Producing a good tone with bony fingers

Posted In: How To Play

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    jennifer-buehler on #60218

    How do you do it? Everything I’ve read about getting a good tone really talks about using the fleshy pads of your fingers and I don’t have any! 🙂 I also have nails that grow right to the edges of my fingers so even when they’re super short I can get a harsh sound. I am primarily self taught. I know that lessons would help but that’s not financially feasible right now.



    Jerusha Amado on #60219

    Hi Jennifer,
    Thanks for bringing up this topic! I have bony fingers and very little flesh on them. I just make the best of what I have, but I’m envious of Sam Karlinski’s fleshy pads!
    I hope that others in our boat write back with any tips to create lush tones.

    jennifer-buehler on #60220

    The harp I play is fairly compact so I wonder how much the shorter string length makes a difference as well.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #60221

    Certainly, there are large variations among harps and their tone qualities. Experiment with the angle of your fingers and see how much of the fingertip to put on the string to get the best possible tone. Make sure your fingers pull all the way into the palm in a downward direction. If you are pulling upwards, you won’t get as much focus on the sound. Once your fingers are closed in your palm, let them fall out gently onto the strings, without rising above the knuckles. Approach the strings from below, not above. This will prevent the nails from hitting the strings first. If anything touches first, it will be the front or side of the finger, which will dampen any vibrating strings, and will prevent naily sounds. Try to make room in your budget for at least one lesson a month, and check out the teaching videos on Youtube. There a quite a few now. Best of luck!

    jennifer-buehler on #60222

    Thank you Elizabeth! Your answers are always so thoughtful. As I practice I will try to pay attention to how my fingers are pulling in. Unfortunately the way my fingers and fingernails are shaped, I think I really need to focus on the front of the finger striking the strings as I still get a lot of nail with the side of my finger.

    A once a month lesson sounds heavenly. Probably not in the budget anytime soon though! My oldest starts high school next year and the other two aren’t far behind. 😉

    lyn-boundy on #60223

    Jennifer, this is just a thought but worth considering. With the kids at school all day you perhaps have a bit more time on your hands than you used to have. Have you thought about whether there is anything you could exchange for lessons? A lot will depend on how many tutors there are in your area and finding one who is willing to do things this way but I’m guessing you’ve spent a good few years helping your children with their homework – maybe you could offer to do some home-tutoring for someone else’s kids? I’m also willing to bet you’ve aquired any number of skills over the years that others would be most grateful for – sometimes all it takes is a bit of lateral thinking to get what you want – anything from helping out with the housework or gardening, babysitting or teaching one of your hobbies to a tutor or their family can be a great way to get things. It does take a bit of nerve to ring a complete stranger and suggest this but the results can be amazing.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #60224

    Home-cooked meals or baked goods would be great bartering items!

    Loonatik on #60225

    Hi Jennifer, I think we might share the same problem, with nails growing to the edge of the fingers. So my enemy in harp playing has been loud passages with fingerings like 4-4321 or fast arpeggio passages 123432 -123432 on the R.H.

    The “harsh” sound you mentioned, I would assume caused by the nail hitting same string as you pluck it?
    – if this is the case, then the fix is to have proper technique, which is a rounded position. I have a weak 3rd finger on my R.H. and with the “long” nail, thus less fleshy tip, a very bad combination… but if i do it 100% right, i.e. with strengh in the finger then i don’t get this extra “hit” by the nail.

    I really appreciate it if anyone has any other tips on fixing this… (or a way to cut back the nail to expose a more “fleshy” fingertip… 🙁

    jennifer-buehler on #60226


    Yes! I really notice it with the 3rd finger and as I was really watching my fingers the other day, I see that knuckle tends to collapse so will really focus on that in my warmups.

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