It’s inevitable, isn’t it?

That when you have a run of a few good days, you follow it up with a run of several bad ones?

I did discover though that I need to do scales before trying the exercises that Candace assigned. They seem to settle my hand position nicely, and that’s still not quite instinctive for me. I suspect it never will be entirely; one must always make sure that the fundamentals don’t work themselves loose.

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Wow, I can actually play scales.

Two-octave ascending and descending. I need to go slow, and do the hands separately before putting them together, but I can do it — hands-together. I never thought I would be able to do that and hence be a “real” harpist.

And the difference it makes to playing even short pieces is amazing. I always knew that scales mattered a lot on every instrument, but this is the first time I’ve seen it illustrated so bluntly at a time when I was enough of an adult to really appreciate it. “Vaga luna” went from slow and very clumsy feeling to a lot faster and looser just from doing the scales. And now that I don’t have to work so hard to focus on my hands, I can focus on the pedal change, and that’s improved.

I’m still a half-inch off the ground, but I feel like I might be a harpist someday. And I can’t believe I finally found a comfortable way to hold my left hand. I still have to remember to relax and keep my right elbow up, and wrap my thumbs as much as I can, but I can do it. Amazing.

Continuing with scales

So I’m continuing to do work on the right hand scales, and have realized that they help a lot with rolling chords and dynamics as well, since I’m holding my hand properly now.

I’ve also begun trying to find the best way to manage scales in the left hand. The cross-under is still unpleasant; I don’t find my hand to feel stable when I use my thumb after the cross-under. I’ll continue to work on it, but I sense some progress, so that’s nice.

Now, I need to start practicing the pieces I arranged on the lever harp with this new hand position/technique in place, so that I stop playing scales correctly and then reverting to crappy technique on these pieces.

And next week, I have a Skype meeting with Anne Sullivan to see how we feel with one another, and what she might be able to do to get some decent technique into me (scales, etudes, etc. are what I’m hoping for).

Maybe I can try that Bochsa etude that I like so much, the one in G minor …

Scale breakthrough

Okay, so I’ve had what appears to be a minor breakthrough in ascending scales, thanks to compulsively staring at the hands of a harp teacher named Anne Sullivan on YouTube while she did a little video on scales. I noticed that she didn’t cross under with all three fingers after playing the thumb, and that she did not hold her hand in the “fingers pointing downward” style that Josh Layne uses — which works for him, but his relative finger lengths are male. (Shorter index finger than ring finger. For most women, including me, it’s the other way around, and that technique won’t work. I think this is why so many women harpists always say that they use a “modified” Grandjany or a “modified” Salzedo technique. Our hands have more juice in the index finger than the ring, which is the other way around from most men.)

At any rate, I’m feeling a lot better in ascending scales, which I couldn’t do to save my life before. Now, it’s just a matter of practicing, because while I may have had a breakthrough, it’s still very fragile and easily crumbled since … well, I only had it last night. It’s going to take a while before it hardens into place enough that I can stop thinking about every single detail every time I do it. (How far ahead to push my index finger out of the way, to curl my thumb over the first joint, to keep my elbow up, to relax, etc. etc. etc.)