Some simple tips to get you started on your Reverie Harp
by Matt Edwards • May 18, 2021
The Reverie Harp is not really designed for playing conventional music, in fact its primary purpose is as a music therapy instrument. We'll give you some tips on playing the Reverie Harp, ideas on what kind of music can be played on the Reverie Harp, and ideas for using the harp in a music therapy setting or other unique situations.
How do you play the Reverie Harp?
The simple answer is: You play the Reverie Harp however you want.
With our pentatonic tuning there are no wrong notes. You can:
- strum all the strings
- pluck individual strings
- pluck any two or more strings together
- strum it with a pick
- tap it with hammered dulcimer hammers or even pencil
However you choose to play the Reverie Harp–it will sound good! Kim Donley, a music therapist at Abbott Northwestern Hospital says that:
The tone is just very calming and peaceful. You can't make a mistake which is what I really like about it.
A person can pluck individual strings, multiple strings (using thumb and fingers), or strum across a few or all of the strings. The only thing to avoid is harsh banging or strumming. Some people use a guitar pick, but you can also just use your finger tips or fingernails.
Our instructional DVD (sold separately) gives some detailed coaching on playing nice rhythms by finger-picking with the thumb and one or two fingers, but these are advanced techniques that are not important for success.
What kind of music can be played on the Reverie Harp?
You can pick out a few simple pentatonic melodies if you explore around on it to find the right notes (Amazing Grace, Go Tell it on the Mountain, Row Your Boat, Three Blind Mice, Mary Had a Little Lamb, etc). We even offer songsheets that slide right under the strings so you can simply follow the notes to play songs. But this is not the main purpose of the Reverie Harp.
Think of this as more of a music therapy instrument for non-musicians than a musical instrument for musicians. We designed it specifically so that a person does not need to engage the mind to enjoy pleasant sounds. So the word “play” does not mean “perform” on this harp. You “play with” this harp. You can close your eyes and play with it – we call it “noodling around” on the strings. A child can play with it, a person with limitations can enjoy playing with it.
So if you can’t play songs, what is the instrument for?
Relaxation, mostly. People use it for simple fun, dreamy relaxation, soothing harmonies, tactile stimulation, resonant vibrations, satisfaction of instant pleasure/success.
The harp also is useful as a tool to stimulate conversation and interaction. Two people can play together, one playing each half, to make musical harmonies together. You can start a conversation by asking things like, “What does this sound remind you of?”, or “How does this make you feel?”, or “What do you think the rosette (tree) symbolizes?”, etc.
We know of chaplains, counselors and therapists who use the Reverie Harp to help people relax and to open up meaningful conversations about feelings, memories, and deeper thoughts. It is a good tool for “breaking the ice” and moving quickly into important issues.
Here is a track recorded by Matt Edwards, inventor of the Reverie Harp. The reverie harp is tuned to the Meditation Tuning - a minor tuning. The track is quite simple just Reverie Harp and Monochord tuned to middle C tuning. The steady stream of repeated notes from the monochord is hypnotic and creates a beautiful space to improvise on and explore the meditation tuning.
The harp can make many sound effects for story telling. Strum across the range for every time the scene (or page) changes, pluck high strings to represent a bird chirping or a kite flying, Pluck low notes to represent a large person talking or animal roaring, tap the wood for door-knocking or woodpecker pecking, scratch the thicker strings quickly for eerie sounds or slowly for the sound of a creaking door, and many more creative ideas.
Here is a video playlist that demonstrates different ways to use the Reverie Harp: music therapy setting, playing techniques, aid in guided imagery, and lullaby tuning for singing.
Lots of thought went into the shape of the Reverie Harp. We designed this instrument to be something that ANYBODY can hold and play. That meant that the Reverie Harp had to be:
- no sharp edges
- small enough to fit easily into bed
- aesthetically inviting
Considering purchasing a Reverie Harp? The Reverie Harp is a music therapy instrument designed to be played by everyone regardless of musical skill and produces soothing music, healing vibrations, and lightweight portability.