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What Are the Best Tips for Playing the Harp?

Alex Paul
Alex Paul

There are a number of tips that can make it easier to play the harp. Understanding how to tune the harp, which isn’t as straightforward as with other instruments, is an important first step. Practicing effectively and warming up to avoid injury also is essential. Learning about how music is constructed, by studying the subject of music theory, is recommended for people who want to get the most out of playing a harp.

The first task for any harpist is to learn how to tune the instrument. While this isn’t a tip for playing the harp itself, an out-of-tune instrument won’t sound as good and can lead to frustration. Tuning a harp requires an electric tuner and a microphone clip for attaching the tuner to the instrument, along with an understanding of how the instrument functions.

Man playing a guitar
Man playing a guitar

Learning how to practice a piece of music effectively also is essential for playing the harp. If there is a certain bar of music that a student finds difficult, then taking the time to go over this section — possibly at a slower tempo — can help him or her master it. Beginning harpists often have problems with timing, so a student may want to practice clapping along to the rhythm of a piece of music before attempting to play it on the harp.

Playing the harp can be very stressful on the muscles and joints of the hand. For this reason, it’s important to warm up and stretch before playing a difficult piece of music. There are a number of stretches for the hand that help maintain and improve flexibility. These include the palm stretch, in which the fingers are placed on a solid surface and wrist bent upward, and the web stretch, in which an object is placed between the fingers to stretch the small muscles between them. Warm-up exercises, which should be simple yet sufficient to warm up the hand muscles, should be performed before each practice session.

One of the best tips for playing the harp is to become a student of music theory. It is possible to play the harp by reading music without learning anything about music theory. Playing any instrument, however, becomes much more meaningful and enjoyable with an understanding of how and why music is written in a certain way. Understanding music theory also allows a harpist to improvise more effectively. Some of the most important parts of music theory for a harpist include chords, chord shapes and scales.

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Discussion Comments


Delightful post on the Harp. As you have said many beginners tend to choose music outside of their skill level, this impedes their learning as they are trying to run before they can walk. It’s important that a musician learns their repertoire and understands what music they should start with, especially with the harp being a difficult and unusual instrument.

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