FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions)
about harp lessons with Stephanie Bennett

Q. Do I need to bring my harp to every lesson?
A. No, we have various harps here for you to play at your lesson; 26-string, 30-string and 36-string lever harps, and pedal harps. If you would like to bring your harp in when you have a concern about how to tune it, etc, you are welcome to do so.
Lever harpPedal harp
Q. Is it hard to learn to play the harp?
A. Every instrument is challenging in its own way. The harp can be complicated in some ways, but on the other hand, it's beginner-friendly; it sounds beautiful right from the beginning!
student recital
Q. How young can a child start to learn the harp?
A. I have started students as young as 4 years. The age is not as important as the ability to focus. The student needs to be able to pay attention and sit still for at least 10-15 minutes at a time. When lessons are 45 minutes to an hour, we can break up the lesson with playing at the harp, getting up and moving for rhythm studies and musical games, etc, so sitting still for the ENTIRE time is not necessary. While learning should be fun, the student is expected to treat the harp lesson with as much respect and attention as they show at school; it is not a play date. 
small harps
Q. How old is too old to start?
A. As long as you can still hear, and sit up, and move your arms and fingers, you're not too old.  Eyesight is not necessarily an issue (in olden times in Ireland, playing the harp was a traditional career for the blind).
Many of my students started in middle-age (figuring ‘if not now, when?), and I have one student in her late seventies. If you’re starting as an adult, you’re not alone!

Q. How much will the student be expected to practice?
A. If you're able to devote consistent time to practice and study, not surprisingly, you'll progress faster than if you only show up for lessons and do nothing in between! For a very young child or a very busy adult hobbyist, 15 minutes a day will be okay; 30 minutes a day will produce better results; a more serious or advanced student will do well with an hour a day.  I'm pretty patient and understanding with my adult students, who have so much on their plates - that is, don't worry, you won't be scolded if you haven't practiced between lessons, we'll just review and get you back up to speed.  
Parents of grade-school students should plan to help them carve out time for daily practice.

Q. What is the parent's responsibility?
A. Especially for younger kids, a parent should attend the lesson so they will know what to help the child with in their practice between lessons. The younger the student, the more the parent will need to be involved in guiding their daily practice at home. As kids develop the combination of independence and self-discipline required to follow through on tasks themselves,
they will hopefully require less supervision from the parents; but the parents’ encouragement and support will of course always be needed!

Q. Are there any other expenses besides the lesson fee?
A. You will need a harp at home to practice on; in case you don't own a harp, I sometimes have a few high-quality student harps available for monthly rental at a reasonable fee. In addition, I will recommend a few books of sheet music, theory, and exercises for you to buy; we can spread those out over a few months if you need to when you're getting started. Additional books to buy are up to you, depending on the repertoire you're interested in learning. 

Q. Speaking of buying books of music; I've tried reading music before, but I'm dyslexic, or have bad eyesight, or have a mental block about reading. Do I HAVE to learn to read music?
A. That depends on what kind of music you're interested in. If you want to be a classical musician and be able to play in orchestras and chamber music, you have to learn to read music.  That's just how it's done. (Learning to read music is also required of students who would like to take the Certificate of Merit Evaluations.) But many wonderful non-classical musicians don't read, or just barely read. In folk music, pop music, jazz, and rock; learning by EAR, learning by imitation, memorization, and improvisation are all more important than reading. All of these skills require 1) ear training and 2) music theory, two skills vital for good musicianship, so I cover them in lessons. You'll have the most versatility - and the freedom to play what you want to - if you can play from sheet music and by ear! But if an adult student prefers one to another, that's fine. Younger kids should learn both methods. 

Q. What are the fingernail requirements? Do I have to grow them long or cut them off?
A. The standard method of classical, pop/jazz, and most Celtic harp music is to play with the fingerTIPS most of the time (using the fingerNAILS only occasionally for special effects), so the fingernails are kept SHORT.  (Specialists in South American harp and in Scottish metal-strung harp tend to play with LONG fingernails.) I play with SHORT fingernails and mostly teach this way; but if you just can't bear to part with your long fingernails, I will still take you as my student, but you must realize that your playing with your nails will sound more brittle or harsh than it would with short fingernails.
fingernails fingernails
Fingernails should be short enough that you can't see them from the other side. The pinky is not used in playing the harp, so you can grow that nail longer if you wish!

Q. How long will it take to learn the harp?
A. There is always more to learn, we are never FINISHED learning.

Q. No really, how long will it take before I get 'good'?
A. No, really. You can enjoy yourself playing simple songs right from the beginning, yet there will always be more to learn.  Plus, how you progress is very individual, depending on your own innate abilities, interests, and how you apply yourself between lessons (preferably: patiently, joyfully and consistently). No matter what we're learning, we must progress step by step, there is no magic pill to make you instantly brilliant overnight without effort. Skills take time and repetition to build; yet the learning process can be a joy, not a chore.  Be patient and kind to yourself, and enjoy the whole process of learning - the gradual growth and unfolding of your understanding and your abilities. 


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