Reaching 1st octave

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    mike-c on #158000

    I’m a newbie who has only been playing about 1 year. I have a 46 string semi-grand and I love it. The problem I’m having is that it’s quite hard to get my hand into the 1st octave ( or 0th octave ? ) , pretty much anything above the 2nd C string.

    I will ask my teacher at my next lesson, but does anyone here have any tips or wisdom on playing those high strings ? Or just…practice, practice, practice ?

    patricia-jaeger on #158001

    Mike, I have no good answer for a man trying to play on those high harp strings; your hands are larger and that’s a good thing out in the real world! Although you love your present harp, you can love another one perhaps, in the future. Consider going to the next big harp conference (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, July 2011)

    unknown-user on #158002

    I think Carl has addressed this issue when talking about replacing necks – he adds extra to the block and increases the accessibility to the upper octave strings – David Williams did the same thing to my blue concert grand harp several years ago by adding a shim to the existing neck – it makes all the difference in the world – don’t know what area you are in or what you are close to in the way of technicians, but it is a fix that would let you keep your present harp –
    John Strand

    carl-swanson on #158003

    Mike- You may have one of those instruments(and there are many of them) where the action is practically laying on the soundboard in the first octave. Try measuring the distance between the soundboard and the underside of the action plate in the following way: Take a ruler(6 inch ruler is enough, but any length will do, either wood or steel) and place it butt end flat on the soundboard with the edge pressed against the brass kneeplate that separates the top of the soundboard from the neck. The ruler will be at a right angle to the soundboard surface and will be sticking up in front of the action and neck. Now eyeball the position of the lower edge of the action against the ruler. Ideally it should be a distance of about 2 inches from the surface of the soundboard. But it may be as little as 1.5 inches or less. This measurement will not be parellel to any of the strings. The ruler is at a completely different angle from the strings. If the distance is much less than 2 inches, then it becomes very difficult to use any of those 1st octave strings, especially if you have large hands. When I replace a neck, that 2 inch distance is the standard I aim for. If it’s much less than that, then playing up there is difficult. If it’s much more than 2 inches, then strings start breaking.

    Tacye on #158004

    You will probably need to flatten your hand and change technique up there.

    mike-c on #158005

    Thanks for all the replies. I measured with a ruler and saw that the soundboard to the action is 2 1/4″ measured perpendicularly from the soundboard, and 2″ parallel to the strings. I will try my teacher’s concert-grand this week and see what difference there is.

    I would definitely consider having Carl replace my neck, but I doubt santa can fit a harp neck through my chimney this year.

    mike-c on #158006

    Tayce – thank goodness the edges of the action plate on my harp are dulled-out to remove the sharpness .

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #158007

    Before I had my neck replaced, on my harp-that is, I had to really turn my hand sideways to play in the first octave.

    barbara-brundage on #158008

    My old 23 was like that and I put up with it because I absolutely loved everything else about it. I found it easier to just not use the right thumb up there. For something like the scales in The Great Gate at Kiev, for example, I just did 234, 234 till I got down to where there was room enough.

    You can adapt to it, but it takes awhile.

    carl-swanson on #158009

    Mike- 2 1/4″ is a lot of room. I can’t make it any bigger than that or you won’t be able to keep strings on it. They’ll just keep breaking. Did you have the ruler pressed up against that brass strip at the top of the soundboard?

    mike-c on #158010

    Carl, you’re right – I measured it from the wrong spot initially. I missed the part about the brass plate. When I measured it correctly it’s about 1 3/4″. I suppose it’s probably not worth all the trouble to only add a quarter inch. I’ll try the full concert grand at my next lesson and see how much different it feels.

    carl-swanson on #158011

    You’d be surprised how much of a difference a quarter inch can make. 1 3/4″ is not too bad. But it could be more. I could probably increase it to 2 1/8″ without having to worry about breaking strings.

    Pat Eisenberger on #158012

    I always had trouble playing in the first octave until I heard about this trick at The Harp Gathering in Ohio: rock your harp back against your knees to support it, and lean back at the waist so that your shoulder is no longer touching your harp. For me, my hand is as comfortable as it is playing an octave lower. If this helps, check with your teacher. He/she may not want you doing such a silly thing.

    Dwyn . on #158013

    I will never, ever understand why pedal harps are strung with the strings on the wrong side.

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