experiences adjusting to different string spacing?

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

  • Member
    samantha-t on #155723

    Hi all,

    I’m thinking of buying a new lever harp in the next six months or so (currently have an old Salvi 34-string Heather). I recently tried out a harp I like very much except that the string spacing is quite different. As the maker explains it, the string spacing is the same from string edge to string edge, so that the thinner strings are closer together. A lot of other harp makers advertize a “concert” spacing.

    From other postings, I see that there’s really no such thing as a standard concert spacing, and Carl especially thinks it’s fairly easy (with practice) to shift between spacings. I just can’t imagine my brain being able to do this quickly, though. For one thing, I’m able to play without looking at the music on the Salvi, and I figure this is because my body “knows” how big an octave (say) is anywhere on the harp…how could you possibly make adjustments to new (and uneven!!) spacing in a few minutes? I’d love to hear from anyone who shifted to a new harp with different (and varying) spacing. How long did it take you to adjust? I think the idea of unevenness on the same harp is bothering me most of all.

    Also, I have very long fingers. Would I be better off NOT having a narrow spacing anywhere on the harp? Thanks!

    Participant
    Paul and Brenda on #155724

    We were able to play narrower spacing right away, but it felt very different and we made lots of mistakes. We were doing pretty good after a few days, but once in a while even now the spacing feels odd, like we revert back to the spacing we played for many years and miss an interval. It is not a problem anymore though. One of us has long fingers and does not have a problem. If your fingers are very fat, perhaps there could be more buzzing on adjacent strings. On the other hand, we feel we just have to be more accurate in our placement on the strings.

    Member
    tony-morosco on #155725

    It might be difficult at first, but after a few days, if you keep playing on both, you will be able to go back and forth with only a few minutes adjustment.

    However the first time you try you will probably experience much more difficulty. Almost certainly you won’t be able to play without looking at least.

    You will be surprised at how quickly you adapt, and so long as you keep playing on both string spacing you will quickly developed the ability to go back and forth without much effort, so long as you get past the initial difficulty.

    Carl is right, it really isn’t that hard to do, so long as you give it some practice.

    Member
    samantha-t on #155726

    Thanks for the reassurances. The thing that I really don’t get is how you operate with octaves that aren’t the same on the same harp. Think about if you’re doing a scale done in octaves, with 4 on the lower note and the thumb on the same note but an octave higher. If the string spacing is even, you keep 4 and 1 the same width apart and just move your hand up and down. If that span changes, you’d HAVE to keep looking at the strings, wouldn’t you?

    Member
    tony-morosco on #155727

    Only at first. Once you get used to it you start to anticipate the change. Also a harp with narrower spacing can still be consistently spaced, and some pedal harps with “concert” spacing are not consistently evenly spaced. That is a matter of the individual harp.

    My pedal harp and one of my lever harps are Lyon and Healy, both with consistent, concert spacing. I

    Participant
    brook-boddie on #155728

    I had a different experience than Tony’s (and not suggesting that he is wrong–just telling you about my experience).

    Participant
    Tacye on #155729

    I find I adapt relatively quickly – I used to have lessons on an Obermayer harp which had a bass where the octaves felt very small, but at the same time far away compared to my harp.

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