The technique of playing the harp with thumbs pointing up and other fingers pointing down could be traced back to 19th century and the growing demand for bigger sound and arrival of instruments with higher string tension.
While nowadays there are many different schools of harp playing with different views on hand position, today I will refer to the technique that I learnt, and that I am passing on to my own students.
I see many benefits for keeping the comfortable space between the thumb and other fingers:
- more control of the sound – both for playing loud and soft
- greater ease when playing scales and arpeggios that require for the thumb to cross over other fingers
- the feeling of spaciousness in the body and better opportunity for the hands to relax while playing
Everybody is different and even harpists studying with the same teacher will look a bit differently when playing. Perhaps you are just starting out and seeing this differences and hearing many different viewpoints can be quite confusing. Or maybe you’re already doing really well, but when you see a recording of another harpist playing with different technique you’re in doubt whether what you’re doing is really OK.
It is hard underestimate the importance of a teacher’s guidance when working on improving one’s technique. The feedback on what you are doing cannot be passed through a video tutorial – even mine! – when I don’t see you with the harp and cannot comment on how you play. However, in a 1 to 1 setting a good teacher will help you find the way that works for you and your body.
About today’s exercises
In the free worksheet for today’s lesson you will find the exercises that will help you work on keeping the comfortable space between your thumb and other fingers. When working through them, remember that…
- what happens BEFORE you play is almost as important (if not more) as what you do while playing
- exercises won’t be enough… if you don’t practise the skills that you learnt in your every day practice. At the early stages of learning (or when reworking your technique) you need to pay attention to every single note that you play, regardless whether you’re working on an exercise or a piece!
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Watch the lesson
Live Harp Lessons: series of free tutorials for beginner and intermediate harpists
Watch live at Discover the Harp every Friday at 11:00 (UK time).