Harp FAQ's

Frequently Asked Questions

We really hope that you’ve found our ‘Beginner’s Guide To Learning Harp’ series useful.  If you have suggestions to add to this Harp FAQs page, please feel free to contact us.  Oh, and don’t forget to Join our 4 Feature Friday list.

Harp FAQ's

Choosing An Instrument

How much does a beginner harp cost?

Let’s get this out of the way: a harp is expensive. The cheapest “good” ones can go for at least $900 (£700). That’s the lowest end that you can find if you want a respectable brand new harp for beginners. The most expensive can go for upwards of $70,000 (£50,000) 

Harps are expensive because, well, they’re hard to make and they require special tools to do so. The hardware for the harp alone (i.e. its levers and gears) are already expensive on their own and are the major contributors to its final price tag. Because of this, finding a very cheap harp is hard because they must have to cut corners in the making of it. We recommend always purchasing a beginner harp from a reputable retailer.

Where do I buy a harp?

Harps look expensive because they are, and that prestige may make you think that they’re hard to find. They aren’t. Well, sort of. It’s easier to find more mainstream instruments like the violin, but there are still many major music instrument retailers that do offer them. All you’ve got to do is Google a few places for a start and see whether they have harps in your price range. We recommend that you go into the store personally to see for yourself the harp you want to buy. It’s because judging a harp online means you can’t know for sure if it feels right in your hands.

Are there cheaper harps?

You can find one but you have to be a very, very smart buyer. When you search, be sure to read a lot of reviews because cheap harps have a rather bad reputation in the music community. Again, cheaper harps have to cut corners somewhere to bring the price down. You want to make sure that the harp at least sounds good and is durable, because who wants to have a beautiful instrument that sounds bad and is one bump away from being a pile of firewood on the floor? No one. And you would not want to be ripped off either. 

Should I buy or rent a harp?

Like almost any other instrument in a modern symphony orchestra, many teachers and music stores recommend that you rent your first harp. The main issue is losing interest and wanting to let go of the instrument. It’s easier to return a rental rather than sell a harp you just bought because frankly, the price is going to scare a lot of people off. Renting makes a lot more sense too because as a beginner, your playing will eventually improve and require a better-constructed harp. 

Maintenance

How do I clean a harp?

As you can see, the harp is pretty huge. Not as big as a double bass, but still huge. That means you will have quite a bit of work to do to clean it. 

Your harps’ biggest enemy is the buildup of oils and grime that can damage the instrument’s finish. You can prevent that by using clean cloths to wipe the instrument down. If you have a dedicated cleaning solution, all the better. Start in spots where the hands rest or touch the instrument, and where the knees touch the harp directly. You should also regularly dust the harp with clean cloths wherever dust might collect, including the sounding board and the neck. 

How do I transport my harp for a gig?

Nodding again to the harp’s size, you need a good technique to transport the instrument safely. Your foremost goal is to protect it from any sudden knocks or bumps. Do this by getting heavy-duty covers and draping them over the harp, to provide a certain level of cushioning for it. Be sure to move it carefully when placing it on your car. We strongly recommend that you lay where the mechanisms (i.e. levers, strings, etc) are facing up with no weight over them, and nothing below them that can push them outward. 

How much does restringing a harp cost?

Restringing per string costs at least $2.50 (£2), and you’ll need to leave your harp at the shop for at least three days for a complete restringing. We recommend that you replace the harp’s strings in the first and second octaves once every year. Leaving bad strings in these octaves are hugely detrimental to the instrument’s overall sound, and believe us when we say you will hear it. It’s not a pleasant sound. The most important thing is to replace the strings even if they don’t actually break if only to keep your harp sounding good without needing too many adjustments. 

How do I know when it’s time to replace my strings?

It might sound cliche but you’ll know it when you hear it, or by gut feel. As a musician, you likely have a good ear that will help you identify which strings are starting to sound bad. Always remember that some strings on your harp can last for a while, but there are others which will wear out faster. These are often the strings on either far end of the harp. Their short lengths tend to make them more vulnerable to wear and tear over time. On the other hand, you can afford to keep the thicker bass strings for a while longer, but they will still eventually lose a bit of their shine and sustain.

Technique

I really want to learn to play the harp, but I don't have musical talent. Can I do it?

Yes! Absolutely yes! Even if you think you’re completely tone-deaf, you can learn to play the harp. Anybody can. With the right amount of dedication, instruction, and practice, of course. Never let anyone tell you that you’re either too young, too old or too musically “inept” to learn. That’s the beauty of the harp: it doesn’t pick its learners. The most important thing is, if you really want it and if you know for a fact that you will enjoy playing it. Let the harp teacher take care of the musical instruction, and focus on the fun of playing beautiful music. 

Is the harp easy to play?

Relative to other stringed instruments, the harp is surprisingly easy to learn! Not a lot of people know that because the image of a harp alone is enough to intimidate them. All those strings on a beautifully crafted piece of wood do exude a sense of exclusivity, but that’s just it. The harp is quite easy to play because you don’t need to learn the fretting or bowing technique. All the notes are there just waiting for you to play them. And if you’re a pianist, you’ll find it very easy to learn the harp because the fingering techniques are mostly the same. You have the treble clef and bass clef, which we know you’re very familiar with as a pianist. 

Can I teach myself to play the harp?

Owing to how easy it is to learn (the harp is actually easier to learn than a guitar), you can definitely learn how to play the harp on your own. It’s not uncommon to find harp players, even those who already play in orchestras, who are completely self-taught. If hiring a harp teacher is out of the question, you can simply fire up YouTube and look up tutorials. You can even learn to play it by ear if you have good baseline musicality, to begin with! Overall, the harp is a very welcoming instrument to beginners, and once you start learning it, it can be hard to let go! 

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General Harp FAQs

What are the different sizes of a harp?

The two main harp types (lever and pedal harps) have different sizes. There are harps which are small enough to sit on an adult’s lap, or they can be actually bigger than a full-grown person standing up. 

What if I don’t know how to read sheet music?

Since sheet music is required for playing the harp, you can learn it while learning how to play the instrument at the same time. There are tons of resources online which teach the basics of reading sheet music, which would be a good way to start for beginners. You have a wide selection of video tutorials, for one, where you will see the concepts be applied in a real-life setting. These tutorials will often teach sight reading step by step, and it’s up to you to master them to a certain level so you can play the harp. 

How long does it take to learn the harp?

Getting started on the harp is quite easy. Within a few minutes, you can learn your first song on the harp. Something like “Happy Birthday” or “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” But achieving proficiency where you can improvise and read sheet music means you’ll have to commit to the instrument for about 3 years. Within that span of time, you’ll be good enough to sound like a cherub playing from the heavens. Because yes, the harp does sound that good. 

Where can I find a harp teacher?

It’s not hard to find a harp teacher if you know where to look. Be sure to look for ads online and if there are music schools around your area, you can definitely find a harp teacher there. While you can learn to play the harp on your own, we strongly recommend that you find a good teacher so you get a good grasp of the basics from the start. A great musical foundation will fast-track your learning and make you a proficient player in a few years. 

Harp FAQ
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