I have been trained to pull hands away from strings after each placement but I see on some of the You Tube videos of harpers that they keep hands very close and maybe even keep thumb on a string; I would like some other opinions as to which is better.
The fingers should complete their movement independently of what the hand is doing. Perhaps you mean that the hand moves away after you finish playing? If you are pulling your hand instead of your fingers, you will end up having to correct that habit someday, I would think.
I usually keep my hands close, which has lead my little brother to tell me, “That’s not how you play a harp. You do it like this.” *proceeds to wave hands all around the place like he’s trying to conjure up the spirits of the dead* Then I saw a harpist on youtube doing something very similar. So I don’t know. I can’t see how it would really affect the sound, but I’ve never even taken proper lessons so what would I know.
I was (am!) taught that you are supposed to close your fingers into the hand and then raise. Mostly the raising is just for visual beauty, it doesn’t affect the sound; so once you close your fingers you can do whatever you like in the way of raising.
Raising is taught for two reasons. 1) It trains you to get away from the strings so that you don’t buzz, and so that when you replace, you come into the strings with adequate room. Eventually, the amount you raise will shrink until raising is almost non-existent. 2) It psychologically fools the audience into thinking that the note just played is longer than it is, tenuto, or even crescendoing.
Aesthetic preference might be the reason why some harpists do it, but there are concrete reasons behind doing it.
cih h, that is hilarious!
I was taught traditional Irish and was taught to keep hands close to the strings at all time. Pulling them away makes it harder to come back to the next bit you need to play and makes it harder to play quickly and smoothly.
It would definitely be ‘points off’ if you kept taking your hands away from the strings like that if you played at a serious competition.
Raising is not mere psychology, it does actually physically influence the tone you produce, and if you do it the right way, it will completely change your tone quality. It also helps avoid that awkward moment of, “okay I just played the note, now what do I do until the next one?” scene. Raising also affects the way you begin the next note, adding to its influence.
My first teacher studied with Alice Chalifoux, so I learned the more pronounced raising, though I do it more moderately now. One benefit I did find is that it kept me from placing my fingers back earlier than necessary and led to good habits in that department. There would be other ways to accomplish it, but keeping the hands away from the strings will do it.
In her book, Yolanda Kondonassis describes it as a way to help prevent tiring out. I think that could be so if done well. I used to imagine my hands and forearms were naturally light and would float up on their own, which made the motion relaxing and soothing for me. However, I’ve seen some people in YouTube etc. who look more like their wearing manacles while doing it.
I also do a big one at the end of Chanson Dans La Nuit because I think it looks cool and I’ve just played something spooky and mysterious.
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