Questions about Lessons

Below you will find answers to many common questions. For more details about harps in general,

please visit Jacqueline's informational harp website, HarpInsideOut.com

General Questions

What platforms do you use for online lessons? What time zone are you in?

I am currently offering lessons using Zoom, Skype, and FaceTime. I am on Eastern Time, and can generally work out scheduling with different time zones. 

Where are you located for in person lessons?

My home studio is located in the Homeland area of Baltimore. I am currently teaching exclusively online due to the pandemic, but once it is safe to do so, I will again offer the option of in person lessons for local students. I also teach at a few local schools and colleges, but lessons at these schools are only for students enrolled at the school.

How do online lessons compare to in person lessons? Have you had much experience with teaching online?

Online lessons are very similar to in person lessons. We set up a video call and then go through the typical routine of a lesson, usually starting with an exercise or two and then moving on to a few pieces of music. The student plays for me, then I provide verbal feedback, we work through various passages, and I demonstrate as needed on my own harp.

I have been teaching online lessons for many years and enjoy the chance to connect with students this way.

What sort of set up do I need for an online lesson?

You’ll need to set up your device (phone/tablet/computer) next to your harp and allow it to access your camera and microphone. Ideally, I’d like to be able to view the harp from the left side, with an angle that includes your hands, the range of the strings, and a bit of your face. I do not need to see the music on your stand. Please tune your harp and have your music and a pencil on your music stand. 

When do you offer lessons?

I offer lessons Mondays through Thursdays in 30, 45, or 60 minute lengths. 

What about music?

For all students I have lots of suggestions for exercises and music to work on based on their specific needs and goals. If students have specific pieces they're interested in learning, I am happy to incorporate these when it fits in well with their progress. I frequently use my own pedagogical materials, and have many exercises and pieces I've written to work on specific skills. Quite a lot of these are not yet published, in which case I provide students with working copies.

For online lessons, students read their own music on their stand, and I have a copy of the same piece spread out in front of me so that I can follow along. I have a really large collection of music, so chances are good that I have most of what you’re playing.

Do I need to take notes during the lesson?

You do not need to take detailed notes as I am happy to take notes for you during your lesson. For in person lessons, I'll write in a notebook and for online lessons, I will type notes and email them to you. If there’s a note that would be best written directly in the music, you can mark it at any time during the lesson. 

Can I take an online trial lesson?

Yes, of course. I offer interested students a free trial lesson. Send me an email (jpharp@jpharp.com) and we'll set something up.

Questions about Harps

 

Do I need to own a harp? How do I go about finding a harp to rent or purchase?

You will need a harp to practice on at home, but there are lots of ways to go about this. I have a few rental harps that are an option based on availability for local students. This can be a great way to try the harp without making a long-term commitment. You can also rent through a harp center, rent through a private individual, or purchase a new or used harp. My article New to the Harp also has some helpful information about this.

 

What sizes do harps come in?

Harps come in a surprisingly wide range of sizes. The smallest harps are only three feet tall with just a few octaves of strings, and the biggest are around six feet tall and have six and a half octaves of strings. Most students begin with a small- to medium-size instrument.

 

Can strings break? What do I do if that happens?

Yes, strings can and do break on all harps. Sometimes you might go months without a string breaking, or at other times three might break in a week. There is a lot of tension on the strings and they give out every now and then. If you break a string, all you have to do is let me know and we’ll order a new string. I have a whole series of videos about how to change strings available here on my HarpInsideOut website.

How does tuning work? 

Each string has to be adjusted individually, just like a violin or a guitar, but only with a lot more strings. I have a series of videos here on my HarpInsideOut website that cover various aspects of tuning. 

I'm just getting started. What musical supplies do I need other than a harp?

You’ll need a music stand and some sort of a bench or wooden chair to sit on. Music stands are easy to purchase online or at a local music store. Deciding what's best to sit on depends on your height and the height of your harp. Many people sit on a piano bench or buy an adjustable-height keyboard bench or harp stool.

A tuner and a metronome are also highly useful. These are not harp specific, so you can use any general tuner or metronome. Both are easily downloadable as free apps. Physical tuners and metronomes can also be purchased.

I own a nice harp, but I have some questions about maintenance and repair. Is that something we can talk about during lessons?

Sure, I would be happy to discuss any concerns you have with your instrument and go over what sorts of repair or maintenance would work well for you. 

Questions for Parents with Young Children

 

My child is only 5 and can’t read music. Can they start with the harp or should they play the piano first?

Personally, I really enjoy working with young children and I accept students as young as five on a regular basis. I also am happy to teach students of any age to read music, so students do not need to have learned another instrument previously. 

 

Do I need to be present at my child’s in person lesson each week?

No, you do not need to be in the room with your child while they have their lesson. You’re welcome to wait in the adjoining room, wait in your car, or drop off your child and come back to pick them up at the end of their lesson.

Is there anything special that I need to do to facilitate online lessons for my young child?

Usually for young students I ask parents to set up their device and make sure it’s at a good angle before the lesson starts. As long as the student has their music ready and a pencil, I find that most don’t need too much support during the lesson.

 

However, it can be helpful for a parent to be nearby, perhaps in the next room, so that if there’s a technology problem the student can easily ask their parent for help. For some young students, especially those who are easily distracted, I might ask a parent to help with something once in a while, perhaps pointing to a note on a page, or helping them find a particular exercise in a book.

 

I’ve never played an instrument, but my child keeps begging to take lessons. I’m worried that I won’t be able to help or support them properly. 

Many parents have this worry, so you are not alone. It can be intimidating to find yourself in a world full of terms you’re unfamiliar with, and to be surrounded by other families that seem to come straight out of The Sound of Music, with the whole family involved in music. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have, explain things in non-musical terms, or discuss different paths of musical study. 

 

How involved do I need to be in my child’s practice?

Generally all I ask parents to do is to encourage their child to practice most days. This might take the form of a gentle reminder, or maybe hanging a practice chart on the wall. My goal with any child is that they will be self-sufficient in their practicing. I am constantly assessing them during lessons to make sure that they understand both the skills we’re working on together, and how they will then apply this in their practicing at home. I also provide a few written notes. With a very young child, you might need to go through a few flashcards with them, or double-check to make sure they’re practicing everything that’s been assigned equally and not just their favorite piece.

Questions for Serious Students

I want to major in music in college. Do you prepare students for college and grad school auditions?

Certainly. Many high school students are interested in majoring in music and we work together to pick appropriate pieces, learn them, polish them, and discuss all of the logistical and performance aspects surrounding an audition. I'm also happy to discuss various college options and paths of study with students.

I'm concerned that my repertoire is lopsided. I'd like to even it out and also gain broader knowledge of harp history. Can we do this in lessons?

It's not uncommon for students to feel that their repertoire slants towards a particular time-period or is lacking in some areas. Frequently I'll assign students three or so pieces from different time periods (such as Baroque, Romantic and 20th century), so that they're constantly playing a well-balanced diet of music. Harp and general music history can also be incorporated, either as it arises throughout lessons, or sometimes through setting aside the last few minute of the lesson to discuss a specific composer or assigned piece of listening. 

I'm interested in participating in harp competitions. Will you help me prepare for these?

Yes, I am happy to do so. If you have a specific competition or type of competition you're interested in, we can discuss whether it's a good fit for you, choose repertoire, and then prepare for competition itself. You will need to make a strong commitment when it comes to practicing and focusing on the harp. 

I haven't had much music theory in my study of music. Is it possible to include theory in my lessons?

Personally I really enjoy music theory and find it fun to think about, but I realize not everyone agrees. Generally I incorporate a bit of music theory in all lessons, at whatever level is appropriate. If it's an area of significant concern, we can set some dedicated time in each lesson to work on it. 

I've alway been intrigued about creating my own arrangements. How would we work on this?

Generally students who are interested in arranging come in with some ideas for pieces they'd like to arrange and show me their works in progress throughout the process. I offer feedback and make general suggestions. We also discuss notational aspects and software that can be used for this. 

Questions about Performing and Ensembles

 

I’m interested in performing, but also nervous about the idea. What performance opportunities do you offer?

Throughout each school year I have several recitals for interested local students. All recitals provide the opportunity to perform solo music, and some also offer the opportunity to perform as part of a harp ensemble. All recitals are optional, and no one needs to perform unless they want to. Some students take the plunge right off. Others ease into performing, maybe by attending a recital just to observe first, then playing in a recital with the harp ensemble, and eventually venturing onstage alone. Some students also arrange their own performance opportunities and I’m always happy to help students prepare for these sorts of opportunities.

I've performed in various casual recitals and at my church, but I'd like to improve my performance skills and play in more formal settings. Can we work on this?

Sure, we can work on performing skills. Sometimes students get so absorbed in learning new music and developing technique that they don't take much time to focus on the highly specific skills needed for performing. One approach is to polish a few pieces to a really high level and then set up multiple performances, giving us a chance to adjust your approach based on each successive performance. 

I want to play in my school orchestra, but the conductor says they’ve never had a harp before, and she doesn’t know what we would do about music. Do you think it would still be possible for me to play in the orchestra?

Many conductors don’t know as much about the harp as they do other instruments. They might be open to the idea of including you, but are not sure exactly how to go about it. I’m always happy to help with this. Usually I start by getting in touch with the conductor directly, answering their questions, and finding out some more details about the orchestra. When it comes to music, I might help edit a harp part, perhaps making something written for pedal harp suit a lever harp. Student orchestras also sometimes hire me to write harp parts to go along with the repertoire they've chosen.

What about other orchestral and ensemble opportunities outside of school?

Some students really enjoying participating in youth orchestra programs, which generally have more experience in working with student harpists. There are quite a few programs like this in the Baltimore area, and I've had students perform with the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras, the Chesapeake Youth Orchestras, the Harford Youth Orchestra, and the Maryland Youth Symphony Orchestra. I've also had students successfully audition for Maryland's All-State Orchestra, Maryland's All-State Band, several of the Maryland All-County orchestras, and participate in Maryland's Solo and Ensemble Program.

Getting Started

 

I’m looking for a harp teacher and am interested in taking a trial lesson with you. How should I prepare for the lesson?

First, send me an email (jpharp@jpharp.com) to set up a time for a free trial lesson. If you’re a student who is brand new to the study of music, all you have to do is show up with any questions you (or your parents) might have. I’ll show you the harp, explain how it works, and then we’ll go over some simple exercises and pieces together to give you a taste of playing the instrument. 

 

If you already play the harp, please come prepared to play a piece for me. You might have taken some time off and be a little rusty, which is just fine. All I need is to get a sense of what you can do. It would be great if you could also bring a list of music you’ve already played, or a couple of your old books so that I can see what sort of music you’ve worked on. After you play for me, we might work on a few details in the piece you prepared, or maybe look at something brand new so that I can see how you approach a new piece of music.

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