I can almost always tell the skill level of a harp student by the way they use their fourth finger. It’s not the strength of the finger or a lack of coordination. A less advanced player simply avoids using it.
It shouldn’t surprise you if you give it a moment’s thought. Remember back to the very first pieces you learned on the harp, at whatever age you were when you started. They used mostly the thumb and second finger. You learned to place them together and to play them simultaneously and one after the other. Then you added the third finger which brought the additional pleasure (and challenge) of three-note chords. Placing, whether for a chord or a scale passage, was not just one additional finger harder; it was exponentially more difficult.
It’s likely that as you were learning these pieces you were also practicing scales and arpeggios and even etudes that used the fourth finger. But just because you were learning them didn’t mean your fourth finger was flexible, strong and secure.
You probably only discovered how backward your fourth finger was when you began to learn four-note chords. Placing three-note chords was hard, but you mastered it fairly quickly. Four-note chords on the other hand - well, it would be nice if you had another hand. Talk about slowing down progress. Your technique development may have seemed to come to a complete stop.
Even for those of us who have suffered, struggled and come out on the other side of the fourth finger fumbles, our fourth fingers still can be a source of frustration. They are too long or too short, too loud or too soft, too unpredictable and unreliable.
Today’s quick fix episode is dedicated to your fourth finger and to all of us who fight the fourth finger fumbles on a daily basis. We’ll look at several of the most common fourth finger issues and how to resolve them. While some of our discussion will come back to basic good harp technique, I will be sharing my favorite fixes that are specific to your fourth finger. For instance, did you know that some of the frustration you’re feeling toward your fourth finger, may really be the fault of your pinkie? I can’t wait to share that tip with you!
Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode:
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