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.
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!
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.
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?'). 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.
of grade-school students should plan to help them carve out time for daily
Q. What is the parent's
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,
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
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
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 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
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.