Our fabulous fingers! We harpists depend on them for every note. We trust them to be dependable and obedient.
But those phenomenal phalanges can sometimes turn into digit divas.
Here are some common (and very sneaky!) finger foibles you should watch out for. Which ones are your fingers’ favorites?
1. Hiding Behind the Wall.
Your right hand has likely discovered a special way to hide. While you’re paying attention to every aspect of your left hand’s technique, your right hand may be getting sloppy. It knows that the strings act like a wall keeping your right hand out of sight and out of mind. And since our right hand technique is usually a little stronger than our left hand technique, we are apt to let our right hand be responsible for itself.
All your right hand needs is a little attention from time to time, a quick check to make sure that your fingers, hand, wrist and arm are in the correct position and working properly. Tear down that wall!
2. Slip Sliding Away.
It happens gradually, but suddenly you look at your hands and find that they aren’t where they should be. Instead of playing in the middle of the strings, they have slipped down to well below the midpoint on the string. Playing lower on the strings or near the soundboard is an effective and useful technique, but it should be used intentionally, not by accident.
Sometimes we get lazy about holding our arms up in the air to keep our hands and fingers where they should be. Other times we accidentally allow our hands to follow the slant of the soundboard and play lower on the lower strings of the harp. Either way, our playing suffers.
One problem is that when we play too low on the strings, the sound changes. We no longer are playing where the sound of the string is at its richest. This makes it difficult to play with an even sound.
Also, when we play lower on the strings, the angle of our hand changes and that affects our technique. Our fingers are no longer able to work the way we have trained them.
3. Hot Potato Placing.
Do your fingers jump around on the strings like they were hot potatoes?
Secure placing is important for fast, fluid playing. You want your fingers to place on the correct strings without fumbling or adjusting. You want them to “stick the landing” like a gymnast does.
Watch carefully that your fingers aren’t using a “hunt and peck” technique instead!
4. The Weakest Link.
Do you find yourself changing fingerings to avoid using a particular finger?
If so, you might have a weak link in your technique, a finger that is technically underdeveloped. This is often a third or fourth finger. As a result of its weakness, the finger is underutilized, making it even weaker and creating a deficit in your technique as a whole.
The solution is simple: regular work on patterned exercises designed to promote finger independence, along with careful listening as you play to make sure that finger is matching the others in tone and volume.
5. Lack of Follow Through.
No matter what technique or method you learned, you learned that your tone is not just about the moment that your finger plays the string, but that your tone develops in the follow through. The way your finger closes toward or into your hand is a critical part of your technique.
But are your fingers following through or are they only doing half of the job?
Take a moment and listen to the difference in sound. Play a short passage or exercise being careful to use your fullest finger motion, then play the same passage again with no follow through. You will hear a noticeable difference in tone and volume. Remind yourself to listen to your practice, and you will be able to remind your fingers when they need to follow through.
What other finger foibles do you need to fix?