Learning More About Salzedo?

Home Forums Teaching the Harp Learning More About Salzedo?

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 26 total)
  • Author
  • #83828

    I would like to know what you would like to learn more about Salzedo, his music, his teaching, anything. Have you read Dewey Owens’s biography? What else would you want to know? How much do you know about Salzedo, if you can quantify it, and how much interest do you have in learning more?



    I know very little about Salzedo and would like to learn as much as I could actually.


    Prior to visiting this forum, I didn’t even know who Salzedo was…. So I’d like to know more about him – especially his ‘method’.


    It is unfortunate that his teaching was largely limited to North American students and has thus been slow to spread abroad.


    Miss Chalifoux (one of Salzedo’s students) told me to keep the fifth finger next to the fourth, never sticking out. That was not a problem of mine, but she did relate a story about a student who constantly held that finger out and ended up with so much bad tension in the arm between wrist and elbow that she could hardly move, much less play.

    Karen Johns

    I only hold my pinky out when I’m drinking tea, my dear. LOL


    Laurie Riley had me velcro (it’s more comfortable than tape) my pinky fingers to the 4th fingers for almost a year to break my habit of sticking out the pinky. My first teacher taught from Salzedo’s Method for the Harp and saw nothing wrong with that picture. When the problem caused tendonitis up in my ELBOW, I decided I had to do something about it!

    — Alice in windy Wyoming


    My physical therapist agreed with Laurie that tension while harp playing was the cause, and specifically tension caused by keeping the forearm muscles tense while sticking out the pinky.

    Coincidence or not,


    I can tell you with absolute certainty that Salzedo did not play with his pinky extended, nor with his elbows up for that matter. I never knew him. But I’ve talked to plenty of people who did, and they all said that he played the way he was taught. That photograph you are referring to was a studio pose.


    My teacher (whose teachers were Salzedo and Lawrence) always told me to keep the pinky relaxed. My very first teacher, whom I had for my first year of playing, (and who was a previous student of the teacher I first mentioned) instructed me to make sure that the pinky was “one with the 4th finger.” Of course this is not exactly what the end results becomes – it’s rather more that the pinky follows the general position of the hand so that its most relaxed: if the hand opens, the pinky goes with it, and if the hand closes, so does the pinky. I remember this part of learning to be particularly frustrating and I suspect that this is a pinky problem in general, because I also had problems with my pinky when learning the flute.



    When you are opening the hand to place, it makes sense to extend the pinky, but it most certainly comes in to assist the fourth finger when playing. It is possible to extend it without tension. The lessons in the Salzedo Method are a starting point, a part in a progression of learning that should ideally be completed to be completely understood.


    Of course, all of this assumes that


    “But I’ve talked to plenty of people who did, and they all said that he played the way he was taught. “

    So, how do we know what he was taught?

    I don’t think that is accurate. Miss Lawrence always said that he took what he learned from Hasselmans, but then added to it what he had learned from playing the piano, or rather, he did so naturally, and later took note of it. It was when he changed the position of the harp onstage that he found out from audiences that they wanted to see his left hand at work that he realized what he was doing differently, and then incorporated that into his teaching.

    That is, at least, accurate to what he was teaching in the 1920s and 30s, when he produced most of his most famous pupils (ie. Wightman, Lawrence, Phillips, Chalifoux, Tyre, Palmer, etc.)

    That said, I find that I always extend, or rather, open my pinky before playing my 4th finger so that I get the fullest possible movement of the pinky. The muscle along the outside of the palm is a very strong one, it becomes huge on pianists. Harpists by and large tend to under-utilize it. Extending the pinky helps to engage that muscle fully, which enhances the tone of the 4th finger and make it even with the other fingers. There is no tension in the pinky itself, per se, but the extension of the extensors in the back of the hand, and the pressure on the string is of course released the moment I begin to swing the pinky and fourth finger closed. The other reason for extending the pinky is to use the extensor muscles more, which counter balances the closing action. One of the best exercises we can do is to over-open the hand as we are constantly closing. Just as we need to use the long-action muscle fibers as much as the quick-action, we need to use the extensors as much as the …..I can’t think of the word for the muscles that do the opposite, the contractors?


    Same here. My teacher studied with both Salzedo and Lawrence and I was never told to extend the pinkie out in any extreme way. It was always relaxed and basically stayed near the ring finger as it would naturally fall, and she was always complimenting me that I had such good, natural hand position. That is the way she played as well.

    Jules Moon

    As a newbie, all this “proper” alignment and position talk is great for me.

Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 26 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.