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Practicing Harp Happiness

#011: Clair de lune [A Harpist's Guide]

music and meaning Aug 02, 2021

Some composers change music forever, Claude Debussy was one of those. 

Debussy is generally credited with the rise of the Impressionist movement in music. The Impressionists focused on the mood and atmosphere of music, conveying it through tone color and flow, rather than sharp musical detail. 

The paradox of this music is that, although it often seems outside of time even without a tempo or pulse, the very formlessness of it is written into the music. Following Debussy’s printed directions is often the easiest way to get the expression you want. You can and should approach this music in the same way you would begin a Bach or Mozart piece - but you need a little more information first.

On today’s show we will explore three features of Debussy’s Clair de lune. You will discover:

  • How Debussy uses them to create the moonlight mood of the piece. 
  • How they reveal Debussy’s intention for the piece.
  • The best practice techniques to employ so that you...
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#010: Beyond Dynamics [3 Keys to More Musical Harp Playing]

Musicality is so much more than dynamics. It is truly our own self-expression, our individuality revealed through our music. In our role as interpreters of music written by others, we often limit ourselves to following the indications the composer has written on the page. But with so many more tools and options for bringing creativity to our music, why should we stop at dynamics?

In this episode, I will reveal three ways in which you can make your music - any piece of music - more musically expressive. You will discover:

  • Why you need to focus on “dimensions” instead of “dynamics.”
  • How to practice playing more expressively whether you’re an expert or a beginner.
  • How adding more expression to your music may be the key to solving some of those trouble spots in a piece.

Plus, I think you’ll learn how to do the most creative and interesting practice you’ve ever done!

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the...

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#009: Fingers on the Strings [Pointers for Placing]

Placing is the first thing we learn when we start playing the harp. After our first glissando, after we find middle C, our first discovery is that we must suspend our hands in mid-air and that placing is how we stay physically connected to our instrument. But placing brings its own set of challenges.

Are you a “Last Minute Letty,” getting on the right strings at the last second?

Maybe you are a “Not Ready Yet Nellie,” and you make the music wait while you find the right strings.

Or maybe you are a “Fumbling Freddy,” struggling to make your placing clean and correct.

The tips I share In this podcast episode will help you fix your placing issues and learn to help your fingers find the right strings, on time, every time.

You’ll discover:

  • The real purpose of placing, 
  • How to practice proper placing easily,
  • The “Rule of Ones,” my golden rule of placing, and
  • The magical marking that makes it all work.

Let’s get your...

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#008: Harp Playing Hiccups [How to Make Your Music Flow]

I used to worry about getting the hiccups while playing a concert. Fortunately, those hiccups never happened. But I have had plenty of musical hiccups and maybe you have too. It’s time to make our music flow.

Musical flow, or continuity,  can be hard to achieve, if you don’t know how. In this episode, I reveal what you must do to create continuity as well as what you must not do.  If you have struggled making your music sound seamless, expressive and effortless, this is the podcast episode for you. 

You will learn:

  • The three “must have” elements of flow.
  • Practice tweaks to instantly create more continuity in your playing.
  • My four step system that you can use to incorporate more flow from the very first day you start learning a piece.

If you'd like to go a little deeper, my 30 Days to Done course shows you exactly how to use those four steps to take a piece of music from bumpy start to seamless finish, in - you guessed it! - 30 Days. The link...

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#007: Music of Revolution [The Liberty Song]

music and meaning Jul 05, 2021

Music has the power to inspire, to encourage and to unite. No song reveals this more clearly than the one written by a Philadelphia lawyer in 1768.

“United we stand,” are words familiar to every American, but few of us know that they first appeared as lyrics of what was perhaps the first song of resistance in the colonists’ uprising against British taxation. 

This podcast episode is dedicated to the story behind this song of the American Revolution, once iconic and now much less familiar than its jeering British contemporary tune, “Yankee Doodle.”  With words by John Dickinson to a tune borrowed from an English opera, this song became a key player (pun intended) in the American quest for liberty.

No, it wasn’t a harp tune, but I will play it for you anyway and you can download my harp arrangement of it too!

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode:  

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#006: Minor Keys [A Scale of a Different Color]

 Have you ever thought of your music as having colors?  Or thought about a color difference between major and minor? 

Maybe to you a minor key is just another key.

But to me a minor key is so much more. As a musician, I first learned to listen critically with minor keys. As a teacher, I have seen that minor keys (much more so than major keys) open the door to understanding music theory. And as a harpist, I appreciate minor keys for the creativity they allow me, again more than major keys. And I love the way minor sounds, its tonal color.

Today's episode isn’t just about the facts of minor but also its color - what makes minor sound like minor and what makes it sometimes sound almost like major. Major and minor are more closely related than you might think. But it’s not all rainbow talk today. 

You will also learn: 

  • My 3 number system for making sense of minor key signatures and scales.
  • The 5 essential minor keys for harpists to know. ...
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#005: How to Know if Your Music is Done [Finding the Finish Line]

Do you have nothing to play except a drawerful of half-baked pieces?

You’ve practiced hard to learn your piece. Now what do you do with it, especially if you aren’t planning to perform it? Keep practicing, and if so, for how long? Put it away?

If you’ve ever wondered how to tell if your piece is really done or what to do with it when it is, you are not alone.

Starting a piece is the easy part. Your energy level is high and you’re ready to dig in. Then the going gets tougher as you drill the notes and the fingering. Finally, the piece begins to turn into music. This is when you discover that you have no clue what to do with it now. 

On this week’s podcast episode, I reveal not only how to decide when your piece is finished, but also the four “finish line” options which allow you to polish your piece for performance, or put it away with pride and a couple of things in between. 

Having a clear plan for your piece is key to your...

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#004: What Does a Shaky Technique Really Cost You? [3 Surprising Ways Your Fingers May Be Holding You Back]

Fast flashy scales and graceful arpeggios are one sign of a strong harp technique, but they aren’t the only indication.

In fact, even if you never expect to play fast music or super-difficult music, you need a strong technique.

Technique isn’t just for speed. For instance  if you struggle to make your music flow smoothly or be more expressive, these could be signs that you need some technique work. 

In this week’s episode, I reveal the 3 most important reasons - not including speed and security - you need a stronger technique and how to begin developing it without hours of drudgery.

Even if you’ve never been a fan of exercises and etudes,  when you listen to this episode, you’ll discover:

  • How your musical expression depends on your technical level.
  • The skill you need to strengthen to create more flow in your music.
  • How to prepare your fingers for that next piece you want to learn. 

Plus, when you listen, you’ll have access...

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#003: Canon Law: A Harpist’s Guide to the Pachelbel Canon

music and meaning Jun 07, 2021

 What’s the one piece any harpist could name after just the first two chords? It’s the Pachelbel Canon of course.

Whether you’ve played it a thousand times or have yet to learn it, the Canon in D by Johann Pachelbel has become standard repertoire for harpists. The piece has embedded itself in our musical culture so deeply that it is on every gigging harpist’s most requested list and a favorite with any audience. 

But it isn’t all that easy to play, unless you know the shortcuts.

In this episode I explain some of the musical elements of the Canon with the idea that the more you understand about this piece, or any piece, the easier it is to learn it quickly and to play it well.

Plus, I share some of my favorite Pachelbel practice techniques with you, ones that can save you a lot of practice time and frustration, even if you’ve played the piece before. You’ll discover:

  • Why your harp version isn’t really a “canon.”
  • ...
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#002: How to Have a Perfect Harp Lesson [What Your Teacher Really Wants From You]

 Every harpist wants to play well for her teacher. Somehow, though, we always find ourselves explaining that we played so much better at home.

I know; I’ve been there too. But over my years of teaching I have gathered some insights from the other side - the teacher side - that will help you understand what your lesson really should be about, the right way to prepare, and how to save  yourself from “lesson meltdown.”

On this week’s podcast episode, I not only reveal what your teacher really expects of you, but I also give you my top strategies for:

  • Staying focused not frazzled.
  • Creating the “inspiration mindset.”
  • Understanding what and how to practice when you get home.

Plus, when you listen, you’ll learn about a new course to help you strengthen your technique so those finger fumbles won’t get in your way.

Join me as I walk you through the strategies you need to make every lesson a great lesson. 

Links to things I...

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