Harpejji Technique: Major Scales

publié le 10 February 2020

This is the first in a series of articles about harpejji technique. One of the most thrilling aspects of taking up the harpejji is that it is mostly an unmapped territory. There are very few resources (as of early 2020), both printed and online, and nobody is going to tell you how and what you are supposed to play on such an instrument. However, this can also be daunting sometimes, and a little bit of input from others can be very helpful.

That's why I've decided to share whatever experience I gathered over a few years of playing the instrument. I'd like to emphasize that I'm not suggesting in any way that what I'm showing here is the correct way™ or even that it's better than other resources. I'm just sharing my experience and hope that other people will do so too, so that we have more and more resources to learn and discover various aspects of the instrument.

Major scales

Most online resources suggest to play (ascending) major scales like "1-2-3-slide-1-2-3-slide" (see e.g. this video if that doesn't make sense for you). Although this is a perfectly valid way of playing a major scale, I don't want to chose that fingering as my standard, day-to-day practice fingering, mainly because of two reasons:

  1. This fingering has slurs built-in (E slurred to G, B slurred to C). That's great if you want slurs there, but for the kind of sound I have in mind, I don't really care for systematic slurs anywhere. I want to be able to chose my musical phrasing freely on any note.
  2. Slides sound very differently when going up or down, so this fingering sounds very differently when playing an ascending or descending scale. Again, this can be a great effect, but I don't want it to be an systematic sound in my playing.

An alternate fingering

After trying a few variants, I settled on the following fingering as my "base" fingering (here in C major, but remember: a great property of the harpejji is that fingerings are strictly identical in every key!):

harpejji major scale left hand fingering   harpejji major scale right hand fingering

(Both hands are numbered from 1=thumb to 5=pinkie)

And this is what it looks like:

As you can see, this fingering is based on a "thumb under" technique quite similar to the one used in piano. What I like in this variant is that it respects finger length: the shorter thumb and pinkie play on lower frets than the three other fingers. I find this very comfortable to play, given the shape of my hands and my past experience as a musician on other instruments. Your mileage may vary.

If I want to span more than one octave, I modify this fingering to always play the tonic (here, the C) with the thumb. Using the "thumb under" technique, this allows to extend this fingering in both directions as far as your harpejji will go ;-)

Here are the tabs, with differences from above highlighted:

harpejji major scale left hand fingering   harpejji major scale right hand fingering

Try this fingering and see if it works for you. If it does, great! if it doesn't, find another one and share it so that resources on harpejji technique get richer and richer!

And if you've got questions or comments about this article, I suggest you post them on the dedicated thread on the harpejji forum so that thoe whole harpejji community can benefit from the discussion.

Update June 10 2020 After reading this article, Paul Heinz decided to share his own set of fingerings for various scales. Make sure to have a look at his post too!

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