The Harp – Shaping your Nails

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 13,815
    Cynthia Cathcart, a teacher, recording artist, performer, and author shares tips on how to prepare and shape your nails 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.

    My name is Cynthia Cathcart, and we are now going to talk about the other part of this instrument, the wire-strung harp. The harp is about half of what you need, other half of what you need is your hand. This is what really putting them together. The five fingers on your hand, the fifth finger, little finger, is rarely used. Sometimes used for damping. We will talk about damping later. The other fingers are numbered 1 for the thumb 2, 3, and 4. Wire harpers tend to use their nails. They give you really nice clean attack, so as I take the harp, I literally, I am using my nail to strike the string. People sometimes ask me oh! You must have really tough calluses. No, its my nail that hits string. Now, some people, some harpers will shape their nails a little differently. For example you may look and see that instead of coming to a nice neat point on the top like my mother taught me to shape my nails, I have pushed it off to the side a little bit. This way when I come to the harp, that point is coming directly to the string. I have literally my turned my nails into plectrum. Experimentation is probably your best bet on figuring out exactly how you might want to shape your nails for the best sound on your wire-strung harp.