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Help: harp for beginners

08 Aug 02 - 09:13 AM (#761839)
Subject: Help: harp for beginners
From: GUEST,gelfling

i do hope some of you wonderful people out there can help me.
A few weeks ago i sort of stumbled into buying a second-hand harp (these things happen) :)
Its a clarsach, 30 strings i think

Now i'd love to learn to play, but im not really sure where to start
i am musically literate - I have been playing the guitar and singing for years -
but the harp is a whole new adventure....

can anyone recommend any good tutorial books, preferably not too expensive
or books of simple music?
i would like to learn to play simple and pretty celtic style pieces,
and also accompany my ballad singing...
i also need to buy a couple of strings, but no-where seems to stock them

any suggestions would be greatly appreciated, thanks

08 Aug 02 - 09:48 AM (#761861)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: Pied Piper

Hi Gelfling. I have a Bardic Harp (uses guitar strings) which I built from a kit. It makes a wonderful sound, and I use it mostly to improvise. I did learn a couple of tunes but I found it very time consuming. Playing chords to accompany yourself isn't too hard. If you're based in the UK Hobgoblin might help with strings, and the music shops here in Manchester have a few teach yourself Celtic harp books. Smoke me a kipper I'll be back for breakfast. PP

08 Aug 02 - 10:08 AM (#761869)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: gelfling

i am in newcastle (england)...
theres a couple of shops here i thought would be able to help,
but nothing in stock.
i checked out the hobgoblin stall at cambridge, but i guess they dont carry everything with them..
wonder if i could use guitar strings..

all my other lives, musical and otherwise, would protest if i dedicated too much time to this interloper
(which is my way of saying, i have just found a use for the two minutes per week that were set aside for sleep)
but the harp sounds gorgeous with so little effort.... :)

08 Aug 02 - 10:11 AM (#761871)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: CharlieA

Try looking on line - i found that Hobgoblin Music was the best price if you bought a set but they don't do individual strings. Pilgrim harps are quite good for individual strings but i figured that well - the strings were gona break at some time or other si i might as well by a whole set!


(another proud owner of a new harp)

08 Aug 02 - 10:15 AM (#761873)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: CharlieA

oh and hobgoblin do mail order.


08 Aug 02 - 10:17 AM (#761874)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: GUEST,guest

"Teach yourself to play the folk harp" by Sylvia Woods

08 Aug 02 - 10:17 AM (#761876)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: gelfling

it occurs to me i could accidentally offend serious harpists here...
dont worry, i know there is real work involved! :)

08 Aug 02 - 03:30 PM (#762047)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: GUEST,Mollywog

I'm with "Guest". The Sylvia Woods book is a great place to start. The nice thing about Woods' books is that there's a whole multimedia experience available...the "Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp" book can be used on its own, or you can get the accompanying tape or cd (or even a video!) that goes through all the lessons and tunes in the book.

My other favorite book, and especially recommended if your harp is a "clarsach" and you're into the Scottish style, is Alison Kinnaird's book "The Small Harp". It comes with an accompanying CD, and I really like both the exercises and the simple tunes and song arrangements in it.

It's geared for the absolute beginner--has a section on tuning, etc. Actually, it's specifically meant to be usable for small lap harps, but I find it very easy to use on my 32-string as well. (Adapting for a larger size is rarely a problem!)

Another good book that has a great range of songs is "Exploring the Folk Harp," by Janna and McCall Geller. It's published by Mel Bay. It has a short section on the basics...tuning, hand position, reading music, yadda yadda...and then dives right into the music, and it has simple arrangements ranging from old traditional ballads to even a few classical and baroque pieces.

I could go on for hours *grin* I should admit that I work in a music store and sell harps and harp books for a living, so I tend to fall into "customer service" mode whenever I encounter a question like this. ;) Hope it helps.

About strings...hmmm, that could be tricky if you don't know the background of your harp (believe me, I speak from personal experience *sigh*). Are you in the US or the UK? If you're in the U.S., I would recommend looking up Robinson's Harp Shop in California. They make custom string sets for any harp; all you have to do is call them up, give them the note and measured vibrating length of each string, and they'll make you up a set. I would imagine there's someone in the UK who can provide that service, but I'm not really sure who that would be. Any UK 'catter harpists have any insights?

Ok, enough outta me...


08 Aug 02 - 09:39 PM (#762244)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: Rt Revd Sir jOhn from Hull

try sending a PM to harpmaker, he is in Hull, UK, so should be able to give you sume good advice.

08 Aug 02 - 09:55 PM (#762250)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: michaelr

Gelfling, don't worry overmuch about offending by being a novice -- everyone here was one once!

But be sure to call harpers harpers -- a harpist plays classical style.

Welcome to the `Cat,

08 Aug 02 - 11:40 PM (#762291)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: Gypsy

Lark in the Morning should be able to help you.........both Mickey and Beth play the harp. And you can look at pictures to get an idea as to what you have. Laurie Riley's video tapes are quite helpful, too.

08 Aug 02 - 11:58 PM (#762302)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: Sorcha

Does Ann Heyman have any instructional materials? She plays triple strung (wire)Welsh harp and it just fascinates me. I'll never have one or learn to play it, I would just like to see how it's done.

09 Aug 02 - 12:16 AM (#762310)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: Sorcha

Oh myyy, check out the photos and info on this page. On the Wire Strung page there is a repro of the Trinity harp that is incredible!

09 Aug 02 - 04:58 AM (#762419)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: Dave Bryant

St Peter will find you a good teacher when you get to the Pearly Gates !

According to Gracie Field harps don't go down too well at parties!.

Will the angels play their harps for me ?

10 Aug 02 - 02:45 AM (#762899)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: Helen

Hi gelfling, and other harpers and harp-lovers,

I've been trying to get into this thread for a couple of days but the gremlins were stopping me.

Looks like you have some good advice so far.

Is it a wire-strung or a nylon (or gut) strung harp? That narrows down the field a bit for suppliers. I get my nylon strings on mail order - one or many, as required - from Markwood Strings

They do a string analysis which identifies the best gauge and composition for your harp, and then supply the strings. If you need nylon strings I can recommend Markwood over Robinsons, in my humble opinion. The Markwood have an easier feel to them - less tension and more sound quality.

Anyway, the bad news is that you have already been struck by the harp-lust virus and there is no known cure. You are hooked for life now - 2 minutes of sleep sacrificed here, 2 minutes there, an interloper harp, 2 interloper harps - the results can be catastrophic.

Helen in Newcastle, Oz

10 Aug 02 - 03:13 AM (#762904)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: greg stephens

Sonny Terry was always my favourite. Oops, I think the world has changed since then.

10 Aug 02 - 11:59 AM (#763029)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: Peter K (Fionn)

Just a little, Greg. What about Marcus Music - from memory I think he's in or close to Wales, maybe Newport. Not sure, I only see him at the festivals. Anyway, he makes harps and could fix you up with whatever strings you need. (Also makes concertinas, but no-one's perfect.)

If you don't get sorted nearer home, I'll find his number, or maybe someone else who calls by here will have it.

13 Aug 02 - 01:20 AM (#764201)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: George Seto -

TWo names I can think of for you to look at.

Alison Kinnard - One of her books is the Harp Key

Heyman, Ann (American, b. Minneapolis, 1951) She became interested in Irish and Scottich traditional music and culture through a wire strung Gaelic harp she discovered. After years of study, she has become a master harpist and teacher. Her book, "Secrets of the Gaelic Harp" is the Bible of Gaelic harpists. She holds master classes all around the world and has served on the faculties of the Edinburgh Harp Festival, the World Harp Festival and the Oberlin College Scottish Harp School, among others, in the techniques of the wire-strung Gaelic harp she has re-discovered. Queen of Harps, #113, #233, Temple Records CD 2057 Ex Te Lux Oritur, #207, Temple Records CD 2057 Sir Thomas Brook's Pavane, #233, #372, above Lord Sheffield's Pavane, #233, #372, above The First Irish Jig, #261, above Holyrood Measure, #261, above Hawk of Ballyshannon, #261, above Temple Hill Reel, #261, above Lament for the Harp, #332, above

31 Aug 02 - 02:08 PM (#774882)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: GUEST,gelfling

sorry to drag the thread back up but : -
you must all think i am terribly ungrateful not replying
which is odd because i swear i did send some words of thanks
the machine must have eaten them....

so, thanks anyway....

31 Aug 02 - 02:28 PM (#774888)
Subject: RE: Help: harp for beginners
From: George Seto -

Oh, you're quite welcome, Gelfling.