The Beginner’s Guide to The Harp

The harp is a well-loved instrument throughout ancient and modern European cultures. Harps are often associated with fairy tales, medieval castles, and images of angels playing harps in Heaven. The harp is a beautiful sounding instrument and is actually relatively easy to play as long as you have a passion for it and put in the necessary practice.


man playing harp


This article will introduce you to the basics of the harp and give you some advice on how to get started. 


1. Different Types of Harp

Before learning how to play the harp, the first thing you will have to do is choose what kind of harp is best for you. It can be extremely tempting to buy the biggest, most ornate harp available, but for beginning harpists, you don’t want to end up spending a huge amount of money only to find out that you don’t enjoy playing it as much as you thought you would.


We all admire the fancy harps that are used in the orchestra, but there is a range of different harps available such as wire-strung harps, double-strung harps, triple harps and Aeolian harps. Choosing the best harp for you is not always a simple decision. But to make things easier for you, we would recommend you choose one of the two most common types of harp: 

Lever Harp 

This is a harp, which uses levers to adjust the pitch. Lever harps are the most affordable type of harp and so they are ideal for beginners.

Pedal harp

Also known as a concert harp, this harp is generally louder but has a more mellow tone than the lever harp.

2. Different Harps for Different Music

The type of music that you want to play is also a big factor in the type of harp that you should choose. For example, classical music can be played on both lever harps and pedal harps, but modern music is far more suited to pedal harps only. If you are not sure about the type of music you are planning to play, you can ask for professional advice from the people working at the instrument store who will be able to advise you which one is most suitable for beginners. 


3. How to Hold a Harp 

With any musical instrument, it is really important to know the correct way to hold a harp. Before you learn how to play the harp, get comfortable with holding it properly and how it feels in your hand. This will ensure that you are balanced and can play accurately and smoothly.



Sit close enough to the harp in order to feel comfortable and so that your hand can touch the strings. The shorter strings should be closest to your body and the longer ones furthest away. Lean the body of the harp on your right shoulder and put the harp between your legs. If it feels heavy, then you are holding it incorrectly. Keep your arms parallel to the floor as you play and your hands in the middle of the strings. Play the harp with your thumb and the first three fingers. Both lever harps and pedal harps are easiest to play if you cut your nails short.

4. How to Learn the Harp

There are various ways to learn how to play the harp. You may be fortunate enough to be a naturally talented musician who is able to just teach yourself but for everyone else, here are our two suggestions on how to learn:

Watch Tutorial Videos on Youtube

Youtube is a fantastic way to learn how to play the harp because it is totally free and you can learn at your own pace. There are so many tutorials that people have posted on Youtube, which are ideal for both beginners and more experienced harpists alike.

Take Harp Lessons With a Teacher

Learning how to play the harp from a skilled and experienced harp teacher is a very effective way to learn because they will be able to build up your skills from scratch. Everyone had to start somewhere so your harp teacher will understand the best way to teach you and how to help you overcome difficulties because they too will probably have faced the same challenges when they first started playing. Start by playing some of your favorite songs, even modern songs which you would not normally associate with the harp.


The harp is such a wonderful instrument to play and can be very easy to learn. Make sure to do your homework when choosing the right harp for you and practice regularly to develop your skills. Whether you want to imagine that you are serenading a medieval king whilst playing Greensleeves or you want to bring a modern twist to the harp by playing contemporary songs, practice always makes perfect.

See: Activities That Help You to Relax

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