I have shoulder problems for life from playing the cello and throwing mail for 30 years at the post office.
You may be tensing up your upper back and shoulders when you play, especially when playing up high. I sometimes do this, and its always unconciously; my teachers have always scolded me on this, as it can develop into more serious problems. Before every practice, try stretching out your entire body (even your legs and feet!) and pay attention to your body,
Arnica will relieve pain, but in my experience it does not correct anything. I am having good results with Blue Emu, which contains glucosamine, chondroitin, msm, collagen, allantoin, etc. It absorbs quickly and deeply. I recommend seeing a doctor who will use ultrasound to examine your shoulders and read exactly what is happening in there. My doctor is called an ultrasound radiologist, doing investigative ultrasound therapy. He can see pockets of inflammation, scar tissue, whatever, and if you need a cortisone injection or lidocaine, he can see exactly where to put it with the ultrasound image.
I have found that setting my bench in front of an open door, and reaching behind me to hold the doorknobs is the perfect stretch for my shoulders. You have to hold a stretching position for more than 30 seconds for the fibers to loosen.
The Blue Emu has helped prevent my tennis elbow from recurring after flare-ups. Exercise, unfortunately, can exacerbate all these problems. I have had very little help from most physical therapists. Some are okay. A good massage can do wonders. Also a sensitive and skilled trainer. “Body Workers” can seem to get too much into their personal theories and interpretations of what you are experiencing, and color it with emotions, so I don’t automatically recommend that approach. There are movement coaches like Feldenkrais or Alexander that may help.
Changing your bench, lowering it for a while may provide some relief. Make sure your shoulders aren’t raised or hunched at all. Even when they are down, it’s amazing how tense they can be. A muscle relaxer like baclofen can also be helpful, along with any kind of anti-inflammatory medicine you can tolerate. It may not be serious if you are young, but if you don’t get to the bottom of this, it can become chronic and a real problem in the future. I don’t think diet is the issue. You can also be terribly stiff from a build-up of lactic acid in your muscles from heavy use without massage. Massage will clear that up.
As another petite harpist, be sure you’re sitting high enough (wear high heels if you have trouble reaching the A pedal) so the harp isn’t putting too much weight on you. Every harp has a balance point, and you want to sit just a bit behind that so it doesn’t fall forward. Then imagine yourself in one of those adjustable car seats that moves up, down, back and forth. You need to find the best place for you to sit that is high enough for normal playing position (so your outstretched arms are approximately in the middle of the strings), low enough to reach the pedals, and close enough to the harp so its weight is balanced on your shoulder, but not so close you feel like it’s going to get away from you. When you’re small, it’s tough to find that spot. An adjustable bench is very important.
I’m about 5’3″, my teacher is about 5″. I’ve been taking lessons on her very large Salvi. She sits much higher than I do when she plays, even though I’m taller.
When I started playing her Salvi I was almost overwhelmed with the weight, but after quite a bit of experimentation I’ve found the right height, distance, and so on, and now the harp feels like no weight at all.
My point is that sometimes finding the appropriate balance point can be counter-intuitive. I would have been very discouraged if I had continued to play
the “heavy” harp, but now that I’ve figured this out, it’s become a non-problem.
When I was playing viola regularly I developed a partial tear of my rotator cuff,but with the intervention of an interested physical therapist, I no longer have any trouble with that either.
I saw them too — they were also directly behind the officials while they were doing the welcome speeches. I saw the pedal harp move (tip back) to be played at the end of those speeches, but I never saw anyone playing the lever harp. I wonder when it was used?
— Alice in windy Wyoming
Roger Muma posted this information on the HarpList this morning.
“I’m on digest version of the list or I might have been able to respond
sooner to Skye’s post about the opening ceremonies. The harp on stage was
Lorena’s troubadour I think that she has had for ever. The sequence of music that
she played it in was very short and the camera did not feature her at all.
It was part of the fiddling section
You should be okay with the 30, though you have to be careful about playing low in the bass and big chords. You won’t be able to place larger intervals unless your hands are big, but you can play as if you are placing, in other words, reach toward the string with the intent of playing it and pivot or leap as soon as you’ve played the lower notes and you’ll have it in time. It may be that your chords will be broken a little more slowly, but that is not a flaw. Also, your hand are capable of stretching quite a bit between the thumb and fingers, so if you do exercises for that, you will enlarge your hand and your reach. Mine has increased from a tenth to a twelfth or more.
A simple exercise for that is to play cdef 4x, cdeg 4x, cdea 4x, cdeb 4x, cdec 4x, then reverse it: gfed, gedc, gdcb, gcba, cbag.
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