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Why don’t more people play harp?

Home Forums Coffee Break Why don’t more people play harp?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 23 total)
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  • #106488
    shelby-m
    Participant

    I’ve never heard of anyone not enjoying listening to a harp, so I’ve been wondering why more people don’t play harp?

    #106489
    stan-guy
    Participant

    Shelby —-

    #106490
    shelby-m
    Participant

    Yeah, that sounds logical, now that you mention it.

    #106491
    Jessica A
    Participant

    Coming from the pedal harp world, I’d say harps are just too bleeping expensive for most people, while guitars and pianos are cheap (check out the want ads).

    #106492
    diana-lincoln
    Participant

    In my case, I was only familiar with the classical pedal harp which really does seem daunting. Having always loved the sound of the harp it wasn’t ’till I walked into Dusty Strings that my mind was changed.

    #106493
    tony-morosco
    Member

    Sure, a flute can be just as expensive. You can pay $50,000 for a flute if you want to.

    However, when you are just starting out, don’t know if it is for you, and have to convince a parent to pay for a flute, you can easily get a half way decent used flute for a couple of hundred dollars.

    You are going to be very hard pressed to find a decent quality lever harp, used or not, for under a couple thousand.

    A couple of thousand is a bit steep to pay for an instrument for a beginner. People typically don’t think about spending that kind of money on an instrument until acquiring some proficiency on it.

    And although pianos can cost a lot, you can get an electronic keyboard with weighted keys for a few hundred to start on.

    Then if you don’t live in an urban area you may not have a teacher near by.

    And on top of that, again due to both cost and lack of teachers, it isn’t typically offered in school music programs as an option. When I was in school if you wanted to play violin, of viola, or flute, or percussion you could join band and learn. If you wanted to play harp in the school band you had to have your own teacher outside of school because the school music teacher couldn’t teach harp.

    As for harp in rock, pop, etc… its out there. Deborah Henson-Conant does pop, blues and jazz on harp. No shortage of jazz players out there. And it shows up in more R&B and pop music these days. Glee sometimes has a harpist playing back up for the kids.

    Part of the problem, I think, is that a lot of harpists aren’t taught to play this kind of music. It is more than just playing the notes. Harpists are often taught to play in a certain way. Mainly classical or folk music. Give a classical guitarist an electric guitar and ask them to play Hendrix and chances are he or she isn’t going to do a very good job of it even if they have much more technical proficiency than the average rock guitarist. Same goes with harp. The difference is that there are lots of guitarists being taught “rock” guitar specifically. There aren’t too many teachers teaching “rock” harp. (I have told the story here before of the

    #106494
    Elizabeth L
    Participant

    And you don’t even need a real piano.

    #106495

    I really don’t get it, either. Family Feud’s survey said that the harp was the audience’s favorite instrument, over piano and over organ (which was number two). Maybe it was a churchy crowd. Anyway, there is this huge gap. The only time I think it was bridged effectively was when Lyon & Healy teamed up with stores and teachers to offer troubador group classes. That got a big generation started. They are making the harps now, but that partnership with teachers doesn’t seem to be there, or the marketing. But, then, based on people’s comments about teaching, it is really hit or miss, depending on one’s area, personality or resources. Perhaps a census analyst could figure out the necessary factors. Programs in the schools help, but also in music schools. It is amazing how few music schools offer harp lessons. In my experience with at least three schools, they were remarkably uncooperative in catching inquiries, and would even turn people away after I had joined the faculty. It was a struggle to even get it listed in the pamphlets. We are constantly fighting that kind of marginal perception, particularly among musicians.

    #106496
    John McK
    Participant

    An ergonomic reason: It’s tough to play in a marching band with a harp.

    #106497
    Sylvia
    Participant

    I suppose the bagpipe people complain, too.

    #106498
    John McK
    Participant

    I suppose the bagpipe people complain, too.

    If you’re talking highland pipes, there are some real musical limitations on them which prevent more widespread adoption.
    1) You only get nine notes; the scale is Bb Mixolydian. Not exactly an easy key to arrange around.
    2) They are loud as hell, and you can’t turn them down. Electronic pipes do exist, but they aren’t anything like the real thing. . I more-or-less had to stop playing pipes in college because they simply are cruel to inflict on roommates and dormmates.

    Irish pipes (uilleann pipes – the kind from Riverdance and Titanic) don’t have those limitations – you get two octaves, they are quieter, you can play a more keys, you can shut off the drones. But they are difficult to play and maintain. Making reeds is more akin to alchemy than anything else. For any decent set, you have to wait for years to get it, and pay multiple thousands of dollars.

    #106499
    Jerusha Amado
    Participant

    John,

    Wow!

    #106500
    John McK
    Participant

    It’s a great instrument – the real reason I stopped playing is because the repertoire is limited. Also, the only real community for pipers is the band competition scene. I did that in high school. It was an amazingly good time, but I got burned out on driving 5 hours every weekend, roasting in a wool kilt on a 90″ day, and partying too much on Saturday night to feel good for the massed bands on Sunday morning. Nothing sucks quite like marching in a very loud parade when hungover.

    I happen to think there is a large overlap between pipes and harp. It’s well known that pibroch is a genre of music shared between both instruments.

    For Christmas, I received an album by Bill Taylor called “The Two Worlds of the Welsh Harp.” About half of it is music from the Ap Huw manuscript – the earliest source of harp-specific music we have. Those tracks on the album are very reminiscent of pipe music. Which makes sense – early harps have a very limited range with limited tuning opportunities.

    #106501
    shelby-m
    Participant

    Sylvia, when you said “homepage” were you talking about my blog? (I need to do some serious updating, by the way… lots of exciting music stuff is happening and I haven’t had time to post about it! argh!)
    I haven’t put my picture up because my family is very “private” so to speak, and my parents don’t like me putting pictures/videos of myself on the internet.

    #106502
    Sylvia
    Participant

    Wow.

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