How important is technique for middle-aged students?

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    I’m seeking a most sincere answer to a question that has taken my

    pleasure of learning to play the harp to that of “dread.” I began

    taking lessons at the age of 50. There is a total of two teachers

    within a 75 mile radius. After taking lessons from teacher 1 for 2

    1/2 yrs.she recommended that I study under the other teacher which

    I’m now attempting to do. I totally and completely understand that

    technique for anything is important.

    I’m not in any manner noting it is not important, but I wonder how

    far a teacher feels he/she must go before the student is to the point

    of total frustration (which I now am). I am a person that is most

    persisent,having overcome some extreme difficulites in my life, so it

    isn’t as though I’m not trying to do exactly as I’m told. (I’m also a

    university teacher myself, so understand some concepts are extremely

    important, however, I also know that some students absolutley can not

    master some things). After waiting for over 25 yrs. to begin playing

    the harp, I certainly am not planning on quitting now.

    There are 2 specific problems which bug both the teacher & myself.

    One of which is the fact that when I play the fingering 3-2-1, my

    index finger is not as “loose” as she terms it, as she would like for

    it to be…some lessons she will spend the entire lesson, jabbing my

    finger w/a pen to make it loosen up (that just causes me to stress

    out more)…the other issue she has is when I close my fingers in the

    palm of my hand, they don’t always touch the bottom of my hand…this

    too is an issue w/her, but makes me completely stressed.With each of

    these issues, I’m attempting 100% to correct the problem, but I don’t

    plan on ever being a concert harpist, and so much fuss over these

    issues, seems to me to be hindering my learning. I need an expert’s

    opinion…thanks so much.


    I think technique is very important for playing the harp at any age. With the correct technique you produce an excellent tone and playing is easier. You might what to try the “flat finger” exercise to get your fingers to the palm of your hand. Just bring your fingers to the palm of your hand but make sure they are flat not curved as a fist. Also, bring your thumb down so it falls on the second knuckle of your index finger. Do this anytime, you can do this watching tv or talking on the phone, etc. It should help relax your hands also. I hope you keep playing the harp it is a rewarding experience.


    Jane, in regards to your question of technique. Technique is extremely important no matter what methond you are studing. However, most important is that the performer, student, whomever be completely relaxed while playing the harp. This all goes together with the height of the bench/chair that you are using to the relaxed position of the hands, arms, and feet. I started as an adult myself, and I do know that complete closure of the fingers in a relaxed manner is extremely important to maintain relaxation in the entire body. However, another important point is that in the teen years and especially after the thirties the tendons will only stretch to a certain point. Primarily the second finger [actually the first or ‘pointer finger’ since the thumb is the first] is already fixed or fused into a certan length and this particular finger will not close completely in adults that start the harp. Younger students have much more pliability in their tendons and they still have time to grow. Sometimes the other fingers also will not relax the same as if they were taught from childhood.
    A good exersize I give my adult beginners and young alike is to place the hand relaxed on your knee joint when you are in a sitting position. The hand should be relaxed and open. Slowly raise your forearm and hand which should cause your hand/fingers to close in a relaxed manner. This is a similar exercersize that people recovering from damage to their hands or stroke do except they are picking up a facial tissue from a flat surface which is much more difficult. This is a natural process. Also try this by dropping you arm down to your side. In this position with the hand and arm are relaxed your fingers should be in a fairly open position. As you bring your forearm and hand up by bending your elbow your fingers should naturally close into your hand. This is a basic principle of anatomy and is used very effectively in performing on the harp. It will also help you to think of a relaxed way for you to close you hand [fingers] when performing. I know the position of performing on the harp is somewhat different, but this does help for the gerneral movement.
    The most difficult thing to do while playing and your teacher is moving your hands, arms, fingers and poking around is to maintain a relaxed feeling. Try to visualize that your are really in your ‘safe’ home environment and the teacher is not really there. I know its a big stretch but it can be done.
    Again, as an adult beginners we have to work towards the perfection of someone that has started as a child; and again, this takes many more years to do with the added work schedule of an adult.
    Hope that this helps you some, and that I have not rambled on too long.
    Gaylord T. Stauffer

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