A Little Heaven in Your Home: Is Learning to Play Harp Right for You?

Elizabeth Harp

By Elizabeth Thomas 

Hi there! My name is Elizabeth Thomas and I am a fairly new teacher with AWSOM and extremely new to blogging (as in, this is my very first blog post), but I am no stranger to the world of music and have a huge passion for teaching and performing harp, piano, and voice. You probably just read that sentence and paused at "harp". Most people are surprised and intrigued when I tell them I am a harpist. Perhaps you have some questions about this elegant instrument. So I am dedicating this post to answering the most frequently asked questions about the harp and my experience as a harpist.

1) How did you learn to play the harp?

I was first exposed to the harp at the tender age of 4. My preschool invited a harpist to perform for a special event and my seat was in the very front row. I was instantly mesmerized by the gorgeous sound of the instrument and admired how deftly the harpist could play. Naturally, the second I got home I asked my parents if I could learn to play the magical instrument. They enrolled me in piano lessons first when I was six and about a year later signed me up for weekly private harp lessons once I had mastered basic music theory and was big enough to reach the strings! 

2) How expensive are they?

This is a very common question since harps are intricate, showy instruments. Please, don't let the cost intimidate you away from learning because there is a very affordable option- renting! I began by renting a small lever harp from the local acoustic instrument retailer Dusty Strings for a couple of years until my family decided to purchase one. Renting only costs in the range of $35 to $70 a month and several months of rent can apply to the purchase of a new instrument if you do choose to buy later on. Such a deal!

3) How many strings does it have?

I recommend that beginner students learn on smaller lever harps because they are manageable to play and easy to transport. Lever harps typically have between 26 and 36 strings. Large concert grand harps (the ones you see in orchestras) have 47 strings. 

4) Is the harp hard to learn?

Like any other instrument, the harp requires consistent, dedicated practice. You must be disciplined to progress. Is it worth it? Absolutely. Best part about learning to play harp specifically is that it is a very forgiving instrument and sounds gorgeous right away, even when you are just starting to play. One thing to keep in mind is that harp is very similar to the piano- if you have any background in playing piano or reading piano music, harp will be much easier to pick up. 

5) What sort of music can you play on the harp?

The sky is the limit! Seriously. The harp is an incredibly versatile instrument. You can play styles as diverse as Classical, Pop, Celtic, Hymns, Jazz, Latin, Broadway show tunes, movie themes, Christmas carols, and even Hawaiian music. This is one of the things I absolutely love about the harp- you can express yourself musically in so many different ways!