Harp therapyPosted: 19 May 2011
I don’t know why I wanted to start playing the harp. I can’t remember seeing them on television or live, I just know that one day, I decided I wanted to learn to play harp. My parents tried to dissuade me and put me in a ‘music orientation class’, hoping I’d decide to play a cheaper instrument instead. They failed, even after two years of exposure to guitars, violins and trumpets I still stuck to the harp. They bought a then good-looking second hand harp and this is the instrument I still play on, even though it’s slowly falling apart.
Even though I started rather young, I’m not one of those prodigies who progress to pedal harp in less than two years. I enjoyed my lessons but I never got the hang of practising. My parents didn’t think it was too important that I got really good at harp playing, they just wanted me to have fun and certainly, I had fun. I learnt a lot about improvising and chords, I just wasn’t too good in adhering to sheet music. The harp helped to get me through difficult times, I’ve ‘composed’ many a song when I was feeling angry or sad. Still, I was sort of stuck at a semi-intermediate level on the lever harp.
The big turnaround came when I started medicine school. I stopped my harp lessons, thinking I wouldn’t have enough time for it. During my first year, I rarely played on my harp. Sometimes, I did a bit of improvising but I never practised (even less than before 🙂 ). Then I discovered Youtube. Through lots of videos I saw what the possibilities of a harp were. At our music school, I was one of the oldest and most advanced students so I thought I’d sort of learnt everything there was to learn. How mistaken I was!
So, even though I’ve got to pay for my own lessons now, I decided to take lessons again and I haven’t regretted it. Now I’ve finally learnt some good practising habits, I notice that I’m progressing rather fast – faster than I expected. My new teacher keeps reminding me that I’m not as incompetent as I thought, and maybe I can move over to the pedal harp earlier than I would have dreamed. The only thing I need to learn is a proper, solid hand position (yes, I can do four fingered chords in a very weird way that makes me cringe when I see it) and that’s taking a lot of time.
I don’t think I’ll ever get as good as the harpists I saw on Youtube are, but that doesn’t matter. It’s a bit like therapy, an excellent distraction when stressed out, a mental workout. I can’t imagine my life without music now…
I’m intending to share the process of learning the harp with you, just as I’m sharing the process of learning medicine. In the time to come, I’ll post audioclips of my playing. That won’t be polished, perfect audioclips, I’ll post them to show you how I’m learning. Eventually, you’ll hear progress, from the first insecure notes as I play a piece for the second time, to the almost-perfect (but with lots of issues) rendition when I’m about to move to a new piece.