Set them up, knock them down.

At least that’s what I’m telling myself. There have been a few obstacles that I’ve been keeping in mind in terms of handling the harp in such a way that I can play the things I’d like to play, including the Italian folk music for which this blasted blog is named. I mean, “Babbino Caro” is in Italian at least, but “Zdes’ Khorosho” is not, and Chopin is pretty far off from it.

It’s been bugging me that I haven’t been able to manage a chunk of the music that I have had in mind since getting the harp yet. It’s unsurprising since I had zero experience with the harp until I got it, but it still irks me.

Among the things I’ve been keeping in mind as “things to hammer down” are:

  • Using my 4th finger well and being able to roll a full two-handed chord
  • Being able to do a full 4-fingered turnaround, 4-3-2-1-2-3-4-3-2-1 and so on.
  • Being able to do a trill.

I’ve been pinning them down with some stubbornness, and the full turnaround has still been challenging, especially in my left hand, which is a point of particular irritation for me since I’m left-handed. The difficulty seems to be due to the way that you have to lean the hand back a bit and hence bend back the wrist because you reach across yourself to use the left hand. The back of the hand on the right side lines up perfectly with the forearm, but that perfect line that Dorothy Taubman spoke of is broken on the left side.

What I’ve been doing is (and I know this sounds strange) lining up the harp straight down from my sternum and doing both right and left hands together, so that I can have a perfect mirror image in both hands. Then, when I slowly go back to the normal way to sit — with the harp on my right shoulder — I manage to maintain that hand orientation in my left hand.

I’ve also noticed that as much as I aim for complete 3-2-1 placement when playing 4, I only really manage 3-2 and then put 1 down later. After watching some of the Josh Layne slow motion videos, wherein he makes the same observation about himself, I’ve been happy about this because it does seem to make a difference, and I feel like I’m not wandering off the reservation entirely if a pro does it as well.

Anyhow, I can now manage a slow, non-painful full turnaround on an octave home chord (C-E-G-C) in the right hand, and am starting to pick a careful path to a full turnaround in the left hand on a C-D-E-G sort of thing.

When I’m happy with that, I think it may be time to start writing/arranging a few things using that pattern, and then finally getting into the Italian folk music that uses it so much in the bass.


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