RFL and adaptive technique 2

Another thing I’d like to remain aware of is, if I can pursue this as research, I do not want to just attach it to a college and study a bunch of 19 year old hardcores. The people that need to be examined must include:

  1. Child students,
  2. College-age kids,
  3. Professional harpists in their 30s, 40s, 50, and beyond,
  4. Amateur harpists in their 30s, 40s, 50s, and beyond, and
  5. Adult beginners.

POSSIBLE NONSENSE FOLLOWS: College-age kids in a conservatory are more likely to do dumb things like damage themselves or move forward in the face of pain to adhere to an ideological standard or the way their famous teacher says they should do it, but at least be aware of technique controversies. Child students are more likely to not know other ways of doing things other than how their teacher says to do it. Professionals are more likely to have relaxed in a rigid adherence to ideology, amateurs are less likely to know about controversies, and adult beginners are less likely to have been indoctrinated (and possibly less likely to make the mistake a lot of pros and conservatory kids make, where they hurt themselves and imagine that it means they’re making progress).

All of them will have different approaches, different assumptions to work around, and be more or less prone to injury as a result of varying amounts of time using their preferred technique.

Just as musical technique has to be understood by studying a large variety of people, so does the research technique itself.

Other things that will impact this but that won’t be under consideration might include overall hand length, hand width, arm length, and harp/harpist height. For now, just focusing on relative finger length and how it impacts optimal, low-tension technique is probably more than enough.


Relative finger length and adaptive technique

I am mulling more and more about the ways that people’s hands vary, and how technique has to adapt in order to enable everyone to play. There tend to be a few assumptions underlying harp technique that I think are damaging and that should have been recognized and dealt with by now.

In order to deal with them, a few new assumptions have to be introduced:

  1. Overall hand size matters less than we think, while relative finger length matters more,
  2. People’s hands can probably be sorted into a few basic categories based on their relative finger length, and optimal low-tension technique can and should be developed for each basic handshape,
  3. Harp pedagogy must be aware of this in order to prevent injury and attrition, and
  4. This goes beyond Salzedo v Granjany.

I think I’d like to examine this more closely, or at least work up a general approach and then see if there is a way to actually research it — to sort harpists’ hands into different categories based on relative finger length (what I’m calling handshape, but which probably needs a better term*), examine the kinds of injuries each handshape sustains, and create a set of basic guidelines for the optimal low-tension technique for each handshape.

This would allow people to teach to the student’s particular hand rather than trying to shoehorn every student’s technique into the one that works for the One, True Handshape … and ending up damaging people.

* Maybe just RFL should be used, an abbreviation of “relative finger length.”


It’s always a little strange to me how one can have a technique epiphany (or probably any kind of epiphany) and it will seem so obvious and natural that you’ll think to yourself, “I’ve got it! I’ll never lose this one again.”

Then you go back and try to reapply it, and it’s as if you never had the insight at all.


Anyhow, I think I have a decent chance of actually holding onto it this time, so that’s nice. ┬áIt never fails to amaze me — and I’ve been playing music for quite some time at this point — how alien and impossible something will feel, and if I just keep pushing gently forward, eventually my body will suss it out, and it will become equally inconceivable to me that I ever found it hard.