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


When do you offer lessons?

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

What level of students do you work with?

I work with students at beginning through advanced levels. 

What ages of students do you accept?

I accept students from ages five on up. 

Do you offer both in person and online lessons?

Yes, I offer both in person and online lessons. Detailed information about these two options is available in the next section of this page.

What does a typical lesson include?

Most lessons begin with a student working on an exercise or two, and then moving on to a few pieces of harp music. Frequently the pieces I select are intentionally staggered in difficultly level with one or two being fairly straightforward and one piece being more challenging. Along the way, we'll also discuss some music theory and a bit of music history. 

How do you choose music for students?

For all students I look at their strengths and weakness along with their goals, and pull from my extensive music collection to select exercises and music specifically for them. If students have some pieces that 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 compositions, as I have many exercises and pieces I've written to work on specific skills. While some of these are published works available to anyone for purchase, many of these are in varying stages of  completion and not yet published, in which case I provide students with working copies.

Do I need to take notes during the lesson?

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. You are welcome to take a few notes of your own if that's helpful, especially if it's something that would be best written directly in the music.
 

Can I take a trial lesson?

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

Questions about In Person and Online Lessons


Where are you located for in person lessons?

My home studio is located in the Homeland area of Baltimore. From March 2020 - May 2021, I was teaching exclusively online due to the pandemic, but beginning June 2021 I started offering in person lessons again. I also teach at a couple of location institutions, but lessons at these schools are only for students enrolled at the school.

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. 

Many people feel that in person learning is superior to online learning. What are your thoughts?

I understand that many students and teachers have found online learning to be frustrating. For myself, I have been teaching online lessons for many years. Although there can be annoyances online with the occasional dropped call or slow connection, I am easily able to use my teaching skills within this format. Just as with an in person lesson, the student plays for me and I then provide verbal feedback. We work through various passages, and I demonstrate as needed on my own harp.

In addition to teaching online, I have also been working with video for many years, regularly filming myself and making videos for my YouTube channel. This has given me a wealth of experience when it comes to my ability to work with students online. 

What do I need to bring for in person lessons? Do I need to bring my harp?

You do not need to bring your harp for in person lessons. I have three different sizes of harps available and in person students are welcome to use these. All you need to bring is your music and some sort of notebook so that I can take some notes for you during the lesson.


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. Your harp should be tuned and you'll need to have your music and a pencil ready on your music stand. 

 

During 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. 

Is it possible to do a hybrid of in person and online lessons?

Yes, many students are using a hybrid approach. Some, especially if they have a long commute to my studio, are studying primarily online and coming once in a while for in person lessons. Others are doing the opposite and coming in person for most lessons, but taking an online lesson if they have an especially busy week or there's bad weather that makes driving difficult.

Many students study exclusively with me online as they live in distant states and countries. However, if they find themselves in the Baltimore area, they are welcome to take an in person lesson. 

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 will 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 variety of music. Harp and general music history can also be incorporated, either as they arise during lessons, or sometimes through setting aside the last few minute of the lesson to discuss a specific composer or assigned 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 to practicing and prioritizing the harp in your life. 

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

For myself, I find music theory really fun, but I realize that 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. Many times students come up with something really creative and enjoy performing their arrangements upon completion!
 

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 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 it is to be expected that they give out every now and then, regardless of how carefully you care for your harp. 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 with a lot more strings!) I have a series of videos here on my HarpInsideOut website that cover various aspects of tuning. Frequently for new students, I ask them to watch the first video of this series and then come to me with any questions they might have about 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 high quality 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. Many students are happy to practice once they're sitting down at their instrument, but don't always have the self-discipline to initiate a practice session. Parents might need to offer a daily reminder, or perhaps hang a practice chart on the wall. My goal with any child is that, after the hurdle of beginning a practice session, they will be able to work independently 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 written notes outlining their weekly assignment. 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 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 students. All recitals provide the opportunity to perform solo music, and some also offer the opportunity to perform as part of a harp ensemble. These 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 events.

I've performed in various casual recitals, 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. Performing frequently is a great start. Another possible approach is to polish a few pieces to a really high level and then set up multiple performances of the same repertoire, 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, either online or in person. 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.