One of our goals as an organization is to promote interest in playing harp among the general population. We want to turn those that are casually interested into active harp students by answering questions, and removing potential “first step” barriers to your musical journey.
Is harp at all attainable for you? The answer is:
Yes, YOU TOO can play harp!
Our main outreach efforts are through our local Scottish harp competition which is hosted in a public space, and free to observe. This year, we are exhibiting at the Minnesota Scottish Fair, which attracts an average of 2800 attendees a year. If you live in Minnesota or Wisconsin, or attended the fair and requested general information on the harp, welcome! I wrote this piece just for you!
If you came from an internet search, welcome still! You will still find useful information here to get you started, but it does gear toward resources available in Minneapolis, St.Paul, and the greater Minnesota area.
Here are the questions I hear most:
1. Is the harp hard to learn?
Yes and no. It’s a tough question to answer.
I often compare the difficulty level to that of the piano. They are similar; you will be playing both melody and harmony together with two hands, all while reading sheet music. It’s certainly no small feat to coordinate all of that at once.
Other instruments, like a ukulele or tin whistle, might be perceived as “easier”, but it’s still an instrument that you can (and people do) reach a professional level on. Harp is no different. You can quickly pick up the basics to accompany yourself in song, or dig deep into complicated and technical pieces. I will say this for sure: harp is definitely harder than playing the triangle or cowbell. Ha!
How fast or slow you learn depends on how much music background you have, and how much time you have to practice. If the harp is your first instrument, it will take longer to learn. Remember, you’re not only trying to learn the mechanics of an instrument, but you are also trying to learn a whole language that goes along with it, so be kind to yourself and patient with your progress.
I like to tell people that the harp is a forgiving instrument for beginners because it always sounds beautiful no matter what you do. Instruments like violin or clarinet usually require the learner to get through some fairly intense sounds before mananging to make something beautiful. Not so with the harp—instant beauty.
Finally, I often say that “the harp is easy to learn, but hard to master.” If you’re in it for the long haul, you have a lot of room for growth on your musical journey.
2. Is the harp expensive?
Again, yes and no.
Sure, harps are notorious for being expensive, but this is not always the case. There are harps for sale as little as $300, but prices can go all the way to a whopping $189,000! Somewhere in-between is a harp that is just right for you.
What’s the right harp for you? I’ve written a fairly extensive buyer’s guide on harps, and you can find it here: Buying a Harp : The Ultimate Guide.
3. Where do I get a harp?
Since this is focused on buying a harp in Minnesota, here are your top candiates:
- MusicMakers in Stillwater
- Groth Music in Bloomington
- Hobgoblin Music / Stoney End Harps in Redwing
A complete write-up, review, and contact information for each can be found here: Three Places to Find a Harp in St. Paul/Minneapolis
If you didn’t find what you liked at the three outlets above, widen your search! There are HUNDREDS of harp makers across the globe. The most complete list of these manufacturers can be found here: Harp Wiki’s List of Harp Makers and Vendors. Start local and work your way out!
4. How do I learn harp?
You can self-teach to a point, but there is no substitute for private, one-to-one lessons when it comes to the harp. Harp is a unique instrument in that it requires some very specific hand positioning to play the instrument well—and good hand position will be the foundation of your enjoyment. It will be easier to perfect your hand position under the guidance of an objective professional, so the sooner you start lessons, the better off you will be.
However, some harp teachers do offer a number of free harp tutorial videos. Here’s a great list to start you out: Harp Wiki’s Free Harp Lessons Online.
After you finish all of those videos, your next step should be booking lessons with a local teacher.
5. Are there harp teachers in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area?
Yes. Lots! More than you might expect!
They all have varying degrees of availability and specializations. Some teachers are at capacity but offer a waitlist. Contact one or all to get started now!
I’ll start with some special mentions first because they are supporters of the Minnesota Scottish Harp Weekend, and highly qualified especially in the celtic music genre:
- Ann Heymann in Winthrop (Wire Strung)
- Chad McAnally in St. Paul (Wire Strung)
- Georganne Hunter in Duluth
- Hannah Flowers in St. Paul
- Stephanie Claussen in St. Paul
Go to: Harp Wiki’s Harp Teachers in North America for a full list with contact information.
That list is sortable, filter by state and view Minnesota harp teachers that are in a city closest to you.
And finally, if you have further questions and need guidance or encouragement to seek out that first step, don’t hesistate to email me!Contact the Organizer
Image Source: Paul Stein