Setting Up Your Harp’s Spot

Having a specific area in the house for your harp is important. Almost every harpist has their own designated harp spot. In this post we will explore how and where to set up your own area for your harp. 

A Good Location

Where you set up your harp is very important. When I first got my lever harp, it was placed in the worst possible location in the house. Why? It was not only right next to a heating/air conditioning vent, but it was also placed right next to a window. After doing some research we discovered why this area was such a bad place to keep my harp.  

The harp is a stringed instrument, so any direct fluctuation in temperature can have an impact on the string tension. Also, exposure to sunlight (like any wooden object) could potentially cause your harp to experience fading.

Therefore, my advice (along with many other harpists) is to keep your harp away from any windows or heating/air conditioning vents. 

Now this doesn’t mean you have to keep your harp in a closet or in a completely closed off room in your basement, however, just be mindful of keeping it generally away from direct temperature fluctuating factors. Generally a good temperature to keep your harp at is around 70˚ F.

Away From Danger

This may be fairly obvious, but I think it is worth saying that you want to put your harp in a fairly quiet place. Or, in other words, in a place where it is least likely to get damaged or knocked over. 

For Your Lap Harp

This is totally guess-work seeing as I have not yet bought my dream lap harp. However, if I do get a lap harp one day, I would store it somewhere up off the ground. So maybe on a ledge or a table, or even on top of a piano (if it fits). So long as it is secure and unlikely to fall on wherever I store it.

I would still probably set up a station with a stool and music stand, or at least have a place ready to play it (besides on a comfy sofa – although it’s tempting :)) 

If you are learning how to play the harp on a lap harp, I would recommend having a designated area with a music bench and a music stand. It would be a good idea to get in the practice of sitting with good posture and looking at a music stand to read your music.

If your lap harp has levers make sure to store it with them down (not up or tense).

For Your Lever/Pedal Harp

Although the harp is not as static as a piano, you are probably going to want to find a consistent location to keep it. The bigger the harp, the harder it is to move (generally). So it is best to think through where a good spot might be to keep it long term. 

You will want your harp to be in a place where it is least likely to get damaged (i.e. away from doors, the kitchen, or highly used spaces).

Also, when you leave your instrument for the day, just make sure your levers are down (for lever harps) or your pedals are up (flat – for pedal harps). This will reduce the tension on the strings – which hopefully will help them last longer.

 Accessories

In case I haven’t implied this enough, I recommend that you have a good music bench and music stand. You may also want a small bookshelf or storage container to keep music books and replacement strings. 

Below are some recommendations for benches and a stand. 

This is one that I have used, it is light and sturdy and very adjustable. It has lasted me for about 10 years, so I would say it is a decent bench.

https://amzn.to/3g53KLW

This bench is one that I have not used, but it has good reviews and has storage inside of it that could be used for your books, tuning devices, and/or strings.

https://amzn.to/3dKpdZl

Here is a sheet music stand that I have not used, but it seems to be good quality and very portable for gigging.

https://amzn.to/2YGTDr1

Thanks for reading this post 🙂

Comment below with any questions. Enjoy your day!

Hymns on the Harp

Although this blog and website is fairly new, there is a relatively good chance that you already know that I enjoy playing hymns on the harp. In this post we will explore why I enjoy playing hymns, how I arrange them, what harp hymn books I would recommend! 

Why Hymns?

While there is much to be said about modern Christian music and a lot of it is wonderful, I believe the beautiful treasure of hymn-writing has largely fallen by the wayside in main-stream Christianity (with the exception, of course, of a few artists such as Keith and Kristyn Getty).

Photo by Shelagh Murphy on Pexels.com

For a long time, I used to actually dislike the idea of hymns. I thought they were old, repetitive, and boring. I enjoyed many of the more mainstream, modern Christian songs. But it wasn’t until I began looking into the lyrics of some old hymns that I began to realize what I was missing!

Without going into an extensive amount of detail, upon looking up the lyrics to several hymns that have been sung for many years, I began to see the immense theological richness that the lyrics these hymns had to offer. They had been within arms reach of me the whole time – the only barrier being my bias against them.

When I realized the value of hymns, I began to enjoy playing and arranging them on the harp. Then, a little while ago (before Covid-19) I went to a local retirement home with a friend from church to participate in some hymn-sings. I would play the harp and she would play the piano. It was a wonderful time and the folks who participated were very appreciative of the music.

Today, I still play and hope to arrange more hymns for the harp!

How I Arrange Hymns on the Harp

Photo by cottonbro on Pexels.com

Long before I whip out my Finale Notepad and start tapping notes onto my computer screen, I do a bit of research.

First, I will listen to a few arrangements of the hymn (not always harp arrangements) and hear how they are played and whether I like how they sound.

Then, I will find the basic melody of the hymn on the harp by plucking several strings that I think are relevant to the piece. 

Finally, I find the lyrics to the hymn and try to evaluate the emotions behind the hymn (gratefulness, sorrow, joy, etc.) and what each stanza of the hymn is about.

Once I have done these three things, I will begin to play the hymn on the harp and experiment with notes and chords. When I finally conclude how I want to play the hymn, I grab my computer and start writing the piece through my music software. 

Harp Hymn Books

If you are looking for hymns that have already been written, there are two wonderful harp hymn books that I have personally used and would recommend. 

Both of these books are relatively simply written, so you do not have to be an advanced harpist to use them. I usually use them for inspiration for my own arrangements or just for fun.

The first book is called “Hymns and Sacred Songs for the Celtic Harp” by Star Edwards (linked below). I like this book because there are alot of hymn arrangements in it (46 according to my math). Also, they are relatively easy to learn. If you are creative and do not want to follow the left hand patterns, there are chord letter markings so you can simply play an A, G, or whatever chord is marked along with your right hand melody.

The other book that I use and adore is called “Hymns and Wedding Music for All Harps” by Sylvia Woods. There are many reasons why I like this book. It is similar to Star Edward’s book (above) in that the chord markings are available for those who like to be creative with the left hand patterns. This book contains the lyrics to most of the music within it, and it has a simple and more advanced version of the hymns side-by-side, so you can be almost any level of harp expertise to play the songs.

Hymns and Sacred Songs for the Celtic Harp:

Hymns and Wedding Music for All Harps:

Thanks for reading this post!

Enjoy your day 🙂

Tips for Beginning Harpists

Are you new to the harp? Perhaps you are looking for some tips as you begin to play. In this post I will give you some advice on what you can do to improve your skills on the harp.

Make Sure Your Harp is Well-Tuned

The last thing you want is to have a harp that is out of tune. A well tuned harp goes a long way in improving your sound quality as well as your own enjoyment of whatever piece you are playing. So, make sure your harp is tuned before you play :). If you need help or advice on how to tune your harp properly, I recommend that you visit my “How to Tune Your Harp” post (here: https://harpcorner.com/2020/06/10/how-to-tune-your-harp/).

Your Hand Positions

Having the correct hand position is vital for playing the harp. The first thing you should know is that you do not use your pinky at all to play the harp. You will only be using fingers 1, 2, 3, and 4. And your thumb should be much higher relative to your other fingers.

Make a fist with your index to pinky fingers flat against your palm and your thumb resting on top (like you’re about to knock on a door). This is your hand’s resting position. This is the position your hand should form after you pluck each note.

Posture

You will want to have good posture while you are playing the harp. Try not to sit too slouched or too far forward. You will want to sit up straight with your harp leaning on your right shoulder and your knees on either side of the soundboard.

Make sure your harp is fairly close to you. I cannot give an exact distance because there are too many variables, but you do not want your harp leaning back too far. I made the mistake of leaning my harp too far a while ago and the way the harp balanced made it much heavier than it needed to be for my poor shoulder. So, just something to keep in mind 🙂 

Also, your elbows should be out (not tucked in) to a point where the outside of your wrist can bend and allow your thumbs to pluck higher on the strings than your other fingers.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Yes, that’s right. This is true of any instrument you are learning how to play, you want to keep practicing! You may initially find yourself getting frustrated or confused when you are first learning. All the different fingerings, notes, rhythms, and hand positions can initially be difficult to get used to. But, keep at it. Eventually everything will become more natural.

If you do find yourself getting frustrated when trying to learn a new concept or piece, just relax and take a break or play a tune you are already familiar with. Or maybe try to break it down and play it slower. Just be patient with yourself. Believe me it will get easier as time goes on. Keep at it, it’s worth it!

Find Good Harp Teaching Books

There are so many great resources out there for the beginning harpist. One of the first books that I used was called Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp by Sylvia Woods. This book is a wonderful resource. It takes you to the very fundamentals of how to play notes from sheet music on the harp even if you have no prior musical experience. I will link this book at the end of this blog post.

A second book that I would recommend is called Harp Olympics Stage I. This book says it is designed for someone with 1 or 2 years worth of piano experience. I believe it could be a good supplement to Sylvia’s book (mentioned above). In it you will learn how to play both the lever harp and pedal harp. One thing to note is that it is designed with a harp teacher in mind. I will link Harp Olympics Stage I at the end of the page also. 

If you are looking for some extra material to go the extra mile as you advance, Sylvia Wood’s Music Theory and Arranging Techniques for Folk Harps (also linked at bottom of page) is another good resource. But, if you are a complete beginner, I would wait on this one.

There may be other wonderful beginner books out there, but these are three that I have used and they have worked quite well for me. 

Also the Harp Olympics: Preliminary Round is a book that I have not used, however it is recommended for complete beginners by Harp Olympics Stage I. I will link it at the bottom of the page as well.

Final Thoughts

To close this post, I will say keep up the good work! Just like learning other instruments, learning to play the harp will require dedication. So keep up the practice! 🙂 And… remember to relax. Take it easy. And enjoy!

Here are some recommended harp learning books:

Teach Yourself to Play the Folk Harp: 

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Harp Olympics Stage I: 

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Harp Olympics Preliminary: 

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Music Theory and Arranging Techniques for Folk Harps:

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How to Tune Your Harp

Perhaps you are a new and aspiring harpist. Or maybe you are just curious as to how exactly harpists tune their instruments. In this post we will explore how to tune a harp – the right way, for both pedal and lever harps.

My Dusty Strings lever harp

Right off the bat, I should probably mention that all of the red strings on your harp are C notes and all the blue or black strings on your harp are F notes. The scale is very similar to the piano. So the entire natural scale on your harp should be as follows: C D E F G A B and C again.

Tuning Your Harp: 3 Easy Steps

Step 1: All Your Levers are Facing Down (Or Pedals Up)

Tuning a lever harp is fairly straight-forward. The first thing you want to do is make sure all your levers are down. If your harp does not have levers, there is no need to follow this step.

All levers down

Putting the levers down loosens the tension of the strings so they are less likely to break while you are tuning.

If you are tuning a pedal harp, make sure all of your pedals are up (in flat position) – you will have to tune your pedal harp in flat. So C becomes B, D becomes C#, etc.

All pedals in flat position

Step 2: Grab Your Tuner and Tuning Key

You will either need to have super amazing ears that can hear pitch perfect notes, OR like me, grab your handy-dandy tuner. If you are looking for a tuner, I will add some recommendations at the bottom of the page.

WHAT IF YOU’RE IN A PINCH? 

There are two options for you if you don’t have time to grab a physical tuner. 

Option #1: By far the best option is to download a tuner app. One that I have used is called Peterson iStrobosoft Tuner. It is $4.99 currently. Or there are probably free apps out there. 

Option #2: If there is absolutely no way for you to download a tuner app and there happens to be a piano around that is in good tune…. annnndddd you happen to have good hearing, then… I suppose… it… might… work.

Step 3: Place Your Tuning Key on Your Harp’s Tuning Pins

This step is definitely the easiest! Your harp’s turning key should fit every single pin on your harp, so you simply need to place it on each pin and tune. You will turn your tuning key to the right to tune sharp (up) and left to tune flat (down).

Place your tuning key on the tuning pins (RH side of harp, usually)

Just like many other stringed instruments, the order in which you tune your harp doesn’t matter. I often go from the bottom to the top, however the choice is yours. 

And, you’re done! Congratulations! You have just accomplished the task of tuning all of those harp strings (I’ll let you do the math of exactly how many 😉 ). Play your favorite tune to celebrate!

An Extra Little Tidbit:

The longer strings will require more turning of the tuning key than the shorter strings. The shorter the string the less you need to turn the tuning key. 

Also, if you keep turning your tuning key and as you pluck the note, the sound remains the same… STOP!!! You are probably turning the wrong tuning pin and may end up snapping the string. So, just make sure your tuning key is on the right string 🙂

If You’re Looking for a Tuner…

There are so many wonderful tuners out there. I have used a Snark tuner which works decently, although it is really for smaller string instruments. One nice thing about it is that it allows you to choose a vibration setting so you could tune your instrument in a noisy room if needed. 

The main tuner I use is a KORG Chromatic Tuner CA-30. It has served me quite well over the past ten years. I don’t recall ever using the input on the side, but in theory it looks like you may be able to plug a mic into it.

I have linked a different KORG tuner than the one I own at the bottom of the page because I could not find my version for sale, so I have not used that particular one. However I can say the KORG I have has been a good and long lasting brand to me – so if you are looking for quality, KORG is my recommendation.

Snark Tuner for $11.95:

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KORG Tuner:

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Thanks for reading! Enjoy your day 🙂

Blessings!

Harps in the Bible

The harp appears quite frequently throughout the Bible. In this blog we will see what the Bible has to say about the harp from its inventor to its eternal purpose.

Photo by Wendy van Zyl on Pexels.com

The Father of All Harp Players

You may know that the harp is an ancient instrument, but did you know that the first mention of the harp appears in Genesis chapter four? 

Genesis 4:21 “… Jubal: he was the father of all such as handle the harp and organ.”

Jubal was a descendant of Cain. He was born eight generations into the human race. This means that the harp is almost as old as the whole of humankind!

Photo by Samantha Hurley from Burst

The Ancient Harp

The ancient harp looked much different than more modern harps. The harp of the Old Testament often consisted of less strings than the harps we are familiar with today and it was usually accompanied by other musical instruments such as flutes and lyres. (See Psalm 144:9 and 150:3 for examples).

The Harp’s Purpose

One very clear purpose of the harp throughout scripture is praise! 

Psalm 71:22 “I will also praise You with a harp, Even your truth, O my God; To You I will sing praises with the lyre, O Holy One of Israel.”

The harp appears many times throughout the Psalms (such as the one above) and is used as an instrument of praise to the Lord.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Another closely related purpose of the harp is in rejoicing. People throughout the Old Testament would use the harp during times of celebration. 

For example, harps were used during the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem in the book of Nehemiah (see Nehemiah 27:27). 

Just as easily however, harps could be turned into symbols of mourning. The suffering and afflicted Job says, “Therefore my harp is turned into mourning, And my flute to the sound of those who weep.” (Job 30:31)

Harps were used to pacify. In 1 Samuel 16, David comes to play his harp before King Saul in order to soothe him.

The Psalms

King David is probably the most famous of harpists in the Bible. He is known for having played the harp in for royalty and for writing the Psalms. Although not all Psalms were written by David himself, there are numerous Psalms that mention the harp – often as an instrument of praise.

The harp of the Psalms was not always played alone. Psalm 98:5 says, “Sing unto the Lord with the harp, with the harp, and the voice of a psalm”. Therefore, the harp was to accompany the singing of praise (much like the piano does today).

A Statue of David from the National Gallery of Art

The Heavenly Ensemble

I know of many people who have jokingly disliked the idea of playing harp all day on puffy white clouds in heaven. While I personally believe the thought of doing so is awesome, I do not think that this is what the Bible has to say about the harp’s role heaven (or what we believers will be doing in Eternity). 

Although the exact details regarding the use of the harp in heaven is to be debated, the purpose of the harp in heaven appears to be consistent with its purpose throughout the rest of the Bible. 

Revelation 5:8-9 says, “8 And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and the four and twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odors, which are the prayers of the saints. 

9 And they sung a new song, saying, Thou art worthy to take the book, and to open the seals thereof: for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation;”. 

Here we can see that the harp is likewise being used to accompany praise – in this case to the Lamb (Jesus). (See also Revelation 14:2-3 and 15:2-3)

Photo by Ithalu Dominguez on Pexels.com

What Are Your Thoughts?

Let me know what you think.

God Bless!

Blog Introduction: What You Should Know About My Blog

Hello friends,

I want to extend a warm welcome to you. I am so glad you are here. This is my very first blog post and so I thought I’d let you know what to expect in upcoming posts.

Photo by hermaion on Pexels.com

Seeing as my site is called the Christian Harp Corner, I will be posting content that is Christ-honoring and related to the harp. In some posts I may share thoughts about walking with Christ. In others I may share insights and tips as well as techniques for the harp. And in other blog posts I may just surprise you with something new! In any case, I hope you will enjoy what you see.

I realize this post is extremely short. You can expect to see somewhat longer posts in the future.

I am so glad you are joining me in my adventure!

Psalm 43:4 “Then will I go unto the altar of God, unto God my exceeding joy: yea, upon the harp will I praise thee, O God my God.”

Markia