? for the “nail” players

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    kay-lister on #161274

    I know a lot of you play the wire harps using your nails.

    Audrey Nickel on #161275

    I’m just starting with the wire harp, but I can tell you what I’ve gleaned from my teacher:

    1) Yes, the wire-strung harp is traditionally played with the nails (and it’s the only way to get that really distinctive wire-harp sound).

    Liam M on #161276

    Adding in, Cynthia Cathcart has an excellent You Tube on nail shaping for the wire, (surprisingly Audrey, what she demonstrates would interfere with the “Hitchhiker thumb” and defeat the crooked nail approach to playing both!)

    But when you see how she shapes and after experimenting with shaping myself, I have come the the conclusion that the crooked nail might not be the best idea. I do know reshaping to her

    Audrey Nickel on #161277

    I’ll definitely keep everybody posted re the transition.

    Karen Johns on #161278

    Yes Liam & Audrey you knew I was going to chime in sooner or later….

    You can play a steel strung wire harp with fingerpads, using the same hand position as nylon. I have for over six months now, and Pamela Bruner does too. She has the same model harp.

    Honestly, the only difference I have noticed with fingernails versus pads is the volume in the upper range. The steel strings have a lovely, huge, bell-like sustain to them. I have listened to the Cynthia Cathcart videos on YouTube and cannot tell a huge difference between the different strings.

    Karen Johns on #161279

    Whoops, mistake-

    When you go to http://www.harpkit.com click on “Sounds” in the left side menu. That will get you to the Limerick wire strung chord progression and song samples.

    Liam M on #161280

    Actually Karen, I don’t know how much of a purist I am. My preference for nails is more a matter of comfort. My big paws never would adjust to the Hitchhiker posture, (Hmmm Maybe if I had not started building my first car at 13, I would have picked up the pose?

    Audrey Nickel on #161281

    Another thing to bear in mind is that, on a traditionally strung wire harp, you CAN’T really use your fingerpads effectively (even if the strings would stand up to the force).

    Tacye on #161282

    I would disagree that one cannot play a wire strung harp effectively with fingerpads- didn’t most of the players at the Belfast 1792 gathering do so?

    Audrey Nickel on #161283

    I don’t know how the harps were set up in the 1700s, but I’m here to tell you that it’s nearly impossible with a harp set up with the traditional, narrow spacing (not to mention absolute hell on brass wire).


    Seoid OC on #161284

    I would suspect that they played in the old style (holding a cup shape not thumbs up) but just with very short fingernails because long fingernails were out of fashion by then and seen as barbaric.

    Audrey Nickel on #161285

    That would make sense.

    Liam M on #161286

    I am frustrated!!

    Karen Johns on #161287

    Liam, Liam-

    Just play with your fingerpads- I need someone on my side anyways. LOL Your steel strings will sound just as nice. It’s OK to experiment, right? You could just use the very tips of your fingers and use your crab hand position, that way when your nails grow out you won’t be compromising your preferred

    Liam M on #161288

    I am, Karen.

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