Initial set up with your harp
Tip 1. Are you sitting correctly?
This may sound obvious, but it's important to sit so that YOU are comfortable with no twisting or bending of your spine and that you adjust the harp to you. Rather than you adjusting your body to the harp. You should never be feeling uncomfortable when you play the harp. If you do have any aches - STOP! Put the harp down and check your posture.
Now that you are centred, move the harp back towards your shoulder so that it 'fits' you in this balanced position. You might need to put the legs of your harp away from you a little bit . You also might need to twist the angle of the harp a little bit so that it's not 'square' on to you, but more 10 degrees to the left.
The harp when it tilts back towards you is aiming towards your right shoulder and not your head!
Tip 2. How to tune your harp
To get the most out of your lever harp, you want to be able to play in as many keys as possible. Tuning in Eb major gives you the most useful range of keys.
With all levers down the harp needs to be tuned into Eb major. If you don't already have one, get yourself an electronic tuner. They are very cheap to buy and you can also get an app to download to your phone.
Check this chart when you first start to tune to check you know which notes you are looking for on your tuner - Ab will show up as G sharp on the tuner!
Top Tip 3. Setting the levers
You 'base' key that you are going to set your harp in the most will be C major, so you need to get used to setting it quickly to that key.
Levers work by engaging with the string to make the string shorter in length and thereby sharper. When the lever is off there is no engagement with the string and the string is at it's maximum length. However, the mechanics of the levers can differ according to the make and age of the harp. Some levers go up and down, some twist from side to side. Some will sharpen a string by going up, and some do the reverse. To make it easier the charts below are colour coded red and blue.
red = hotter = lever on = sharp
blue = colder = lever off = flat
On your particular harp to get a sharp may be lever up or lever down! The majority of harps are levers up for sharp, but get to know what it is for you.
Until you know and remember all the other key signatures, when you look at a new piece of music, check the key signature at the start and do whatever it says - from your base key setting of C major.
so if it's a piece with sharp signs - you set to C major, and if it has one sharp in the key signature (G major) then you put your F levers on. If it's a piece with 2 flats in the key signature (Bb major) then you take the B & E levers off from your base key of C major.
It won't take long to get used to the levers!
When you aren't playing your harp, put all the levers back into neutral position of all levers off which is Eb major
Don't worry it takes a while to understand at first, but it won't be long until it all makes sense and you are flipping levers like a pro!
Lauren Scott is a harpist & composer and has been blogging on Harpyness for over 10 years.
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