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Three Disciplines of a Trustworthy Technique

This is the second in a series of posts focused on how to set - and achieve - goals. Be sure to check out the prior post and read on to the end of this post for a special invitation. 

 

Wouldn't you love to have a technique that you could trust? Fingers that wouldn't let you down, so that you knew that whatever you were playing, you could rely on them to do exactly what you wanted them to do?

There are three disciplines involved in creating that kind of dependable technique. Before you can start working on any of those, however, you need to understand that your technique is only as consistent as your mechanics.

Your technique starts with exactly how you move your fingers, how you hold your body, every physical movement and position necessary to playing your instrument. Mechanics are about consistency and efficiency, using your fingers exactly the same way each time so that there's no wasted movement or insecurity. 

Mechanics are not a “learn it once” kind...

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Why Being a Better Harpist Isn't Good Enough

Is one of your New Year's resolutions to become a better harpist? 

If so, you're not alone. When you think about it, music studies are bound to attract the self-improvement type. Practicing music requires you to be courageous, to face your mistakes, to self-correct over and over again. It's about improvement and progress. But I don't want you to waste a single minute trying to be a better harpist. 

The problem with trying to be a better harpist, or a better musician of any ilk, is that you’re already doing that. Each day you practice you are taking another step toward being the harpist that you want to be. Your goal of becoming a better harpist is already in progress, and it likely was last year too.

The question to ask yourself is how can you make the right kind of progress this year, so that you can feel confident about being able to play the music you want? The answer to that question will give you a much more powerful and realistic goal. 

BHAG versus VTUG

If...

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20 Fun Harp Things to Do in 2020

I know you take your harp playing seriously, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have fun with it. In fact, having fun is more to the point than you may think.

A friend recently related a conversation she had with her daughter who is a talented painter. Her daughter was encouraging her to paint with her, but she replied saying she couldn’t paint anything good. Her daughter then gave her this incredible gift of wisdom saying, “You don’t paint to make something good, Mom. You paint because it’s fun.”

It’s important to remember that we play the harp for the same reason: because it’s fun.

In this new year, be sure to include fun in your harp curriculum. Here are twenty ideas to spark your imagination. Some are creative; some are geared toward growth. All of them will help you connect to your harp in a new way. 

  1. Is 2020 the year you build your repertoire? Then get out your calendar and your music and schedule one new piece a...
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Musical Extravagance: The Ultimate Holiday Gift

‘Tis the season of extravagance.

  • Never settle for one string of lights when you could use twenty.
  • You must bake seven kinds of cookies so everyone has their favorite..
  • The wrapping needs to be as impressive as the gift inside.
  • Every corner of the house should sparkle, glitter, glow or twinkle.
  • Overspend now and pay it off next year.

It’s a wonder that we continue to get caught up in the overabundance of the holidays when we repeatedly acknowledge that the spirit of the holiday lies in simplicity and humility. We resonate with the sentiment of “The Little Drummer Boy,” yet we tend to overextend ourselves in our own music making. More impressive, more difficult, more complex seem to be the hallmarks of our Christmas music.

But what if it were just one small musical offering like that of the drummer boy that made an impact, that embodied the holiday spirit, that brought harmony, beauty and joy? What if we worried less about the piece and more about the...

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How Holiday Music Can Make You a Better Harpist

The most wonderful time of the year is here. The decorations, the lights, the parties, the food, the gifts, the music all create an almost magical atmosphere. Surely part of that magic is due to the break from the usual, the temporary release from our everyday routine.

But perhaps you experience a little impatience with it too. I certainly do. I’m always anxious to get back in the groove with my practice and my teaching. 

Everything seems to go on hold during the holidays. While I realize that’s the point, sometimes I have to remind myself to slow down and enjoy the break. One of the things I have found helpful in relieving the itch to get back on track is remembering the ways in which the holidays actually help my harp playing. 

If you’re feeling the pressure of too much gingerbread and not enough progress, maybe my perspective will help you discover how all that holiday harping might truly be moving you closer to the growth you want.

Benefit #1: Change...

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Cool Down Properly: Your Best 5 Minutes of Practice

What do you do to begin your practice sessions?

I’m certain you have a routine to warm up your fingers and your focus, one that helps you prepare to do your best work and to play beautiful music. You probably have given much thought to this and carefully crafted it to serve you well.

Have you given as much thought to how you finish a practice session? You may not have considered the last few minutes of your practice as anything special; when your time is up, you put the harp down and get on to your next activity.

I believe that the last few minutes of your practice can be extremely powerful if you use them well. They can help you consolidate the progress you made that session, so you retain what you learned and can pick up the threads quickly the next day. They can refresh your mind, body and spirit after the intense focus of practice. And those last few minutes can actually make you look forward to your next practice session with renewed spirit and energy.

Five Cool Down...

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5 Ways to Celebrate Harp-y Holidays

There’s nothing like “harp” for the holidays. 

That’s not quite how the song goes, but it is certainly true that no instrument seems more suited to Christmas celebrations than the harp. Choirs sing of the ”angels bending near the earth to touch their harps of gold,” and carolers remind us to “strike the harp, and join the chorus.”  Whether your mood is peaceful contemplation or joyful merriment, the harp simply is Christmas. 

If you’re a harpist, your calendar is likely bursting for the next few weeks with engagements from choir concerts to church services to office parties. You and your harp will be a part of more Christmas celebrations than you can count. Chances are good, however, that you have left out the most important holiday celebration of all - yours. Putting self-care on the back burner is never a good idea, but can be particularly damaging at this time of year.

Here is my cautionary tale:

I remember all...

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The Tipping Point: Where Practice Becomes Progress

Have you ever felt that success - in your music practice or in any other endeavor - was just beyond your reach? That you seemed to be getting closer and closer to your goal and still not actually attaining it?

  • Picture a sports game where the teams appear evenly matched until one spectacular play changes the momentum of the game. 
  • Or an inventor whose attempts have all failed until an accident in the laboratory creates a new path forward.
  • Or a precariously balanced ledge where one small addition suddenly makes the entire shelf tip over.

That’s the tipping point, and there is a tipping point in your practice too.

The phrase “tipping point” is used in the science of epidemics to refer to a moment when a normal and usually stable occurrence, like an outbreak of flu, for instance, turns into a large-scale health crisis. 

In his book, “The Tipping Point,” Canadian author and journalist Malcolm Gladwell describes this phenomenon as it manifests in...

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The Harpist’s Creed: We Are What We Do

harpist meaning purpose Nov 18, 2019

It’s perhaps the most common cocktail party question: So, what do you do?

Talking about what we do - our activities, our work, our hobbies - is an easy way to define ourselves. When we tell others what we do, we give them an easy way to understand a little about us. We also give ourselves an identity and the feeling of belonging to a group of others who do the same thing.

Occasionally, conversations like this spur a small pang of conscience. For instance, you might tell someone you play the harp, but at the same time you know that your harp has been gathering dust lately, maybe out of tune or even missing strings, because you haven’t had time to play it. While you’re talking enthusiastically about how much you love the harp, there’s that nagging voice inside your head reminding you that you’ve been talking the talk without walking the walk.

I remember my own wake-up call. I was sixteen years old and had been playing harp for eight years. I knew I wanted...

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Are You Your Own Best Teacher or Your Worst Teacher Ever?

expert self-taught teacher Nov 11, 2019

I am at heart a do-it-yourself-er. Give me a project and I dive right in, sometimes getting in water that’s a little too deep. In fact, a number of my attempted projects have shown clearly that some things are better left to the experts. 

There was my bathroom wallpaper that looked great but never really did stick to the wall. And the sweater I knit that came down to my knees. Over time, I have learned more about the things I can manage on my own and when I should ask for help.

It may not surprise you to know that I think for most people, learning the harp is a process that goes more smoothly when you have help. While I applaud the courage and determination of self-taught harpists, I know that the path is faster and less bumpy when you have an expert to show you the way.

That isn’t to say that there aren’t advantages in teaching yourself. First among those is the convenience factor. When you are teaching yourself, either using online courses or books, your...

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