When the chords are above the melody…

Posted In: How To Play

  • Participant
    stardust on #228760

    Hi all, am I the only one who has found chords harder to pace when they are played with the right hand (higher than the melody)?
    How did you practice it when you started out? So far it is the most frustrating thing I have ever tried to do on the harp – I just don’t seem to be making any progress.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #228761

    I’m not sure I understand what you mean with ‘chords higher than the melody’.

    If you just mean chord names written above the melody, they are not meant to be played above the melody.

    Or did you mean several notes to be played at a time with your right hand with the melody note on top?

    Please, share a tiny fragment of an example (in order not to violate copyright).

    Participant
    stardust on #228762

    Sorry it was vague. I have attached a picture of what I mean.

    • This reply was modified 2 years ago by stardust.
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    Participant
    carl-swanson on #228765

    Are you working with a teacher? Do you play technical material, like etudes, to build technique?

    Participant
    evolene_t on #228767

    Hello Stardust,

    I’m not a harp teacher, but I can try to share what I found worked for me.
    (@ Carl-Swanson : not everyone nor every teacher uses etudes for training, especially when adults start and stay on the lever harp).

    First thing is to practice the same thing at the same time in both hands. (On double-strung : on the same octave, otherwise one octave apart).
    Then decorrelate your hands : only play the right-hand part (chords) then left hand (melody).

    Then analyse by putting both hands together : what is your main difficulty?
    – Is it that you fumble in your left hand, while the right hand is easy?
    – Is it easy to play the left hand, but you can’t get the right hand to be smooth?
    – Are you having trouble putting both together? (Like not knowing which note to play when)

    If you can self-diagnose the issue, I find that it makes it much, much easier to solve the problem.

    For me, the problem wit this pattern is that the right hand, being stronger and more agile since I’m right-handed, will sound much louder than the left and thus overpower the melody, when it’s supposed to accompany it. It takes a bit of practice to make it smooth and soft, but it’s good training.
    I found that some of Josh Laynes’ videos on finger placements and patterns helped me : perhaps it was the mere act of spending 30mn doing one or two notes/patterns that was enough to do the trick, maybe somethings “clicked” when he explained, I don’t know.

    Good luck anyway!

    Participant
    Tacye on #228768

    I don’t find it intrinsically more difficult, but it will be less practiced than the other way round. I suggest you play lots of left hand melodies and right hand chords before trying again to put this together.

    Participant
    stardust on #228769

    Hi!

    I do not at present work with a teacher; I use only a method book (the one by Woods, with the companion DVD). I also occasionally find lessons on YouTube.

    As well as the problem you mention, Evolène, with the right hand sounding louder than the left, I have difficulties getting the timing right. I know, theoretically, that the chord is supposed to begin not on the beat, but just before it (so that it ends on the beat), but no matter how many times I seem to practice going as slow as possible, I still end up playing on the beat when I try to speed up. Either that, or there is a forced delay instead, so the melody comes in too late and sounds ‘chopped’.
    I do not have this problem when the chords are left-handed.

    Anyway, I must have tried to put it together too early, as Tacye says. I need to focus my practice better from now on. It’s too easy to let impatience run away with you!
    Thanks, guys, for sharing your valuable experience and thoughts. 🙂
    I will check out those videos by Josh Layne as well – from what little I have seen, he is a great teacher.

    Participant
    carl-swanson on #228776

    Evolene- You say that not every student, nor teacher, uses etudes, especially when an adult starts and stays on lever harp. That’s true. But the result is exactly what stardust describes. She is struggling to do what she wants to do on the instrument, and pieces are not the place to learn technique. Pieces are where you apply the technique you learned by doing exercises and etudes. When I wrote my book, Bochsa Revisited(published by Carl Fischer Music) I was half way through the pedal harp version when I realized we were missing a whole segment of the harp playing community. So I did a version for lever harp as well. That book is, to my knowledge, the only major technical study for lever harpists, after beginner level books. If stardust worked her way through that, with a teacher, the piece she wants to play would be a walk-in-the-park for her.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #228777

    Hi Stardust, I’ve got Sylvia Woods’ book too, but as I think that the learning curve of that book is very steep, I think you may like to switch to Play the Harp Beautifully by Pamela Bruner. You will probably benefit from starting in vol. II. This book (and Vol. III, but especially vol. II) helped me tremendously.
    Bruner has a more gradual approach than Woods and she explains more aspects of playing the harp..

    Participant
    charles-nix on #228780

    I have a good friend who also found Sylvia Woods’ book challenging. At my suggestion, she changed over to Kathy Bundock Moore’s Levers Up, Thumbs Up, which I thought was a really well-paced book aimed at the adult beginner.

    Also, as an adult beginner, who has worked without a teacher, and with — you need a teacher, with you in person, to help get basic technique right from the beginning. Otherwise, you _will_ run into a wall about the advanced beginner/early intermediate level where you will not be able to progress further without going back and relearning basic technique.

    My experience has been that the physiology varies from person to person, and hand, arm, and body position has to be subtly altered so that you can produce the exact sound you want. Without a teacher to watch, and more importantly listen, to the sound you are making, and coach to a technique that works for _your_ hands and body, you will end up in a dead end. They need to teach you what sound colors are possible on your instrument, and how to get them, and teach you how to tell when you are consistently making the sound you want.

    I’ve also gone from avoiding exercises and etudes to loving them. In pieces, you get a few measures of a particular technique. Unless you stop and compose an extemporaneous etude on that technique problem on the spot, that is not enough to learn how to play that technique. An etude works in many different variations on the same technical problem for several pages, at different positions on the strings, and with both hands. I’m not to the Bochsa/Swanson op. 318 yet; I’m still working through Grossi/Pozzoli. There are others, many out of copyright and freely available.

    By the way, @CarlSwanson, has a release date been announced for the second half of op. 318?

    Participant
    Biagio on #228781

    I tried at first just using Woods’ and on my own. Soon discovered that it was both frustrating and very limiting. One can “self-teach” but that means one must understand what and how to teach! The issue you describe is mainly with technique up there and a teacher can help a great deal.

    Scales and etudes are fundamental if you hope to progress beyond the basics, as I discovered the hard way. I also agree with Charles but if a teacher is simply not available locally there are some good ones who will teach via Skype or similar.

    Bruner, yes, but I would also strongly recommend Friou’s Exercises for Strength and Agility and (if you can understand a little Italian) Grossi’s Metoda Arpa. There are some translations floating around but really the pictures make it self explanatory – or instead get Kondonassis On Playing the Harp.

    You don’t have to practice exercises 3+ hours/day as conservatory students do – but I think that a half hour of scales and etudes during warm up makes a world of difference.

    • This reply was modified 2 years ago by Biagio.
    Participant
    charles-nix on #228785

    I think I recall hearing that Grossi has now been printed in English. Biagio is right, though, the Italian version works fine, especially with a teacher.

    Biagio, I found that the Grossi didn’t work well going straight through, but was better when picking out the groups of exercises needed for the literature you wanted to play. Also, the Pozzoli works in parallel with the Grossi, not as a follow-up. Is that your experience as well?

    Another couple of suggestions: Alfred Holy, op. 26 (available from imslp.org) and any of Kathryn Cater’s books — these look like they are aimed at children, but the music is well-composed, interesting, and leaves much room for interpretation. They are not labeled as etudes–but each typically does concentrate on one specific technique. Some of the books are beginner; others are advanced beginner or intermediate.

    Participant
    stardust on #228788

    Well then, it seems I am doomed to mediocrity – as the only harp teacher I know of lives several hours’ drive away from me and I don’t have a driver’s license. I took a couple of lessons with her when I first got my harp, during which she showed me basic hand position, plucking technique, and later cross-overs/cross-unders. But, that’s that, unless I can find someone to teach me over Skype… and I am doubtful I could afford it anyway.

    Thank you for the book suggestions, though. Do you think I need to buy the first volume of Bruner’s Learn to Play the Harp Beautifully as well as the second (and third)? As I am not sure how much I would be missing out on.

    I didn’t know what an etude was, so thanks for explaining that Charles-nix. Worth looking into, I’m sure. 🙂

    • This reply was modified 2 years ago by stardust.
    Participant
    Biagio on #228790

    Hi Charles,

    Yep, that has been exactly my experience. If one do3s not have a teacher one must a) figure out where the problems lie and b) what exercises will address them. With Kondonassis I find the progression logical and go straight through (and I still use both plus Friou after over ten years when I feel in need).

    WRT Sylvia’s book: it’s still a classic but well to remember that she created that when lever harps were very recently becoming popular in the music scene, pretty much all other instruction was pretty much for classical pedal harps. Hers what pretty much all that was available otherwise.

    In fact, that harp pictured on the cover is a Triplett Axeline with sharping blades, built sometime in the early 70s I think.

    Participant
    wil-weten on #228794

    Hi Stardust, as you have a significant experience with Woods’ book, I think you could skip vol. 1 of Playing the Harp Beautifully and start right away in vol.2. Many basic elements of playing the harp are explained in Vol. 2 with enlighening photos. And there are lots of exercises. Just work through vol. 2 and after that consider to buy one of the other books mentioned above.

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