In listings of pre-owned harps for sale, I occasionally run across the phrase “wide spacing” with regard to distances between strings. I would be curious to know more details. How much wider than standard spacing? Is “wide spacing” itself standardized, or does it vary? Can harps still be ordered from manufacturers with wide spacing specified, and if so, how wide? Is this simply an accommodation for larger than usual hands? Is it hard, as a player, to shift from standard spacing to “wide?”
Eliza, I can’t answer your question about the standard for wide spacing (or if there is one), but I can tell you about my experience with one harp that had wide spacing. My hands are large, so I had always wanted to try a harp with wide spacing. L&H had one in their CPO stock when I was there for a visit, so I tried it. It was much more difficult to play than I thought it would be. After playing it for a few minutes, I had difficulty going back to a harp with regular spacing.
Spacing that is narrower than normal bothers me a good bit on harps. I’ve even sold harps before for that very reason. It’s especially noticeable in my left hand. So I figured that a wide-spacing harp would be the answer, but I actually found it more difficult to play than a harp with narrow spacing, which surprised me. So, even with my larger hands, I prefer harps with normal spacing.
Venus Harps made two harps for me with wide spacing. I haven’t had any issues with going back and forth to regular spacing harps. I might miss an octave for the first couple of minutes but my brain quickly adjusts. From what I understand Salzedo as a big fan of wide spacing, and many original Salzedo models were wide spaced. I have big hands, and the wide spacing really helps me! On the other hand, I find it almost impossible to play on Camac harps because they are just a teensy bit to narrow for my fingers.
From your responses (thank you Brook and David), it sounds like it is not just the size of the hand, but also the muscular memory of spacing and the ability of the brain to adjust quickly one way or the other. Is Camac standard string spacing narrower than L&H, Salvi, Venus, etc? I played a Camac only once and did not notice it particularly. (Maybe because so many other things felt different)! My hands are actually pretty small, sometimes a challenge when reaching huge chords, but I think narrower-than-normal spacing would throw me off as well.
You see narrow spacing more often on Latin style or historic harps where the technique is quite a bit different than pedal harp. Some celtic players also prefer narrow spacing though I had the chance to meet the Irish harp great Maire ni Chathasaigh once and she prefers standard spacing.
Nice piece. It’s very pretty. I would take the section where the right hand has a lot of notes going fast and practice it slowly, firmly, and loudly, with the hand leaving the string as far away as possible after playing, in order to make it cleaner. I would also practice it with long short longs and short long shorts.
- You must be logged in to reply to this topic.