Q. How many kinds of harps are there and what is the difference?
A. In western harp tradition, we have the celtic/lever/folk harp and the pedal/grand harp. The lever harps use levers to sharpen the pitch of the string – for example, flipping the lever on an A-string upwards would change the pitch of the string from A to A#. Pedal harps use pedals which you move with your feet, keeping you hands free to play the strings. This is the harp that you see in orchestras.
Q. Should I learn the lever harp or the pedal harp?
A. As the lever harp is much smaller, it is suitable for younger children whose feet cannot yet reach the pedals of the pedal harp. Many harpists begin on the lever harp, and then progress on to the pedal harp. If you intend to learn the pedal harp eventually and can afford it, starting with the pedal harp directly would save you the transition. The major gems of classical harp repertoire require a pedal harp*. That said, the folk harp has a music tradition all its own.
*Note: Before you purchase a pedal harp, I highly suggest you consult a good harp teacher you trust.
Q. Do harpists use their pinkie fingers?
A. No. 3 fingers and the thumb only!
Q. I play the guitar so I want to keep my fingernails long. Can I still play the harp?
A. The choice is yours, but you will improve a lot faster if you clip your nails, not to mention sound better from the start!
Q. Do I need to have a harp of my own to take lessons?
A. Yes! Every student needs to have their own harp in order to practice. If you have regular access to the harp, that is fine as well.
Q. Is the harp difficult to learn? It seems so intimidating?
A. No 🙂 Playing it is lovely and rewarding as long as you are patient with yourself and willing to spend time practicing. Try it and see!