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#073: Tuning Masterclass: Learning to Listen

If I had to choose one tool that made a harpist’s life easier, I know exactly which one I would choose - the electronic tuner.

I belong to the last generation of harpists that grew up in a world without them, so I know what I’m talking about. Having a device that allowed you to tune in a noisy environment and be confident that your harp is really in tune was new technology when I was a student, and it was a game changer. 

Imagine trying to tune your harp on stage while the rest of the orchestra is warming up - violins and piccolo showing off their highest notes, double basses and timpani making anything below middle C inaudible and the brass instruments heroically filling in the middle. Tuning in an orchestra used to be a guessing game.

As grateful as I am for my tuner, there was an unintended consequence to this technological revolution. We harpists have stopped listening.

Consider for a moment how we tune with a tuner. We play a string and then look at the tuner to see if it’s in tune. Certainly that is the good thing about using a tuner when you’re in a place where you can’t hear what you’re playing. But over time, using a tuner this way can cause us to stop listening, to tune with our eyes, instead of our ears. In essence, the tuner can train us not to listen.

Of course, it all depends on how you use the tuner. A little effort and thought can turn the tuner into a powerful ear training tool. 

On today’s show, I am going to share a portion of a masterclass on tuning that I gave to our My Harp Mastery members. In this class, I talk about three methods of tuning with a tuner and how you can use each method to help you develop your ear and learn to listen. I also share the value of tuning as a pre-practice habit, plus you’ll hear me answer a couple of questions from the members on the call. Note that this was a live video call, and there may be references to something I’m demonstrating that you won’t be able to see on the podcast or PDFs that the members have. But I know that you’ll find this information incredibly useful, just the way everyone on the call did. 

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

Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected]


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