Playing “in” or “into” the strings

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    Hi all,

    Lately my teacher and I have been working improving my tone. She’s constantly telling me that I need to play more “in” or “into” the strings. I thought I knew what that was and so I’ve been changing my playing , but there hasn’t been much of a difference, according to her. If I understood what exactly I need to do with my playing then I’d be able to do it. What is it that I need to do with my fingers?



    Sam- I’m guessing here that she’s talking about pressing into the string before releasing it. Regardless of the volume you want to play, you have to press into the string, basically pulling on it and then releasing it at the volume you want. Initially the way to work on this is with something slow and legato. Once you get the feel of it and it becomes automatic, then you can apply it to anything you play.

    I had a very good professional harpist take lessons from me years ago and any time I sat down at the harp and played something she had just played she’s always say “How do you get that sound???” It’s a technique that takes time to learn and your sound will develop over a period of months. That’s what happened to her.

    Try working on this with something that’s much easier than you are currently playing so you can concentrate all your effort on tone. Tournier’s Offrande would be excellent for this, or one of the slow Bach/Grandjany etudes.


    Hi Carl,

    Thanks for such a quick response – this is precisely what I am doing, using a piece that


    sam- I think that pulling on the string, or pressing into it before releasing the string, puts a wider area of flesh on the string and thereby alters the sound for the better. It gives you a rounder, fuller sound that carries better. Once you learn the technique, you will be able to play at the softest pianissmo and still be clearly heard without being scratchy. But it takes time. You have to consciously work on it until it simply becomes the way you touch the string.


    The more of your body you are using, the more sound you will get. If you lean into the string using weight from your upper body through your arm, through your palm, coiling around through your fingers, then you will be able to get a full, round tone with your fingers completely relaxed. That said, you probably need to practice it longer and work on it in greater detail and explanation with your teacher and not online. It isn’t really respectful to him or her to go outside for advice.


    Sorry if I seemed to be disrespecting my teacher, but sometimes someone else is going to be able to explain things in a way I’ll understand more readily. That being said, I think the advice I’ve received here will help because now I know that I’m heading in the right direction. But that’s not to say I won’t accept any more advice.




    Sam- Make sure as you work on this that you don’t tense up. I used to do a lot of choral singing, and the conductor of one of the choruses was explaining one time that when you sing softly, you don’t cut the air flow. You use the same air stream that you would use to sing forte. I think it’s the same on the harp. You don’t touch the string less or more lightly to play softer. If you do, you get a shallow scratchy sound. You have to prepare the string in much the same way you would if you were to play loud, but then, at the last moment, back off on the force and release the string. Try, just as an exercise, playing one string at varying dynamics, and see how softly you can go while maintaining the tone. Try that using different fingers on each hand. When you start to get the result you want, then try it with 2 and 3 note chords.


    I don’t question that you can learn from expert people, Sam, I just know that as a teacher, if I am competing with other input, it’s much harder for me to do my job. I need to know if I am not explaining things in a clear enough way, and I need to know that the results I see are the result of what I have taught. The student and teacher need to trust each other.


    It really helps if you have a concept of what tone you are striving for. Once you have this sound inside your head, then you play the same note over and over until you get that sound. Change the angle of your fingers and palm and notice what that does. Notice what happens to the sound if you use more or less of the finger. It may even help to close your eyes. Then, once you get that gorgeous sound that you are after, analyze what you did.

    It may also help to think of describing the finger action not as a “pull” but a “push”.

    Lorenzo Montenz

    Dear Sam

    My teacher at the music school always used to tell me that speed-technique and sound-technique are both essential for a harpist. She taught me that you need to “push” (exactly like prof. Volpé Bligh wrote) and release the strings in the pianissimo too and expecially when you are playing in the high

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