Gestures, Salzedo style

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    I was taught that the hand remains closed at the top of the raise and


    That’s the way I was taught as well.


    There is a book by Yolanda Kondonassis titled, “On Playing the Harp”


    Yes, I was taught to raise this way as well. The whole idea is not to get too far away from a useful playing position, so no flare ups/outs etc.


    Ted, I have the book, and I teach gestures in accordance with Yolanda K’s photos.


    Hi Rosalind,

    My copy is a second edition and I’m not sure how greatly it differs from the first (if that is what you are using).

    Chapter twenty-four is titled “Raising Practice” and on page 61 there are two figures: 24.1) Left hand returns to string while right hand is raised outward. 24.2) Right hand returns to string while left hand is raised outward.

    In these pictures the hands that are returning to the strings are showed open just as they are about to replace (in the manner you described), while the raised hand remains closed. I take this to confirm the abovementioned methods including what I’ve been taught.

    Although I should mention that I’d not presume to post here with the intention of giving “teaching advice.” I only thought it might be helpful to mention the book, purely for reference purposes for whoever might be interested.

    Have a good day!




    There is more to this than is meeting the eye, so to speak. The basic gesture is what you describe, rising up in relation to the floor, not the strings, so at an angle to the strings (forward). The idea is to draw the sound with you, to sustain it more. The advanced player may release the closed hand back to the position it was in and draw upward and down. It is not about making a fist and keeping it at all times. That is for beginners, to develop a good habit. It depends on the music when you would want to release the hand and how much. You want the hand to be relaxed, not clenched. You don’t want to release as you hit the top of the gesture because that looks like something else. The only teachers I know of to teach releasing were Lucile Lawrence and Edna Phillips. Salzedo may not have continued to teach that in later years, or no-one stayed around long enough. If you watch the video of Lucile Lawrence, or have the one where she performs with the Firestone Orchestra, you can see some of this in action. Professional technique can be different from what is taught. You see here not necessarily closing her fingers, but the movement is still there and complete, very controlled and very strong. I don’t think the fingers should ever be extended straight out, except perhaps an elegant pinkie. You should be so connected to the sound you just played that if you shake your hand, the sound will beat/vibrato. (This is not impossible.) I like to think of falling, not raising, that you want to fall effortlessly onto the next note, which causes, perforce, a preceding raise that is equally effortless.


    I meant to say, that specifically, Miss Lawrence taught me to open/release my left hand after playing the


    The gestures in the Salzedo method are fundamental to the articulation of sound


    Your explanation of the Salzedo raise may make sense to Salzedo players, but it makes absolutely no sense to non-Salzedo players. In advanced repertoire, there is simply no room or time to make a gesture that carries the hand and fingers away from the strings. Advanced Salzedo players have figured this out. They don’t raise. Yolanda Kondonasis, Alice Giles, Judy Loman, and Ann Hobson Pilot are a few of the names that come to mind. They don’t raise. And for very good reason. There’s no time in the music they play, and its a totally superfluous and useless gesture. And yet I believe that they teach raising, and that baffles me. I simply cannot understand a teacher teaching something that they don’t do themselves. To say that the raise has an effect on the sound is absurd. Does that mean that you cannot get any sound if you don’t raise??

    Bonnie Shaljean

    I share Carl’s sentiments.


    ++ Salzedo had a reason for every gesture and did not want any extraneous motions to detract from the performance of the composition. The deeper you go into his method the more brilliant you see the design of his technique.++

    You might be interested to know that Salzedo himself did not raise or make gestures of any kind. As one of his former students, who had studied with him at Curtis in the 1930’s said, “He played the way he was taught.” In other words, he played with classic French technique, the technique he learned from Hasselmans. His elbows and thumbs were lower, and his hands stayed close to the strings at all times. There are many other harpists, old enough to have either studied with him or who had seen him play, who can attest to this fact.


    When I worked as a technician for Lyon & Healy in the New York showroom, Salzedo would come in from time to time to choose a harp for a student.


    Hi Laura,

    Thanks your post and your description of the raise and gestures. Yes, this was the way I was taught raise also, and I find it a useful and important in my playing.

    As to those that that do not raise and do not use it as part of their method, that is fine, to each their own.

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