Article Index


To find an effective teacher

If you have had the patience to read this far in this document, hopefully you will know what to look for in an effective choice of teacher for you or your child.

If you are a parent or student starting out, without knowing what questions to ask, finding a good teacher could be a gamble even if they are trained, qualified and employed in a school! The question to ask is ‘What can you teach me’? Can they train in all four ‘aspects’ of harping? Where have they acquired their teaching skills, have they trained, studied or shadowed an established teacher? Who trained them? Are they ‘intuitive’ (‘self trained’) teachers? With self-trained teachers, sometimes you can be successful, and oftimes not. And, remember – ‘to speak the language doesn’t mean you can teach it’ – so don’t be disappointed if your local star player is not a good teacher. It doesn’t necessarily follow. But then also, a great teacher could also be someone who doesn’t play well! Remember what you are seeking is:

  • A teacher who can lead you and your interest to real progress and musicianship
  • A teacher who knows the repertoire who can introduce it generously to you
  • A teacher who can help build your collaboration skills for session playing or stage performance with others
  • A teacher who will help build your confidence and competence in knowing that even a basic player can participate fully in session playing etc
  • A teacher who can give you regular lessons – maybe a half hour per week, 30 weeks a year
  • A teacher who will enhance your understanding, expertise, knowledge and repertoire
  • A teacher who will open the world of harping to you for a lifetime of music practise
  • To ‘learn how to do it yourself’ or ‘play a fixed arrangement’ –
    this is the question!

Many teachers will choose to teach fixed arrangements by rote rather than teaching the student how to ‘do it for themselves’. The reasons for this are many – which include that the teacher may not be comfortable or able to teach any other way – perhaps because of their own lack of understanding or proper teaching skills! If they themselves are still playing fixed arrangements that they acquired from their teachers previously, even if minimally edited, they will have a limited ability to serve the student well. Where the teacher wishes to ensure excellent marks at Junior or Leaving Cert exams, it is perfectly reasonable that the teacher would ‘fix’ the arrangements for the student.

Eventually, it is the responsibility of the parent or mature student to ensure they have a teacher that will introduce them to all that Irish harping can be for them, to encourage their participation and enjoyment of playing in sessions, to build their confidence in stage, competition and examination performance, and to enhance their lives with a life-long love of their instrument and its music. If your teacher is not achieving this for you, you are encouraged to search out a better alternative.

If you are a teacher wishing to upgrade your skills, you are invited to shadow recommended teachers or perhaps consider taking some teacher-training. For more information on these, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..