We all know that making music is more than playing the right notes at the right time. It’s about the heart and soul of the music, the feeling we put into it and the feeling that we communicate through it. Unfortunately, no matter how much feeling we put into the music, the actual communication of that feeling relies on our technique. It’s one of those apparent paradoxes in music study. The beauty of your music depends on the fluency of your technical performance, but a technically perfect performance may or may not be a beautiful one.
So we spend, or should be spending, a significant proportion of our practice time strengthening and securing our technical skills. We practice the notes of our pieces slowly and correctly. But often we still miss the connection between slow, technically careful playing and the facility we need to let our music flow. That connection, the missing link between slow and correct and fluid and musical, is what we will be talking about today.
Here’s the thing: basic technique patterns are exactly that…basic. Don’t get me wrong; they’re important, even vital, for your harp playing. Those fundamental skills like scales, intervals, chords and arpeggios are the bedrock for every harpist’s technique. Practicing these patterns is not optional. The great harpists of every generation have advocated them. I myself practice them every day.
But by themselves, those patterns aren’t enough to make your technique everything you want it to be, particularly if what you want your technique to be is fluid, flashy and…dare I say it…fast.
There are four important ingredients in the recipe for creating flexible, facile fingers, ones that do your bidding instead of slowing your music down. It’s likely that these aren’t things you consider in your technique practice; in fact, you may never even have thought of them as skills you could or should practice. But I promise you, they will help you focus less on your fingers and more on the music each time you play. And if you want to pick up the tempo for a piece, these strategies will help your fingers play faster too.
Just to pique your interest a little, I will tell you that our discussion will begin with my three-word phrase that is the guiding principle for finger facility. That’s right - just three words that may totally change your thinking about what your technique work needs to do for you and your fingers.
Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode:
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