First, how long is a long time? If you’re playing for four hours without moving from your stool, the solution could be as simple as taking a 5-minute break each hour.
Another thing to look at is the height of your stool or chair. If you’re too low, you might be lifting your shoulders to make up for it. I have a pneumatic stool that loses height over time, and if I don’t check it regularly I get tired and sore quickly once it gets low enough.
If you have a teacher, bring this up with him or her. If you don’t, next time you sit down to your harp, play for several minutes, then put your hands down and roll your shoulders back and down while elongating your spine. Have someone watch you. If you get taller, you were slouching, which will have all kinds of side effects. If your shoulders end up lower than they were before you rolled them, they were too high while playing. If that’s the case and fiddling with the height of your stool doesn’t fix the problem, you’ll have to remember to check for shoulder tension every few minutes while playing until you retrain your body to relax your shoulders.
Of course, it’s possible that this self-diagnosis won’t reveal anything, in which case your best bet is to find a reputable harp teacher and schedule a lesson to get some help with your specific issue. Even if it’s far away and expensive, one lesson won’t be too bad, and it’s better to fix the problem once for all and enjoy many more years of harping without pain than to let it eat away at your enjoyment of your harp. Good luck!
I can sympathize, I have the same problem. As far as I’ve been able to tell, the nearest harp teacher is roughly 90 minutes away from me. 🙂
I thought of something else last night too. For a while I was getting really sharp pains in my left shoulder, and stretching didn’t help. The pain went away once I started following my practice with a few upper-arm and shoulder exercises using some light hand-weights. It accomplished two things: got the blood flowing into the overused muscles, and got them strong enough that practicing was no longer an over-exertion. I only did it for a few months before the problem went away entirely.
Best of luck! Let us know how you fare!
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