Dry fingers vs. solid sound

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    I’m an adult who studied harp in college many years ago and is now in

    retirement trying to get back to playing. I live in a very rural area

    with no harp teachers in Upstate New York except for making a hour

    and a half drive so I’m turning to this board for some answers. I do

    not expect free advice from a harp teacher and if someone would like

    to help me I would be most happy to pay them for their time via email

    or phone.

    Here’s my problem. When I was young and playing I had a very nice

    deep solid sound and a decent hand position. I was able to play

    fairly complex passages with no problem. Now with old(er) age,

    degenerative joint disease, and extremely dry skin I find that I’m

    having a lot of difficulty getting a good sound again.It seems that

    the tips of my finger will only provide a rather wispy sound and to

    get a solid rounded sound from the string I’m having to resort to the

    sides or edges of my fingers. Using a lot of cream moisterizer

    immediately before playing does help a little but I’m afraid of what

    it’s doing to my gut strings. Nylon strings seem to be easier to get

    a good sound but I don’t really want to restring my harp.

    Can anyone suggest something to help?


    Do you know what technique you studied?


    Thanks for your response. I was taught Renie in school in Paris originally but now I’m having to use much more of the sides than I remember from lessons many years ago. It may be that I just have to play enough months to rebuild calous tissue on my fingers but I wanted to get some expert opinions.

    All the best,



    I just wanted to add a note of thanks here to those of you who have responded to my post privately. It is very nice indeed to know that we have a supportive community here. All the suggestions made to me concerning this issue have been wonderful. I’m using harp playing mostly as therapeutic but the enjoyment of playing again cannot be put into words.

    Best regards,



    How exciting that you have started playing harp again! That is wonderful!

    While you may not be able to get the best sound out of your harp right now, I believe that after you’ve been playing again for a few months, it could get better. And because of your degenerative joint disease, you may not be able to play such fast passages as those you did in your younger years. Most *older* harpists (who have NOT been playing consistently or have just began) cannot play such rigorous passages either. But don’t worry…there is still a TON of fabulous music out there for you to learn and enjoy. But, in a few months, if you feel like you can handle these passages again, then GO FOR IT!

    Anyway, I’m just rambling, but I just wanted to say good luck, way to go, congratulations, and happy harping’


    Thanks to everyone who has replied. I’ve found that some of my concern was needless. After practicing around four hours a day for the past two weeks my sound has starting getting much clearer and I’m finding things coming back to me regarding hand position that I had forgotten. I’m very surprised at how much this playing has helped my joints. Goodness! Someone should let the Medical Professionals know what wonderful therapy this is. I guess the old attage still stands, practice, practice, practice! I’m certainly reaping the profits from it now. I have my first television performance coming up next week and I’m actually feeling very excited about it now that things are falling back into shape.

    All the best,


    Evangeline Williams


    I saw your last reply about letting the medical profession know and wanted to add my 2 cents….

    Music therapists work with a wide variety of people and disabilities or illnesses, but one thing that some of them do is work on finger dexterity, hand eye coordination, etc. by working on playing instruments.

    As a music therapy intern, I have one client that I work with with a physical therapist, and other MT’s collaborate with physical and occupational therapists as well.

    It’s great to hear your success story.


    Mark: Hope your practicing is going well. I just stumbled onto your original question. I
    have an interesting piece of info to contribute. If you’re practicing a lot, you may find this
    “holistic” approach helpful. 30+ years ago I found myself playing with a stage band at
    NBC. We rehearsed our brains out and my fingers were really getting sore. The bass player
    told me to go out and get some Tincture of Myrrh (right out of the Bible) from my
    pharmacist. You can now order it at health food stores, etc. Just put a few drops on your
    finger tips and rub it around bit till it’s dry. Your fingers will feel no different to you, but
    will not blister or even get sore!!! I’ve used the same bottle for many years and pull it out
    when I have a lengthy gig to play. It has never failed me. I wouldn’t use hand lotion for fear
    of ruining my strings. Good luck. Virginia

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