Octave four-fingered turnarounds in the left hand

They aren’t great yet, but they exist. I’ve noticed that I can keep from losing tone in the distal knuckle on the third finger if I also make sure not to reach very far out with the fourth. The fourth also has to be curved and facing somewhat downward in order for me to maintain tone in the third finger distal knuckle. If I don’t do that, that knuckle collapses.

I’ve also noted that I can’t hold my hands symmetrically, in direct defiance of what has seemed to me to be Harp Wisdom. The way the harp is held on one shoulder requires that the hands be asymmetrical, with the right hand knuckles slightly more vertical, and the left hand knuckles slightly more horizontal.

This reminds me a bit of an interview I saw on YouTube by French horn player Sarah Willis of her colleague Fergus McWilliam, where he talks about a book he wrote called an “anti-horn-method method.” In the book, he describes how he learned to play French horn, and over time slowly realized that what the received wisdom dictated was not what he (or anyone else) actually did.

I think this business about holding “the hands” this way or that on the harp is similar. In reality, you hold the two hands differently due to the asymmetrical way the instrument is held — not down the centerline of the body, but off-center and on one shoulder preferentially.

Anyhow, it’s working out a bit better. I’m glad now (to be honest) that I’m learning as an adult because I think this is the sort of annoying little detail than an adult can reason their way to, but that a little kid will just believe when a teacher says it. I have to confess that I’m also (at least at this early stage) glad that I don’t have a teacher, because I feel like I can reach these realizations without having anyone else in front of me saying, “No, no, no, do it this way,” while I’m looking at their hands and thinking to myself, “But you aren’t actually doing it that way.”

That and, well … it’s more fun to figure things out on your own. 🙂

I also think there’s sometimes a bit of logic in aiming for a non-reachable “ideal” of some sort rather than for the reality. There are more than a few instances in music (and probably other things) where you can sort of “aim through the target” and do better than if you aim exactly where you are supposed to be. Aim for (the factually accurate) asymmetrical hands, and you’ll probably end up messing it up. Aim for (factually inaccurate) symmetrical hands, and just because of the physiology of the device, you’ll probably end up tilting them just enough off-true to make it work. Viola was also like that, in that I had to sort of mentally imagine something that wasn’t really what I ended up doing, as a means of “aiming through the target.”

Aim for perfect, and you’ll hit good. Aim for good, and you’ll hit mediocre.

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