Moving two feet at once to new pedals

Posted In: How To Play

  • Member
    Alyson Webber on #190627

    Hi everyone.

    I have been fussing with moving my bench around, up, down, in, out… for a while now, and I think I have fallen on a happy place. However, I still am not able to comfortably move both feet to new pedals at once. I always lean back slightly when both feet are off the ground to stay balanced. I am currently sitting at about a 90 degree angle from my thighs to my torso, I am sitting at the front of my bench, with the harp just past the tipping point on my chest, shoulder and slightly on my right leg (certain, um, physical characteristics prevent full contact with my shoulder).

    1. does my bench need to go up even higher?
    or
    2. Is it a physical thing? Should I do more yoga, hip flexor training?
    or
    3. Should I not be lifting my feet at all, instead sliding the heels along the floor (which would make me nervous if carpet slowed me down…)

    I know it is really hard to give advice if you can’t see the person in question. I’m just hoping someone has gone through something similar who can tell me how they fixed it.

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #190631

    It’s a good idea to have your bench on the high side with your hips slightly elevated above the knees. This distributes weight and saves your back/hips over time.

    As far as the two pedals-I find it’s always a balancing act. You may just be overthinking this. I practice the pedals until they become automatic. It’s helpful to put on the metronome and practice just the pedal changes. Don’t be afraid to make your own determination where the pedal changes are in the music – you don’t have to follow what is written if something works better for you. If you can split the pedal changes so you play one foot on a beat, then the other pedal on a beat, do so. The pedal changes should be smooth and without harp noise. I have one piece with around 80 pedal changes (I never finished counting) in 35 measures. In some places I do two pedal changes in the same measure that require both feet. I just hang on to the side of the harp and hope I don’t fall. I thought I would never learn the pedals, but it finally came together.

    I highly recommend yoga for harpists. I would not be able to play if I didn’t work on my flexibility. You hit a certain age and things don’t work like you want. If I were starting harp as a student now, I would definitely incorporate yoga or pilates into my practice habits.

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #190632

    One more thought – I try to keep my heels on the ground for pedal changes (but that doesn’t always work). You may want to try some shoes with different heel heights to figure out what works for you and helps you make effortless pedal changes. If you are taking lessons, certainly discuss all this with your instructor who is the best person to help you sort this out. If you are not taking lessons, consider finding someone who can watch you play and work with you on this.

    Participant
    Tacye on #190633

    The thing that stands out for me is that you are leaning back for balance when you move both feet which is something I have never noticed a need to do. I wonder if sitting a bit further back on your seat would make you more stable when you wave your feet around?

    My lovely seat slopes forward so I can have it high and not need to sit at the very edge and have all the leg motion I want.

    Member
    Alyson Webber on #190634

    Thanks, Gretchen!

    80 pedal changes in 35 measures?!? It will be a while before I get there. Right now I’m struggling with one every couple measures. Hahaha! I totally get the “hope you don’t fall.” The higher my bench gets, the more precarious it feels…

    I am taking lessons, and my teacher is wonderful and always notices things I don’t. But her physique is about as opposite as mine as you can get, so I sometimes present her with new issues that we just have to try new things to solve them. I figured I’d turn to the helpful people here to come up with some ideas.

    I will try moving my bench up a little higher.

    I have been working on strength and flexibility with yoga, pilates and barre, but am open to any suggestions about positions or exercises that folks find particularly useful for this issue. I do notice that even in regular life, I find sitting straight in a chair to be uncomfortable on my hips and find sitting cross-legged or “indian style” much more comfortable. Perhaps that is some sign of a physical deficiency I’ve had for a while that I haven’t paid attention to until now.

    Member
    Alyson Webber on #190635

    Cool, Tacye! What kind of seat is that?

    Participant
    Tacye on #190636

    It is an office chair without the back which I tweaked (mainly stopped it rolling around on castors) inspired by these: http://www.concertdesign.com/chairstechinfo.html

    Participant
    balfour-knight on #190638

    I assume that all of you are talking about playing a full-sized 47-string concert grand? That makes me so glad that I play the 44-string medium-sized 85GP Lyon & Healy. I can sit comfortably on a regular 18″ high harp bench with my feet flat on the floor until I pedal, and never lose my balance even when using both feet at the same time! I am only 5′ 6″ tall, so this harp is the perfect size for me. I feel exactly what you all feel when I have to play a huge concert grand, like I am going to lose control, fall, overbalance, etc. I think this modern craze for a large harp is very difficult for some people, and if you look at the history of harp building, most harps were medium-size in 1900. And, they were considered to be full concert grands!

    Thanks for all the suggestions for dealing with this problem. I may need them the next time I have to play a big 47-string harp!

    Best wishes,
    Balfour

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #190639

    My harp is a Salvi Apollo. You cannot get any bigger than that. You can thank Carlos Salzedo for the modern super-sized harps. (Ha,ha Balfour, with your smaller harp and feet on the ground, it makes it easier to find Cb.)

    Participant
    Tacye on #190642

    Just to clarify Balfour, I don’t feel in any danger of overbalancing or being squished by my CG so long as I have a bench at my preferred height and I am a couple of inches shorter than you. Whatever harp I am playing I am pretty fussy about seat height.

    Participant
    emma-graham on #190643

    Interesting. I play an LH 23 and a Camac Big Blue. I’m 5ft 6 but don’t have any trouble with balancing the harp or taking both feet off the floor, although I try to avoid it by pivoting on my heels. I wonder if it’s because I always play in heels? Not massive ones, 2″ maximum, but I find they give me a good lever. I always find the natural balance point of the harp and support it lightly on both knees – no weight on my shoulder at all.

    Participant
    Elizabeth Webb on #190646

    I second the suggestion to play around with different heel heights. I do not like walking in high heels, especially when transporting my pedal harp. But I definitely find that if I’m wearing shoes with less than 1.5 inch heels, I struggle with the pedals on more involved pieces. I keep “harp shoes” in my practice room and have been known to change shoes after getting the harp set up at gigs.

    When I think crazy pedal sections, I think of the first movement of Pescetti’s Sonata in C Minor. Pages 2 and 4 have sections with 18 pedal changes in 12 measures, and most of them have to be changed on specific beats. I find that 2-2.5 inch heels on this piece help, as I can just pivot my feet quickly and accurately from one pedal to another. I also echo the suggestion made to practice just the pedal movements on pieces. Or just right hand and pedals if it it not hard enough to warrant pedal changes alone.

    Member
    Alyson Webber on #190664

    When I was trying out pedal harps, I felt like I had to slouch under the semi grands. I’m 5’7″ and currently have my bench at 20.5″. I usually wear about 1.5″ heels while playing.

    I just had my husband try to lift both feet off the ground while keeping the torso plumb and he said it was impossible, that the balance is off. Maybe I’m missing something. I will definitely try pivoting on my heels as much as possible. Perhaps I can keep my left heel down as much as possible since there are fewer pedals over there. Maybe I’m just trying too move my feet further than is really necessary.

    Participant
    Gretchen Cover on #190665

    Alyson,

    Go to youtube and type in “harp pedals stephanie claussen.” Watch her pedal changes. She places herself in such a way that her feet do not need to move a lot. I would suggest that you work with your harp instructor to come up with pedal exercises you do with a metronome. Perhaps you could move Bb to B, then Eb to E and work your way around the pedals. Then start with the outside pedals, and work inward. Or, work on your left foot first, then move to the right foot. As you get more proficient, speed up the metronome. Again your instructor is the best judge of how to help you – this is just an idea for you to consider.

    You are probably just becoming more aware of pedal changes because you are playing more advanced music. In time with practice, you will change pedals without even thinking about it.

    Participant
    emma-graham on #190673

    One other thing to consider is how far forward you sit on your stool. If you are too far back, you won’t be able to lift both legs easily. It’s important to perch towards the front and pull yourself up straight and not sit back and into your hips.
    To practice moving both legs to their extremes (as well as getting an excellent core workout, resulting in a flat stomach and abs to die for) I recommend the pedal slides at the start of “The Pink Panther” 😉

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