You have two options: rent or buy. Most students choose to rent a harp at the beginning, until they decide this is a life-long skill they would like to develop. I have a harp that I rent out, as well as a few other community members in the area. You can also rent a harp from Lyon and Healy and have them ship it to you. If you would like to buy, a lot of harpists are able to find a good harp to buy on the local Craigslist or KSL site. Otherwise, you can go directly to the harp companies, the two main ones being Lyon and Healy and Salvi.
I prefer to wait until the student is at least 9 or 10 years old before beginning harp lessons. They have a longer attention span, and are able to remember what we learn in our lessons when they go home to practice. However, you do not have to be young to learn the harp! I have students of all ages, from school age to adult.
It is not necessary to know how to read music before you start lessons, however it is a great advantage. Harp music is written on the grand staff, just as piano music is. If you are able to jump past the early stages of music reading in your lessons, it will be very beneficial for you. If you do not read music, it is never too late! We can start from the very beginning and help you to connect the notes on the page to the strings on the harp.
There are two types of harps. A pedal harp has seven pedals at the foot of the harp that when moved up, down, or in the middle change each string to sound sharp, flat, or natural. A lever harp instead has levers attached to each string that if lifted, will sharp the connected string. Any flats that are needed, are tuned into your lever harp. Most students begin with a lever harp, and move up to a pedal harp after they have been taking lessons for several years. Pedal harps are larger with more strings, and the pedals give you the ability to play a larger variety of music, as well as more advanced pieces.
The harp is a beautiful instrument that sounds angelic even at the very early stages. Learning the harp will give you a talent you can enjoy for years to come. Music can be healing for yourself and others. Everyone enjoys listening to the harp, and you will have many opportunities to share the beautiful music you learn.