Most frequent questions and answers
Yes and no. The harp is instantly gratifying because as soon as you touch the strings it makes a beautiful sound (as long as it’s in tune). In a way it plays itself, as its vibration carries after the strings are played and even the wind blowing through the strings will create a beautiful sound. However, the correct technique takes time to develop and the approach to playing skilfully and mindfully requires patience.
Harps are tuned depending on if they have levers or pedals. A pedal harp has 7 pedals which each manipulate a note of the scale. ABCDEFG. The pedal can be moved into 3 positions to move the note to either a natural, a sharp or a flat. For example if all the pedals are in the top notch the note will be a flat ie Cb. If the same pedal is moved into the middle notch the note will now be a C and when it is moved to the lowest notch the note is a C#. This kind of harp is tuned with all the pedals set in the top notch so no pressure from the pins is felt by the strings when tuning. The harp is therefore tuned to Cb major where all the notes of the scale are flats. Lever harps are different as they have semitone levers to allow for only two positions a semitone apart. Fully levered harps are generally tuned to Eb Major with all the levers released from the strings. The tuning of this harp is therefore AbBbCDEb. This on figuration allows for the most diversity in scale keys allowing for up to 4 sharps and 3 flats. With this configuration you can achieve C D E F G A Bb major and C D E F G A B minor. It is important that the harp player learns to tune the harp as it will need regular tuning. This can be done using an electronic tuning device or phone app.
It is similar in that the music looks very much the same and you generally use your left hand for the lower notes and right hand for the higher notes but the harpist only uses 3 fingers and a thumb whereas pianists use 4 fingers and thumb in each hand. The harp is unique due to the set up of the notes where the strings are tuned diatonically which means the scale is set by either the pedals or the levers whereas the piano has white keys and black keys giving the player access to every note – natural, sharp and flat. This set up can make harp easier in some ways when you are playing a piece or improvising in one key as you only have the notes of that key available to you. However it becomes difficult if you need to play outside that key in the case of an accidental note or a complete modulation to a different key. Another notable differences between the two instruments are that with harp, the fingers are directly on the strings which may produce buzzing or placing sounds. It takes time and concentration to avoid these sounds occurring whereas the piano manages its own string manipulation mechanically. This can make harp technique more challenging when trying to produce a pure and clean tone.
I can show you how to achieve a competent and beautiful sound very quickly with a simple two note chord. However being good is completely in the eye of the beholder and your own idea of what is good is also dependent on your desire to continue to improve. After almost 30 years I am still following a path to attain personal goals with performance. I can help you to choose music that you love to hear and that is easy enough so that you will enjoy your practice. I will give you tools to help you be a relaxed player and performer. You will learn specific techniques for getting the best out of your practice time and how to overcome difficulties in both physical and mental blocks.
No you don’t. There are many approaches to music and expression and I am comfortable being guided by what your goals are and the experience you hope to have in this journey. If what you want to achieve means learning to read music or learn some music theory then we will take this as it comes along. But using your ears and your heart with regards to music is most valuable in my opinion. A relationship with the harp and the sound you can create can be very healing and become an amazing lifestyle bringing mindfulness and awareness previously not realised. This can all be experienced outside of the “method” and exam pathway of learning.
How much practice you do is dependent on how quickly you want to reach certain goals. If you struggle with motivation you might want to try very short bursts of practice and build up to longer sessions just like you would with physical activity. Generally I would say however long your lesson is you should replicate that every day with one day off perhaps before your next lesson and you will see great improvement.
The technique that I teach requires the nails be short as the string is played on the finger tips. There are other techniques such as Paraguayan and some Early music techniques which uses the nails which I could assist with but I am not experienced with this method of playing.
I can give you advice on both and I can often offer rental harps to get you started. It is often a good idea to rent a harp (link to rent a harp on my website) for a short while to see if you are really keen as harps can be expensive. Also it might give you a bit more insight into what kind of harp will suit you best. There are some great local harp makers which I recommend and also imported brands which can be sourced through local dealers.
Yes I have been teaching online for many years. Having grown up in regional areas I often didn’t have access to a teacher so I am very keen to facilitate students who don’t have harp teachers nearby or are particularly interested in what I teach. I was an early adopter of Zoom and taught all of my classes through zoom during 2020.
I charge $40 per half hour $60 per 45 minutes and $80 per hour as per the national guidelines for individual music instruction. Fees can be paid for the term in advance or half term or at a casual rate.
I am currently teaching from Wednesday to Friday from 9 – 7:30. Bookings can be made on Saturdays by prior arrangement but this day is kept free generally due to performance bookings.