Buzzing is the bane of many a beginning harper. It’s especially hard to play “note-y” chords in the bass, because those strings, whether wire or wrapped nylon, vibrate in wider patterns. You can see them moving for a long time. So what is a harper to do to stop harp buzzing?
First, check for hand position. Notice if you’re catching that vibrating string with a fingernail. If so, change the angle of your fingers so that you will avoid the nail. Usually, students are placing from above, or sideways, making it all but impossible to avoid buzzing. The answer is to place from below. Keep your fingers down after they close open your hand right to the notes and replace them without “breaking the plane” with the top of your hand, and a lot of buzzing will disappear.
Another way to think of it is this: are your fingers closing and opening below your knuckles? Or are you allowing your hand to twist or pull out of it’s good harp hand position? If you buzz, stop immediately and figure out which finger is hitting which string at which point as you place, and adjust that finger’s position.
The second thing to check is timing. Often, buzzing happens because you’re over-anticipating when you place. Yes, you want to place in advance, but at exactly the right time. Place just before you’ll play, and with deliberateness. Hesitation will always create buzzing, as will sloppy placing of a group of notes as less than a unit.
Finally, play the passage very slowly, changing your hand position ever so slightly until the sound is clean. Now do it again, and if it’s still clean, figure out just what you did to get that sound. Remember, you are ultimately the only one who can determine what fine adjustments in your finger angle or approach will allow you to “land” the notes without buzzing.
Once you know what to do, practice it until you do it automatically. You will get it, I promise.
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This post is adapted from material that I originally published in the ezine, Notes from the Harp.