Quick question: hands in the air if you’ve ever decided to skip your technique drills and etudes because you are doing that work already on a challenging passage in one of your pieces.
Yes, I thought so. Everybody’s hand is up, including mine. So we all do it, skip our technique work because we’re short on time and we can get the same benefits by doing double duty practice - working on technique with one of those sticky spots that we need to drill anyway. It sounds like a good idea and a great use of our time. But is it really?
Well, yes…and no.
Exercises and etudes have very specialized functions in harp technique practice. The most significant of these is that they take musical context out of the equation. By eliminating the pressures of the right notes at the right time with all the dynamics, we can laser focus on our mechanics, the way our fingers work, the position of our hands and arms, staying relaxed, and maintaining a healthy posture. Then moving from exercises to etudes adds back those musical concerns in a minimal way, keeping the focus on the particular skill, but testing the waters to see how our execution of that skill holds up under the added stress of rhythm and expression.
So there are important functions that exercises and etudes serve, and together they create a progression of development for whatever skill you’re working on.
But I'm not here today to tell you that you must include exercises and etudes in your practice regimen without fail. I know I don’t. While I do practice both exercises and etudes regularly, there are times when I just don’t have the time, when I’m practicing a recital program for instance, and those pieces require all my technical and musical focus.
So I do what we all just admitted to doing - I use my pieces as etudes. But I don’t want to give up the special benefits of those exercises and etudes either. So I let my pieces do double duty.
However, there are really powerful ways to do this, ways that allow you to work on those challenging spots and still get the technical and musical benefits of your exercises and etudes. They don’t take more time, only a little knowhow. And that insider knowhow is exactly what I’m going to share with you today, so you can be certain that you will conquer the challenges in your music and level up your technique just like exercises and etudes do.
Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode:
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