So after doing a bit of poking around on the HarpColumn.com forums, I’ve learned that … well, short fourth fingers are a pain and you just have to live with them. I mean, it’s not like I expected to take a pill and have them get longer, but neither is there a set way to deal with them. You just deal with them as you go. And again, it can’t be fatal since so many women have shorter ring fingers than index and middle, and women have historically been all over the harp.
But it’s definitely a far greater problem than on the piano, where the only real annoyance is one that exists for all musicians: it doesn’t have its own independent tendon.
But at least now I know that 1) avoiding using it unless I have to and 2) just making it work however I can are both options. Until I gain good instincts though, I’ll probably be happy to just ignore that finger altogether, or else I’m likely to do unwise things in attempting to adjust for it. This woman is all over that harp like Michael Jordan on a basketball court, and although I can’t hope to do what she can do, at least I can watch this and see that yes, she sounds wonderful, and moreover that she does indeed use her hands in a compensated way to make up for the shorter fourth finger. Again though, the compensations she employs are not open to me at this point since I don’t yet have the good judgment necessary to employ them well.