Playing the harp means a lot of hard work for our bodies. It is often the fingertips which constantly come into direct contact with the instrument that take its toll. However, there are two simple things you can do to keep your fingers happy and blister-free – you may be surprised to find out what they are!
You have probably heard that many times from your teachers. And it’s true both for your mind and your body.
Your fingers are working very hard pulling the strings. The tension of the harp makes it certainly much more demanding for them then any other activities they do every day – and they need time to get used to that.
If you’re new to the harp, start with 10 minutes a day – but make sure to practise every day. As you gradually increase the length of your practice sessions, your skin will eventually develop a very thin, almost invisible callus which will make it resistant to the mechanical friction that is applied to the fingertips by harp strings.
Same procedure applies if you come back from holiday. Start from playing as little as 10 minutes at a time and gradually increase the length. The longer your holiday was, the shorter your practice sessions should be!
Don’t wash your hands!
This may sound shocking to many of you. Isn’t that what your parents were telling you to do when you were coming back from school and heading to your music lesson? Isn’t that what we are actually told to do all the time?
I certainly was rather puzzled when I heard that advice from one of my teachers at the college, who in turn could not believe me when I claimed I had practised 4 hours a day (every day!) and STILL kept getting blisters. After some further questioning and examining of my poor fingers, she asked if I washed my hands before playing. “Of course” – was my anxious reply. – “Then don’t do this!” – “But why?”.
Here is why: your skin has its own natural barrier formed of lipids and enzymes. They form a thin layer that protects your skin from – among other factors – dehydration. Washing your hands with soapy water is a very efficient way of removing dirt and grease – but also that very precious protection.
Luckily, your skin is very good at regenerating. However, it needs some time to recreate its chemical barrier. Give it at least 15 minutes after washing your hands. If you went for a swim or had a long, nice bath, your skin probably will be even softer and more sensitive. Allow a minimum 30 minute break before asking your fingertips to cope with the pressure of strings.
And what works for you?
How do you take care of your fingers? Share your tips from protecting your skin from blisters, I will be very curious to find out what your suggestions are!