I’m a beginner harpist (Seriously, I’ve only been taking for two weeks, but I guess we’ve all
got to start somewhere). You know how you’re supposed to “raise” your hand after playing
a string? This seems like such a ridiculous question, I feel stupid for asking this, but, when
playing a fast-paced song, or an extremely fast-paced song, is it still necessary to “raise?”
I’m a beginner harpist (Seriously, I’ve only been taking for two weeks, but I guess we’ve all
The raising is only for relaxing. I play with the Salzedo technique, and no, when you are playing really really fast you dont raise as much as your probably learning how to do now. But you do end up being more relaxed and avoid injuries if you do raise.
Hope you enjoy the harp!
I am also from the Salzedo School of technique. I’d like share Ms. Alice Chalifoux’s comment on raising here. I am quoting the following from an interview of Ms Chalifoux in the 1982 summer American Harp Journal. “Some people feel jestures are just a matter a show. This is completely wrong. Gestures are not idle motions. They are disciplined with a definite purpose and a definite reason in an aesthetic sense as well as in relationship to the sound produced. In any sport, it is not just a matter of hitting the ball, but what you do before and after that makes the ball go where you want it to. The same thing applies when producing a sound. What you do after you leave the string has a direct bearing on the quality and character of sound. If the gesture is short and sharp, then the sound will be short and sharp in keeping with the gesture. If the gesture is slow and sustained, then the sound will be sustained. It is a definite fact that the actual raising of the hand, the follow through, can produce a sustained quality which is very necessary on our instrument”
I have re-read this particular comment many times over the years, and I get inspired everytime I do. I agree that raising does release stiffness and contribute to relaxation. But first a beginner has to learn how to raise properly. I will never forget how I was amazed by the “column of sound” produced by raising the hands when I had my first lesson Ms Chalifoux. Further readings on raising can be found on Yolanda Kondonassis’s recently published method book, On Playing the harp, too.
And it is not true that French harpists don’t raise at all. I have seen Eastman School and Paris trained harpists play, they all raise, and in some cases, very dramatically. Grandjany raised, Xavier de Maistre raises, Isabelle Moretti raises, etc.
When playing fast passages, of course one would have no time to raise. I raise whenever I can, as long as it doesn’t distract my playing and suits to the mood of the music.
Actually, I can usually raise in fast passages, too. It’s just smaller, or just a “breather” between notes. If you recall, a lot of music by Salzedo and Lawrence has those large dots over the notes or fingerings. This indicates a small raise, to create a fresh attack on the next note instead of placing. This puts a little lift in the phrase, and you’d be surprised how much little gestures like that can aid your fast or slow playing.
As far as the height of raising goes, Miss Lawrence said your arms should go no higher than the neck of the harp. That also probably means your upper arms don’t go up above your shoulder. You don’t want it to look like you’re declaring yourself champion. Margarita Montanaro said to me that when she was studying with Salzedo, he was trying out opening the arms out in an outward-more sideways direction. Having heard her several times with the Philadelphia Orchestra, I can attest that this helps open out the sound in a widespread way. I don’t think it has quite as much forward projection, though, so I only use it in a highly reverberant room, or where, musically, I want to create that impression.
For young students, of course, it takes some time to develop the sense of range of motion raising entails, and to coordinate it with playing. But it becomes completely natural and organic to the music. It also helps a lot when you see other people doing it well. One gesture I hated seeing was when someone would abruptly drop their hands/arms downward toward the ground. It felt so negative and counterproductive. It’s hard for me to imagine music that would call for that esthetic.
When Salzedo and Nijinsky were discussing harpistic gestures together, it was at a time when the arm movements of ballet were probably at their highest peak of developement. Dancers of that style were incredibly expressive and sensitive with their arms. Their positions were rounded and caressing to the air and audience. We are so fortunate to have had that input into our world. It makes us unique among musicians.
I learned the Salzedo method as well. My teacher studied with both Salzedo and Lawrence. She did NOT have me raising my hands above my head, and I have never seen a Salzedo player do that myself. I have seen many Salzedo style harpists who raise their hands, but never like that. Rarely do I find myself raising above the tops of the strings.
It’s not as if you raise on every note. It depends on the music, the phrasing and the fingerings. Raising happens mostly on long, sustained notes, although not necessarily limited to that.
I have never found raising to be a hindrance to playing at all, and have never felt as if I were “stopping” the music to raise. Once you get used to it you do it without really thinking.
I was taught that it effected the sound of the note. I make no claim this is true, but that is the reason I was given for why raising happens. And my teacher rarely referred to it as “raising”. She typically said “carry the note up the string” to refer to raising. I don’t know if actually has an effect or not, but I think it does, and that is enough for me.
I do believe that the motion helps prevent injury, but this was a concept I was introduced to not by my teacher but by listening to an interview with harpist Deborah Henson-Conanat. She was talking about harp related injury and mentioned that she has been discussing the issue with a physical therapist who specialized in sport injuries.
She said he told her that the best way to prevent the types of injuries she was most likely to experience playing the harp was to move. What may seem like excessive movement actually prevents repetitive motion injuries. I have asked some people who know a bit about that myself and found they all agree, which satisfies me personally as to one of its benefits.
So it seems to me that the “raising” motion utilized in the Salzedo method would, in fact, be seen as a preventative measure to help avoid repetitive motion injuries regardless if that was the reason it was first introduced or not.
Either way, it does not interfere with playing, it supposedly has some benefits, and it is a method utilized by many, many harpists successfully. It may not be for everyone, but I see no reason to criticize it.
When I said I don’t raise higher than the strings I don’t mean I always go as high as the tops of the strings. Only never any higher. It depends on what strings. I was just commenting on the idea that a Salzedo player throws their hands up over their heads (I don’t recall if it was you who said it or not, but I recall reading that in one of the posts).
As for playing fast on difficult repertoire, it seems that what you are saying is that a Salzedo player will force a raise when it is not appropriate. That is not, in my experience, the case. If there is just no way to do it you don’t do it.
The raise may be an aid to relaxing and stretching and preventing repetitive motion injury. But that does not mean that you would be tense and tight at other times. I would say that a Salzedo player is perfectly capable of playing relaxed through a whole piece even without a raise. As I mentioned, the reason I was given for the raise had to do with tone rather than relaxation. I just think, from what I have learned since, that the raise does have some physical benefits.
I don’t claim to be the most advanced or accomplished player. However I do know my teacher was very much a purist in regards to the Salzedo technique and from hearing and watching her play I have no belief that the Salzedo method is at all deficient regardless of the repertoire.
You sound much more experienced than I am overall, and I don’t mean to argue with your greater experience. But your take of the Salzedo method and what you perceive as its limitations does not match what experience I do have.
Carl, you keep saying you’re not slamming another method, and then you turn around and do it! It’s not becoming to you. If you really don’t understand the Salzedo method after all these years, then I suggest you take some lessons with Emily Halpern Lewis, just so you grasp our concepts and why they work. It will be most enlightening. I’m not saying to change your technique, just to understand ours and stop attacking it.
I have to question this concept of “ill will”. How can somebody do that just because they teach what they teach? If people felt challenged by that, it’s their perception, number one, and their challenge to excell, number two. I’ve had this discussion recently with a European harpist. She was “shocked” that we-as a school-would not play old chestnuts like Hasselmans, Godefroid and the like. Well, why should we? Just because everyone else does? Just because they’re there? She seemed to have a kind of shallow, promiscuous attitude of thinking one should play everything because it must have some kind of value. Well, there’s a lot of music that has little value or depth, artistically or musically. Why should we then spend our valuable time learning and performing it? Especially when serious audiences reject it, not to mention critics or other musicians. Other instruments like flute and guitar have had the same conflicts in the pursuit of being taken seriously on an artistic level. Why is the harp the last to progress in quality of repertoire? These people who complain certainly aren’t making any effort to play Salzedo’s music, so in reality, it is they who are being exclusive. Salzedo himself performed music by Holy, Renie and Grandjany, albeit early in his career. He taught Tournier’s Second Sonatine, even though the whole thing is an obvious copy of Ravel’s Sonatine. It may be that Lucile Lawrence was the one who was most selective of repertoire. Well, she had very high standards and ignored lots of repertoire. There is a stage in a student’s development in which their esthetic sense (good taste) is in a fragile, embryonic state, and the wrong music can misdirect their future development and energy. This is the real reason for her “exclusivity.” After all, the differences between the Salzedo school and others, as I have said elsewhere, are esthetic as much as physical, and thus require discrimination and choices.
If you don’t remember your lessons with Mrs. Bannerman, again, a refresher on the concepts would not be out of order. But really, what is there to question? About all I could ask is, why play third-rate music with weak tone on weak instruments just because of history? Just so you know, I consider Salzedo a serious composer, not just another harpist-composer based on my analysis of his compositions as much as their effect in performance.
I don’t think there’s anything left to prove about Salzedo’s approach.
- The forum ‘Young Harpists’ is closed to new topics and replies.