Lever-flipping — it’s really not that bad

It isn’t. Seriously. It’s just something you can practice as you do everything else, although it’d probably be harder on some harps than others. (I love the Salvi Ana or the L&H Prelude, but they arc upwards quite a bit and it might be harder to hit the right lever on them than on a Ravenna or some other less vaulted style of harp.) It’s also something you can arrange around as well, putting certain notes in one or the other hand, and even taking flips with the right hand if they are near the part where the neck dips down.

I think people just get used to not flipping them and thinking of in-piece flips as being “advanced.” And probably the best way to cope with that is to just get used to flipping from the start, to just present every piece with at least one flip and to teach people to look ahead for them, just as you might look ahead for a string.

I imagine it also helps to be an arranger. Since I’ve already arranged/composed a bunch of stuff for piano (where you learn theory without realizing it), I’m familiar with how to make things convenient for myself and what the cheapest way to get across a chromatic modulation might be with the smallest number of flips. For example, the diminished chord in “Vaga Luna” only needed one flip to get across since I avoided the F#, and I was able to avoid an in-piece flip for the Eb in the bass by setting it from the start and working around it for the rest of the piece; I only decided I wanted the E♮ back in the coda. Now on the piano, I’d definitely have put the whole chord in. Since you always have all the notes you need on that, you can harmonize much more lushly.

Anyhow, I think that in-piece lever-flipping is one of those instances of expectations becoming obstacles, where people might find them much simpler and less intimidating if they just got used to doing one or two in every piece. Seriously, they aren’t that bad. 🙂 Simply playing without buzzing is a much greater challenge.

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Jury is out on the 8″ legs

Anyway, I gave the new legs a shot, and I can’t tell if they are a bad idea or just unfamiliar. They do seem to put more weight on my shoulder, but they also seem to improve the tone through making me put my hands lower on the strings. And my right hand does have better placement.

I’ll probably keep swapping back and forth between them to check things out over time.

Well, it got here last night.

My brand spanking new Ravenna 34
My brand spanking new Ravenna 34

I hope to blog about my experiences with it, partly to help me keep on track and partly (someday) to help popularize Italian folk music on the harp, but that will be a long time coming since … well … this is hard! I have large hands for piano, but that’s almost a drawback in some ways since I think smaller fingers might fit a bit better on it, and the hand position on the harp is nothing like that on the piano, making my existing flexibility not very useful.

And the potential for surface noise is immense. For an instrument that can sound so heavenly when well played, it can sure make some cringe-worthy noises when it’s not.

I spent an enormous amount of time on it last night, concentrating on keeping an open, relaxed hand, closing into the palm, and keeping my thumbs up (thank you, Josh Layne!), and just trying to get used to the new landscape of strings as opposed to a keyboard.

I may want the 8″ legs on it since I can currently turn my head to one side and rest my chin on the top of the neck with no effort whatsoever, and that seems a bit low to me. It’s comfortable, though — and when the time comes for me to start flipping levers in mid-piece, I may appreciate being able to reach some with my right hand. We’ll see; I don’t know anywhere near enough about the harp at this point to be able to make those sorts of judgments.

I even spent about a half an hour on it this morning before leaving for work. It’s a subtle, quieter instrument so it isn’t offensive in the mornings to either me or very likely to my neighbors. I’m quite happy about the potential for a half hour of practice every morning.

To my surprise it wasn’t that hard to tune it, although I’m still tweaking. I’m always surprised that I can tune well since so many people believe that pianists have “bad ears,” as if a musician only ever listens to their particular instrument. A lifetime of listening to good singers I suppose has made me picky about tuning.

(I can also highly recommend Dusty Strings, like most people who have dealt with them. They were extremely responsive and pleasant to deal with, and the harp is lovely.)