How To Play



      Having developed the ability to play four note phrases, we now need to link them together to form longer phrases and scales. The turn under and turnover is a vital part of your technique, and needs to be as unconscious and as effortless as possible. It is the stitch that holds the music together at the seams. We will do these turnarounds with both trichords and tetrachords, dealing with the left and right hands simultaneously, as it is the same move for both hands. This does not mean that you should not begin by practicing each separately.

      1. Begin with the third , index and thumb placed on the C D and E. As you strike the C string, let the third finger begin a journey with its point headed down and under the other fingers, and towards the F, where it should be firmly prepositioned by the time the thumb comes to sound the E. As soon as the E is plucked, the hand moves upwards, pivoting on the foundation of the third finger, so that the index finger and thumb fall onto the G and the A, providing the foundation for the third finger to go ahead and play the F. If you are having problems with constriction, open your position by extending the thumb particularly, so that there is plenty of room for the third finger to move under.

       In descent, it is the thumb which leads down and over. Once you have played the thumb on the A it begins its journey down and over the other fingers so that it is in position back down on the E just before the third finger plays the F, then having played, the index and third finger pounce back onto the D and C strings, ready to play. See Exercise 13. Do not place  the thumb of the right hand too close to the cusp or you will bunch up. Remember, that thumb is normally the finger furtherest from the cusp. If you keep your hand position open you will avoid traffic jams at the point of turn unders and turn overs.

      Be careful not to swivel or manipulate the wrist during turnovers and turnunders the entire forearm should be involved with and governing the movement up or down, not the wrist, which should  remain strong and static.

      With your turnarounds at the end of passages of four notes the only difference is the greater distance that the fourth finger or thumb must travel under or over to land on its new string. All that this requires is practice. See Exercise 14. Once the finger responsible for the turn under or turnover has sounded its string, the other three must pounce onto their respective strings ready to play. Do not bother linking more that two sets of tetrachords at the moment, because the fingering for extended scale passages changes in the second octave.

      Try to play so that the the point of turnover or turn under is as inaudible as possible, by making the sets of notes you are linking balanced in terms of their tone and dynamic. It should be one seamless stream of notes.

      Particularly with this, as with all the foregoing exercises, remember to apply your neural patterning. THE SCALE OF C MAJOR. We are now actually already capable of playing this scale, as it is merely the two linked sets of tetrachords extending up or down from the C string. At the moment we are able to play it to one octave only. To play to two octaves we must include a trichord, that is a three note pattern, followed by another tetrachord, so that our thumb ends up neatly on the top C to complete the scale. This means that in ascent, you play one set of four notes, turning under with the fourth finger to the G, followed by another set of four notes, at the end of which you turn under with the third finger to the D  so that you play a three note set on the D E and F followed by a turn under with the fourth finger moving to the G so that you are in a position to play out the four top notes of the scale.

       In descent, the thumb turns over to come down on the G after the first four notes have been played, then you play down a three note set with the thumb, index and third, turning over with the thumb moving down to the C, followed by four notes and another turnover with the thumb moving down to the F, followed by the final four notes of the scale, terminating with the fourth finger on the low C. See Exercise 15.

      Make sure that the index, third and fourth fingers are operating as a unit in their moves from one position to the next.

      For the one and only time, the left hand is the same as the right hand in terms of fingering. See Exercise 15. the bass part..

      For every major scale, there is a relative minor scale, that is, a scale which utilizes exactly the same row of notes, but, since it commences on the string a minor third below the original starting note (tonic), it sounds as a minor scale. The relative minor for C major is A minor, see Ex. 16. There are three types of minor scales which we shall experience as we progress, the pure minor, the harmonic minor and the melodic minor. This type we have just meet with is the most simple and unaltered of the forms, and so is sometimes called the simple minor and also the natural minor.

      The fingering of the relative minor key is identical with the major key with which it is related; the hand simply drops into the fingering pattern at a different starting point. It is important to become thoroughly familiar with your relative minor scales and their fingerings, as they constitute the basis of the fingering patterns for the more complex and rich melodic and harmonic scales.

      As with all of the scale passages you are about to experience, the examples are given to two octaves. This does not mean that you should be tempted to play that far initially. It is crucial that you do not race through any of this material. Play securely in the range of the octave before you consider moving to longer passages.

      If you wish, you may practice double handed scales, but this may be a little premature for some at the moment.

      We have already reiterated those points of technique which must be given attention at every stage of your development so far. Now that you are playing actual scales to two octaves, those points become crucial, because it is at this stage that you can consolidate either bad or good technique. The points which you should be looking to with this and all subsequent scale practice are;

      1. The palm more or less parallel to the strings.

      2. The thumb cocked and reaching upwards, to open the hand position.

      3. The fingers slanting and reaching down to the strings so that, with the thumb, they form an arrowhead angle fanning down from the cusp and open the hand out, along with the thumb.

      4. The wrist, forearm and elbow should be comfortably lifted.

      5. The fingers should strike with the fleshy pad and follow through with every note, to the palm of the hand. Avoid hooking, particularly with the inner fingers.

      6. The top joint of the fingers should not cave in, they must be strong and convex.

      7. Preplacement should always be used to stabilize and support the note being played.

      8. The entire arm unit, right up to the shoulder, should be  raised and included in the movement of the hand up and down the instrument.

      9. You should have a clear and crisp articulation of the note with a minimum of buzzing. This means a firm attack and effective stopping of vibrating strings.

      10. An evenness of tone and dynamic, practiced by playing your exercises as loudly as you can and as softly as you can, as well as at normal volume.

      Scales constitute the entire foundation to being able to play an instrument. They are actually the templates for motor response, or if you like, the road maps for the brain, when it is confronted with a piece of music to play. The more consolidated your scale patterns are in the neural patterns in your brain, the more automatic and natural and instantaneous your brain’s  response to the playing of the music. This is a particularly valuable ability when we get into the more complex bi-lateral scale. With music, and particularly with technique, you don’t want to have to think about it when you are doing it.

    It is important not to over-practice, by which I mean repeating the one exercise or movement too frequently in a certain period of time. You need to pace yourself and try to avoid sitting at the harp for longer than fifty minutes at a time. Alternate work for the right hand alone with work for the left hand alone and vary the types of exercises you are doing, so that slightly different muscles are being used.

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