Let’s Get Physical

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How cross training and physical therapy can help you be a healthy harpist

—by Gretchen Sheetz Kirby

You may often think about protecting your harp’s health: Is the humidity okay? Is the temperature ideal? Is it time for a visit to the harp doc?

But how often do you think about your own harp health? A harpist’s life is often sedentary, which can cause our posture to deteriorate and increase muscle tension. Stress—whether from the harp or elsewhere—adds to this by generating undesirable tightness. While we harpists may not be considered athletes, our instrument demands strength and balance. The harp requires intense mental fortitude and robust finger dexterity. It also necessitates a strong and flexible body both to play and move, especially where pedal harps are concerned. Regardless of what kind of harp we play, all of us fall into the same pattern of repetitive motions with our arms, hands, and fingers. 

How do we break out of those repetitive patterns? One answer is cross training, which functions as a way to exercise other muscle groups than those a person normally utilizes. It can provide many preventative measures to avoid pain and discomfort. We talk to three physical therapists who share their expertise and show us additional ways to establish helpful habits and increase the longevity of your time with the harp. 

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