So You've Always Wanted to Play the Harp? : Questions Answered for the Adult Student
Adult students often speak to me concerning the following subjects: their (often lack of) experience level, time commitment (how much to practice etc), cost of lessons and cost of harp rentals/harp purchasing.
I hope this post sheds a little light on these concerns.
Starting a new musical instrument can be daunting for anyone. This can be especially true if you have little to no past musical experience. I’m often asked by inquiring adult students on the difficulties of beginning the harp. Beginning a new musical instrument can be a challenge at any age. I find that the major difficulties don’t have to do with the students age as much as their particular time limitations, thus the amount of time they are able to devote to the practice and study of the instrument. My students range in age from six and up into their 70s.
Harp is an especially enticing instrument to start, as unlike most stringed instruments (the violin for instance) the harp sounds pleasant from the first pluck. It is an instrument with which simple beginning tunes can be plucked and sound lovely. The difficulty comes with learning the technique to become a competent and strong harp player. The harp position and technique is the basis of a strong harpist, and as such the study and learning of the hand position is at the forefront of every students progression.
Students do not need any prior musical experience before beginning lessons. As with anything, previously experience or familiarity with music will make the lessons easier in the beginning. However, experience is not necessary. Any student can learn how to properly play the harp, regardless of their age or experience with music. Each student progresses differently.
I’ve already spoken a bit on time commitment. Obviously, the more time you can commit to any new skill the better. With a greater time commitment, your level of harp playing will rise quicker than with those who have spent less time. By time commitment, I mean the regularity of lessons, as well as your own personal practice time. Ideally beginners should be receiving hour long weekly lesson, with their practice being 15-30 minutes a day. With this practice time increasing as their level increases. If this time cannot be regular, I ask my students to devote even 5 to ten minutes rather than not touching the harp at all that day. It is with regular steady practice throughout the week that beginners will see improvement. I’ve had many a student ( and yes been that student at times in my schooling) that have confessed to me during their lesson that they hadn’t practiced the week and only for an hour right before the lesson to catch up. The teacher always knows when this happens, whether the students have confessed or not!
The cost of lessons is dependent on a number of factors, including time, location etc. I personally teach at my home studio, as well as at a number of Music Schools throughout Rhode Island, and occasionally at students houses dependent of location.
The most common question is of course how much do harps cost. With any musical instrument, there is a higher cost with quality. Harps are a bit unique than most string instruments, where the student models are still costly. I recommend renting to my beginner students. As with any instrument, it is good to test out your level of determination and practice before you purchase. Another factor could be, that if you learn very quickly, you may outgrow the particular harp you would have purchased. The largest reason is of course cost. Typically lever harp rentals range from $40 to $80 per month. Which is similar to other instruments. There are rental locations in both Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Most rental programs are also rent to own. One such program that I recommend to my students is the Harp Connection located in Rowley, MA. Their website is http://www.harpconnection.com/.
Whatever your age or previous musical experience, learning the harp can be an enjoyable and beautiful experience. I hope this post has helped to answer some questions for any future harp students, and please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions.