Fundamentals, exercises and etudes are the three pillars of harp technique, or any instrumental technique for that matter. I’m sure this is not news to you, but the reminder never hurts.
Fundamentals like scales, arpeggios and chords form the basis of our technique because they are the patterns most prevalent in the music we play. Exercises help our fingers become familiar with the characteristic patterns that aren’t as straightforward as the fundamentals. Etudes help us put the technical skills from our exercises and fundamentals into a more musical context, a sort of test drive for our technique. Together, they help us develop facility, agility and musical understanding. Pretty powerful stuff.
I know - you knew that already. But like me and most of the harpists I know, you may have trouble fitting all three of those into your practice time. Most of us have limited practice time anyway, and it would be easy to let our technical work crowd out everything else. This is why I want to talk with you today about the right way to practice an etude.
Actually there are a number of right ways to practice an etude, but there is definitely a wrong way to practice an etude too. None of us has time or effort to spare; we need to use every practice minute wisely. When you practice an etude properly, you will increase your technical accuracy, which can make you more confident about your playing as a whole. You will also increase your finger agility and flexibility as you develop more comfort playing over a wide range of tempos. And you will have the focus to work on the more musical aspects of your playing like dynamics, tone, articulation and flow. Without setting the right intention for your etude practice, or without knowing the steps to achieve that intention, your etude practice, however, your efforts might not bring you the results you want.
We are going to start our discussion today with a quick quiz to see how effective your etude practice is right now, and then we can talk about the strategies you need to power it up. It’s a fun little quiz but don’t let that fool you. This is an important topic. Why? Because the more confident you are in your technique, the more freedom you will have: freedom to learn the music you want to play, to learn more music, maybe even to play more for others. A secure technique equals harp freedom, and etudes can be a shortcut path to get there.
Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode:
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