Janet Harbison's TRAD HARP METHOD is  an oral training system for traditional Irish harpers that has evolved over a lifetime’s playing and teaching experience. 

The Method teaches:Camera 10 Mar 2010 029 SMALL

  • The ‘Language of Music’ as a creative and spontaneous art with every player becoming a confident performer, arranger, accompanist and improvisor
  • A healthy traditional technique ensuring competent playing and placing, agility, strength, speed and control
  • A holistic approach to traditional music ensuring that all players are confident in social harping (informal performance as in a session), confident arrangers (able to spontaneously and intuitively arrange any tune sensitive to style and history) and confident solo and ensemble stage (formal) performance  
  • Music literacy after fluency in performance 


The Method is presented in 3 phases:

Phase 1  involves 4 Levels to ‘compentency’ (with each level achievable by an average student starting at the age of 12 years and having regular weekly lessons through the school year) and 2 further 'access' or 'introductory' Levels for Junior Beginners (students from age 7 - 11) or Adult Learners (with a broader music repertoire including some American folk music and light classical).  The 'introductory Levels) are supported with 3 'Preliminary Level' examination options. All Levels are accompanied by Tutor Books, each with supplementary tune books for friends and family members to participate in communal music-making. 

Phase 2  involves  ‘Advanced Levels 5 to 8’ in the 'Arts of Harping' to ‘Mastery’. 

The Repertoires:

1 Story Music (Improvisation accompanying poetry and storytelling: Goltraí, Geantraí, Suantraí) 
2 Historical Repertoire (17th and 18th Centuries, including Carolan)
3 Lamentations and Slow Airs
4 The Romantic & Folk Repertoire (19th and 20th Centuries)
5 The ‘New Irish’ (or Formal Modern) Composition Repertoire
6 Dance Music Repertoire
7 Song and Harp Accompaniment
8 Sacred and Ceremonial Music
9 Music for Health Well-being (Palliative improvisation)

The Skills:

1 Articulation (traditional harp technique)
2 Interpretation (ornamentation, variation and the development of 'style')
3 The Art of Arrangement
4 The Art of Accompaniment
5 The Art of Improvisation
6 Composition.

All of these 'Arts' represent aspects of harping that are offered to the student in the Harbison Harp Method.  After Phase 1 graduation (for which the Tutor Books are designed), students are invited to choose 2 'Arts' for each of the exam levels until, at Level 8, they choose their 'Master Programme' of entirely their own choice of repertoire for a final examination.  Level 8 Graduates will have shown a significant mastery of harping and can be confident at presenting themselves to the world as 'Masters of the Arts of Harping'.  

Phase 3: involves training for

The Professions:

1 Performance (Stage and Studio) 
2 Teaching
3 Background Entertainment
4 Ceremonial (Sacred and Secular) 
5 Palliative Harp Care

The Method is unique in that it maintains the oral and creative nature of the Irish tradition ensuring that every performer is fully equipped to participate in all artistic, social and professional aspects of the tradition.  It also teaches literacy after fluency is established - so creativity can be spontaneous and intuitive - and musicality is as natural as nature.