Follow Your Harp!


Ready, Steady, Go!

Right now there are three different levels of START HARP 12 week online courses running with over 30 harp students working away in them, all over the world. It is invigorating and inspiring to see the dedication and progress of all these harpists and I am so very proud!

Over the 12 weeks, we all support each other, use the highly structured weekly learning and practice videos, work one-to-one via the homework videos, chat live in Q & A sessions and connect in the START HARP closed Facebook.

When I originally envisioned the course it was for the complete novice to learn the basics, to open the doors to this incredible instrument and to give students the opportunity to learn from the very beginning foundation techniques, playing by ear, reading sheet music and improvising. I was particularly keen that the courses should work using lap/knee harps to make sure that a really expensive instrument wasn’t imperative to start learning (I even had one lady complete the first two levels on a 12 string harp, she is now the proud owner of a bigger harp and currently completing level 3!).

After completing writing and launching LEVEL 1 I got VERY excited about online teaching, I am not talking about the occasional one to one Skype lesson, this has become weekly tuition with a vast content, sheet music downloads, theory, technique, learning to perform, learning to teach yourself, learning to play ‘by ear’, with music and improvise. I can pass on so much more information this way than I have EVER been able to seeing a student one-to-one for one hour a week. I discovered that I was taking students way beyond the beginning of learning, to extended techniques, modulating, preparing to perform and even at the very end a group performance project bringing harpists together from all over the world playing together in a video!




Harp School on laptop computer

START HARP became so much more, an ever growing online school in fact! New in 2018 I am introducing one off START HARP IMMERSION sessions as well as the full 12 week courses!

So the course need new titles, it is not simply START HARP LEVEL 1, 2 and 3, it is a whole journey of harp exploration, from the beginning right through a level where you can REALLY play lovely pieces, improvise, approach new music with confidence and have truly rounded practical musicianship skills.





So, drum roll please, here are the titles:


Your journey begins…

The START HARP BEGINS – LEVEL 1 course works on the foundations and building blocks required to help you take the first steps towards becoming a proficient harpist.  This is aimed at the complete beginner or those wishing to re-discover foundation techniques.


Expand your horizons…

In START HARP EXPANDS – LEVEL 2, we expand our harpist horizons! We build on the foundation techniques and skills you have worked on previously (in other lesson or in START HARP level 1) and learn 10 new tunes to build repertoire.


Advance your dreams…

In START HARP ADVANCES (Level 3) students learn more advanced techniques and theory including harmonics and slides, modulating, how to change key with pedals or levers, using the circle of 5ths and much more.



START HARP flyer showing Shelley Fairplay with her harpSTART HARP is an easy to follow, flexible and affordable online course that will take you on a musical journey from the comfort of your own home!

‘The fact that the course covers learning by ear and improvisation as well as reading music from the page means that you can start to play recognisable tunes from the beginning. I’ve loved every minute of the course – even the homework!’ Kate Adams, START HARP Student

Interested? Details and sign up information available >>HERE<<.

Not sure which level to take? Spend a few minutes taking the Harp quiz to help you find out!

Want to find out more? Visit

START HARP: The online harp school offering courses with individual support for beginner to intermediate harpists, ‘Start Harp’ ( The three 12 week courses offer tuition on technique, note reading, improvisation and playing by ear taught via teaching videos, play-a-longs, sheet music, live online Q&A’s and one to one support in video homework submissions with personalised feedback. The courses teach students across the world including in the UK, mainland Europe, Canada, Australia and the US.

Dynamic Harps “Starter Ensemble”

Join us this May for the first ever Dynamic Harps ‘Starter’ ensemble sessions!

5 years ago 7 trembling harpists arrived in a small church hall outside Cardiff, unsure what to expect, who they would meet or what they would do. It was the first ever meeting for Dynamic Harps, and yes I was the tutor, one of the 7 tremblers!

Fast forward in time to 2018, and it’s time to expand, I am opening a new ensemble for fledgling students, the Dynamic Harps Starter Ensemble.

Dynamic Harps Advanced ensemble have performed throughout South Wales, with up to 24 performers in total, we travelled to perform at the Harpes Au Maxes international harp festival in France where we were the backing band for a Grammy nominated recording artist! We have been invited to perform a lunchtime concert in Caernarfon International Harp Festival this Easter.

We also have guest tutors come in to teach and have learned so much from the likes of Robin Huw Bowen, Meinir Heulyn, Deborah Henson-Conant, Ellie Evans and Ben Creighton Griffiths.

The ensemble has advanced so far and become bigger and better than I could have ever imagined, thank you to all involved!

It’s been such an incredible experience I now know I must open the doors further, as the power of learning and playing in an ensemble is so strong, we make friends, become better at sight reading, improve our rhythm, our technique, are inspired by others and of course simply enjoy the joy of music making together.

On Monday 14th May I am opening up the new class, the Dynamic Harps Starter Ensemble, this is for elementary to intermediate students. Not only am I sure we will have an amazing time, this group will give you the experience and training needed to join Dynamic Harps Advanced ensemble one day!

Are you trembling? Come and join us! I promise it will be worth it!


Adult group: 2.45pm-3.45pm Monday afternoons

Student group: 4.15-5.15pm Monday afternoons

Usually terms will run in 10 week blocks 3 times a year. For the first-term we will have just 6 sessions culminating with an ensemble performance at the National Botanic Garden of Wales Family Harp Weekend – 30th June (adults) and 1st July 2018 (students).


I am delighted to announce that the Dynamic Harps Starter Ensemble will be taking place at Telynau Vining Wales – Cymru Shop in North Cardiff. This gives us the amazing opportunity to use the harps in the shop rather than bring your own, making this a really easy way ‘in’ to attending harp ensemble sessions!

What do you need to join?

You need to already read music a little as we will be working from sheet music. You can be any level up to grade 4 and Shelley will write parts to suit your ability so rest assured you will be able to play and enjoy the sessions whatever your level.

You will need to have your own harp at home to practice on between sessions and ideally be taking one-to-one lessons in addition to the sessions.


The cost for the 6 sessions is £60

How to apply?

To apply for either ensemble, drop me an email on and I will send you over further details!

Please note Shelley Fairplay is not currently taking on one-to-one students.

Dreams to Reality – START HARP!

Two years ago I had a dream, a burning desire, a passion to make something that I had long imagined calling START HARP.

I wanted to make harp accessible for those living in remote areas, for people with hectic schedules, for those on a budget not able to go for an expensive harp, for people who (like me) are not great in one-to-one lesson situations.

I wanted to make learning the harp more sociable, create a group of supportive learners all working together with similar goals, to laugh together, commiserate over the tricky parts of learning and performing, fill the empty void of weeks of solo practicing and try to minimise the frustration and isolation that can sometimes be felt when learning on your own.

I wanted to make practicing as informative and joyful as possible, to create play-along practice videos so people would know exactly what was important to work on week by week, where students could play duets with me all week long, to make that lovely feeling of being part of a bigger sound as students jump into the incredible adventure of harp study and playing.

I wanted to create learning from the beginning that focused on true foundations of key skills we want to be able to use as musicians; playing from the score, playing by ear and learning to improvise, all from the very first moment a student sits at the harp.  All with a very strong foundation in harp technique, to really enable students achieve their hopes and dreams with their playing.

In 2016 I launched my first online START HARP course and took the first steps in making this a reality. START HARP has gone on to teach harpists from all round the globe, including Wales, UK, mainland Europe, Canada, America, New Zealand, Australia and Tasmania!

Now, as I sit here writing this, I have completed filming of my online harp school START HARP! There are three courses totaling 36 weeks of tuition taking students from never playing the harp to around grade 4 level. I think it has taken me over 1,000 hours to create (not counting all the thinking time in the middle of the night of course!).

Oh, did I mention I fell pregnant as soon as I started recording the classes?! So I now have the online school START HARP and the most INCREDIBLE daughter I could ever have imagined, I am totally blessed. As I look back I see that the last two years has really seen some epic creation in my life!

Thank You!

Thank you so much to all the BETA testers, thank you all the proof readers, those who have had their ears bent while I talked through ideas, thank you all who have inspired me as a harpist and harp teacher, thank you Deborah Henson-Conant for your mentorship, thank you to my husband and mother for EVERYTHING!

So, what am I going to do in 2018?

I started by sharing the completed version of START HARP with the world by launching FOR THE FIRST TIME EVER, all three completed courses, LEVEL 1, 2 and 3 at the same time in January. The next session of all three courses will begin on the 22nd April 2018.

Shelley Fairplay’s next sessions of START HARP begin 22 April 2018. Registration is now open!  There is an early bird discount available if you book on or before 15 April 2018.

Come and try the harp for the first time! January and February 11th 2018

Harp Taster Session in Cardiff – 11th January and February 2018

Have you always wanted to try the harp?

Come along to a “Harp Taster” session on the National Instrument of Wales at Telynau Vining Harps with Harpist Shelley Fairplay. Or book your family/friends on as a Christmas gift this year!

During the workshop you will be introduced  to a variety of different harps including Celtic, Concert Pedal and Lap harps. You will be allocated a Celtic harp to use throughout the session and be guided through your very first stages of learning the harp; how to sit, basic harp technique and of course how to create beautiful sounds! By the end of the session you will have learnt how to find all the notes on your harp, played an accompaniment along with Shelley and also be able to play a tune on your own! No guarantees, but we should also warn you that you may well totally fall for this incredible instrument and awaken your inner harpist!

You will be allocated your very own Celtic harp to play on during the session!

If you have any hopes and dreams of once day renting or even owning your very own harp, Elen from Telynau Vining Harps will be available during the sessions to answer any questions you might have, including prices and information on Camac harps for sale and details regarding their harp rental scheme which starts from just £50 a month.
The workshop runs from 6.45pm to 8.30pm and includes a short tea break. The sessions are open to all ages and require no previous musical knowledge. Please note under 18″s must be accompanied  by an adult.


Two workshops are available:

Cost: £30

Thursday 11th January 2018 – 6.45pm to 8.30pm

Sunday 11th February 2018 2.45pm  – 4.30pm

Venue: Telynau Vining Harps, 116B Pantbach Road, Birchgrove, Cardiff, CF14 1UE. For directions please click here.

Booking: Booking is essential, please contact Elen Vining on or 02920 620900 to reserve your space, book early to avoid disappointment as spaces are very limited. You can also book online >>HERE<<.


Are you looking to learn the harp?!

START HARP – Three 12 weeks courses

Level 1, 2 and 3 Courses starting in January, April and September each year.

Full details regarding the course are available >>HERE<<

Brand New Online Harp Classes for Beginners

Tutor: Harpist Shelley Fairplay

Are you looking to study harp for the very first time? Join this exciting new way to study harp technique, theory and musicianship from the comfort of your own home, on a lever, lap or pedal harp.

Full details regarding the course are available >>HERE<<

Learning the harp?

Do you play the harp? Or would you like to try the harp for the first time? Would you like to improve your harp playing skills? Would you like to host a harp workshop? If so I very much look forward to working with you!


Welcome to my “Teaching” page where you can find information on the variety of different lessons and ensembles I currently provide.

Please see below for relevant section!

  • Student Harp Ensemble: Student Dynamic Harps.
  • Adult Harp Evening Class: Adult Dynamic Harps.
  • Hands on Harps: Try the harp for the first time at a Museums/Visitor Centers.
  • Workshops for Harpists.
  • Harp Workshops for Schools.
  • One to One Harp Lessons. Due to launching START HARP in 2016 Shelley is not teaching 1 to 1 lessons again until 2017
  • General advice on obtaining a harp.

Student Harp Ensemble: Dynamic Harps!

Student Dynamic Harps : A harp ensemble with a twist which will focus on show, pop, film and jazz tunes. This is for harp students at grade three level and above any age up to 18. Meets Tuesday evenings in Radyr, 6.45pm – 8.30pm.

The ensemble runs in 10 week blocks. Each week we will work on repertoire pieces as an ensemble and also look at a specific skills/techniques that will inform general harp playing.

Do you enjoy Film, Show, Pop and Jazz tunes?

Then come and come and join us! The classes are open to all harp students who are grade 3 level or above. Music will be prepared to cater for the group to make sure everyone can participate and progress appropriately within their comfort zone.

Are you interested? Come and join us! I would be delighted to hear from you! For further information please visit the ‘Dynamic Harps!‘ page for further details! I look forward to seeing you at the next ensemble session!

 Adult Harp Evening Class: Dynamic Harps!

Adult Ensemble ‘Dynamic Harps’

Adult Dynamic Harps : This is an ensemble class for adult learners working on repertoire from traditional, classical, world and modern musical genres.

We meet on Monday evenings in Radyr, 6.45pm – 8.45pm.

Come and join a wonderful group of harp learners taking part in this harp ensemble evening class for adult harpists. The ensemble runs in 10 week blocks. Each week we practice and learn repertoire pieces from traditional, classical, world and modern genres as an ensemble and also look at specific skills/techniques to inform your general harp playing.

 Are you studying the harp?

Come and join us! The classes are open to all harp students who have a basic knowledge of music reading and harp technique. Music will be prepared to cater for a variety of abilities to make sure everyone can participate and progress appropriately within their comfort zone.

Are you interested? Come and join us! I would be delighted to hear from you! For further information please visit the ‘Dynamic Harps!‘ page for further details! I look forward to seeing you at the next ensemble session!

This ensemble is currently full but I would love to hear from you if you are interested in ensembles as I can put you on the “First to know!” list and email you if a space becomes available. I also hold open workshop days throughout the year so can put you on my mailing list to inform you of up and coming events!

Hands on Harps: Try the harp for the first time workshops!

“Hands on Harps” Workshop

Always wanted to try the harp? Come along to try our National Instrument of Wales, with harpist Shelley Fairplay. The workshop will include demonstrations on a Pedal, Celtic and Lap Harp, then along with Shelley’s guidance, you can have a go at playing one of the fifteen 17 string lap harps available on the day.

In general twice a year I hold open “hands on harp” workshops as The National Botanic Garden of Wales – on St Davids Day (1st March) and as part of their annual Harp Weekend this year taking place on 13th and 14th June 2015. Further details are available by clicking here. I have also held such events as part of “Chill in the Park” at Bedwellty house in Tredegar, Dyffryn Gardens just outside Cardiff and at the National Waterfront Museum in Swansea for Santes Dwynwen Day – to celebrate the Welsh Patron Saint of Love and friendship.

Would you like to come and try the harp? If you would like to be notified of up and coming workshops please email me via info@harpwales to join my mailing list.

Would you like to host and event? If you would like to host harp workshops at your venue please contact me via or 07960 718663 to discuss the exciting possibilities. I can musically theme the workshop content to be applicable to the time of year/venue as required!

Harp Workshops for Schools

Harps for School Children to try!

Looking for exciting music opportunities for students in your school? Why not book “Hands on Harps” or “Harp Tales” session!

I would be delighted to come along and run harp based music workshops in your school. The harp really is wonderful to listen to, discover and explore so workshops with the instrument are engaging and enjoyable for students (although I am of course biased due to being slightly harp obsessed!) Sessions in and around cardiff can be booked via this website or through Emma Coulthard, Cardiff County & Vale of Glamorgan Music Service.

Hands on Harps:

Hands on Harps is a six week group/whole class program designed to develop musical skills. The Harp, our National Instrument of Wales, is the central focus. The project uses eight beautiful medieval replica lap harps, each with 17 strings, for the children to learn on. Shelley leads the workshops on a 34 string Celtic harp, the lap harps and for one session a “show and tell” on a concert pedal harp. Boomwhackers and percussion are used additional instruments for Hands on Harps sessions to assist with rhythm and note understanding for the whole class.

Harp TalesTM from Harp Wales!

Harp TalesTM are interactive, exciting and educational musical stories told with harp accompaniment and child participation through song, sound and movement. Each HarpTaleTM is carefully tailored to engage appropriately the age group being worked with. Music covered in a session will encompass a variety of styles and genres including well loved traditional welsh tunes.

The session will begin with listening to the sound of the harp, a general introduction and interesting facts about the harp. This is followed by warm up activities to develop musical skills, all with a central focus on composing sounds and actions for the story being worked towards. A song will also be learnt by the group and thenâthe Harp Tale will begin and children join in with sounds, movements and song. It may possible child to have the opportunity to the harp at the end of the story and finally the session will close with reflection and farewell!

Tales include: Three Billy Goats Gruff, Hare and Tortoise, Jack and the beanstalk, The Gruffalo, Owl Babies, Morgan and the Golden Harp, The Emerald Harp, Gabriel and the Bear, Treasure Hunt, Hairy Scary Castle, Harp O”Gold, Jack and the beanstalk.

For further information, program of study and curriculum links information please do not hesitate to contact me an I will email you over further information and fees.

Workshops for Harpists:

Workshops for harpists!

It has been wonderful to provide harp workshops over the years for various organisations and music festivals such as The Clarsach SocietyTelynau Vining/Camac Harp eventsWales Millennium Center Outreach Program in Schools and for the Cardiff Music Development Team. Many of these workshops have been specific to individual sessions or general ensemble pieces (which I always love to keep diverse in content!). I also have a set of “titled” workshops I run from time to time including:

Effective Effects Workshop! (First prepared for workshop 2012)

Harmonics, Etouffe PDLT, Xyloâ? The list for harp is endless.

Through tunes medieval to modern we will explore useful techniques to enhance beautiful and varied sounds that you and your harp can create!

 Know your shapes for sight reading! (First prepared for workshop 2013)

I would like to share with you a foundation skill that if you practice you will be able to use at any level to help you sight read well on your harp. It is this“Know your shapes”. By this I am referring to building up your pattern recognition of the shapes that notes create on the musical stave and learning the feel of shape that your hand makes as you play them.

So you’ve learnt a good tune? Make it a party piece! 

(First prepared for workshop 2011)

Using simple tunes and phrases we will explore ways of using rhythm, ostinato patterns, various harp techniques and plain old cheating to find out how best to make a tune “your own” in an individual, delightful and vibrant way! This workshop is suitable for all levels, music will be provided but notation reading not necessary. We will work as an ensemble, no pressure to play on your own unless of course you would like to! Come along, try out ideas and create beautiful music!

 I was at the workshop you held at Pentrecwrt Village Hall a few weeks ago – still improvising!

What a fantastic afternoon that was! Thank you so much, it was really inspiring – you are a great teacher Shelley and your enthusiasm and passion really awakened an urge in me to play and practise more and more!

 I look forward to the next workshop!

 With very best wishes and thanks again,


One to One Harp Lessons

One to one harp lessons for all ages and abilities.

 Due to launching START HARP, Shelley is not teaching 1 to 1 lessons at this time.

I provide one to one harp lessons to over 20 students varying from primary school age to retiredbeginner to grade 8.

 I have been teaching the harp since 1998, I really enjoy this aspect of my life and I am an enthusiastic and understanding teacher. I believe that enjoyable and varied lessons are paramount to a student’s success in becoming a harpist. As everyone has different long-term aims and expectations it is important to discuss these between tutor and student so lessons can be tailored carefully to individual needs. You may wish to perform in concerts, play with a band, accompany others, learn to improvise, compose, or simply play for your own pleasure.

I am a fully qualified teacher with a PGCE from Aberystwyth University and hold a diploma in harp instrumental teaching from the Associate Board of the Royal Schools of Music.

To learn the harp you need time, enthusiasm and discipline. It is recommended that a potential student should have studied the piano for at least a year before starting the harp. This is so that when a student starts the harp the main focus can be on enjoyment and learning a good technique – an assimilation of basic music theory will have already taken place. It is possible to learn without piano as a background, however a student must be prepared for what will initially be a slower learning process.

Lesson Costs

The length of lesson you will need will depend on your age and experience. I teach on Weekdays and evenings. If you are interested in having harp lessons please do not hesitate to contact me by telephone or email to discuss your needs and ideas.

  • 1/2 hour: £15
  • 3/4 hour: £22.50
  • 1 hour: £30

Julie: “I’m 38 years old; I started learning the harp eight months ago. Shelley made me feel immediately at ease and made the lessons thoroughly enjoyable. She managed to be both motivating and perceptive as a teacher; always stretching me but never too far; always encouraging and inspiring. I wanted to learn to improvise, as well follow scores, and she ensured that I learned both. She clearly had a wonderful relationship with the children she taught and certainly related to me (an adult) with complete ease. I suspect she could effectively teach anybody (of course, as long as they genuinely wanted to learn!). Her passion for teaching was obvious to all of us – lessons are fun as well as instructive.”

Alison: “Shelley has been an inspirational harp teacher for our daughter, Katie, who took up the instrument two years ago at the age of nine. From the outside Shelley’s lessons appear to have involved a lot of fun, which is in direct contrast to the methods of other music teachers we have experienced. This has had a very positive effect on Katie who has always looked forward to her weekly lesson. Shelley organises group sessions which has allowed Katie to meet other people interested in the harp and has enabled her to experience group, as opposed to just solo playing.”

Some general advice on obtaining a harp:

Folk and Pedal Harp Lessons
Harps are expensive and it is a big commitment to purchase one before beginning lessons. I offer one or two “taster” sessions” so that you can meet me and try the harp before you make a commitment to the instrument and lessons. Although you won”t be able to practice between sessions, it will give you an opportunity to try the instrument and gain a slight insight into the harp and techniques that are used by harpists.

Hiring harps

Hiring a harp to start with is a very sensible idea and harp hire is available from approximately £40/£50 a month. You can rent harps from various harp shops including Telyanu Vining Harps, Pilgrim Harps and Salvi, please see my recommendations page for information on these suppliers.

Harp loans from Schools/Music services

For children wishing to learn it is worth speaking to their school as some schools and/or county music services will loan harps to students.

Purchasing a harp

Once you are sure that studying the harp is going to be a long-term project, the purchase of the instrument is the next logical step. There are various companies selling harps throughout the UK, please see my recommendations page for some suggestions. A suitable harp to learn on should have at least 34 strings (this is the number required by the music examining boards) and will provide the range necessary for at least the first few years of learning. If you are thinking of buying ar harp over the internet on say on ebay, please feel free to ask my advice via email or contact a harp teacher that you know.

Second-hand Harps

Harps do not devalue greatly so second-hand harps are not always cheaper. There are a number of second-hand harp lists available (please see my recommendations page for suggestions). Do ask for advice if you are considering purchasing a second-hand harp.


There are various charities you can apply to that offer help towards the costs of musical instrument purchase.