New Harpist!

Posted In: How To Play

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    Sarah Sylvia on #191853

    Helllloooo everyone! I’m a new “harpist” (Don’t really feel comfortable using the term seeing as I’m only playing 3 weeks) & am here to get advice on learning techniques etc! I recently bought a prelude 40 by Lyon & Healy (hoping to progress to pedal SOME day) & my question is this….is it easier to play if you’re a pedal player rather than a lever player? I’m finding it hard changing levers mid song & always stop to pause 🙁 are there techniques to change quicker? At the moment I’ve just been playing by ear so thought i’d upload a wee video of me playing to see what you think! I’m pretty sure my technique is all wrong so all criticism & tips welcome! I’m taking lessons in January but I couldn’t really wait ha ha!

    Janis Cortese on #191856

    Flipping levers mid-piece is always a pain, but can be made better. The thing is to practice it as if it’s just part of the music — look ahead to the lever changes. It’s easy to play along, and then look up like “What? Oh, that’s right … ” every single time you need to flip a lever, when what you need to do is think ahead. If you know the lever change is coming up, you need to anticipate it.

    Other than that, if you’ve just been playing for 3 weeks, it’s normal for it to be hard and a bit overwhelming. Just keep noodling, see if you can’t sit down and watch Josh Layne’s “Harp Tuesday” videos on YouTube, and focus on staying relaxed and keeping your hands, arms, and shoulders supple. You’ve got a lot of enjoyment ahead!

    Alyson Webber on #191858

    Usually, when changing levers, there is a pause built into the left hand while you change the lever. Pedal harp allows you to do more complex changes quickly, and also gives you access to the full chromatic scale, but I’m not sure I would necessarily classify it as “easier.” With either method you have to know the change is coming up and remember to do it at the right time.

    I am not a teacher, but I would be cautious about playing too much complicated stuff without lessons. The habits you make at the beginning are hardest to break. If you haven’t already, there are some very useful YouTube videos (Josh Layne, Ray Pool, Hannah White, Chris Caswell and many others) that go into detail about how to hold your hands. There are slight variations in each of these techniques, but there are some universal ideas such as fully closing the hand and thumbs above the rest of the fingers that seems to be almost universal. Again, though, if you are going to take lessons, you should work with the technique that your teacher is most experienced with, so that he/she can help you as much as she can. If you don’t like the technique he/she is teaching, find another instructor.

    That being said, you appear to have a natural knack for the harp, once you get your technique down so that you won’t be limited as music becomes more complicated, you’ll probably progress quickly!

    Congrats on the new harp and embarking on this new adventure. Let us know how it is going!

    Sylvia on #191864

    Is your future teacher a lever harpist or a pedal harpist?
    Just wondering.
    I’ve always been pedal, and I love having the feet do the work of changing key and getting sharps and flats. That way, my hands are always free to play.

    paul-knoke on #191865

    Is the video flipped in some way, or are you playing with the harp on your left shoulder? Most modern harps are designed to be played on the right shoulder, so the levers are easier to see.

    Sylvia on #191866

    You’re right, Paul, it is on the left, and I didn’t even notice. Duh.

    Alyson Webber on #191867

    I didn’t notice either!

    I think the video might be flipped, because it looks like the strings are on the viewer’s side of the neck. Does L&H make lefty Preludes?

    Janis Cortese on #191868

    FWIW, I’m a left-handed lever harpist, and I’ve found that the added ability in my left hand has made throwing levers a lot easier in mid-piece.

    Lefties all tend to be very different, though. I’m middle-of-the-road on a lot of things: play a lefty viola, but I knit right-handed. It depends on what you feel comfortable with, but if you are a lefty, don’t assume you can’t use a standard harp, and that it might not make certain things easier.

    Biagio on #191869

    There’s a method that double players use for the right hand side and it transfers readily to the left. Place your finger lightly on the string, then slide it up quickly to the lever. One less eye movement to worry about; flipping it down: just reach up to the general area and move the lever down heel of your hand.


    Sarah Sylvia on #191870

    Thanks for the replies everyone! Yeah sorry it’s flipped, it’s on my right shoulder 🙂 I’ve watched Hannah white & learned the whole “butterfly in hand” thing…finding it a wee bit hard to close Moreso with my right hand. I’ll check out the other videos! The song above is by evanescence & I learned it by ear so some of the levers are up to actually start the song & I have to flip down & up throughout….I’ve seen some harpists flip by reaching over the top with their right hand but I guess I’ve been trying to flip with my left…is there a better or “right” way? Thank you for the well wishes! I’m so excited! I’ve been singing & playing the song but hope to do it without the pauses 😳😳

    Sarah Sylvia on #191871

    Oh Sylvia apparently she teaches both! Her name is Mindy Cutcher…unreal harpist!

    hearpe on #191872

    You’ve got a nice touch on the strings already and a great sounding harp! Enjoy!

    Janis Cortese on #191874

    Most times, people will throw the lever with their left hand, but every now and then if you need to reach over the neck and use your right, that’s fine, too. Basically, the “right way” is however it can be done most easily.

    Good luck — it’s such a wonderful, fun, beautiful instrument. I’ve been a lifelong pianist and have only recently come to the harp (a little over a year ago), and am having a fantastic time with it. It’s a subtle instrument, and gives you a nice middle-ground between the enormous scope of a piano and a greater closeness to the sound production. It’s the ONLY instrument that I practice where I don’t need headphones and don’t mind the sound of it early in the morning.

    Sylvia on #191875

    Why would you flip the video?
    This is your new teacher. She is very accomplished.

    Sarah Sylvia on #191880

    Thank you Janis! The flipping wasn’t intentional, Sylvia. Just a wee mistake on iMovie! Can’t wait to start lessons with her 🙂

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