A harpist’s pedagogical experience: Bridging the gaps in music theory and ensemble training



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Unlike method books for piano, winds, and strings, published, harp-specific training materials lack sufficient focus on theory and ensemble playing. There is a wealth of theory training in piano books that would benefit young harpists. And unlike string and wind players, most harp students do not have an opportunity to play in ensembles until they reach high school or college; this often leads to a lack of rhythmic accuracy, ensemble timing, and performance experience. This paper will compare common harp pedagogical literature with published method books for piano, strings, and winds in order to reveal the missing theory and ensemble training in most current harp method books. Furthermore, this paper will suggest ways to fill these gaps with existing external theory and ensemble training and provide a model for future harp pedagogical material. The common harp method books, such as Fun from the First, Suzuki Harp School, Salzedo’s Method for Harp, and Harpsicle, focus exclusively on hand technique through collections of songs and exercises. This paper will analyze music theory, composition, and ear training exercises from piano books including Music for Little Mozarts, Alfred’s Piano Basics, and Bastien Piano Basics. Similarly, this paper will analyze ensemble exercises including duets, group performance pieces, and playing with recordings from piano books, as well as string and wind books including Orchestra Expressions, Band Expressions, and Essential Elements 2000 for Band and Strings. Drawing from these comparisons and from a survey of current harp teachers, this paper will propose a new series of lesson books called The Complete Harpist that integrates studies of technique and repertoire with music theory and ensemble practice. The series will be organized into nine different books, providing a range of entry points so that any student can learn the harp, regardless of their age or musical background.



Harp, Harp pedagogy, Music theory, Ensemble practice, Performance practice