Looking for Harp Lessons? Always wanted to Play Harp?

Alys Howe is currently located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, and is available to teach private lessons (online during Covid).  Alys has taught for various organizations across North America, and welcomes inquiries about workshops or distance lessons online.  You can also visit the workshops page of this website.

Alys teaches both pedal and lever harp (classical and Celtic styles).   She studied Traditional Scottish Music and Ethnomusicology at The Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, folk and pedal harp for her BFA with Sharlene Wallace at York University, and went on to get an MA in Performance of Traditional Irish Music at The University of Limerick.  Through these programs, Alys studied with some truly amazing Celtic harp players (including Sileas, Wendy Stewart, Savourna Stevenson, Corrina Hewatt, Catriona McKay, Michael Rooney, Laoise Kelly, and Janet Harbison).  Alys developed her foundational technique with Elizabeth Volpe (VSO Principal Harp), Heidi Krutzen (VO Principal Harp), and Sharlene Wallace

Alys Howe Harp Teacher Vancouver BC

With over 20 years of teaching experience, Alys has developed an approach that enables students to make rapid progress at the harp. Some of her students have received RCM gold and silver medals, continued studying pedal harp at the University of British Columbia, and work as professionals themselves.  Alys has also taught at the undergraduate level for the University of Limerick.  A dedicated teacher and tradition-bearer, Alys combines the methodologies of classical technique with the style of Celtic, traditional, and folk musics of the world, encouraging harp players to discover their own creative vision.   


Student Testimonials

I have participated in Alys Howe’s group harp classes for several years. The classes are a stimulating and supportive learning environment, and a wonderful opportunity to explore musically creative adventures. Alys is dedicated and sensitive to different levels of ability and encourages her students to embrace new challenges “fearlessly”! Her passion for this beautiful instrument is infectious, and her skill as a teacher is evident in the progress we make. – Pamela

Enrolling in the group harp classes is a truly wonderful and unique experience. The classes focus on individuality and creativity within a group setting and allow the students to explore the dynamics in an ensemble.  Alys is an inspiring teacher and I am also inspired by my classmates! – Rosanna

Having recently completed a six week beginner group harp class with Alys Howe I can say that I was extremely happy with the course. I have taken private lessons in other instruments in the past and the group format had a number of advantages:

  • I learned a lot from other students. Others asked questions and encountered challenges that I didn’t (and vice versa) and the varying perspectives added depth to my learning
  • Being in a group deepens the dedication to practise since you are accountable to others as well as yourself
  • Being in a group creates greater confidence since you can share your progress and see that others are experiencing struggles and triumphs while they learn as well

Alys is a really wonderful, patient, and intuitive teacher who gracefully balances group instruction and individual attention in her course. As a first time harp player I was very grateful for her excellent class and highly recommend it to others thinking of starting out on this beautiful and challenging instrument. – Andrea

Thank you so much for teaching me harp!  You are the best teacher ever! – Vivian

I have long wanted to play the harp and searched for a teacher who would be demanding and encouraging at the same time. As an adult beginner, I wanted a teacher who was skilled at showing me how to correct problems, and who had structure to her lessons coupled with an eye for individual learning styles and so could make very practical suggestions for improvement. Alys is exactly this – she zeros in on each person. I began with group Beginner lessons from Alys, and have enjoyed continuing with the Harp Practice Ensemble. – Penny



What harp should I get?

Students often ask me for advice about what harp to rent or purchase.  If you are a beginner, I recommend that you start on a lever harp (even if your goal is to play the pedal harp when you are ready).  I strongly recommend getting a harp with full levers (one for each string).  This will allow you to play in a greater variety of keys.  If you are purchasing a harp, keep in mind that a minimum of 34 strings will ensure that you won’t need to upgrade to a larger lever harp later on.  If you are not sure which harp to commit to, consider renting for a while.


Harps available in Halifax Nova Scotia 

Nova Harps https://www.novaharps.ca/harp-rentals-sales-canada-lyon-healy-salvi.html (Karen Rokos is the harpist with Symphony Nova Scotia, and is also a licensed Harp Technician) or 

Eastcoast Harpshop https://www.facebook.com/EastcoastHarpshop/ (Cheryl Reid O’Hagan)

Nova Scotia artisan Timothy Habinski, located in Bridgetown Nova Scotia, has a range of finely hand-crafted Celtic harps for rent or purchase (24 strings up to 40 strings).  The small harps are very light and portable with detachable legs, and the 34 string harps are designed to fit comfortably in the backseat of any car.  He also offers a wonderful “buy-back” program, helping those who purchase one of his student model harps to move up to one of his professional models later on.  http://www.timothyharps.ca/


Other harps to consider

For harp players who don’t own a car: look into a “Sharpsicle” by Rees Harps, or the “Zephyr” by Triplett.  You should expect to upgrade to a larger harp if you pursue the instrument long-term, because these harp sizes are limited in terms of left hand (accompaniment and bass).  I recommend getting the “stick” to help balance these harps.  Rees harps may also have “legs” which are even more helpful.

The “Ravenna 26” by Dusty Strings. Mainly I recommend the 26 harp for younger children to use, because it’s a nice size and can be rented or purchased with “legs” (makes it easier to balance than the Zephyr or a “Sharpsicle”). 

The “FH 34” or “FH 36” by Dusty Strings.  These professional model harps have respectively 34 and 36 strings.  They come in a variety of beautiful and exotic woods, which have slightly varying tonal properties. Personally I would choose the 34 over the 36, because the 34 fits comfortably in the back seat of almost any car, while the 36 is often too large.  The 36 has two additional strings at the top of the harp, and I have found that the bass register of the 36 harps is much louder (but can be kind of “boomey”, because the bass strings are not wire-wrapped).  Both models are lovely instruments, suitable for anyone.  I owned three Dusty Strings harps over the years and loved them all.

My current lever harp was made by Larry Fisher, a wonderful and very talented artisan located in Winnipeg. You can order a professional model harp by visiting http://www.fisherharps.com/Eireann.html.  Note: Fisher harps have thin carbon strings and fairly light tension. Because of that, the Eireann can feel quite different from many lever harps made in North America.  You will get addicted to the speed and sound these harps can support 🙂


Harp Strings

Your harp will eventually break a string.  This is normal – it does not mean that something has gone wrong.  You can purchase replacement strings at:

Robinson’s Harp Shop (order from the USA) – 619-473-8556  or Fax: 619-473-8212

Dusty Strings (USA) – 206-634-1656  or Fax: 206-634-0234

Lyon and Healy – 801-355-2686  or Fax: 801-355-2687

Or from the maker or provider of your harp.

Your harp teacher can show you how to replace broken harp strings.