I have played lever harp for 8 years and recently started playing pedal harp. I am on a rent to own program with a magnificent Camac Vendome that I have fallen in love with. I have been playing it now for almost 3 months and just love everything about it. I even love doing my pedal exercises as I am hearing chords I have never been able to make before with all the sharps and flats. My concern is that I have some issues with my right hip that my doctor thinks maybe is the start of arthritis (scary for early 50’s) although nothing showed on an recent X-ray. She did not think that playing the pedal harp would make anything worse with my hip but then again it takes more physical effort to play that you would think (obviously for those that do not play one). I have a new appreciation for someone that can play for many hours as I need a break after 30 minutes of pedaling. I know it is still very new to me and I will work up to more time. At this point I am not any more sore or stiff after playing the harp than after sitting in a chair for the same duration of time. I believe if you do not use it you will lose it so I do not want this to deter my dreams of playing this lovely instrument. I am also going to go to a chiropractor for his opinion. I am at the point where I will be making the decision to purchase this harp which is obviously a huge commitment. There must be other people in this forum that may have similar joint issues and I would like to know if playing the harp affects your condition or not. Thank you in advance for any insight you may be able to provide.
I have some low back problems which affect my hips rather badly. However, it doesn’t get in the way of my pedaling at the pipe organ, and working the pedals on my harp is nothing compared to that. Be sure you are sitting in a position that doesn’t stress your back, and taking breaks after 30 minutes is a really good thing….so is the chiropractor. I have found that stretching my hamstrings after practicing is the most excellent move for relieving low back and hip pain. It works wonders for me. I am very fortunate that my harp instructor is also a yoga instructor and is very aware of proper position and proper use of the body while playing. She has stressed the importance of stretching and relaxing between practice sessions, and it has made a world of difference in my comfort at the harp. I am not young either, so it is very important to be careful.
Hi Cyndee- I am definitely senior to both of you, and I firmly believe that playing my harp keeps me moving better than if I weren’t playing.
I think you both are definitely on the right track in terms of using desirable sitting postures, input with physicians and chiropractors, and well timed breaks while playing, but I feel that the biggest plus for me while playing is the major rush of endorphins when I play. Thay come from the intensity of mastering something difficult as well as the overall wonderful response to the beauty of the music.
For me, it’s very important to breathe and relax through tension when my playing isn’t going as I want it to. Approaching difficult sections with a lot of adrenalin surging through my system will set the misery in my joints for certain!
Just by luck, I managed to wind up with two pedal harps, and I am playing the lighter strung of the two more right now than the tighter strung. You may want to consider harps from Howard Bryan or Carl Swanson. My harp is a Howard Bryan Wurlitzer, and both Howard and Carl use lighter stringing on older harps. Although that doesn’t directly impact on the legs and back, of course, you’d be surprised how much difference it makes to the overallexpenditure of energy while playin.
I love both pedal and lever, and I wouldn’t be easily discouraged from playing either.
I actually had a similar problem a couple of years ago. It turned out to be bursitis in my hip. I did some physical therapy and got over it, none worse for the wear. I took my harp chair into my physical therapy to show my position at the harp. We made some adjustments to the seat, and that seemed to help. This happened in my late forties, and I’m fifty now, with no hip issues at the moment. Maybe physical therapy would be another option to consider.
Hope this helps, and happy harping!
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