores. It’s also available on my web site,


    FYI, I started almost a year ago studying lever (Troubadour) harp, after a decades-long absence from my first attempts, back in the day. I started then with “Fun From the First” with my teacher, and picked it up (because I had it already) but the book soon left me cold. It seemed so haphazard, and I didn’t know what I was supposed to be learning (students like to know scope and sequence, especially adults who are College Music Professors!) even as I stumbled through my first recital last December. I soldiered on, but felt I needed more- and while I really appreciate the incremental approach I learned from doing Suzuki piano with my kids, back in the day- I truly, desperately wanted to do something other than music from Book 1, AGAIN – especially as an adult!

    I already had “Friou’s Harp Exercises for Agility and Speed” from before and so, over the past (2018) summer, I began to look at all the various skill sets needed, working diligently (read, REAL slowly) on these various exercises both as warm-ups as well as skill builders. I also started watching YT videos (Josh Layne rocks) that explained what it was I was trying to DO- because I was away from my regular teacher, and had both the time and desire to ‘explore.’ I found two Harp teachers in my ‘summer place’ also, and it was they who helped me SEE what I was aiming for; and, for the first time, I ‘got it’.

    I find I LIKE doing ‘technique’ studies, but realized I needed to do ‘real music’ if I was going to progress. I liked the philosophy of Bruner’s ‘Play the Harp beautifully’ (Level 2) and having DVD’s of how to play, was very helpful. However, once I bought the DVD and the books, after the initial lessons in the Level 2 book, the pieces seemed to start jumping around -presuming ability on things that were never covered in the lessons- and (while helpful with placing and crossovers/unders) PtHB had music that just jumped too fast, too soon with difficult fingering and LH/RH independence.. for me.

    So again, I felt I needed something that both: a) took into consideration that I already know a great deal about music ‘theory’ but b) that I don’t know a great deal about HARP. Most pedagogy books are geared for children and/or total beginners; but I’m an adult who has been doing music most of my life. I wanted something that assumed I could read music, count, know key signatures, etc., but gave me nice,’meaty’ works to think about, as I learned these pieces while working on my HARP technique.

    I found myself leaning towards Rabens’ “Classics at your fingertips,” and, after finding her playing her books (up to Book 3, only at this point) on YT, I FINALLY could ‘hear’ what it was those pieces were attempting to do, as well as ‘see’ what needed to happen, FINGER WISE.

    As of last week, I am working through Rabens'[CAYF] Book 2 (with my teacher) along with JR’s ‘Technique at Your Fingertips’ [TAYF] -doing about 1-2 music pieces a week- which, coupled with the technique in Friou I already was doing, I believe is giving me both sides of the equation: 1.) independent fingering for both LH and RH in the execution of ‘real music’ (even if they are JR’s arrangements- but she at least has her Master’s in Harp, and composition, so she DEALS with the ‘incremental’ construct, and I like her rep choices!) and the offering of more than one interesting musical piece, to reinforce each technical point; while 2.) continuing technical studies that will eventually lead to something more substantial.

    As an adult avocational student, I am in a specific niche, I know. But before Bochsa or Grossi is even on the horizon, one has to gain a measure of confidence doing REP, as well as technique. So far, Friou and Rabens are working well for me. My two cents.

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