Playing and singing

Posted In: How To Play

  • Participant
    Evolène on #211768

    Hello all,

    One of the thing that attracted me the most with the harp is the ability to play the harp and sing at the same time.
    It’s much harder to do that with the recorder 😉

    However, it turns out that it’s way harder than I thought to be able to dissociate what the hands do and what the voice does. Especially considering the fact that the hands are themselves dissociated. It goes like this :
    – Left hand
    – Right hand
    – Voice

    Do you have any tips for playing and singing at the same time?
    Do you usually sing and play the same melody (with, for example, the left hand in accompagnement, the right hand playing the melody and the voice singing on top) or do you play the harp in accompagnement only?

    I find that one of the problems with singing at the harp is the fact that I am sitting down. When I sang in chorals, we would always stand up : sitting down compresses the diaphragm and does not allow for proper voice projection.
    I’ve checked with my teacher and my posture at the harp is correct, so that’s not the problem. Anyone have the same issue?

    I’ll be happy to read any ressources you may have on the topic!
    Thank you for your inputs 🙂

    hearpe on #211778

    I’m no great harpist, but logic would seem to suggest you keep an arrangement very simple- playing the chord or part of a chord only – concentrating on the longer notes and chords and perhaps forsaking more intricate passages while you get accustomed to dividing your attention and singing. Perhaps even just humming in tune would help you combine both singing and harping. Sometimes minimal is more effective in performance than stumbling through an elaborate piece you just don’t have down.

    I just had a small revelation I’ gong to build some improvement upon I hope. When I was young I broke the two outer fingers on my left hand As a consequence I cant bend the ring finger fully beyond the very bottom of my palm and the left pinky is permanently crooked. The left hand bass lines have been a problem both physically and mentally then. The hand feels almost paralyzed on harp, although many more years of guitar have somehow been compensated- the fingers are otherwise a permanent liability (Rode my last race!)

    anyway- a couple of nights ago for some reason I simply started playing stuff with my left hand- mostly just two note chord runs into little melodies. I then realized I was actually just playing what could also be the bass lines and open chords if I also played the right hand. I started adding some three note plucks and open chords and then just improvising very very simple right hand arpeggios and melody notes. It’s almost NOTHING and I’m not sure my description does it justice, but what I in fact felt like I was doing was working BACKWARSD! – without sheet music, just improvisation, and somehow a lot of left hand cobwebs I’ve had for a couple of years now of more harp playing were just blown out the door. A lot of my own mental block is only awaiting more practice now.
    So perhaps you could think of it that way- take your weakest component- whether it be the vocal, left or right hand- and reduce it to the most bare forms of simplicity. That approach actually works on almost any endeavor.

    carl-swanson on #211786

    Evolve- Singing and playing is tricky, because you are using two different parts of the brain to do it. Even talking, and then playing something is tricky because of that shift from one part of the brain to the other. There’s a wonderful play called Souvenir, which is about Florence Foster Jenkins(the play inspired the movie). In the play, the whole story is told by her accompanist, Cosme McMahon. Throughout the play he has to talk directly to the audience setting up the scene. Then he turns to the piano and plays through the scene. it’s very tricky to do and takes practice.

    I think that most of your problem is just one of getting used to doing both things at the same time, and that will take time to adjust to.

    hearpe on #211852

    Let the playing guide the singing- vocalists often use an instrument to establish the root tone at the start of each measure- pluck the root note and sing the vocal part Then add more harp from that.
    As far as the posture, some Yoga would probably help in the long term, but it’s mostly something you have to work at. There’s a big difference between projection for a stage or live audience and a recording with a microphone. The most common mistake in vocal is over reaching- trying to get too much volume or too high on the scale. Stay within your breath, no matter what the volume- there are some great vocal/harp performances on youtube, but you have to search for them and put them in a favorites list folder.

    duckspeaks on #211862

    If you sing belcanto it is very hard. As your hands move your rib cage moves in a way sometimes not aligned to the phrasing of the voice. Even Osian Ellis sounds very uncomfortable in his recordings in his “Songs with Harp” album. If you sing in a lighter style it should be more manageable. If you make your own harp arrangements, you have more leeway.

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