The Harp – Bringing Your Hands to it

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 14,215
    Cynthia Cathcart, a teacher, recording artist, performer, and author demonstrates proper hand position for playing the harp.

    Cynthia Cathcart

    Cynthia is one of the world's experts on the Clarsach, the wire-strung harp of the Highland and Islands of Scotland and of Ireland. Performing and teaching internationally, she is leading a new wave of interest in the wire-strung harp. Based near Washington, DC, Cynthia represents Ardival Harps of Strathpeffer, Scotland and is their North American Artist in Residence. Cynthia is a recording artist, and the author of several books for the clarsach. She holds a number of prestigious awards, including two-time U.S. National Scottish Harp Master Champion, three time winner of the Clan Lamont Trophy (in Virginia, Texas and Ohio), and holder of the Pennington-Grey Award for service to the wire-strung harp.

    Cynthia Cathcart: My name is Cynthia Cathcart and we are now going to talk about actually putting the hand on the strings.

    The hand position for the Wire-Strung Harp is best described as that, that you would use if you are reaching for a glass of water. Somebody is handing you a glass of water you reach to take it, thats your hand position.

    Your hand resembles a claw with the fingernails as the talent, the palm of the hand is parallel to the plain of the strings. The thumb is in a relaxed position, if you happen to be coming from a Nylon Harp background, youll notice this is different from the Nylon where you would be like this, thumbs up. Instead we come straight on as much as the hand can do.

    Now, both hands can come in the same position, the holding a glass of water. If your hand, if your arm touches the soundboard a little bit, thats okay, just dont hold your harp that way. If you find that youre holding the harp, where youre putting a lot of weight on this part of your arm, you want to stop that, you want to keep that very light touch if any on the instrument. Get a really wide sound box, it maybe unavoidable, but you want to make it as light as possible.

    Be sure that you are holding, your shoulders and your elbows comfortably -- you see my elbows are not up in the air, they are relaxed. Try to keep your wrist as straight as possible; you want to be comfortable when you start to play.