Teaching yourself to play the Harp
Back home
Harpcentre Australia
Hrs: Tues/Wed/Fri
10am-2pm only
Harpcenter (US) link
There are a number of ways to learn to play a harp if there is no Harp
Teacher available
(1) Learn the basic "building blocks" of music and the harp ( Keys,Chords,
Arpeggio's, Fingering techniques....etc, and discover your own style.
Sylvia Woods book and companion cassette...."Teach yourself to play
the folk harp"
(probably the best,but you can check others
from the links below...ie...HarpLore  or  Harpcenter.
(3) Extra help may be obtained from this
NEW LINK .....Those with harps
with less than 30 strings may find the 4 finger Chord progressions inhibiting
But have a go anyway.

For  those who just want the basic "building blocks"of playing a harp
I have started "Playing Basic Harp" (below) and will be adding to it to
help you get started.....and this may be all you need to start your adventure,
AND don't forget the
HARP HELPS for Tuning and other things....
Playing basic Harp
OR: "I did it my way"
Lesson 1.....prepare yourself
The Harp has got to be one of
the easiest instruments to get
a tune out of.....Forget the fact
that there are SO many strings!
Concentrate on one Octave...ie
"C" to "C" (red strings).....
whatever you do in one octave
you can do in any other....
BUT FIRST: Look at the pic
on the left, that is the shape of your
hands for the duration of
your harp playing "career"!
This is the hardest thing to do
in harping.....but if you persevere
you will have obtained the basis
of an exciting career or lifestyle!!
(You can have your little pinky
amputated .......as the Irish Harpers
of old did....But you may need it
for nasal recreation!)
Now look at the chart to your right>>>>
This is a basic chord chart using "TRIADS"
that is, 3 fingers (the thumb is counted as #1)
there should be a string between each finger.
Look at the pic above and you will see 4
fingers being used,that is correct for those
who want to be a "harpist" as opposed to
those who want to be "harpers".....If you
want to be a "harpist" and play classically,
please stop browsing this page and get a
harp teacher!
NOW....see  the first 3
fingers are on A+C+E this makes an A minor
Triad chord....now look at the Triad chord
chart and see the other chords that can be
played by using the same hand shape but
starting on different strings....Note that
whatever string your 3rd finger is on, will
tell you the root of that chord, either Major or
Using the 3 Major and 3 minor chords
shown here  will allow you to play or create
1000s of tunes. If you need to play a Major
chord where a minor is all you can play (as
a Triad) I will show you how to do this on
the next segment of this page....
In the meantime, become familiar with
these chords by playing them with both hands
(an octave apart) first by plucking all at once
(striking) and then one at a a time,straight
after each other. (arpeggio) from the lowest
to the highest, this is known as a "run".
Other chords .....D,E,A Major
Because harps are "Diatonic" and not
"Chromatic" this means that there are
only  7 notes to the scale instead of the 13
which would have allowed you to play
any chord and any note ever invented.
This means that unless you have a cross
strung harp ( 2 rows of strings in a "X")
which is extremely difficult to master,
or a Pedal Harp which is used in orchestra's
and is harder to master and extremely
expensive.....you are going to have to use
abreviated chords when you want to play
"D Major" instead of "d minor"
"E Major" instead of "e minor"
"A Major" instead of "a minor"
NOW.....to play these abreviated chords you
place your fingers on the Triad of the minor
chord...ie "d minor to play a "D Major"
but instead of your 2nd finger being on the
"f" note.....take it off....or better still, don't
even put it on!  The same goes for the E and
A Majors......Place your fingers on the triad
for the minors but omit the middle finger
each time.....
NOW you have the ability to play millions
of tunes!!!  Can you see now why the basic
harp is one of the easiest instruments to
learn to play.....especially by THIS method....?!
The first thing to do is make sure you are holding your
harp suitably.....because we are dealing here with Celtic and
not Classical Harping, we are not going to be too "politically
correct" We want you to enjoy your harp and harping.....
If you want to be a "Harpist" instead of a "Harper".......
Please don't look at anything below!!!!!
Just go and find yourself a Classical Harp teacher.
Lap Harp
Sit on a chair or stool &
place your harp either
on your Knee's (Lap)....
Or cross your right lower
leg over your left lower
leg and place your harp
in the crook where your
calf meets your thigh.
Now place your face to
the left of the harp,and
rest it on your right
If you find either of these
uncomfotable you can
place your harp on a low
stool or ottoman.....
Floor Harp
Sit on a chair and pull
your harp towards you
onto your right shoulder,
move your chair until
the harp comfortably rests
against your shoulder
without being heavy....
Hand Positions
Your left hand should
be placed towards the
lower strings of your
harp....this hand plays
chords or bass notes...
Your right hand should
be placed either 1 or 2
octaves above your left,
this hand plays melody
(the tune) or added
You are ready to play!
The dot on the left or each
set of notes indicates where
your 3rd finger should be
(the longest string in each set)
the second dot is for 2nd
finger and the 3rd dot for 1st
finger (thumb)
Striking chords
Now, hit the button to hear each of
the above triads being played.......
ie: C,Dm,Em,F,G,Am.
The notes in each  chord are struck
simultaneously (all at once)
There is a short pause between each
After soundfile has downloaded, you
can play it as many times as you wish
by hitting the PLAY button.
Arpeggio chords
This time, hit the button to hear each
chord (triad) being played as an
"Arpeggio" (notes in each set are
plucked individually......
Arpeggio X 4 chords
This time we are arpeggio'ing each
chord 4 times......
Once soundfile has fully loaded.....
"hit" the same button again to hear
unfragmented sound. (As many times as
you wish......
Lesson 2.....The left hand (mainly)
Now......you can use any of the above options to play
chords as an accompaniament to the melody that you
will learn to play (
or create your own)  any combination of
the chords in the TRIAD chart.
Try a few different combinations........  ie:
(1)  C.....................Dm ( three times ....then)
F............G.............  ( once each.....
( we are using arpeggio chords....play them slowly at
first, then build up your speed)
Then do it again, and again, until it
becomes a continuous piece of music.
Hit the button to hear it....(the whole piece played twice.)
Remember to replay it to hear it "unfragmented".......
for Harp Teachers list
'click' to view 'Harp Key & Triad Charts
Lesson 3 (the right hand)
To be able to play tunes, and melodies with the right hand, you are going to
need to learn one of 3 ways
ACADEMICALLY ....ie...perform the action as you read the music.
(if you want to do it this way....get a teacher of buy a Teaching book)
(in a mechanical way without thought or meaning)..... ie...play each
tune until you know it off by heart.......
(if you want to do it this way......you ARE the teacher....good luck!
AD-LIB........let your subconscious create what you want
to play.
(you allow your subconscious mind control your right hand whilst you use your
conscious to create Chords and/or Bass accompaniament with you left hand.)

If you want to do this, I can follow with some tips on how you can get started. BUT
you will need to mentally 'amputate' your right hand from your mind.....for very
'clever' people this may be very difficult and in fact may be impossible!

Aplologies to all those prospective Harpers who have constantly come back to this page
hoping to find 'LESSON 3'........
will start adding future steps for this section......but if you are not familiar with the
previous lessons, then lesson 3 may not happen,  because you will need to 'engage' your
conscious mind to your left hand, so you are better able to release your right hand to your
subconscious mind.    (think about it.....it does make sense)
18th Oct 2016
Do this daily for at least 15 minutes........
Place the appropriate fingers of your right hand (see Triad chords)
as if to play a C chord on the second octave.
Now, while you stare out of a window, start plucking any strings
around that octave in any order or consistancy that
happens.....whatever you do,
DON'T think about what you are doing) just keep looking out of the
window into the distance and let your subconscious mind absorb your
hand actions in relation to the sounds produced.
For those who are not 'dreamers' this may take a while until it 'clicks'...
(for some......weeks......the sooner you relax, the sooner it will happen)
To be continued
How to Play the Harp by
7 easy lessons
(including 1 on using effects pedals)
$60 (Included P&H
More Info
If you would like to learn to play
the Harp in a small group....I will
be conducting a 5 day workshop
at Camp Creative in Bellingen
from 9-13 Jan 2017.....for details