Exercise for good harp technique?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

  • Participant
    Tim Kelly on #155935

    Hello there! I’m new here, my name is Tim. Nice to meet you! I’m 24 and I’ve been taking harp lessons for a few months.

    I was wondering if you guys and girls practice any specific exercises to improve your technique. I am just learning how to raise and it requires a lot of strength, or at least muscle endurance, as well as sitting up very straight. Do you actively try to strengthen those muscle groups or do you just practice?

    Thanks very much!

    PS: If anyone has any tips on beginner raising/gestures that would also come in handy. My hand often ends up floating in the air while the other hand plays. It’s a bit like trying to pat your head and rub your stomach! tricky. I think it will be easier the better I get at reading music and reading ahead, too.

    tony-morosco on #155936

    I have always used (since my very first lesson) Salzedo’s Conditioning Exercises for Beginner and Advanced Harpists. I always begin and end my practice by running through a few of the exercises from this short book.

    Sylvia Clark on #155937

    I use the Salzedo Conditioning exercises (first 6) every day.

    tony-morosco on #155938

    I never said I played them perfectly. I said I started using them the first lesson.

    Sylvia Clark on #155939

    The exercises use all four fingers of each hand, which is very advanced for a beginner.

    Tim Kelly on #155940

    I’m very new to the idea of different schools of harp playing technique. My teacher is fond of Salzedo, so I’ve been learning that. I’m rather enjoying it, but I don’t know much about alternatives.

    I will also check out the Salzedo conditioning exercises book. Sounds like it would be handy. There’s one book I purchased by Deborah Friou – harp exercises for agility and speed that is quite good.

    Thanks for the advice!

    Does anyone do any actual exercising that they find beneficial aside from harp practice?

    anita-burroughs-price on #155941

    I like the LaRiviere exercises. They are concise and thorough.
    It can take semesters to complete the entire book but I still use parts of
    it daily.

    Also Yolanda Kondonassis textbook is very well written.

    Good luck with your lessons!

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #155942

    The exercises in the Lawrence-Salzedo Method would be the first step, unless you’ve had a lot of piano, followed by the Conditioning Exercises, and then I would add the LaRiviere, or at least its principles applied to the Conditioning Exercises. It has been said that they are the most concise and complete set of exercises for any instrument. If you have just started, you want to open and close your hands away from the harp, and you could squeeze a tennis ball to develop more strength, but its really about control.

    Tim Kelly on #155943

    What do you mean when you say conditioning exercises? noob here. : )

    Thanks everyone for being so helpful!

    carl-swanson on #155944

    Tim- If you want to improve you technique in an organized and fun way, get the 40 easy etudes of Bochsa. Each one focuses on one aspect of technique and works it thoroughly. Most of the first 20 etudes are one page long, and none are longer than 2 pages. If you learn each one of them well, your technique will advance methodically and quickly. To me the Salzedo Conditioning exercises are more warm up exercises than technique building etudes.

    It might be a good idea to stick a definition in here. Exercises are patterns of notes that make no attempt at being a piece of music. Think Hanon for the piano. There are lots of books of exercises and they have their place. LaRiviere is mostly exercises. Salezdo Conditioning exercises are all, well, exercises. You repeat a pattern of notes over and over mostly in order to learn how to hold and articulate your fingers. The problem with exercises is that they get really boring really fast. But also, since they are just patterns, there is a disconnect between learning exercises and then applying that technique to a piece of music.

    Etudes on the other hand are pieces of music that focus completely on one aspect of technique. One etude might be playing 4 note scales, both ascending and descending, and will probably do that in different parts of the instrument so you learn what that pattern feels like higher or lower on the instrument. Another etude might involve 3 note chords, and another 3 or 4 note arpeggiated chords, etc. But because it is an etude, you learn not only the pattern being studied, but you also learn to use both hands independently, since one hand is playing the pattern and the other is playing some sort of simple accompaniment. For someone who has just started to learn the harp, that’s a big deal.

    A word of caution. And etude is just a format for learning technique. Same with exercises. This means that, without proper guidance, you can learn incorrect technique with the etude as well as correct technique. So make sure you’ve got a teacher, and your teacher can explain what you are trying to accomplish with each etude, and then makes sure you accomplish that. Typically when I use the Bochsa 40 easy etudes to teach, the student stays on each etude 2 to 3 weeks. If the student is a hard worker, he or she can start a new etude each week or every other week so that he or she has two etudes in different stages of perfection at a time.

    tonie-ogimachi on #155945

    I wish this column were around 40 years ago, when I first started taking harp lessons! I remember working on Boschsa etudes. This is one of the best explanations of “why” my wonderful teachers had me working on those etudes!

    carl-swanson on #155946

    Thanks Tonie.

    steven-todd-miller on #155947

    Tim- listen to Carl. The Bochsa Etudes are great for technique and fun at the same time.

    Elizabeth L on #155948

    Tim, wouldn’t your teacher be a good person to ask about this?

    mike-c on #155949

    I think he’s asking about exercising at the gym. Like if there are bicep curls or chin ups, etc, that would develop the specific muscle groups to maintain the endurance of holding your left arm out for so long. I’ve wondered this too, because I’m a n00b as well and my forearm can begin to hurt after 20-30m of practice.

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