Small hands can reach an octave but possibly not 10 notes. Will I be restricted

Posted In: How To Play

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    Lisa Blythe on #260046

    Hello harp friends,
    Just wondering, I have very small hands. I can reach an octave but may not be able to reach 9 or 10 notes. Will I be restricted in my music choices? Should I quit now? I saw a video where a harpist was saying many songs used a left hand pattern with 10ths in it. Look forward to your thoughts on this.
    Thank you,
    Lisa 😊

    Lisa Blythe on #260048

    Maybe I’m panicking unnecessarily. I can reach a tenth but it’s a struggle. I might need to wait til I get to that with my harp teacher. But if you think it looks problematic, please let me know.

    wil-weten on #260049

    I’ve got very small hands too. Just ask your teacher to show you how tenths can be grasped without a struggle, even with very small hands.

    To start with, as you practice, the ligaments between your fingers wil learn to stretch. This will happen very gradually, think of a matter of several months or even longer. The older you are, the longer it will take before you can grasp tenths, but it can be done, even when you would already be in your sixties!

    Also, you could learn to grasp a tenth by pushing with your thumb the highest string you need to grasp to the other strings and then grasp the other strings with the 2nd and 4th finger. The position of your wrist can also help. Your teacher can show you this.

    When playing a tenth in a broken chord, you could start by grasping the 4th and 2nd finger at the same time and while playing, move your wrist in the direction of the string your thumb needs to grasp and then grasp that string.

    As to the wire strings, they are a bit further from each other in L&H lever harps than e.g. in Camac or Salvi harps. I still can play tenths on a L&H Prelude, but prefer to play them on my other harps.

    I think, you should be able to discuss your worries with your teacher now, even when it will still take some time before you’ve reached the level in which you play tenths.

    Lisa Blythe on #260050

    Thank you Wil Weten, you are the best. I was having a panic attack Lj because I am about to buy my first harp, and I didn’t want to go ahead if I can’t play the music I love. I think it will be ok! Hope you have a lovely day. 😊

    wil-weten on #260051

    I don’t expect any problems for small adults, but you may like to know that Camac has a version of the Telenn model, especially meant for small children. It has got light gut strings.
    Have a look here:

    Yet, I think that as an adult you would be able to play on any harp.

    Gretchen Cover on #260078

    I would not worry about reaching. As you learn to play, you will make adjustments for your hands. There is no law that says you can’t eliminate or change a few notes to accommodate small hands. That you are motivated to learn to play the harp is enough. You’ll work things out.

    Lisa Blythe on #260079

    Thank you Gretchen,
    I hadn’t thought to remove a note or two. I will keep that as an option! I think it is going to be achievable with the right method and practice. I was panicking. Lisa 😊

    balfour-knight on #260084

    Dear Lisa,

    So sorry I just saw your post here. I want to reassure you that your small hands should not be a problem. Like Gretchen said, you will learn how to adjust. Have you ever studied piano? As I was growing up, my hands were very small, too, and I could not even reach an octave. I learned very quickly to just “jump” them, playing the bottom note first, followed very quickly by the top note. Harp can be the same, especially since you “roll” or “arpeggiate” intervals and chords to make it sound “harp-like.”

    I would have loved to have had larger hands, but I did a master’s degree in performance with these small hands! So continue bravely on, I say! The sky is the limit!

    Best wishes,

    Lisa Blythe on #260085

    Thank you Balfour,
    that is very reassuring! I have played piano a long time ago. But did not arpeggiate the chords. Sounds like it will be more achievable on the harp.
    Best wishes, Lisa 😊

    Saul Davis Zlatkovski on #260108

    Your reach can gradually extend with time, your fingers don’t get longer, but the flesh can stretch, especially between your thumb and second finger, it can grow a lot, if you do stretching exercises. In the meantime, you can leap from one note to the next.

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