- All fingers are placed on the strings before they are needed
- The strings are put under tension and the sound happens when the strings are released (think archery)
- Sound comes from a negative action (though you could argue that 'releasing the string' is a positive action)
- Your fingers are always completely prepared, this works best for complete, fixed arrangements (classical performance practice)
- This is a very consistent systematic method of playing - great for learning from score and for sight-reading
- Very close attention is paid to hand shapes
- Process for each note takes longer - place => pressure => release => relax
- It's important to have a good contact on each string before you play for security and...
- You have lots of sensory feedback from the string for tone and volume
The modern lever harp was initially a pedal harp primer with pedal harp tension. Gradually lighter strung lever harps with more in common with the traditional clarsach have evolved. In Scotland there is lots of crossover between classical and traditional players. Many harpists play both. The received Scottish technique reflects this. I learnt my harp technique from Scottish harpers so I have a technique that basically classical.
- Hover fingers near strings you need or lightly place finger tips, when ready strike
- Placing not so important - placing shapes less important
- The sound happens when you strike (no pre-release pressure required)
- Sound from a positive action (like every other instrument in the world!!)
- Hands are more relaxed, looser
- Thumb may pull into the palm not above index finger
- Ornaments (especially triplets) encourage a twistier hand shape - less square
- Lighter tension means less strictness re: hand shape - more fluidity
- Often played with nails - gentle placing is with finger tips, nails create the 'strike'
You definitely get a different sound quality from each technique. Playing plucked harp uses the pads of your fingers and gives you a rich, rounded sound with lots of control over volume and tone. The downside is the attack noise as you leave the string and the damping sound when you place your fingers for the next set of notes.
Playing struck harp or with nails gives you a much brighter sound with a really crisp attack. I find the attack a much more attractive sound, especially for recording. I think the crispness also makes for better ornaments.
One of the things that drew me to the harp is I love the feel of strings under my pads. I've discovered that I love the sound of harps played with nails too. Can I do both? You can partially file finger nails to allow you to use pad or nail at the same time but apparently real nails tend to catch on gut strings. Mmm time for a new harp...!