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Harp teaching question

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The Hammer
Nov 19, 2009 7:15 AM GMT

Hi -

I am an experienced harp player, but fairly new to teaching harp - and being self-taught, I know a lot of stuff instinctively, but not how to explain it.

One particular problem I've encountered is that most begginning harp students can't play the 2-draw on key - they unintentionally bend it down, out of tune. Being that the 2 draw is the most essential note for playing Blues harp, I am spending a lot of time with one of my students , trying to get that 2 draw to sound right, and with no success.

Any advice from you harp teachers out there? what causes this problem, and how to help a begginner overcome it?



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Comments (12)

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Nov 19, 2009 1:51 PM GMT
Barbeque Bob M Replied:

Big reason usually comes down to one thing when it comes to being on pitch and that's the force of their breath and the harder the breath force, the more the pitch drops. My advice to anyone is basically just play loud enough that you don't wake up a baby sleeping in the next room. Playing too hard is the equivalent of constantly shouting all the time and then you blow your voice box out and find nodes on your vocal chords. Breath control is a very serious issue among the vast majority of harp players, even more so with beginners and most people NEVER think theyplay too hard until someone who knows their stuff and is well experienced and highly skilled tells them, but at the same time, expect players to be in just about total denial.

Nov 19, 2009 4:20 PM GMT
Chris C Replied:

Sounds crazy but get them to try it lying on their back. Try it your self. It is very hard to do the whole big chest breathing thing and they may just hear what it could sound like nice and relaxed.

Nov 19, 2009 5:35 PM GMT
BlueMoose Replied:

When I did a Gindick camp, Cheryl Arena had me working on vibrato by lying down on my back. It did isolate your chest and allow you to find and work with your diaphram and throat. Really helped (though it did feel weird being in her hotel suite lying on the floor going "hu,hu,hu,hu,hu......"! :)

Nov 19, 2009 5:49 PM GMT
jon s Replied:

i never understood why people have a problem with the 2 draw. even adam gussow mentioned alot that beginners have a problem with the 2 draw. people saying "my harp wont play right the 2 draw is no good" etc... i never had the problem.

Nov 19, 2009 7:53 PM GMT
Duane C. Replied:

How about having them play along with another harp on that note, and perhaps even some other simple accompaniment, while being recorded. Then play it back for them to hear and try to correct. After all, your ear is very important in the sound you produce. Perhaps this will help them to develop their ear. We all learn to make very small changes in the pressure we apply, and the way we hold our mouths, to produce the right sound. Usually by just listening closely to others and then ourselfs.

Nov 19, 2009 8:39 PM GMT
BlueMoose Replied:

I found working at a piano was extremely helpful, especially with 3 hole bends to find that first semitone (most go right past it) and to fully release back up to unbent.

Unfortunately our house-hold key board got lent out to my niece for piano lessons after my daughter gave up piano for drum lessons instead.


Nov 19, 2009 11:17 PM GMT
Gyuri P Replied:

I aggree with the below, namely to use the piano or any other instrument to demonstrate which sound should be heard. If the student can "hear it inside", imagine the sound, it is easier to do it.

I have experienced it when I played the horn.

Nov 20, 2009 1:05 AM GMT
HarpMan Freeman Replied:

BendOMeter would help

He can play and adjust as needed until 2d is properly indicated.

Nov 20, 2009 1:55 AM GMT
Jawbone K Replied:

first and foremost is breath force. the way this is dealt with is what others have already said, isolate the chest and find the depth or the diaphragm. most people

1) breathe through the top 1/3 of their capacity only, and and real control comes when you access that other 2/3 capacity and learn to focus it. voice lessons and yoga type exercises helped me with this.

2) think that "blowing harp" means it takes much more force than it does. most of us know if we've made progress on harp, that more is not better, it's worse! take the covers off a harp and show the student how small and delicate reeds are. demonstrate the 2 draw with the covers off.

i learned all this the hard way, never used a piano or bendometer. and when i use too much wind i not only sound crappy, i end up flatting a reed when i get too excited and forget to be gentle. which fortunately happens very seldom these days.

if you can increase a student's understanding of how a harp works, and how important breath control is, you will be on your way forward.

Nov 20, 2009 5:50 PM GMT
Not a Replied:

What worked for me was doing a very slow and controled three beats of -2, then one beat of +123, then repeat. I concentrated on relaxing the throat and jaw, opening up the oral cavity keeping my tongue flat and dropping the jaw a bit. In between bouts of this, I listened to Adam's lesson on the 2 draw so I could really hear what it was supposed to sound like. I got my two draw in a couple of days of doing this.

Nov 21, 2009 9:18 AM GMT
Kingley Replied:

I think that breath force is one of the main factor that beginners struggle. I always tell people that they don't ever need to use any more breath force than they use to speak at a normal volume. That along with diaphragmatic breathing are the main reasons in my opinion.

Nov 22, 2009 2:01 AM GMT
HarpMan Freeman Replied:


Below is some wonderfuladvice from several differentperceptive. I was wondering, have you had a chance to try any of the with your student? How did it go? When you get a chance, give us an update.

Also, which harmonica do you recommend to your students begin with? There has been some interesting debates about this. Some say start with a custom harp, others say start with a cheaper harp such as a low cost hohner.

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