How To Play


The following pages are from the book The Complete Chromatic Harp by Donald Hall.
The choice of these chapters assumes that the reader does not play the harp at all, so commences with a brief guide to playing on the diatonic row of strings. For the reader who is already a harpist, proceed directly to the next chapters, which introduce you to the notions of trichords and tetrachords; the three finger and four finger patterns which constitute the entire basis  of the technique. It is the combination of these two fingering patterns which produces all the scales, major and minor, as well as many of the modes,  thus allowing you to find your way around the instrument and begin to play melodies.
            The notation for all of the examples and exercises mentioned in the text, are to be found at the end of the chapters. This is to make it easier to print them off and put them in front of you on the music stand without all the clutter of the text.
            Subsequent chapters take you through each of the major keys, with their relative minors, one by one, then go on to deal with the playing of three and four part chords and arpeggios, octaves, as well as the fingering for pentatonic, chromatic, blues, jazz, Arabian and Persian modes.
For further information on these subjects, please feel free to contact the academy.

First chapter          Preliminaries. Playing the ordinary harp.
Second chapter     Trichords      Three finger patterns.
Third chapter         Tetrachords   Four finger patterns.
Fourth chapter       Notation of exercises and examples.

You will find that some teachers of the chromatic harp recommend that the student learn to play the instrument initially in the key of  C major, that is, on a single row only, as if it were an ordinary diatonic harp. This method does not take that approach. Rather, it takes the point of view that the particular demands of playing the chromatic harp rely so much on movement skills with-in a spacial area, that you are best off getting used to the double-vision that the brain must develop right from the very beginning. The earlier you are moving freely between the two rows, the more natural it will be and the sooner you will be able to judge exactly where your arm and hand height really needs to be.
Some musicians will come to this instrument already able to play the harp. As long as you have an operational “classical” technique, that is,
1. Playing with the thumbs up.
2. Playing with the palms parallel to the strings.
3. Playing with the fingers slanting down slightly to the strings and closing right into the palm after plucking a string.
4. Playing with the wrist and fore-arm forming a straight line and the elbow lifted,
then there is no need for you to bother with this brief chapter. Here I should point out that not all classical technique uses the raised elbow. Many harpists allow the elbow to drop, but not drag downwards, to the point where the wrist of the right hand is actually resting on the edge of the soundboard. While this style of playing may be useful on the straight harp, it is better to maintain a higher elbow position on the chromatic harp so that you have a more even access to both upper and lower courses of strings, and so that the hand is effectively suspended above the cusp. If your technique already addresses all of these points, then you should go straight to chapter four, as what we are about to cover is for people new to the technique of the harp.
We have already covered basic issues such as position at the harp and arm-shoulder position. But, at the risk of becoming dead boring, I will again mention that the back must be straight, the head lifted, the shoulders relaxed and the elbow, forearm, wrist and top-of-hand should be forming a straight line. We shall now proceed, finger by finger, to get the entire hand playing.

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