Etudes Sequence

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    I agree with Carl. I play piano and harp, and I can absolutely assure you that learning etudes did not dull my senses as a musician. It reinforces the ability to play musically and technically well when it’s time to play a piece of music. Scales and etudes are every bit as necessary to good technique on the harp as they are on the piano. Personally, I think studying etudes is even more important to good harp technique than to piano technique, as I have found that harp technique is more demanding……there is more to pay attention to, perfect… are actually using your body part against the string without all the “stuff” between you and the string. While there is fingering on the piano, and touch on the piano, there isn’t placing and closing and lifting.



    Thank you Briggsie.


    I can assure you, there was no lack of technical teaching done by Alice Chalifoux or Lucile Lawrence, with and without etudes and with abundant exercises and not, and each produced an Israel prize-winner, not that winning prizes is the only or any measure of a great harpist. Winners have won, by playing the “best” that day. It doesn’t make them anything other than that. Salzedo never won a competition after leaving school, I don’t recall Grandjany or Renie or Tournier ever winning any other competitions either.

    As for the vast majority of American harp teachers, there is absolutely no way for either of us to know what they do or don’t do in their teaching. Let’s keep the “record” straight and not skipping.


    There are some wonderful Kastner etudes for lever harp, thanks to Kathy Bundock Moore that will do you better for now than the Bochsa. You can also adapt etudes by changing their chord sequences and keeping the patterns.


    “No other instrument can play fluxes/glissandi”


    Do you turn your organs sideways? Pianos only have two glisses: white keys and black.


    Nope….you really haven’t played a 4-manual organ or you wouldn’t make such a silly comment. I have to reach out just as far on the top manual as I do on the harp to reach the bottom string — farther sometimes requiring a stretch to get some of the stops. That was a ridiculous comment, you know. The gliss comment is even sillier. Do you drink late at night when you post here?



    I study in France and I am currently doing études by Pozzoli, Larivière et Bochsa (100 exercises journaliers) and will start on Dizi soon. But I have done several études of Bochsa and


    Anne- Thank you so much for that. It’s nice to have input from someone who has current first hand experience.


    May I offer an observation from personal experience ?



    Dewar’s on the rocks

    Singapore Slings


    Brandy Manhattan

    Old Fashioned



    Elderberry Wine

    Peppermint Schnapps

    And especially for you, Briggsie,

    The Galloping Glissando:

    1 jigger of creme de menthe

    1 jigger of jalapeno sauce

    1 raw egg

    Try it, it will make quite a breakfast. You can brush your teeth with it, too.


    John- Very good caution. I’ve given a lecture several times on the use of etudes to advance technique, and I make a BIG point of saying that etudes are only a format that the teacher uses to teach technique. In other words, etudes by themselves don’t teach technique. And since they are only a format, it is possible to learn bad technique as well as good if one tries to play them without the guidance of a teacher. or plays them with a bad teacher. But when used correctly, they are a marvelous way of learning to play the harp.


    I’ll pass…..wouldn’t want to get any “spillage” on the harp…..or puke on someone else’s for that matter. Besides, I value my liver…..I’ll just leave that for you. Enjoy!!



    So, the ideal teacher would do this for you, perhaps:



    Elinor- I think the ideal teacher would take a student through a whole set of etudes at a given technical level(the Bochsa op. 318 as an example) and do all of the etudes in that collection, one at a time. The result will be a well rounded technique at that level, without gaping holes in the technique. Each student is going to find that some of the etudes are easier than others, depending on the particular skills of the student. So the teacher will probably find that one etude may take only a week to perfect, while another will take 3 weeks, all of this depending on the particular student. I don’t think it’s a good idea for any teacher to cherry-pick etudes from a collection, assuming that the student doesn’t need the others. I certainly wouldn’t do that. Let me give you an example.

    About 12 years ago a professional harpist that I know well asked me to overhaul her technique. Mind you, she had been playing professionally, doing lots of orchestra work, for about 20 years at that time. I asked her why she wanted to do this. “I feel like I’m always on the edge of catastrophe every time I play. That I’m barely in control.”

    To make a long story short(and I’m leaving out a lot here) she started lessons with me, I made huge changes in her basic hand position and finger motion, and on the advice of a harp teacher I respect enormously, took this woman through the Bochsa Op. 318, the 40 easy etudes. She could sight read them up to tempo. But of course that was not the point. It was to use the fingers, hands and arms in a correct way that would work at an advanced level.

    We started on the first etude and then progressed one or two weeks at a time through each of the etudes, in the order that they are printed. When we got to etude number 7, I looked at it for a moment and decided to skip it. It’s all 8 note chords in half notes, and it’s slow. I just didn’t think there was anything there that she needed. She asked me what I was thinking and I told her. Then I asked her to play a little of it. As soon as she started I almost shouted “That’s not how you play it!” We spent 3 weeks on that etude and she learned an enormous amount about placing in sequence and placing at the moment that you pluck the string and not a moment before. So I learned never to skip an etude in a collection. If it’s not really necessary for a particular student, then they will learn it really fast and then you move on to the next one.

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