P4 - B4

Tone quality, sound production and damping

  • Create a warm and clear sound:
    • Play with correct thumb placement using appropriate pressure on strings to create a warm tone and project sufficiently (without over-pulling) within technically demanding passages
    • Recognise beats/bars where notes require careful and considered finger placement to avoid buzzing
    • Damp where required and practise playing with a flat palm and étouffez thumbs
    • Play with a dynamic range appropriate to the musical requirements, controlling changes in dynamics with confidence
    • Shape and define phrases with more dynamic subtlety and rhythmic flexibility
    • Control dynamic levels within each hand independently
    • Control the tone quality when using different ranges of the harp
    • Use a range of accent and emphasis appropriate to the style
    • Draw out a melody using tonal emphasis within a passage of arpeggiated notes
    • Exercise tonal control between the hands in simple polyphonic textures
    • Control the tonal balance within a chord or a succession of chords

Demonstrate to learners the techniques used to create warmth and project individual notes/chords, i.e. by squeezing strings before playing and by applying very focused pressure on the string/strings. Ask learners to imitate and discuss the outcomes.

Discuss with learners any passages that require a careful placing of fingers to maintain clarity. Ask them to offer solutions to any potential ‘buzzy’ passages, e.g. a later placing of notes, avoiding placing all fingers ahead of time or just careful positioning of the finger on a string to avoid an adjacent string that has just been played.

Demonstrate open hand octaves, moving all fingers simultaneously into the hand after playing. Ask learners to practise closing the hand fully.

Clarify to learners how the flat of the hand makes contact with the strings in order to muffle.

Practise divided arpeggios initially as chords, to consolidate the position of the hand crossing over and maintain an even, balanced sound. As divided arpeggios cover a greater range of the harp, encourage learners to listen carefully to the evenness of tone throughout.

Practise divided arpeggios with a range of varied dynamics, maintaining control when hands cross over and avoiding harshness in the upper register of the instrument.

Demonstrate how to bring out a melodic line from an arpeggiated passage, phrasing the line and controlling the dynamics, e.g. the final variation of Watching The Wheat by John Thomas.

Using the same passage of music as mentioned above, play passages with more, or less, subtle phrasing and ask learners to comment on the effect.

The final variation of this well-known harp piece incorporates many important aspects of playing at this level, e.g. closely interwoven arpeggios requiring clarity of sound; arpeggios that cross over into the upper register; clear phrasing; fully closing bass octaves; as well as tonal control in bringing out the melodic line.

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