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Getting too full on draw notes

PostPosted: Thu Aug 18, 2011 11:02 pm
by zstevensclay
Whenever I play a song with a lot of draw notes and few blow, I find my diaphram filling up to capacity, and don't know what to do. Any advice.

I also notice when I play the 3 draw I get a high pitched squeal in the background, could that be a bad reed, or a block of some sort?

How is it that really good harp players, never seem to get any saliva in their combs? I find that not every song, but too frequently, saliva pooling in my comb, and I'm using a pucker embouchure.

Thanks in advance

Re: Getting too full on draw notes

PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 1:24 pm
by jeffl
You don't say how long you've been playing harp, but the saliva and "running out of air" issues are problems common to novices ( no offense meant ). Both of those issues are often attributable to playing with too much force, and running out of air may be exacerbated by just poor lung capacity.
If you are a relative novice, the good news is that both of these issues tend to just disappear with experience, depending on how much you play. After you have developed a good set of lungs, there are some techniques for getting air on long draws-- they're often rapid exhales manifested by grunts, moans, puffs, whoops, etc.. and back to the draw or the next phrase.
The squeal problem may be coming from too much saliva in a reed slot; I'd try knockin' my harps out on a towel, or on my bluejeans, or whatever. The saliva issue will definitely slow you down.

Alotta guys will say not to practice amplified, 'cuz it can produce short cuts in your playing, but there's also the school that says that if you practice amplified at louder volumes occasionally, it'll force you to play with a lighter touch and you won't play with too much force. Playing with too much force is potentially the biggest sin of novices.

Re: Getting too full on draw notes

PostPosted: Fri Aug 19, 2011 5:23 pm
by zstevensclay
jeffl wrote:You don't say how long you've been playing harp, but the saliva and "running out of air" issues are problems common to novices ( no offense meant ). Both of those issues are often attributable to playing with too much force, and running out of air may be exacerbated by just poor lung capacity.
If you are a relative novice, the good news is that both of these issues tend to just disappear with experience, depending on how much you play. After you have developed a good set of lungs, there are some techniques for getting air on long draws-- they're often rapid exhales manifested by grunts, moans, puffs, whoops, etc.. and back to the draw or the next phrase.
The squeal problem may be coming from too much saliva in a reed slot; I'd try knockin' my harps out on a towel, or on my bluejeans, or whatever. The saliva issue will definitely slow you down.

Alotta guys will say not to practice amplified, 'cuz it can produce short cuts in your playing, but there's also the school that says that if you practice amplified at louder volumes occasionally, it'll force you to play with a lighter touch and you won't play with too much force. Playing with too much force is potentially the biggest sin of novices.



Thanks Jeff, I will try a grunt or two when my lungs are filled up. I am a harp novice, however my lung capacity is great, its just that I'm practicing a song that is practically all draw for several measures, and so I'm not finding a place to exhale. When I watch the better players they never seem to get full.

Re: Getting too full on draw notes

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 12:08 pm
by jbone1
bubba is right on this. as a new player i had the same issues. in part it was because i was so tense, i didn't realize i was not exhaling or inhaling to my potential. voice coach or yoga instructor can get you breathing deeper and relaxing into what you're doing. you want to learn- i mean physically- to breathe very deeply and stay relaxed. increase the capacity of your torso. most people breathe with only the upper 1/3 of their capacity. find that other 2/3. this will allow more control of your air column. relaxing the muscles in the throat and mouth and using them to shape your sound will serve you well also. but it must start with a good relaxed torso.
i exhale through my nose at every opportunity as i'm playing. this means i'd better not have a head cold!
wet harp, this may be due to you just salivating a lot, or it may be that you're holding your head down when playing, and the saliva is ending up in covers and reed plates. it will make for difficulties. try keeping your head up straight and tilting the harp down a bit instead, if you are not already doing this. another factor may be what and how much you're drinking before and as you play. cut back a bit. i usually have a water close by but i only just wet my lips as i'm playing.

Re: Getting too full on draw notes

PostPosted: Sat Aug 20, 2011 1:58 pm
by jeffl
jbone, yer right about the "relaxing the muscles" part, and our poster implies that he already knows where part of the problem is coming from. However, until you mentioned the relaxation thing, I didn't realize how often when I'm having a difficult night with the tunes that it might be attributable in some part to not relaxing my diaphragm on INHALES enough to open up the volume of my core.

I will say that continual harp playing definitely expands your lung capacity, if you have those good breathing habits. I laid off playing out for at least 10 years when I was raising young kids and building my day job career, but when I got back to playing out weekly (about 20 years ago--mostly jamming ) my overall cardiovascular conditioning did a 180degree improvement.

As an aside, it is funny how you can be trying to learn a tune where the breathing part is as difficult as the actual notes. If the exhales on the recordings aren't audible, it can be a challenge to figure out when to breathe.. especially on fast passages.

Re: Getting too full on draw notes

PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2011 5:08 am
by jbone1
today marked 12 weeks since i had a cigarette or any tobacco. after 35 years of smoking!
i only mention that to say this: x rays showed no lung issues 12 weeks ago. i credit at least some of this to playing harp for a lot of that time.

Re: Getting too full on draw notes

PostPosted: Sun Aug 21, 2011 3:05 pm
by jeffl
That's great news about quitting tobacco, jbone! I quit chewing ( didn't smoke ) 3 weeks ago, after aabout 27 years of it, but I really think that smoking is harder to quit than chewing. Smoking has gotten darn expensive too. I think it's particularly hard on impoverished people.
Hey, just think how yer singin' and playin' will be after your lungs are totally healed up.