Saturday, November 1, 2014

Why playing the harp is hard

I maybe should not have taken up the fiddle.

Yesterday, when I was "practicing" the fiddle1, and thinking about how incredibly hard it was, I had an "Oh yeah? Well I used to walk 2 miles to school barefoot in the snow uphill both ways" moment.

Playing violin/fiddle is really difficult. However, the harp is way harder.

I present the following arguments:

The harp is really heavy. Like, ridiculously heavy.  Sure, pianos are heavy, but they're everywhere. Chances are if you're playing piano, you don't bring your own.

And speaking of pianos, violins are so lightweight if you start to drop it, it's pretty easy to catch. If you start to drop a harp, it will take you with it, conceivably falling on said piano, which you would then have to explain away by saying you "meant to do that".

The harp has approximately a metric crap ton of strings.  The violin is set up with an economical four strings. They are also set up in 5ths making scales and transposing a snap.  The harp has pedals for that. And they require a little bit of strength to move. And you have to move them fast. Sometimes so fast you can give yourself shin splints. Or so I've heard. From my shins.

The harp requires a significant amount of finger, arm, and back strength just to pluck the strings, not to mention the foot dexterity that I mentioned above and am mentioning again.  The violin does not require any force of any kind. At all. Even though I'm trying to make it that way.

You can fudge notes on a violin. If you don't land exactly, you can move your finger slightly and achieve noteness. On the harp, the targets are anywhere from 2 mm to less than 1 mm, and you have to land that sometimes after flinging your arms over a span of two feet.

Oh, and don't even get me started on tuning. Or rather do. I certainly need a head start because harp tuning = 10 minutes, and that's IF everything's already relatively in tune. Fiddle? 2 minutes tops.

As opposed (really, reeeally opposed) to the fiddle, it takes no effort to make a good sound on the harp. You can literally sneeze on it and it makes a better sound.2

And the harp is so pretty. Kind of like this if unicorn = harp and fluffy = pretty.

If I had started on the violin, I'm not sure I would have stuck with it.

Soooo.... in conclusion: fiddle = hard, and possibly worth it. Harp = harder, but definitely worth it.


1. some might say "torturing" the fiddle
2. probably not the best way to get the aeolian effect.

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