Any self taught harpists here? BAD HABITS!

Posted In: Young Harpists

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    elly-mccabe on #166068


    I’ve been playing my harp(s) since January this year, and have come along really quickly. I did a lot of reading online about hand techniques and the basic structure of

    emily-mcintyre on #166069

    Hi Elly! I’m impressed by your courage in posting a video and asking for feedback, as well as your motivation in learning on your own. Do you have any instructional books? These often have great discussions of hand and arm position, finger placement, etc. I like Laurie Riley’s “Basic Harp for Beginners”. Sylvia Woods’ classic “Teach Yourself to Play Folk Harp” is a good one too, progressing a little more slowly.

    In watching your performance I see a lot of originality in both your arrangements and your approach to the music. The harp kept slipping, which obviously inhibited your freedom in playing. I’d recommend finding a better way to stabilize the harp; a sit-on board with non-slip fabric on the harp end is one way to go.

    Initially I would advise lifting your elbows and your thumbs while keeping your palm approximately directed toward the soundboard. Also when you’re writing your arrangements try to utilize all fingers (1-4). It seems you never use the fourth finger of your left hand and are thus missing out on an essential element in folk music: the bass note. Kim Robertson has a great book on arranging for the folk harp, and Pamela Bruner has written a book on self-accompanying vocals with the harp. All are available on I think.

    Good luck Elly, and keep up the exciting work. The folk harp is wide-open; while there are more physiologically sound ways of playing, your style is of course up to you. Keep listening and keep creating.

    unknown-user on #166070

    Hi Elly,
    I enjoyed your video!
    My two main comments are the following – there are other little things you could be doing differently, but they not important unless you really want to advance to different music.

    1)You’ve done a good job at placing more than one finger at a time. The problem though, is this – let’s say you’ve placed your 3, 2, and 1 fingers, and you play them in the order I just listed. You play your 3 and 2, and then when you play 1, your wrist pulls back. Don’t do this! Basically, you’re pulling the string with your wrist muscle, but you need to play with your finger muscle. Don’t pull with your whole hand, just your finger. It’s hard, but if you have only one finger placed, when you play it, your hand shouldn’t move at all (except to raise).

    2)When you do play with just your finger, like I described, it’s extremely important for your fingertip to reach down to the bottom of your palm. You know how people wave to a baby? When they do, their fingers (when closed) are more or less flat against their palm, and this is what you want when you pluck a string. So, for instance, if you pluck with your second finger, the finger tip should trace a big circle until the finger tip lands on the palm, down by your thumb muscle.

    Hope that was clear and helps!

    elly-mccabe on #166071

    Thank you very much Emily and Sam, your advice has been really useful! Today is the day I give the local harp teacher a call too so I’ll attend my first lesson in the next week hopefully! I’ll continue to put videos up on youtube as I write my own songs/material so please do stay in touch and let me know how you think I’m progressing! Yeah it seems to be my wrist that’s the problem, I’m sub-conciously doing it now so I’ll have to work on replacing that habbit. Thanks again! 🙂

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