“Please memorize this for next lesson.” These are words that send chills through many musicians. Do you dread playing from memory? Do you feel ill-equipped for this task?
So many times I hear students of all ages say, “I could never play from memory. I can’t remember anything.” Music memorization really isn’t all about remembering. It’s really a specific process that enables you to know a piece at the very deepest level, and perform it with more conviction and musicianship than is possible any other way.
When I have a piece well learned, that is to say, memorized, I can play it more like the composer must have heard it in his head. It is a musical whole, and I am able to interpret it, rather than just play it. It’s like being “in the zone;” your awareness is beyond your physical activity.
This is not to...
Somehow I lost the last month. I had great intentions and a well-crafted practice plan, but it just didn’t work. We had a family reunion, plus I held harp camp and my website has been having issues. I had minor surgery. My son moved out of his apartment into another apartment and then went to on Italy for the summer. It’s been busy here, not really unusual, just busy.
It wasn’t the bride’s fault that she picked the steamiest day imaginable for her lovely garden wedding. But there I was, under a tent, playing a wedding ceremony in the middle of a heat wave. To top it off, I was playing the Pachelbel Canon. I know people either love the piece or hate it, but I don’t usually mind playing it.
This time, however, I found myself playing the Pachelbel for two sets of grandparents, two sets of parents, six groomsmen and the groom and six bridesmaids and the bride. And it was a long walk up to the front.
It gave me a lot of time to think, and I began to wonder if there was more to the story of Herr Pachelbel. So here are some facts about the man and his piece for you to keep in mind at your next wedding job.
Johann Pachelbel (1652-1706)was well-known and respected in his day as an organist and composer. He was sought after as a teacher, and his many compositions were regarded as the peak of the southern German style.
We just finished another fun week here at Harp in the Mountains. Harp camp is always fun, and this year I was privileged to have a great group of students. As always, we rehearsed a lot, but we had fun too. And this year’s heat wave made the swimming pool the best place to take a break from practice.
We like to call ourselves the only harp garage band. The garage is a perfect space for us to rehearse as an ensemble and to store the harps. Some years here at harp camp we have enjoyed our pleasant and balmy summer days and rehearsed with the garage doors open. This year, we kept the doors closed and relied on a dehumidifier AND an air conditioner. Even so, we had more string breakage than usual.
You can’t always prevent string breakage. Gut strings especially are vulnerable in hot, humid and changeable conditions. But there are things you can do to keep the inconvenience and expense to a minimum.
1. The obvious: keep your harp indoors, in climate-controlled conditions,...
As I am writing this, I am beginning another year’s Harp In The Mountains Festival. This is the seventh year that I have hosted a small group of dedicated harp students, mostly high school and middle school age, for a week of ensemble playing and learning about the harp.
This year the students range in age from 11 to 17, and as you might guess, their skill levels are very different. But I am sure that this year will be no different from other years. The week will work its magic, and we will surprise ourselves with how much we can accomplish in one week.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this week is the feeling of pride that the students come away with. They know they are performing at a higher level when they leave than when they came. And they leave camp not only having had a fun week, but having improved reading skills, ensemble skills, technical facility and confidence. How does this happen in just one week?
There are several factors behind this growth spurt, and they...
Have you ever been stumped trying to figure out how to organize your practice? Sometimes it’s because we have too much to do; other times it’s because we don’t have enough to do and our practice is aimless. Here’s my solution for those times I need a little structure: I use my “40/40/20” recipe.
The “40/40/20” method is easy to explain. Every day, 40% of your practice time should be devoted to technique and musicianship, another 40% to pieces in progress, and the remaining 20% on reviewing repertoire. I would divide a one-hour practice session like this: 25 minutes for technique, 25 minutes for current pieces, and 10 minutes for review. The math isn’t exact, but it’s close enough.
From a teacher’s standpoint, it’s like a megavitamin: everything is in that one formula. You will be working on scales and arpeggios or other exercises and etudes, which are necessary to warm up your fingers and develop your technique....
It was a little over a year ago that I started blogging at Harp Mastery. My idea in starting the blog was to share some of the things that I have learned about the harp and harp playing, music and being an active musician. Through this blog, I have been privileged to virtually meet harpists from all over the world who are on all different kinds of harp journeys. It has been a wonderful adventure for me, and I am excited about this way we can connect no matter how far apart we may be.
I was very fortunate. Not that everything was easy or went smoothly for me. That was certainly not the case. But I had amazing opportunities, generous parents and wonderful teachers. Along the way, I discovered the one major roadblock to my own success, and it was me. Since my teen years, I have understood that the biggest challenge facing me was inside of me. So my learning process has been devoted to solving problems and working...
Practicing is difficult. It requires concentration, discipline and time.
And often at least one of those three are lacking. We have too much on our mind and we can’t concentrate. Or we lose our focus as we are practicing and our mind wanders elsewhere. Or we simply are too busy. Conquering ourselves and our circumstances is the first challenge to meet in order to have successful practice.
Try these techniques to get your practice done.
Performance injuries are every musician’s greatest fear. Our playing is so intrinsic to our being that just thinking about having to stop playing due to an injury can cause nightmares. Even worse is the sense that when you are injured, your colleagues, although they will express their sympathy, take a step or two back from you, as if it were contagious. This fear breeds all sorts of superstitions and misinformation. Even worse, it can prevent some players from seeking the help they need.
Below is the recent experience of a student of mine at the University of Delaware. Our journey through her injury to her recovery began for me when I walked up to her at the end of an orchestra rehearsal and discovered her in tears from pain and frustration. I had intended to tell her that her sound wasn’t coming through when it needed to, and instead realized...
Posture is arguably the most important physical factor in playing any instrument. It is the first thing our teachers teach us and unfortunately often something we forget to check as the years of lessons roll by. Our posture is the foundation for our technique and our best defense against fatigue and injuries. Whatever instrument you play, if you understand
correct posture with your instrument, and you check it each time you practice, you may discover a new sense of freedom and comfort.
I have reviewed the advice on posture from three standard harp method books: Complete Method for the Harp, by...