Salzedo Guru Questions

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

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    Alicia D. Strange on #88633

    Well, perhaps you don’t need to be

    catherine-rogers on #88634

    I don’t know about stiff arms, but Miss Chalifoux told me never to stick the pinky finger out. It should be right next to the ring or fourth finger and do as it does.

    tony-morosco on #88635

    I studied with a woman who was a student of both Lawrence and Salzedo and she never had me stick my pinky straight out. Since the pinky is so short compared to the ring finger it rarely gets in the way, and to be honest I have never given much thought to what I do with it. I just let it “hang” naturally.

    As for “stiffness of the arms” I think that refers mostly to unnecessary tension. This is for two main reasons.

    One is as you mentioned, tendonitis as well as CTS. Tension and rigidity in the arms, wrists and hands can lead to several different forms of repetitive motion injury. Being relaxed and allowing your arms and hand to actually move a little can help prevent this.

    The other thing is mobility. Tense arms are full of resistance and hard to move. Of course if your arms are so relaxed that your elbows drop down to

    unknown-user on #88636

    The majority of my training is Salzedo, and I have never heard of
    playing with the pinky straight out. I have one
    CD cover on which the harpist has a curled pinky and have wondered
    about that. I learned Salzedo method from someone who studied with
    Chalifoux and one who studied with Druzinsky. I understand the Salzedo
    technique to have the pinky work in alignment with the fourth finger.
    The fingers work as a unit. When the pinky works independently of the
    other fingers it requires the use of the small muscles in the hand.
    When the fingers work as a unit, closing at their base into the palm,
    they use the larger muscles in the forearm which are designed to
    respond to more pressure. Closing as a unit also releases the tension
    in the forearm after plucking. It is similar to the difference between lifting with
    your legs or your back. You want to use the larger supporting muscles
    for the primary movement, and the small muscles in the hand for fine
    tuning and nuance. Every muscle should release between plucking
    motions. The underlying principle for any technique is a relaxed open
    position before plucking to a relaxed closed position after plucking.
    There is a range of healthy playing that can involve the pinky being in
    precise alignment with the fourth, or slightly curved in and relaxed.
    Mine is more in alignment.

    carl-swanson on #88637

    Tony- Any technique will ultimately feel comfortable because, with enough repetition, we build up muscle memory, and that makes it feel natural and comfortable.

    unknown-user on #88638

    You have a number of good thoughts here, Carl. My only question is
    regarding the wrist. In my Salzedo training, I did learn wrist
    oscillation outward (never inward) and wrist release outward in certain
    passages. I understand that it is possible to release from the fingers,
    wrist, elbow, or occassionally even the shoulder depending on the
    nature of the dynamics and quality of sound needed. I’m currently
    studying with a primarily French trained harpist who studied some with
    Grandjany. From my information
    it seems correct that the French technique makes more use of wrist
    flexibility, but that it is also important in Salzedo technique.

    Alicia D. Strange on #88639

    Carl, having not been trained

    carl-swanson on #88640

    Alicia- I’m not sure what you are talking about.

    Alicia D. Strange on #88641

    Glad to elaborate.

    unknown-user on #88642

    There is a photo of Salzedo playing with his pinkies extended. It makes a good photo, and I don’t think it’s a technical example. I do it if I want the pinky to lead the other fingers in as they close. It’s a tool. As for the wrists being in all the time, that I have only seen in some Chalifoux students. Miss Lawrence did not teach that. Our wrists are only slight creased unless we are playing a trill or such figure that calls for rapidly coming off the strings repeatedly. It is not rigid. It might be an optical illusion, or you are seeing some harpists with fixed position. Exceptions confirm the rule, not form it. I believe Bochsa taught a thumb in a medium-high position, not as low as the other fingers. I’ll have another look at his method. I think Emily Mitchell is a wonderful example of good traditional technique. When Salzedo wrote about stiffness, it was before there was specific awareness of all the different varieties of injury, so far as we know; therefore, I think he would use the word generally to cover everything. Which quotation are you referring to? His article on Modern Harp Technique, which will appear in the American Harp Journal, has some very good advice on the subject.
    As for playing patterns of fingering in different combinations, practice them without strain or tension, slowly, until they become natural. 4231 as an arpeggio is not so difficult. You can use the Conditiong Exercises and do more varied fingering patterns than just what is given.

    carl-swanson on #88643

    Alicia- What I didn’t understand, and still don’t, is your reference to arpeggios fingered 4-2-3-1.

    unknown-user on #88644

    Seeing your last post again, Alicia, I might have an answer for you. If you place your thumb on the string, and let your fingers hang completely down, all the way, like your row of big knuckles is a door hinge, just move your fingers the slightest possible distance to the strings. The farther down they can reach, the easier it is to play different patterns. They merely pass by each other, reaching the shortened distance to close into the palm as close to the wrist as possible. Your tone will also improve. If your hand is more rounded, your palm is turned to face the strings, it will actually be more difficult, and your fingers have to travel farther to close. This way, your hand is in line with your arm, as Carl describes, and not turned at the wrist.

    Alicia D. Strange on #88645


    Alicia D. Strange on #88646

    Hmm… interesting… I will definately spend some time in experimentation.

    unknown-user on #88647

    The 5th should not be pasted to the 4th finger, there should be space between the fingers, and the 5th should lead the others, so if you are about to play a chord, try opening it out a bit and then closing, so it has a little bit of oomph. The 5 should not be curled in or under, either. Correcting common habits sometimes requires what sounds like an overstatement. Also, the method was not so fixed, it evolved. An early photo of Miss Lawrence aged 19 or so show extremely high elbows, above parallel, so that was already a change.

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