Small hands and feet: please help

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

  • Participant
    unknown-user on #162361

    Hello everyone,

    I’m new to this forum and wondered if anyone could help with a problem I have.

    I’ve been playing the pedal harp for about 3 years and am finding it increasingly difficult (as I move on to harder pieces) to cope with the challenges presented by my small hands and feet. I find pedal changes incredibly hard (my feet are 2 and a half) as my feet aren’t long enough to reach the pedals with the heels staying on the floor (and I am sitting properly), even in shoes. I’m also finding some of the stretches required in pedal harp repertoire very hard as my hands are small – my middle finger is about 2 and a half inches long and my palm is barely 3 inches across. What I really would like to know is, is there any way I could get round these problems or should I just go back to lever harp? The pedal problem is especially bothering me at the moment, as I seem to have to distort my sitting position every time I need to change one, thus making it harder to play at the same time.

    I’d be so grateful for any advice. Thank you.


    Tacye on #162362

    You say you are sitting properly, but I wonder if you are sitting right for you.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #162363

    There is a thread posted by Saul regarding short fourth fingers which you might find helpful, too. The main thing is not to try to pound a square peg into a round hole. If you cannot place every finger simultaneously, just place what you can and throw on the last finger as soon as you can, comfortably.

    Elizabeth Volpé Bligh on #162364

    Here’s another thought: experiment with different heel heights. Buy a few different pairs of high-heeled shoes (that you can return, if necessary) and try them out. Maybe that will solve your problem of keeping your heels on the floor.

    andy-b on #162365

    Hi, Frances:

    You didn’t mention what brand or model harp you’re playing; as Tayce said, different harps are suitable for different players. I personally like smaller pedal harps with closer string spacing and find them easier to play (particularly in the treble). If you’re playing a full size concert grand or semi-grand, perhaps one of the 44 string models would be a better fit for you. I have a Clio with extended soundboard that has an amazing sound, and I find it so much easier and more comfortable than just about any concert grand I’ve tried.

    unknown-user on #162366

    Thank you to everyone for their advice. It’s been really useful.

    Thank you to Tayce for the sitting suggestions. I do sit on the edge of the seat and have the harp tilted at its balance point, but I don’t have a seat that tilts forward, so perhaps this would be useful – thanks for suggesting this.

    Andy and Hannah, thanks for your suggestions – I will definitely look into maybe getting a different, smaller harp. The harp I have at the moment is a 46 string Erard; it seems small compared to my teacher’s harp, which is huge, but perhaps a harp that’s slightly smaller or with smaller string spacing would help. I don’t really know how Erards stand with regard to string spacing. Hannah, it’s good to know that someone with the same proportions has overcome these problems – thank you for replying!

    Thanks also for the shoe suggestions; I’ll definitely try this. I will look at the post on small fourth fingers too!

    Best wishes,


    Mel Sandberg on #162367

    Frances – I share your problem too.

    Harp Museum on #162368

    Hi Frances,

    I think the Lyon and Healy style 12 might be a good option for you.

    unknown-user on #162369

    My hands are the same size and i have found that practicing large stretches for about 10 mins a day really helps because your fingers get used to stretching that far, i also out in the 2nd and 3rd fingers after it is comfortable enough… also squeezing a stress ball helped, but i have no idea why, one of my teachers recommended it to me.

    patricia-jaeger on #162370

    Frances, those suggestions above sound very good. Here are two more: The young harp virtuoso Josh Layne rests his feet on top of the pedals until needed. I heard him a few weeks ago in concert. I didn’t notice whether his feet were smaller than usual, but he managed Smetana’s Moldau just beautifully!

    Also, one more harp model you might look at is the Pilgrim Progress pedal harp. of 41 strings. There are a few U.S. dealers of this British harp, and there is a web site also. Let people know you are looking for that model, or a Lyon and Healy #12, and one just might become available. This site might be a good start; good luck!

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