Visual Tracking: score, strings, conductor

Posted In: Teaching the Harp

  • Participant
    Julietta Anne Rabens on #186613

    I am looking forward to input from others on this issue, which I haven’t been able to resolve.

    I have notice a difficulty for harp students to maintain visual tracking on their score as they play their harp. I know of piano teachers who don’t allow students to look at their hands, and so perhaps some harp teachers resolve the issue in this way. I’ve personally found it useful to visually go between the score and the strings because it also solidifies my memorization more easily.For the issue of score tracking I know that breaking it down into phrases and knowing where each one begins in the score is one source of help. Lining up the score to be as close to the visual field of the hands can also help, but this isn’t enough to solve the problem for many people. What else can be done?

    In the case of an orchestral setting I just memorize the music so I still just have two things to track: my hands and the conductor. This is also one reason I don’t play often with orchestras is because it takes me so much preparation. I feel I can’t do it unless my part and the sounds it fits into are all memorized. Lining up all three in the visual field in this case is also a help, but I’m wondering if there is anything more that can be done.

    Just how important is it to play without looking at the hands? Are there simplified practice strategies of going back and forth between a simplified, repetitious score and the hands? Any turning of the head seems to really throw a monkey wrench into the process. I have a couple of students who really struggle with this and I have not fully succeeded in helping them yet. Any advice is hugely welcomed!

    Gretchen Cover on #186621

    I play all my music, except the occasional orchestra part because I am too lazy to scan it, on an iPad using forScore as the app. It eliminates the head turning for me. I use an AirTurn bluetooth foot pedal for page turns (although you can simply tap the iPad for page turns to save money). The stand I use is by Standzout. It has a flexible gooseneck and the base slides under the harp so you can get the iPad over the soundboard. This could cost more than perhaps your students want to or could pay for.

    I’ve read that Apple is developing a new larger iPad that was supposed to be released in the fall but has now been delayed because they want to put in a USB port.

    A recent issue of Harp Column included an article written by The Chicago Harp Quartet about their use of iPads for music.

    Sylvia on #186626

    I’m a memorizer, too, and I memorize the hard stuff…but when using music like in an orchestral setting, I put as much as possible on the right side of the stand…in other words, copy whatever, and tape a blank paper to cover the music on the left side of the stand. (I use my own parts), so the hard stuff is on the right side. Sometimes there aren’t rest measures, so that’s where I sometimes can cut out a section of the page to put it with stuff on the right and move some of what’s on the right onto the next section…if you follow what I’m saying. It also helps me to enlarge to make it easier to see.
    I use colored markers to indicate places on the page so I don’t look at it and have to try to find the spot… I know that Bb chord has blue marker by it, etc.
    I sometimes take the marker and draw around the phrase if it’s like another one so I don’t go to the wrong one.
    Every harpist is different, so I know probably others don’t have to do these things, but especially since I don’t read off sheet music for my other playing, I have to survive. I do whatever it takes to make myself comfortable. As for not looking at my hands….forget that. I have to see the patterns on the strings.

    carl-swanson on #186630

    Julietta- I think there are two problems here. The first is that your students have to learn to “feel” their way around the instrument. They should be able to feel octaves, triads, etc. without having to look too often at the instrument. The best way to develop this ability is with etudes, which work one pattern or another so much that the player develops muscle memory for that pattern. Playing scales and chord patterns also helps with this. You may have to help the student to break the habit of constantly looking at the strings. While the student is playing, take a sheet of paper or a piece of music and hold it between the student’s head and hands, so he/she can’t see his or her hands. The student will learn eventually how to minimize the amount of time spent looking at his hands.

    The second problem has to do with reading music. Playing from music(rather than from memory) involves being able to glance at a measure or two and remember it so that you can then glance at the conductor or the strings and not be completely lost on what you are playing. This ability is true for playing something you know from music AND for sight reading. Good sight readers can look at several measures and remember them while they play those measures and look ahead at the same time.

    I would start by getting your student to look less at the strings and to feel his way around more. Use the paper to hide the hands. Once the student improves on that, then work on the reading skills.

Viewing 4 posts - 1 through 4 (of 4 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.