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How to avoid getting blisters when playing the harp? – Coffee Break Harp 19

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Some people think blisters are unavoidable part of a harpist’s life – but it doesn’t have to be like that! There are a few simple (but perhaps surprising!) things that you can do to play and keep your fingers blister-free.

Blisters and calluses

These two terms sometimes get mixed up. From this episode you will learn about the difference between the blisters (that we definitely want to avoid) and the calluses (that help to protect our skin from harp blisters).

Why can we get blisters when playing the harp?

On the harp, our fingertips constantly interact with the harp strings. When the friction between the strings and our skin becomes too intense, it can irritate the skin. The blister is a reaction from the upper levels of the skin. Same as a callus, a blister’s aim is to protect the deeper layers of the skin.

Can I avoid getting blisters?

Yes! There are several things that you can do to avoid getting blisters while playing the harp. The most important factors are:

  • the way you practise
  • how you wash your hands
  • length of your fingernails
  • how you take care of the skin on your hands
Are there any accessories I can use to protect my fingertips while playing the harp?

While on many types of harps we tend to use our fingertips directly on the strings to play, we can get help certain techniques.

Check out these felt picks that are safe for the harp (and your fingers) and help you play glissandi.

How to manage a blister if I get one?

There are ways you can alter your practice to let the blister heal. However, you need to watch out for burst blisters and signs of infection. Always consult your doctor or other trusted healthcare professional before starting any treatment.

Watch the video

More resources

How to do mental practice for harp when you’re waiting for a blister to heal

A plaster that you can use when dealing with a burst blister (only when playing!) is microporous medical tape. The type I use is thin enough to allow tearing according to needs, and the paper-like surface allows to still get a good enough grip on the harp strings.

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Coffee Break Harp: series of free tutorials for beginner and intermediate harpists