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#121: Being Prepared: When Practice Is Not Enough

Benjamin Franklin, who had a note-worthy thought about almost everything, authored this famous truth: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

Preparation is everything. We harpists understand that our practice is our preparation. We won’t be able to play well if we don’t practice. We get it.

But if you’ve been playing the harp for a while now, you have probably experienced the painful flip side. I’m talking about the realization that even with all the hours of practice you put into a particular piece, you aren’t guaranteed to be able to play it as well as you expect under pressure. 

After an experience like that, most of us decide to double down on our practice, thinking we weren’t prepared enough. We hope that we have hit on the magic number - of hours or repetitions or practice sessions - that will be the perfect preparation. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t. 

So if practice is preparation, why doesn’t practice make us prepared, or even feel prepared? And why does it sometimes seem that our practice lets us down in a performance or a lesson? 

What does it really mean to be prepared as a musician? I believe it can’t be measured in practice time or number of repetitions or test recordings or preview performances or even in years of experience. 

You see, what I have learned is that practice is not the same as preparation. Certainly, it’s the biggest part of it, but without the addition of specific strategies to connect that practice to our playing, practice alone won’t ever let us feel truly prepared.

Being or feeling prepared relies on three key attitudes, ones that many harpists don’t consider and others choose to ignore. However, you can’t feel prepared without having thought about these three ideas and put them into daily action. Each is important. One will help you feel balanced so you can express your music more deeply. One will help you feel confident that you can do your best. And the third will allow you to conquer your fears about playing. Taken singly, they are powerful. Put all three together and you have a game-changer. 

That is what we will talk about in just a moment. I will not only share those three attitudes with you but I want to be sure that you know how to create them, how to turn your thoughts to them, but also how to implement them. What I want for you is to be able to do only as much practice as you need, rather than doing more and more practice in the hopes that more practice alone will fix this problem. Oh yes. Benjamin Franklin had a quote for that too: “Never confuse Motion with Action.” I know you get the point.  

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


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