To Thread - Forum Home

The Mudcat Café TM
https://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=37398
22 messages

Help: fell in love with a harp

05 Aug 01 - 03:48 AM (#521255)
Subject: fell in love with a harp
From: savindwales

dear persons, i looked in an insturment catalog and fell in love with an irish harp. i am and will always be a lap dulcimer player but, it just happened. something i didn't know about or think of. never laid a hand on her (it?). (sublimated sexuality? i am 49 years) perhaps, i may be thus. i fell deeply. gentle persons ? if you would. tell me how and where to learn to play. the lass comes with a Mel Bay book for beginners. i think i will need to learn more. i thank you for your time. perhaps i shall romance properly at last. tomas


05 Aug 01 - 04:03 AM (#521262)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: savindwales

perhaps i am too enthusiastic. the harp is made from mahogony and rosewood with things like "pitchtuners". what the heck are they ? i am just ready. tomas


05 Aug 01 - 08:02 AM (#521300)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: katlaughing

Ah, I envy you, Tomas. I just took up lap dulcimer this year and I love it, very muhc, BUT I KNOW I want an Irish harp, someday (when I can afford it!), too.

I am sure someone will come along with some good advice for you. Alison in Oz plays harp beautifully, for one.

Congratulations!

kat


05 Aug 01 - 09:51 AM (#521317)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: black walnut

Congratulations! May this be a long term relationship!

I play both fretted dulcimer and celtic harp. I strongly suggest finding a good teacher. (A celtic harp teacher as opposed to a classical harp teacher. Or one who does both.) Books can only take you so far....often into a land of bad habits and frustration. Books can't help you with your own personal hand position and sound. And books can't marvel at you when you learn something new on the harp, but a teacher can. (Your friends and family won't get so excited, believe me....)

One of my biggest thrills is having learned how to play harp by ear. With the right teacher, in less that a year, I was able to play over 30 pieces with a viola player at a wedding.

Well, that's my wee opinion. No, it's my strong opinion. There are books out there. But I say, get yourself a good teacher.

~black walnut
(my harp and my dulcimer are both made from black walnut)


05 Aug 01 - 09:58 AM (#521322)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: GUEST,guest

Sylvia Woods'book "Teach yourself to play the folk harp" would be a good place to start-- If I remember correctly, there is a companion album-- or at least an album that some of the arrangements in that book are taken.Also, there is a harp shop owned by Betty Truitt--dargonwhispers--(check out your favorite search engine) she probably has much up-to-date beginning harp instruction.Folk harps(without sharping levers) are tuned diatonic--so many of the lap dulcimer tunes will be easily converted to folk harp.It should be an easy transisition.As to what you are calling"pitchtuners" I suspect that's what's commonly called the "sharpening lever"--enabling the player to raise the pitch on an individual string 1/2 a tone,making the diatonic folk harp a chromatic instrument--making you able to play in most every key--at least enlarging it's capabilities. Most folk harps are adaptable to sharpening levers,--but just as I'm sure you know, there are many tunes that can be played with a diatonic scale.


05 Aug 01 - 12:27 PM (#521401)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: DonMeixner

I was looking at some harps made by a very talented Canadian harp builder at the Sterling RennFaire this past weekend. He strongly suggested that if someone considers starting on a harp that the smaller bardic harps aren't the tool to begin with. At first blush this may sound like marketing but consider this. A harp with a fuller scale gives you physically easier strings to play by virtue of their length. Longer equals less tension. Having a fuller scale give you more strings to go to. That means you won't be missing a vital note at the bottom of a song and there by the fuller harp is less frustrating. After I chewed on that awhile I had to agree with him.

Don


05 Aug 01 - 02:55 PM (#521459)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: katlaughing

That's what I found with the plucked psaltery, too, Don. I bought a small one for starters and was frustrated at the limitations. Now, I have a larger one and get a full two octaves on it. I can see how that would be the case with harps, too, now that you point it out.

kat


05 Aug 01 - 03:03 PM (#521463)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: sian, west wales

Sorry ... where are you located?

sian


05 Aug 01 - 03:47 PM (#521480)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: GUEST,leeneia

Now, Tomas. Have you actually ordered this harp or not? If you haven't, then you need to locate someone with a harp and ask them to let you try it. You could find that you don't like playing the harp at all - that you don't like the feel or the fact that the strings are vertical rather than horizontal as in the dulcimer.

However, if you have it and like it, then the people who tell you to get a teacher are right.

I learned this stuff by trying harp every day for a week under a good teacher. I learned that it is just not my instrument. I also learned that Sylvia Woods' books are held in low esteem. Our teacher said that her fingerings are illogical and that she doesn't finger the same notes the same way two times in a row. Having heard my teacher's incredible playing and having seen the way she got other students going, I believe she knows what she is talking about.

Sylvia Woods books are nice to have for the pieces in them, especially because you can get together and play with friends. But I wouldn't use them for technique.


05 Aug 01 - 07:21 PM (#521594)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: Helen

Hi savindwales,

I agree with everything said here, including getting at least 28 strings to allow for accompaniment of melodies - my 34 string is a good size to learn on. I basically have taught myself to play the harp but I regret not having a teacher, because now I realise I have gone the long way around to get to a level of playing which is still only very basic.

There were no teachers here when I first started in 1980, and there are no folk harp teachers here now, although I did have some lessons for a while, about 10 years ago. I didn't practise at all, so I wasted the lessons in one sense, but I stored the information up for later reference when I started to understand the process more.

Now, if I could find a teacher I would be really happy.

Getting the right hand positions, and using the most effective finger-placement makes a lot of difference, and getting into the right habits from the start is really important, so that you don't have to break bad habits and relearn good ones. It is all to do with getting the best sound out of the harp, and making it easier to play and memorise tunes in a logical way.

There is an e-mail based
harplist

http://www.onelist.com/subscribe/harplist

It is a wonderful international community, much like Mudcat, and a great place to ask questions and meet up (cyberly speaking, and in the real world) with other harp players.

I agree with leeneia too, that it would help to try out a harp, but it also helps to try out lots of harps before you buy one so that you can hear the difference and find one that you really like. There is a lot of variation between them, and the way they are constructed is important.

Ask around and find one which other harp players recommend, and definitely don't fall for the ones built by those type of amateurs *who haven't done their homework* (although some amateurs do do it right). Some people look at a harp and say "I can build one of those" but they don't understand 1) the dyanmics of the harmonic curve, i.e. the best string lengths and gauges to get the best sound, and 2) that there is a huge amount of pressure on a tiny wooden construction, so the harp has to be able to withstand that pressure properly.

So, what I am saying is to try to resist this condition you have contracted, which is commonly referred to as "harplust", so that you can buy once and get the right one. It's a big expense and it is better to get a good one to start with than one you want to get rid of later. Also check out the harp kits, available in various stages of completion, from the plans only, right up to the constructed but not lacquered stage.

I am really happy with the Cambria 34 string which an instrument maker friend of mine made from plans. The design is based around the best string lengths and gauges.

Cambria harps

http://members.aol.com/harpkits/cambria.htm

Helen (in Oz)


05 Aug 01 - 07:53 PM (#521602)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: black walnut

I rented a harp while I looked around quite a bit for the right one to buy. I'm very happy with the one I got, but I'm always lusting for a bigger one, a smaller one, a prettier one, a lighter one, a louder one, a self-tuning one....

~b.w.


06 Aug 01 - 01:33 AM (#521700)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: Helen

Yes, same here - you can never have enough harps, but you never have enough $$$ to get them all.

Helen


06 Aug 01 - 03:14 AM (#521708)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: GUEST,White Dove

We have a brilliant Harp Maker in Hull...uk. Check out Dolphin Harps on the net. He makes full size and lap harps.


06 Aug 01 - 08:05 AM (#521772)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: Susan of DT

Sylvia Woods Harp Center sells all sorts of harp stuff - instructional books, CDs, harps, and related stuff. There is a website as well.


06 Aug 01 - 09:19 AM (#521800)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: haprzombie

You have come to the harp late, as have I, but it is very forgiving :-). My main instrument was flute...I say was because only things with strings will do now.... If you visit my website you will find lots of harp info. http://clix.to/harpzombie Good Luck on your Journey


06 Aug 01 - 08:38 PM (#522270)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: alison

how many strings?

mine is a little one (17 string lap harp)... and I love it..... BUT.... I WANT a bigger one...

the little one is great for playing melodies, (I have just over 2 octaves)... but I would love to have the really resonnant bass strings...

I found it very easy to teach myself to play the harp...... I think I got the Mel Bay book after a while, and if I remember rightly there were a few mistakes in it (some of the chords were wrong type of thing)....

I would see if there are any harp makers in your area.. because they often rent out harps.. so you could "try before you buy".....

slainte

alison


07 Aug 01 - 08:21 AM (#522479)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: black walnut

My harp is a 36 string Josephus. Sometimes I wish I had a smaller one that I could carry around more easily (although mine is just over 20 lbs - long but quite light, actually) : Sometimes I wish I had a bigger one with about 6 more of those resonant bass strings. But I can't complain....I have a beautiful harp that was had at a beautiful price and it fits beautifully (in its beautiful aubergine soft case with shoulder strap) into the back seat of just about any car. There are SO many things to consider when buying a harp...

There are also some important things to consider when looking for a teacher. Do you eventually want to play your own arrangements, or always play someone else's arrangements out a book? Some teachers will only teach from a book, some only by ear, some both ways. Are you yearning to play a grand pedal harp, or are you craving someone who can teach you the intimacies of a levered harp? Do you want a drill sergeant, or someone who will encourage and support you through the tough times? Do you want someone who insists on weekly lessons, or someone with a flexible schedule? Hint: Don't try to skimp on lesson money....you usually gets what you pays for.

~b.w.


07 Aug 01 - 12:53 PM (#522657)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: GUEST,leeneia

Well, everybody, have you noticed that the person who posted the first message in this thread has apparently never come back? Never said thanks, probably never read the responses to his question? Why do people do that?


07 Aug 01 - 01:41 PM (#522697)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: black walnut

It happens over and over again....but it's worth keeping a thread going if there's passion in the subject matter, oui?

~b.w.


07 Aug 01 - 07:24 PM (#523013)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: Helen

leeneia,

savindwales may have been back to read the messages, but not posted any replies yet. Hard to tell.

black walnut,

Finally, after 20 years, I managed to buy a smaller harp (the 28 strings) to take with me so that I can leave the 34 string at home unless I am playing at a wedding where I need more leeway for bass chords.

Helen


07 Aug 01 - 07:30 PM (#523020)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: Sorcha

I just wish I could play the one I have "mo betta". 29 string; slightly too big for lap, slightly too small for floor. And she is out of tune again.


07 Aug 01 - 08:47 PM (#523083)
Subject: RE: Help: fell in love with a harp
From: black walnut

I saw one once that could fit into a suitcase. Now, that seems practical...

~b.w.