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Learning the harp
Buying or Renting
Exams
Booking a lesson

 

Learning the harp

The harp is a wonderful instrument to learn and gives a great deal of pleasure even during the early stages. No matter what level you are at, the harp sounds beautiful.

Liath accepts students of any age - it's never to late to start learning. There is no need for previous musical experience, though if you have it, learning will probably be easier. Parents of very young children should consider whether the child has the ability to concentrate for long enough to benefit from lessons and the physical co-ordination necessary to begin learning technique. As for adults, there is no upper age limit and many of Liath's students are retired people looking for an enjoyable and relaxing hobby.

Like any instrument, improvement requires practice and you should aim to put aside at least half an hour per day for this. Practice can be broken down into smaller chunks if preferred - and this is recommended during the early stages when students may suffer with sore fingers.

The harp is played with the finger pads, so nails need to be kept short. (Wire strung and Paraguyan harps are usually played with the fingernails, but these are completely different techniques requiring specialist teachers.)

Most students learn to read music and work from notation. Some students, especially traditional/folk musicians, prefer to learn aurally and Liath can teach that way if desired. However, learning to read from notation is a valuable skill for any musician and makes life much easier, particularly when playing at an advanced level.

Before beginning your lessons, you need to have a harp - although lessons are invaluable, students have to be able to practice at home.

Liath has a full CRB check.

 

Buying or Renting?

The downside to learning the harp is the expense of a new instrument. Be prepared to spend around £800 for a starter harp. For this reason, many students choose to rent a harp for the first few months. Most harp makers such as Pilgrim Harps and Telynau Teifi offer rental schemes and will discount some of the rental paid if the student decides to buy at the end of the rental period. Renting is an excellent way to discover whether the harp is for you for a minumum financial outlay.

If you are looking for a harp to buy, there are a few things to consider. If possible, buy an instrument with full levers (the levers sharpen each string by a semitone and the more advanced student will need the flexibility that this allows) and, if you think you might like to take exams, at least 34 strings.

Lap harps are the cheapest harps because they are the smallest and for this reason, are often chosen by beginners. Typically, look for a harp that has at least 22 strings so that you can play a good range of tunes. Depending on the size of the player, anything up to 26 strings can be played upon the knee. Lap harps are an excellent choice for the folk/traditional musician who wants to take the harp to pub sessions. However, lap harps are more difficult to play than floor standing harps, as the player has to find a way to balance the harp on the knee while playing. Look for harps such as the Camac 22 string that has a little tongue which helps to seat the harp on your lap.

Please avoid the 'rosewood' harps (typically Middle-Eastern made with carvings) that are offered on sites such as Ebay. The price is very attractive but is truly a false economy. Many of these harps are unplayable, untuneable and short-lived.

Buying second hand can be an excellent option and maximises what you can get for your money.

If buying online, do go to see the harp before committing to buy it. Ask whether the harp has been serviced recently and when the strings were last changed. (Ideally, a harp should have its strings changed once a year as they become dull with time). Check that all the levers work smoothly and that they are regulated properly. (i.e. that they produce a true semitone - easy to check with an electronic tuner). Look for cracks on the harp, particularly around any joins and on the soundboard. These can be repaired, but it can be a costly business. Lastly, check that it comes with a tuning key - or at least, that tuning keys are available for that model.

Do feel free to contact Liath for advice on buying a harp.

 

Exams

Liath can take students through the Associated Board harp examinations. It is now possible to play the lever harp up to Grade 8, meaning that these days, there is no need for students to buy the more expensive pedal harps in order to progress.

To take exams, your harp needs to have at least 34 strings and full levers.

There is no pressure on students to take exams and many choose not to, simply wanting to play for pleasure.

 

Booking A Lesson

Most students have lessons fortnightly, though you are welcome to have weekly lessons if you prefer. Liath is quite flexible regarding lesson arrangements, although lessons cancelled with less than a days notice must be paid for.

Liath provides lessons from her home in Beeston which is near to bus and rail links. It is preferable that students bring their own instrument along, though it's not a problem for those without cars or with disabilities to play Liath's harp. She can also travel to students within a ten mile radius. This is more expensive as travel and time costs must be factored in, and must be for a minimum of one hour to make the journey worthwhile.

Lesson prices (correct as of July 2011) as follows:

At Liath's home:

Half hour - £15
One hour - £30

At your home:

One hour - £40

 

To contact Liath, click to email
Telephone 0115 925 3737 / 0783 183 3310
www.traditionalharp.co.uk

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