Ultimate Guide on Being a Harpist
How do people become harpists? Do you dream of learning the harp yourself? Welcome to this starter guide for all things harpy!
The harp is an exceptionally beautiful, diverse musical instrument with a surprisingly long history. Harp is one of the world’s first instruments - coming from the bow and arrow - and many believe it is the ancestor of all string instruments. There are even cave paintings of rudimentary harps! So, we find harps represented in almost all cultures throughout all recorded time.
In many cultures the harp holds special significance, connected to magic, communication between worlds, healing, and national identity.
Did you know the harp is the national instrument of countries as varied as Ireland, Paraguay, and Burma?
Let's explore how playing the harp can boost your creativity. A huge part of my work focuses on helping you create safe creative space and setting you up for joyful harp-playing success.
Let's start off with tips for beginning harp players. We'll continue with tips on how to turn your hobby/passion into a profession if you desire. (There are many ways to be a professional harpist, so if you’ve only imagined orchestral harpist roles up to now, you’re in for a treat!)
Additionally, I’ll discuss how wonderfully effective online harp lessons are for both professional and beginning harpists. Due to my busy concertizing career (prior to this current era!) I began teaching online way back in internet stone age times, 2010. I'm excited to share my experience and insights with you about the power of online lessons and how they can help you with your harp dreams, whether you're a teacher or a student.
Finally, I’ll share my journey as an award-winning harpist and the creation story of my Bright Way Guild, which features Virtual Harp Summits, the trailblazing large-scale online harp gatherings, Bright Way Harp Circle, and my book The Bright Way: Five Steps to Freeing the Creative Within.
Harp Lessons: Access Your Creativity!
Creative inspiration is all around us.
For creative people - whether you're a harp player, a writer, a painter, or an entrepreneur - this can be overwhelming and reassuring at the same time.
Have you found yourself asking:
What does creative inspiration actually look like?
Can inspiration be cultivated or should I just wait for it to strike?
What if I don’t recognize inspiration, have I lost that spark forever?
How do I channel inspiration into something meaningful in the real world?
Every harp player wants and needs creative inspiration. However, many feel this flow is accessible to a chosen few. Many creatives feel insecure about their inspiration and have no idea how, when, and where inspiration will strike.
Insecurity about accessing our flow of inspiration can make us question whether we have talent, whether we’ve been chosen as “gifted." Lack of confidence may cause you to abandon your creative path. This is very sad and unnecessary, as you’ll find out below!
Blocks around your creativity can manifest most dramatically in performance anxiety. Stage fright, fear of public speaking, and sharing your work in general is common in our culture. Many creatives suffer in silence because they may feel fear is a sign they are not talented.
It’s a situation I know well, so allow me to share my story here:
I began music lessons at 8 years old. Despite outward success, I secretly suffered severe performance anxiety. It became so intense that I quit music for years as an adult, even though music was the only path I’d prepared for.
When I lost touch with my creative inspiration, every lesson became stressful and creative doubts haunted me daily. I feared I wasn't not good enough. Despite the fear, over the years it dawned on me that I had to reclaim my musical voice or risk living an unfulfilled life forever.
So started an epic creative recovery journey, with many twists and turns. The struggle was worth it: it resulted in The Bright Way: Five Steps to Freeing the Creative Within.
Today I teach hundreds of creatives to reclaim their creative voices and perform with confidence. I'm here to reassure you that all doubts and fears about talent and creativity are actually good signs. They mean you truly desire to be creative!
It is your calling to become creative!
Imagine living a creative life as a harp player, in touch with your inspiration every day.
Imagine being in flow and sharing this with a community of like-minded, inspiring people.
Sometimes the way can seem tough, but if I did it, you can do it too! Today I'm a full-time musician, author, and teacher. I live amid creative community, and have a Master of Music in classical piano performance (piano is my first instrument), and a Ph.D. in harp composition.
Over the years I've taught thousands of students that deep connection to the piano, harp - any instrument you love - reconnects you to your true self.
Many people admire the harp for the way it sounds and its magnificent beauty, size, and shape. Many people assume they'd never be able to play something so formidable. But it's never too late! My eldest student began harp at 83 years old: by age 85 she was performing out and about!
You can achieve your harp dreams by combining proven learning and practice methods with expert mentors and supportive community. Regardless of your age and background, you can experience great joy playing the harp.
Learning to play the harp can boost your creativity across your whole life. Many people find that learning to play the harp - or up-leveling your skill on the harp - elevates your entire life to be more satisfying, fulfilling, and productive.
As you become more skilled at playing the harp, you tap into infinite inspiration so that playing is never a duty, guilt, or obligation. Access and develop the unique creative style waiting within you by becoming a harp player - it’s one of the most satisfying ways to find your creative voice!
Find a safe place to explore your creativity here.
Harp for Beginners: How to Start Your Harp Journey
The first thing is to find a harp! Your most important questions are:
Different harps suit different genres.
what size of harp works best for me and my life?
At first glance, people often picture a giant pedal harp. Yet often, not having a huge harp means you can bring your harp to events and maneuver it easily. Small can be beautiful!
There are many harp sources, stores, and dealers worldwide. The cost of your upfront investment varies widely, so I advise you to shop around. It’s best to audition as many harps as you can by visiting harp stores, harp societies, and teachers with large harp collections. Listen to different kinds of harps online. Get to know the various brands out there and join online harp groups to discuss.
Your harp search can be a super fun way to cultivate your harp community!
I recommend renting first so that you get to know various harps before committing. I rented around 4 harps before buying my first one!
Starting your harp journey, knowing the healthiest way to hold your harp is key. Here's a major harp secret: your back drives your harp playing, despite appearances that your arms are the stars. When you engage your back, your arms feel light as a feather. This minimizes the chance of harp-related injuries, and frees you to play with powerful rhythm and expressive dynamics.
Relaxation brings a beautiful tone and avoids injury, so stay relaxed! Since harp technique has unique features - we play against gravity! - it’s important to find a good teacher at least for a few beginning lessons.
Very few harpists are successful at being completely self-taught. They often develop unhelpful or even harmful habits. Free low-quality videos/internet tutorials can prolong the learning process since they provide no feedback. Worse, many of these videos demonstrate sub-par technique, actually teaching you bad habits which take a long time to reverse.
As with anything in life, we don’t know what we don’t know. If you do not know what to look for, what questions to ask, or where to look for the right answers, learning to play the harp on your own is quite difficult.
A good instructor will listen to your desires, set you up with excellent technique and practice habits that fit you and your lifestyle, answer all your questions, supportively correct you, and make suggestions for growth as you go. With the aid of a compassionate and competent instructor, your skill and magic will grow exponentially.
From learning to tune your harp, to naming strings, to playing whole songs on your own, having a good teacher streamlines and speeds up your learning process, keeping you motivated and joyful. And the best thing is it's never been easier to find the perfect teacher for you, wherever you are!
Diana's Bright Way Courses & Memberships
Bright Way Creative Reset
A mastermind for advanced practitioners of The Bright Way. Reach new heights on your creative journey with this group of deep creatives. Weekly live meetings with Diana with ongoing discussion in our private forum in-between.
Bright Way Harp Circle
Virtual Harp Summit
Learn from almost 100 master harpists from all over the globe.
4 summits available (~40 hours/content per summit), each focusing on a different aspect of harping so that you make real progress.
World Harp Techniques
Learn expressive, powerful and fun harp techniques from around the world, bringing life and originality to your harping. Use these techniques for improvising, composing, arranging, and gaining deeper insight into other compositions. Hands-on and life-changing!
Want to Become a Pro Harpist?
How do you go from beginning harp to turning passion into profession? In this section, we'll discuss how professional harpists cultivate and become successful in their careers.
You may see professional harpists playing the harp in classical settings such as orchestras, ensembles, symphonies, or as solo acts. Besides this route, there are many other options to make a living playing harp.
There is consistent demand for harpists for weddings, anniversaries, church events such as christenings, holiday parties, and other special events. Each of these avenues allows you to play the music you love as a career. And often to play in interesting places and meet interesting people!
Healing music is another field where you can play your harp in hospitals, hospices, and other health care settings.
Harp is often brought into recording sessions, adding instant magic and melding with almost any instrument and genre. So session musician is another job you can do!
Recording harp music yourself, especially meditative music and other “background” music is yet another revenue stream. Since harps play well with other instruments, harpists are often welcome to join ensembles and groups, which widens your professional reach further.
Once you’ve become skilled, teaching harp is another very satisfying harp career.
You can teach one-to-one, in groups, or online. The options are vast!
All of the above examples are just some of the avenues you have available to you as a professional harpist.
Dr. Diana Rowan is an example of a successful professional harpist. She is an award-winning musical artist performing worldwide and holds a Ph.D. in Music Theory (world harp techniques for composers), and a Master of Music (classic piano performance). Raised as a child of an Irish diplomat, Diana has traveled, lived, and performed on six continents. Her music interweaves global music, art, spirituality, and mythology.
Based in the San Francisco Bay Area, Diana integrates global musical traditions with fluency and reverence. Diana’s performance career spans over 30 years. She performed at the World Harp Congress in Australia, Washington DC’s Smithsonian, the US Embassy in Vietnam, and Eastern European cathedrals.
Diana is a full-time creative, composing, teaching, writing, performing, and researching creativity.
She founded the online academy for creatives, Bright Way Guild, featuring Virtual Harp Summit and Bright Way Harp Circle, and her book The Bright Way: Five Steps to Freeing the Creative Within.
Bright Way Guild is dedicated to bringing out the unique creative voice within each of the creatives in the bright knowledge that the more we are our true selves, the more the world benefits.
Diana is a pioneer in her industry shaping the way musical inspiration and creativity are shared through her Virtual Harp Summits.
Diana's three pieces of advice with those starting their career as professional harpists:
Collaborate rather than compete
This will change your life. Many of the opportunities you have for learning, growing, being inspired, and living a fulfilled life result from connecting with others on many levels.
Know your Purpose
It will fuel you through absolutely everything.
Get Creative Community support
All successful creatives have a trusted inner circle who understands them.
Stay connected and support others!
Online Harp Lessons: great for both professional & beginner harpists
Online harp lessons make learning the harp accessible for anyone, anywhere.
Online harp classes are available whether you are a beginner, intermediate, or advanced student. With some time, patience, and practice anyone can play!
If you are just starting playing the harp, online harp lessons help you to learn the basics and gain momentum.
If you are already an experienced harpist, advanced online harp lessons will take your skills to the next level.
Finding an experienced harp teacher online is the opportunity to work with the expert from the comfort of your home.
You won’t waste time and energy commuting; you get to focus 100% on creating and growing as a harpist.
Whenever you have certain questions, your private online teacher will devote their attention to the specific areas you want to focus on.
You can find a harpist who specializes in exactly what you want to learn and how you want to learn, anywhere in the world.
Whether you want to experiment with a new hobby or if you want to try out for your local orchestra, your private online teacher will guide and encourage you every step of your journey.
Recently more and more students prefer to learn to play harp online.
Virtual classes give students flexibility and choice that weren't available before.
With online harp classes, don't restrict yourself to “harp lessons near me”. No worries about commuting: simply log in online on your device and say hello to your perfect teacher!
Now it is easier than ever to connect. You can have online harp classes at your home office, studio, living room, or even your patio! And with connection speeds and programs improving every day, it's getting even easier and more enjoyable.
With 30+ years of performance, Diana founded Bright Way Guild, the online academy for creatives, featuring Virtual Harp Summit and Bright Way Harp Circle. Come visit and peruse our offerings!
Virtual Harp Summit by Diana Rowan
Diana Rowan is a pioneer in her industry. She shares the way of musical inspiration and creativity through her Virtual Harp Summit Series. Diana connects harpists worldwide by sharing knowledge, passion, and raising the consciousness of the harp.
Virtual Harp Summit by Diana Rowan is the first large-scale online harp gathering in the world, paving the way for our new era of online harp learning and events. Almost 100 master harpists from all over the globe teach in the four Summits currently available.
The mission of Virtual Harp Summit is to connect harpists worldwide, uplifting each other.
Sharing knowledge and her passion for harp playing, Diana raises the consciousness of the instrument both for harpists and for the whole world.
Currently, four Virtual Harp Summits are available. Each of them brings 25+ outstanding presenters providing 40 hours of content per summit focusing on one theme of the summit.
Virtual Harp Summits consist of workshops and concerts. Each presenter delivers a workshop, workshop notes, and plays a house concert. A huge advantage of Virtual Harp Summit is you can access all the workshops on your own schedule and from any location online.
Listening to others helps you learn the very latest teaching and developments in the harp world.
Virtual Harp Summit is a great opportunity to learn about and connect with other harpists. You can enjoy communicating with musicians all over the world. In one of the episodes of the Virtual Harp Summit, Diana Rowan shares with the participants some of the strategies she used to build community. Feeling you belong helps overcome fears that may halt your inspiration.