Is the Harp Hard to Learn? And Other Questions for Beginners

What Harp Should I Start With?
What Harp Should I Start With?

Is the Harp Hard to Learn? And Other Questions for Beginners

Table of Contents

Most people have at least seen a harp, even if only in depictions of heavenly scenes.

Though people know the basics of harps, this instrument remains very much enshrouded in mystery.

Whether because of its daunting size or the way it is played, many people do not understand the harp or consider it a mainstream instrument.

Historians differ in their thoughts on the history of harps. Many believe this instrument has been around as long as bows and arrows. In fact, some historians believe the harp may have come about because hunters realized their strings made a musical note when they shot their arrows.

Difference Between Lever Harps and Pedal Harps

There are two main types of harps, and they include lever and pedal. Lever harps are the most popular because they are smaller and easier to play than pedal harps. Lever harps come in two sizes, which are lap and floor models.

A harp is played by plucking it with your fingers. Each string is plucked in order, to play a song. While it is plucked much like the guitar, playing chords involves plucking more than one string, rather than fretting.

Is The Harp Hard To Learn?

Is the Harp Hard to Learn? And Other Questions for Beginners

With its immense size, most people naturally assume the harp is difficult to play, but are they correct in this assumption? To most people’s shock, the harp is actually an easy instrument to learn to play.

Many people look at the harp and think it must be difficult to play, but that is not the case. You can play one-handed or two-handed. Those who have experience playing the piano are naturally going to be able to pick up two-handed play easily.

Guitar players will find the harp to be a fairly simple instrument to play because there is no hammering, fretting, or difficult hand positions to master. People can pick up a harp and begin to play a song in a matter of minutes, even if they have never had any sort of musical training.

Although the harp is not difficult to play, that does not make it overly easy. The harp is a difficult instrument to play at an orchestral level because of the demands placed on the musician.

Playing simple pieces is easy, but more complicated music requires a deep dedication to practicing.

Is the Harp Hard to Learn? And Other Questions for Beginners

How To Tune A Harp

Before getting started tuning a harp, you will need the following.

·  A rubber tuning key

·  An electronic tuner

·  A contact microphone

There are free smartphone tuning apps you can download, but these are not very reliable or accurate. It is best to use an electronic tuner.

Step By Step Instructions

1. Clip your contact microphone to the back of your harp and plug it into your electronic tuner.

2. Set your tuner to 440hz.

3. Start in the middle of the harp. Use your right hand to move the tuning key and your left hand to pluck the string.

4. Pluck the string and let it ring loudly. Depending on your tuner, you should get a green light that lets you know the string is in tune.

5. Adjust the string using the tuner key, being very careful. Move slowly and in small measures at a time, so as not to break your strings.

6. You will need to fine-tune each string until you get a green light.

It is important to note that harps are not tuned in C major. If you are playing a lever harp, it will be tuned in Eb major. Pedal harps are always tuned in Cb major.

If you are not musically inclined, it can seem a bit confusing attempting to tune a harp properly. Check out this video to give you a visual of how to tune your harp the right way.

How to Buy a Harp for Beginners

If you have never owned a harp or even played one, it can be intimidating trying to buy this beautiful instrument. Their sheer size alone makes them seem unapproachable for many. Consider the following when deciding on a harp purchase.

Type of Harp

As mentioned above, there are two types of harps. Knowing the difference between these two will allow you to make a sound decision.

Lever Harps

Lever harps are diatonic. As the name suggests, these harps have levers that raise each string by a semitone.

Pedal Harps

Pedal harps are chromatic. These instruments have seven pedals, which offers one for each note. Each pedal will raise a string by two semi-tones.

The best type of harp for beginners is the lever harp. Lever harps are smaller and more affordable, and they are perfectly suited for folk and some types of classical music.

Which Harp Should I Buy?

Is the Harp Hard to Learn? And Other Questions for Beginners celtic harp vs lyre

Although it is wise to start with the lever harp, that does not mean you cannot learn on the pedal harp. Most people start with the lever and progress to the pedal if they plan on playing advanced classical harp music.

Number of Strings

Harps have varying numbers of strings. Typically, you will find lever harps have 22 to 36 strings, while pedal harps have 47 strings.

The number of strings a harp has will determine the range of notes that are available to play. If you are looking for an ideal number of strings, it would be around 34. You need at least 34 strings to play most harp music.

Sizes of Harps

Harps range in size. They can be as small as one that fits on your lap or as massive as those seen in large orchestras. Many people mistakenly believe playing a small harp will be easier than a large one, but this is not necessarily correct. Many have found the smaller harps are more difficult, especially for beginners.

Types of Strings

Another consideration when purchasing a harp is the strings. There are three types of strings you will find on harps.

  • Nylon Harp Strings

Nylon strings are the most common and also the least expensive. You will find they produce a bright sound and are more durable than some other types of strings.

  • Gut Strings

Gut strings are most commonly used on pedal harps. They produce a beautiful, warm sound. Because they are more vulnerable, gut strings can end up breaking when exposed to high humidity and temperature changes.

  • Carbon-Fibre

If you truly want the brightest sound possible, choose carbon-fiber strings. These are the most durable harp strings you can purchase, but they are also the most expensive.

Harp Vs. Lyre: What Is the Difference?

Is the Harp Hard to Learn? And Other Questions for Beginners celtic harp vs lyre

A lot of people get the lyre and harp confused. Although there are definite similarities, there are also some differences that allow you to tell these two instruments apart.

Although the lyre and harp look alike in some regards, there is a fundamental difference between the two. With a harp, the strings enter through the hollow body of the instrument and are held in place.

With a lyre, the strings go over the bridge, which then transmits the sounds to the body of the instrument.

Another difference between the two instruments is size. Typically, lyres are much smaller and are carried in the musician’s hands, whereas the harp sits in the lap or on the ground.

Is the Celtic Harp Hard to Play?

Is the Harp Hard to Learn? And Other Questions for Beginners Celtic harp

The Celtic harp is triangular in shape. This harp is sometimes referred to as a folk harp, lever harp, and Irish harp.

This instrument is not overly difficult to play. Because of its immense size and number of strings, people often shy away from learning the harp.

It is easy to learn a couple of chords and play beautifully within a short time. Though it is important to mention again, advanced orchestral harp music requires a bit of a learning curve.

Unless you plan on playing in an orchestral production, you should not sweat too much over learning how to play the Celtic harp. To learn to play the harp, begin watching trusted videos and find yourself a wise and patient teacher who can guide you.

Conclusion – Harp For Beginners

Now, you know more about the harp than ever before. This instrument seems to transcend time and remains one of the most beautiful instruments in the world. The sound it produces is reminiscent of an angelic choir.

If you have always wanted to learn to play the harp, you should now realize it is not a daunting instrument to approach. 

Research your options and use the information you have learned here, to make the best choice. With a new harp, a tuner, and a tuning key, you can begin to make beautiful music.

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