Play with less tension

How to Relax Your Hand While Playing the Harp

July 09, 20242 min read

We all know we're not supposed to get tense while playing harp, but it's easier said than done! Here's an easy exercise to ACTUALLY practice playing with more relaxed technique, and a step by step guide for how to play it.

Tension can easily creep up in our hands when we play the harp. We're concentrating so hard on playing the right notes, finding the right strings, playing the right rhythms and using the right fingerings...

And when our attention is so consumed by of this trying, our body starts to do whatever it wants, which usually means getting tense.

Our bodies are just trying to help us after all... it thinks that by using more effort, it will aid us with what we're trying to do.

Unfortunately, the opposite happens. It becomes harder to play, and it doesn't sound as nice.

But fixing tense harp technique isn't as easy as just saying "relax" and everything is fixed, for most students.

There are muscles at work that we're not used to controlling, so we don't know how to let go of them when they're engaged.

So the first thing to do is learn what it feels like when our muscles are tense - try squeezing your hands into a fist, then let go.

Can you feel the difference in your fingers, hands, and arms? Notice what it feels like to let go - that's something you can mimic when your hand is at the harp strings.

Now, it's important to relax the whole hand, and not just individual fingers. Sometimes an excess of tension can reduce the finger mobility or independence of a finger, and make it difficult or even painful to close the finger completely.

The whole hand must be addressed in this situation because everything in the hand is connected - tension "gums up the works", so to speak, and it becomes more difficult for all the the fingers to move freely.

To work on the overall relaxation of your hand and harp technique, watch this video for a simple exercise you can do to incorporate ease into your playing:

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harp tipsharp techniquehow to play the harpplay with less tension
Samantha Ballard is a professional harpist, arranger, teacher, and recording artist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

Samantha Ballard

Samantha Ballard is a professional harpist, arranger, teacher, and recording artist based in Winnipeg, Manitoba.

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