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Answers to Your FAQs

musicianship Jun 12, 2016

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One reason I love teaching is being able to help students find solutions for their challenges. I should confess that I am a puzzle-fiend. I love crosswords, cryptic crosswords, sudoku, mystery stories, jigsaw puzzles, you name it, and the harder the better.

So it's only natural for me to apply that puzzle-solving addiction to my teaching. Finding the crux of s student's problem, and devising strategies and tactics for fixing it is my idea of time well spent.

Since I started blogging and coaching online, I've enjoyed a regular and growing stream of questions, and I noticed over time that the same questions cropped up. My list of these questions has been growing and I thought it might be useful if from time to time I shared these questions (and my answers) with you. So here, in no particular order, are three of these FAQ's. Maybe one of them is yours!

FAQ #11 How long should I practice?

To answer that, you first need to answer this: what is your goal? Do you have a deadline? Or a dream? The size and time frame of your goal will tell us a lot.

Your next step is to determine how much time you actually have to practice. If your teacher recommends you do two hours of practice but you only have one hour you can devote to it, there is a conflict that we will need to resolve. Maybe there is extra time you can find n your schedule or possibly you will have to choose between your harp goals and some of your other activities.

Next write down the steps you need to take in order to achieve your goal or the milestones you need to hit, and approximately, based on your previous experience, how long each step might take you. That should help you determine how much you need to practice each day.

If you want an easier way to get a ballpark estimate, this works for most people:

1 hour a day is good for maintenance practice

2 hours a day will allow you to make progress

3 hours a day will lead to achievement

FAQ #8 Is it bad to memorize all my music in order to learn it?

Memorization is an essential skill for a musician, and it is one you should practice regularly, so per se, memorization is a good thing. But memorization takes the place of note reading (another essential skill) as a means to learn music, you are shortchanging yourself.

In most cases, I find that practicing note reading and sight reading regularly will help speed the learning process as much as memorization helps to secure what you're learning. In short, if you have to memorize music because you don't read well enough, you're missing a very useful and necessary component of musicianship.

FAQ #19 How do I strengthen my fingers/hands?

This is really a harp-specific question, or at least I have to give it a harp-specific answer. Harpists are known for having strong hands and fingers; no matter how angelic we may look and sound, we are putting a fearsome amount of muscle into our playing.

My answer to this question will differ from other people's perhaps, in that I don't recommend any strengthening devices or special training strength you need. I have seen those lead to career-ending injury. It doesn't matter how powerful your grip is if you can't play any longer.

Instead. I recommend slow, careful and focused technical work at the harp. If you train your fingers to play the proper way, you will develop the strength that you need, in the precise, harp-specific ways that you need, without the risk of injury. There are plenty of exercise and method books that you can use.

The lesson to learn here? Practicing technique is the best way to stronger playing - it just makes sense.

Do you have a question to add to my list?

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