If you are a harpist and you are wondering why it is important to close your fingers, try this little experiment:

Open the hand, away from the harp, as though you have placed your fingers on the strings. Now move the ends of the fingers only, pretending to pluck the strings, but not moving the large knuckles at the base of the fingers at all. Move the finger ends many times, back and forth, pretending to play lots of notes; do this over and over. Now pause, and quietly notice what your hand feels like. A little tired, perhaps? Some tension in the tendons in the back of the hand?

Next, still away from the harp, open and close your fingers many times fully into the palm, fingers going in flat, not in a fist. Let the movement originate in the hand itself more than in the fingers. The large knuckles are now acting like hinges. Do this as many times as you did the first exercise. And now pause, notice how your hand feels. Do you feel more ease in the tendons? Less tension in the hand? Less tired even in the muscles of your forearm?

When we play the harp, we are often so focused on the music and getting the right notes that we forget to pay attention to how things feel. If our hands or arms are tired or sore, we need to ask why -- what am I doing that is contrary to what my body wants to do naturally?

Fully closing the fingers over the palm of the hand after playing, allows release of the movement we have just completed. It allows the hand to momentarily rest. It also allows the muscles of the forearm to have a short release before the next movement starts. These little rests add up, and make it possible to play much longer without getting tired or sore. And, happily, playing this way can also dramatically increase the resonance of the sound.

I hope this is useful, and would love to hear your feedback or experiences with these experiments. You can email me at the address on the homepage. And...happy practicing!