Getting your fingers faster

Posted In: How To Play

  • Participant
    lauren.crochet on #190989

    Hi all! I’ve been taking lever harp lessons for a year now, and I was wondering if anyone has any techniques to get faster while playing?

    Example: I love the harp cadenza from Waltz of the Flowers. What are some good exercises to get my fingers and hands up to that playing speed? I’ve tried the beginning on my harp(luckily I have been renting a 40 string Camac), and while I am able to do it, I want to get faster.

    I also seem to have a hesitation problem with some up tempo songs. I’m very good at the nice slow ones, but up tempo is where I start falling short. Any advice?

    Bridget Knodel on #190990

    In general, the best way to get faster is to play with a metronome. Start slow, and don’t play faster until your playing is really solid, then play it again a few clicks faster, and just continue until it’s the tempo you want. For pieces like the cadenza from Waltz of the Flowers (one of my college audition pieces), a great way to get faster is to first play the chords blocked until you know where the music is going and you won’t have to think about it. Then to get faster, try different rhythms (ex-long short long) and then play it as written. The best way is to just start slow and slowly get faster. There’s also exercise books you can buy that focus on building finger speed and agility that might help as well.

    wil-weten on #190991

    I love Deborah Friou’s Harp Exercises for Agility and Speed.

    lauren.crochet on #190992

    Me and the metronome have a bad relationship! But that is a good idea. I also do have Deborah Friou’s Harp exercises book, and I have gone through nearly all of them. Though some do give me a harder time!

    carl-swanson on #190993

    Lauren- I mentioned this on another thread here recently, but I’ll mention it again here. I have just had a wonderful set of etudes published by Carl Fischer Music. The book is called BOCHSA REVISITED, op. 318, 40 easy etudes. You can go to my web site, to read about it. The pedal harp version just came out. The edition for lever harp will be out by the end of November. I promise you, if you spend a little time playing those etudes, everything you play is going to be easier and quicker to learn. Working on technique is the best way to develop speed and agility for everything you want to play.

    Biagio on #190994

    Carl, please do let us know when the lever version is available next month – that would be a wonderful addition to peoples’ libraries.


    Anonymous on #190997

    Wow – well done you to be able to play this piece after only 1 year of lessons !! Who is your Teacher and does he/she give lessons on Skype?

    Tacye on #190998

    I used to loathe my metronome – I have since decided that much of the time disliking it was a sign that I really needed it as playing in time was hard and it kept pointing out when I strayed unintentionally.

    Alyson Webber on #190999

    I just had to take a month off to learn to relax while I play. All of my fingers that were placed and ready tended to grip the strings while the others were plucking. It must have felt more stable when I started playing or something. However, now that my fingers are placed loosely on the strings, the stiffness of the fingers that happens when you tense your hand up is gone. I am able to play so much faster now.

    If it is a memory issue – the hesitating, then you just don’t know it well enough yet. My memory isn’t what it used to be, and I have to take a long time to get to know a piece so I know it with muscle memory and head memory to play it at any spirited tempo. I also had to get used to the sensation of thinking ahead to the next thing before finishing what I am playing now.

    Alyson Webber on #191000

    Tacye, I swear my community orchestra changes tempo whenever I start playing. All of them change tempo together…it’s uncanny. 🙂

    carl-swanson on #191002

    Biagio- I will let everyone here know. I’m proofing the final galleys right now. It will hopefully go to the printer next week. I may be wrong, but I don’t think there is anything like this available for lever harp. It’s a wonderful technique building set of etudes that the pedal harpists have been using for the last 200 years.

    lauren.crochet on #191003

    Carl, That book sounds amazing! And from the pedal harp versions, it looks wonderful! DO let me know when it’s available!

    Livia, My teacher’s name is Ardis Cavin, I don’t believe she gives Skype lessons. She doesn’t know much about computers! And thank you! I have been going really fast for a beginner, as my teacher says, and I just think it has something to do with the amount of time I practice, which sometimes is 1-2 hours a day, and for some reason, the harp feels natural to me. I like to make my fingers dance on the strings!

    Alyson, I have noticed that there are times I stop practicing for a few days and when I get back to my harp, I fly across the strings at speeds I didn’t know I could do. Relaxing is something that is very useful.

    Thank you all for the responses so far!

    Bianca on #191089

    They all gave you great hints, i wanted to tell you something about how I resolved your same problem! The problem often is not to play the chords fast enough, but to play them regularly and fast.
    My teacher adviced me to work on different rhytms and also on giving different accents from the written ones – just to study, of course. E.g. the written accents in the Waltz of flowers cadenza are just on the right thumb, but a great way to make it more regular is to study adding an accent on the left thumb. Or another problem you may have could be the third and the fourth, because they are more difficult to move separately. Then you should study giving an accent on the third note of every arpeggio.
    Another advice could be to study slowly. The speed you can reach with relaxed arms is very higher, but to play fast keeping your arms and shoulders relaxed is one of the most difficult things to do. Try to play slowly, but paying attention to keep your arms loosed playing every note. I’m sure you will get better in no time!
    P.S: it is a really old edition, but I found the Bochsa studies op 318 also here, they are really useful

    carl-swanson on #191099

    Bianca- It’s nice to hear that you found the Bochsa 40 easy etudes useful. They’re a great way to learn technique. You can find my new edition of them, which is sooooooooo much easier to read, and which has all of the pedals already written in, by going to,, or and typing in Bochsa 318.

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #191305

    No, no, no. I disagree with everyone. The only way to get your fingers to move faster is to condition them. You must move them well and easily, and do it an enormous number of times. Repetition! Play each set of eight notes ten times every day. Does your teacher tell you to practice this way? Pushing will get you into trouble. It sounds like you did that already. Besides which, this is very advanced music, and it will take you years to get to that level. There are more suitable arpeggio pieces than this. But it’s good exercise. Use it as your etude. Etudes do not replace exercises. They just make you spend a lot of time on a pattern, with more variety than an exercise.

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