Posture issues

Posted In: How To Play

  • Participant
    Denise Hemphill on #246315

    Hello! I’m brand new here and have been reading posts and learning. I saw some advice for back pain but think I should ask about my specific problem is that’s ok because I tend to have sensitive nerves. I’ll try to give complete information so people can help if they can!

    I’ve had my wee harp for about 16 years, I thought the guy at the renaissance festival made it (just my assumption) but now am realizing it’s a roosebeck pixie harp. I must have a unicorn out of all the ones with problems because it’s wonderful and well made. But I have weak shoulders neurologically and so have had a struggle practicing this whole time because of having to hold such a small harp closely. I finally made a stand out of my spinning wheel with the wheel off, it fits perfectly and slants exactly right. And things were great for the past couple months till this past week. All of a sudden I am getting really bad pain just under my left shoulder blade when I practice. I practice a lot in anticipation of getting a bigger harp. The things that have changed is that I have my chair up high to play, but my feet don’t quite reach the floor because of short legs, so I’ve recently lowered the chair, and I rest my feet on a couple books.

    I think the main problem is that I’m having trouble keeping my lower spine in a neutral position. It bows forward and that’s when the pain starts in my shoulder blade area.

    I’m wondering if I raised my chair height, right now my right ear is about even with the top of my harp. I keep it away from me so it doesnt have to rest on my shoulder but am also wondering how far away I should keep it. It has 19 strings and maybe that is part of the problem. I’m really looking forward to a larger harp.

    Thank you for any help! Oh I’ve also added a beanbag on top of my head to remind me to be in a neutral posture. Does it take time to juggle all this between learning to play and watching posture?

    Participant
    wil-weten on #246316

    A 19 string harp is very hard to balance. You mentioned that you’ve been practicing a lot in anticipation of getting a bigger harp and I think that may be part of the problem.

    Perhaps it would be better to practice in bursts of let’s say not more than ten to fifteen minutes at a time and then go and do something very different.
    One can practice a lot of well focused mini sessions a day. That would be beneficial to both your learning as well as your muscles.

    Just curious, which bigger harp have you been waiting for?

    Participant
    Denise Hemphill on #246320

    Thanks for the input! I should put a timer or something to remind me to get up.

    I’m looking at a few options for a bigger harp. Celtic music is my favourite and I’d like a lever harp with about 29 strings. I think 26 – 29 strings is good for Celtic music, right? I know I saw a 29 string harp somewhere for $900-1000. I want to get the best one I can while thinking about money so I’m still researching. I’m thinking a Harpsicle would be good too, especially since they are so light and that would be good for my shoulders so I could carry it. Or a Sharpsicle because from what I understand, having levers for Cs and Fs are good for a Celtic music. So basically, a not-huge folk harp for celtic stuff 😊😊😊

    Participant
    wil-weten on #246322

    Hi Denise, for really comfortable playing a stand harp would be best. With 34 strings you can play almost all regular lever harp music. For celtic music a Dusty Ravenna 34 would give you a lot of bang for your bucks. Due to its staved soundboard, it feels rather comfortably to your shoulders and arms.

    Dusty Ravenna’s can often be bought second hand. Also, if you want a new one, you could consider to buy it without levers and have them mounted later on. You could also buy them with a few levers, I believe.

    You mention a 29 string harp, That would mean a creative approach of sheet music, as most sheet music is meant for harps with at least 2 full octaves below middle C (a 34 strings has 2 full octaves below middle C). A 29 string harp would also be more difficult to balance than a 34 string harp.

    Edit: if ease to carry the harp, is really important, you may like to think of one of the light weight harps. They are rather pricey though, and frankly, I usually prefer the sound of normal weight harps.
    If you live in Europe, you may like to check the Camac Hermine, but in the USA it’s a lot pricier. Anyway, nor the Dusty Ravenna, 34 nor the Camac Hermine are very easy to carry around, but you probably could carry them easily from one room to another. If you lived in Germany, there are several very nice lightweight harps built manually by reputable harpbuilders, but I guess their price is not what you have in mind.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 2 months ago by wil-weten.
    Participant
    Denise Hemphill on #246439

    Thank you so much, Wil, for all the advice! I’m definitely listening to you and am focusing on a 34 string harp now.

    I’ve realized my issues have been caused by two main things. I sat down and focused on my shoulders as I started to play, and was shocked to realize I had tightened them up as tight as they would go! I’d been playing like that! Then also, I realized that I automatically pull myself I to an “at attention” posture. My father was a marine and my piano teacher. He not only wanted me to sit at the piano like a marine, but would have us all stand in line at attention at times. It became reflexive! And such a relief to realize both these things.

    So I’ve taken a few days off from practicing for the most part, just sitting at my harp to focus on intentional relaxing and awareness, and gently plucking the strings, and am constantly throughout the day practicing neutral posture and can already now be at the harp without pain, and leave once I start to get tense from being tired.

    Thanks so much for the support, it has really helped.

    Participant
    jsmoir on #252933

    As a classical singer, I encourage my students to stand ‘at a gentle attention’ to raise the ribcage and give a nice expanse of the sternum. I try to do that with harp, but I also remind myself every five minutes or so, to ‘let my shoulders’ drop as well, and feel the ‘weight in the arms’ to be the power in the attack- whether for piano or harp! Work with an Alexander Technique teacher might be a help.

    I also have had ROLFING done, and (for me) it was a total game changer. I initially had it done because of a ‘rear-end’ car accident (thirty years ago), but also (three years ago) had it done for my Left hand, which had become torqued at the wrist. The release and relaxation have been nothing short of miraculous- it’s what enabled me to learn the harp, in fact. There are certified ROLFERS all over the world.
    Hope that helps.

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