Automatic feet

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    The “where should the pedal diagram go?” thread has made me curious about playing a pedal harp in keys.

    Although I love my lever harp dearly, I still don’t feel that I have a very smooth/comfortable/automatic facility with lever changes. There are some changes in both “Classiques” Level 2 and “Suzuki” Level 2 that I almost dread having to do.

    I got to wondering if pedal changes become like driving a stick shift car, and also if the physical act of moving the pedal comes, with practice, to supplant the need for knowing the exact key in the music being played.

    I’m sure that this finite mental process is probably different for every player, but I was wondering, for example, if there is less of a sense of key/key signature than would be needed for piano, or certainly for a string instrument.

    It seems to me that there would be more freedom on the harp in respect to key, as long is one is very sure footed.

    Any thoughts?


    Levers can become almost automatic as well.


    You must move the lever in *exactly* the same place every time or it will never become automatic. Ditto for pedals. If you keep moving around where you make your changes, it’s always a thought process, never something that happens without your thinking about it.


    I just wanted to clarify that I wasn’t suggesting making changes in different places every time–just finding out what worked best for you.


    Oh, no, I didn’t think you were, Jennifer. I wasn’t responding to your post, just to Sherry’s. For myself, I certainly consider all the lever changes in my arrangements as just suggestions–the important thing is to find the right spot for you and to stick to it.



    I work my pedaling into the score exactly as if I were pulling stops on an organ. There is a place to do them, and they always get changed at the same spot — on the same beat or whatever. I practice that into the score, just as I used to do my stop changes on the organ. And yes, it becomes automatic after you practice it enough. I notice my foot will just GO where it’s supposed to after I practice enough.

    Now, whether or not you have more or less awareness of keys while playing harp as opposed to keyboard…..I suppose you COULD blank out and not really know what key you are in


    For me both pedal and lever changes are pretty much the same. The mechanics of doing either takes some practice but you just get used to it.

    What is most important for me is to look at pedal or lever changes in exactly the same way I look at playing the notes. Everything happens at its precise time and in precise rhythm. The changing of a lever or pedal becomes as much a part of playing the music as any other aspect of playing.

    So either way you can’t just reach out about the time you think you should and jerk a lever or press a pedal. All movement need to be made with a sense of rhythm so it all flows as part of the music. I don’t know if I am expressing that clearly but I hope you get the idea.

    The mechanics come with time, the trick is making the mechanics of lever and pedal changes just like any other of the mechanics of playing.


    I have never become comfortable with lever changes at all, but pedaling is completely natural, always was.


    Very interestng, thanks everyone. I have always learned lever changes at either exactly where written or exactly where I change them to be. I’m sure I’d never be able to do them in different places in the same piece- change them at one measure one time and at another the next.

    I think part of my lever issue may be visual. Even the Camac levers are hard for me to see quickly. I have even less luck with Truitt levers because they’re so small.

    I have a tendency to want to look away from music as little as possible, and I’m getting the feeling that it’s because of having to look away from the music AND the strings that I feel as though levers are a struggle.

    At least when I’ve had the few lessons I’ve taken on pedal harp, there are fewer pedals (than levers) and my foot seems to find them without looking


    Yes, pedals definitely have the advantage that it is relatively easy to train the feet to find them without looking, so you don’t have to look away from the music much.

    For the issue of finding the levers I went ahead and got myself some of those little blue and red colored elastic rings from Sylvia Woods. You slip them over the lever handles and it makes it much easier to identify the C and F levers just like the strings. I also use white and yellow rings that I use when I am learning a piece, or playing a particularly chromatic piece on levers, to mark the levers that need to be changed. Makes it very easy to find them even using peripheral vision.


    For me there is definitely a difference between the piano and the harp. At the piano I have to be constantly aware of which key I am in to remember which white keys and black keys to use. At the harp I can set the pedals and go, needing only to look for pedal changes for accidentals as the strings remain always the same.

    If the piece contains a huge amount of accidentals, however, requiring a great deal of foot movement, the greater difficulty shifts back to the harp from the piano.


    As a pedal harpist first and foremost, I admit that I totally suck at flipping levers on the fly. I just found those yellow and white rings this week and ordered some. My Camacs are prominently marked with red and blue rings, but the levers I may have to flip are hard for me to get quickly, so the white and yellow rings should help some. I loved that idea. To me, levers just seem so odd, but then I started life as an organist who learned to do things with my feet….it seems natural to change the string length with my feet and not my hands.


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