This post will outline how to set up your studio to prepare for harp lessons or harp enjoyment. It will help you figure out how to place your stand, stool, and the best location for your harp within your home.
Before we can begin to enjoy playing the harp, we need the necessary tools to set us up for success. Here is a list of items (with details following) to get started:
Place your harp on a hard or semi-hard surface. If you have a fluffy rug or carpet, be careful that the harp doesn’t want to tip one way or another. I have had experience with some lever harps being a little top-heavy and wanting to fall over if not placed on a hard surface. If you have it on carpet and are still concerned, place your bench or stool behind the harp to keep it stabilized while you are not playing it.
Away from draft and sunlight
Place your harp away from direct sunlight, or a drafty window. [Some] harps are made from natural resources: wood and gut strings (not referring to carbon fiber harps at the moment). Because of this they are sensitive to temperature changes which affects the tuning of the instrument and overall care.
Placing the bench
Place your bench or stool behind the harp (closest to the shortest strings). Before I began
playing at 9 years old, I thought the bench was on the side of the longest strings. Needless to say I’ve learned a few things since then 🙂 Place your bench at an appropriate distance from your harp so that when you lean it back on your right shoulder, it doesn’t feel too heavy, nor should it feel like it is about to fall forward and away from you. This will be addressed further in “How to Play the harp:sitting behind the harp”.
Placing the stand
As your are sitting behind the harp, place the stand on the left side of the instrument. Place it as close to the instrument as possible without it getting in the way of your hand movement while playing.
If your harp is in a room that doesn’t offer great overhead lighting, invest in a stand light, or a floor lamp with adjustable head to give you great lighting. Having to squint to see music or your strings keeps us from enjoying the music.
Pencils, not pens!
Keep a couple pencils, with functioning erasers, on your music stand, or close by. I say “functioning” because it seems like all my pencil’s erasers have gone dry, so I had to buy the add on erasers. It is strongly suggested to use pencil on your music instead of pen. Often times we change a fingering, or decide to put a bracket in a different place, so keep a pencil handy.
Our favorite thing to do: tuning! I know, not that fun, but completely necessary. If your harp didn’t come with it, grab a quick tuning key and tuner. Even if you don’t plan on moving the harp around a bunch, you’ll still need to tune it as the temperature changes the pitch of the strings.
There are so many things to buy! Keep your music on your stand, or nearby in an orderly fashion at all times so you can find it quickly and enjoy your practice time. For suggested music for the beginner, please see Music books for the beginner harpist.
Unless you are a professional harpist playing out quite a bit, there’s typically no need to have an extra set of strings on hand. Besides the fact that it can get pricey, strings do end up going bad after a year or two. For the occasional player, or one who plays for the joy of it, I suggest you only purchase a replacement string when one pops or breaks.