How to do a four-fingered turnaround

(And not collapse the distal knuckle of your middle finger.)

Three things:

  1. Your left hand knuckles will need to be slightly more horizontal and your right hand knuckles slightly more vertical.  Not much, but a titch.
  2. Keep the long bones of your hand aligned with the long bones of your arm.  This will allow the tendons to function without impediment.  Breaking that line is fatal (on both harp and piano).  Given #1, this is why you need to keep your elbows up.
  3. When you reach out with the ring finger, keep it curved or else the middle finger knuckle will lose every ounce of firmness and collapse.  Those two fingers share a tendon; they either curve together or they collapse together.  To keep the middle finger curved and firm at the knuckle, the ring finger must be curved as well.

All of these things work together.  A year after getting my harp, I can do four-fingered turnarounds (although not quickly) without pain or difficulty.  These three points made it possible, and they took me a year of stubborn analysis to work out.

Oddity in the left hand

There are ways in which playing with the hand cupped cross-strung style — with the fingers placed 1-4-3-2 descending — is really eons more comfortable than the textbook 1-2-3-4 way. I don’t want to get too far off the reservation here, but this is shockingly more comfortable, and I think much more manageable for someone with second and third fingers hanging like elongated weeping willow branches between a thumb and a thumb-sized abortion of a fourth finger. I’m not committing to it, but I’m open to the idea of doing this for close work in the left hand. It’s also more comfortable in the right, but I can manage the textbook way in that hand.

I still play the stretched out left-hand arpeggios in the normal fashion.

We’ll see how it works out, I guess.

Crossing under with 3-2 at the same time

Revisiting “Vaga Luna” to make sure it hasn’t unraveled while I wasn’t paying attention, and I realized that one rather clever thing I can do to simplify a cross-under part is to place 3-2 at the same time instead of just crossing under with 3 and then having to position 2 and 1 before playing. It’s faster and easier, and less risky, to place 3-2 at the same time and then just put 1 in place.

It’s also time to put the coda back in as well, the repetitive part: “ed a lei che m’innamora, conta i palpiti e sospir (x2), e i sospir, e i sospir.”

Avoiding Buzzing: ascending “filled” arpeggios

Ascending Filled Arpeggios Exercise

Practice ascending long “filled” octaves (C-G-C/4-2-1), using the knuckle of the second finger to muffle the still-vibrating previous middle string as you go. Instead of trying not to hit the string accidentally, just hit it purposefully — as I mentioned before when I was talking about something mentioned in the Josh Layne video about the Haendel harp concerto.

Starting in measure 9 of the exercise, you’ll also have to concentrate on placing 4 in the right hand firmly and well in order to avoid buzzing.

This is also helping toughen up my fourth finger, which is somewhat sore today from actually being used. 🙂

The Bag of Tricks

Also know as “sneaky things that can help solve otherwise intractable problems.” I’ll need to keep track of these, which is why I made a tag for it.

  1. Slides to replace an aggravating 4-3-2-1 placement.
  2. Muffling annoying nearby strings with the back of a finger when you have to play strings that are inconveniently close to them.
  3. Placing an outer finger ahead of time. For example, placing the thumb wherever you will need it next, even if it’s not for another two or three notes.

I may end up collecting them on a single page in the future.