Placing in sequence

Home Forums Teaching the Harp Placing in sequence

Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • Author
  • #87363

    On my blog about technique, someone left a comment asking me to elaborate on the technique of placing only one finger at a time ahead of the one being played, rather than placing blocks of 3 or 4 notes at a time.

    The term placing in sequence is mine.


    There’s one more thing that I should have added to the original post.


    I agree, Carl, it’s a necessary technique for certain passages! In Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra, in the final movement, there’s an excerpt in which the lines are only a third apart. Luckily, Grandjany re-arranged the first and second parts so that the hands are separated better, but this excerpt is on many audition lists and would have to be played as written at a professional audition. Salzedo’s Conditioning Exercises also specify sequential placing for a couple of the exercises. You’re absolutely right that students should first learn to place in blocks, though. If they try to place sequentially all the time, then they cannot play quickly with a good position. I’m enjoying your blogs! They’re full of good information, and entertaining as well.


    I have good news. After many years of frustrating searches for a
    solution to playing the fugue in Bartok’s Concerto for Orchestra,
    Lucile Lawrence found the elegant, simple solution. You can exchange
    notes between the right hand and left hand so instead of reaching up
    for a thumb note, you reach down for a note from the left hand, which
    easily takes a right hand note. You will soon see where this helps, in
    more than one spot. It makes it smooth and relatively easy. She also
    taught playing with placing one note ahead, especially in passages like
    this, and called “like walking on eggshells.” But she used placing
    ahead very creatively to create phrasing and illustrates notes that
    belong to each other by placing them together.


    Elizabeth- I learned only recently that the Salzedo Conditioning exercises include placing in sequence.

    Lisa McCann

    Placing in sequence is a more advanced technique that uses all of the skills developed from placing blocks of notes.

    Carl, would you mind elaborating a bit on this statement? As a beginning harpist, I think that placing one note ahead would be much easier than block placing.



    Who said anything on the harp is easy? Yes, block placing is more difficult at first, but it is necessary for clean playing and good phrasing. One-at-a-time placing is only for when you can’t do it, or need a special effect.


    Placing one note at a time is what virtually all beginner students do, because as beginners they have no muscle memory for the hand position for tirads, 4 note chords, octaves, scales, and virtually all intervals,(2nds, 3rds, 4ths, 5ths, etc.). So when a beginner places one note at a time, he is really just hunting for the next note. But in sequencial placing, the player knows exactly where the next note is and is not hunting at all. The advanced player can form, in the air off the strings, any interval he wants, or any chord position(root, 1st and 2nd inversion, V7 in all its inversions, etc.). So when he places at the last second, or places in sequence, his fingers go exactly to where they need to be with no correction and no mistake. In order to get to that level of playing though, the student has to start by placing groups of 2,3,or 4 notes in blocks, making sure that when the fingers go on the strings(n blocks) no correction is needed, such as a finger landing on a wrong string, or a finger going so far through the plane of the strings that the string is almost down to the first knuckle, requiring the harpist to readjust the finger position before playing. Only when the student can consistantly place with complete accuracy in blocks can he/she move on to placing in sequence.


    Clifford Wooldridge who, as many of you will remember, worked for many years at Lyon & Healy, began his harp studies in England with John Cockerell.


    If only there were fewer nitwits working at the publishers, one wouldn’t have to nitpick nearly as much.

    Lisa McCann

    Many thanks to Carl et al for such an informative discussion on this topic. My excellent harp teacher (Chelsea Spence in Fort Collins, Colorado) and I had a very lively discussion on placing based on this discussion!


    Mr. Milligan, I also heard John Cockerill’s recording of the Introduction and Allegro, in 1953, many times. I was on the faculty of a Missouri college, and it was in the music library located in my classroom. I almost wore that record out, I admired his playing so very much. It was good to read his name once more, for he is not mentioned in the Palkovic Bibliography,


    Lisa- I’d love to hear what you both discussed.


    How the heck did we end up with two different threads on placing in sequence????

Viewing 14 posts - 1 through 14 (of 14 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.