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Stay Relaxed to Play Your Best

practicing technique Dec 03, 2018


It’s nearly impossible to play your best when you’re tense. And whether that tension comes from nerves, stress, holiday headaches or all three really doesn’t matter. Tension can ruin your health, your music and your mood.

Before the holidays reach their fever pitch, let’s look at some commonsense ways to ease the stress and create relaxation and – dare we say it? – beauty in your playing.

There’s nothing mystical here, no crystals or aromatherapy. Just a few simple ideas to help you add your musical touch to the holidays and enjoy it. Does that sound impossible? Fear not; read on.

Relax Your Body

The most important thing you can do for your playing is to have strong and supple support from your body, and that starts with your posture. Here are a few key elements of posture to keep in mind and check regularly:

  • Sit over your hips. Don’t lean forward or backward. When your weight is squarely on top of your hips, your abdominal muscles will help support you.
  • Remember to bring the harp to you – don’t lean toward it. It’s built to come to you. Think you don’t lean into your harp? Do a quick check to make sure. I’m guilty of this one often. It seems the harder I’m working, the more I hunch into the harp.
  • Keep your feet flat on floor or on your pedals.
  • Check your shoulders. Are they hunched up around your ears? Release them and the tension that is stored there. It may help to visualize lengthening your neck. And while we’re thinking about your neck…
  • Pick up your head! Remember to raise your chin – raise your music stand if you need to – and look forward rather than down. This will actually make it easier to breathe.
Relax Your Mind

I know you have a gazillion things clamoring for your attention. Let’s create some quiet in your head so you can get something done.

First, simplify your focus. You can only do one thing at a time. Don’t let the other things on your to-do list create confusion. Try making a list with only one task per page. Do just the top task. When it’s finished, go on to the next. Or put all your tasks on slips of paper, put them in a jar and pull out one at a time. As you’re doing your one task, set a timer and be sure to switch to the next task when it goes off, so you can stay on schedule.

Next, simplify your expectations. You can play well without having to play perfectly. Base your expectations on the experience you want for yourself and your listeners, rather than on some objective standard. Think about joy rather than judgment. ‘Tis the season, after all.

Relax Your Practice

This is not the time to channel your inner virtuoso, if that’s going to challenge you. Focus instead on doing slow, relaxed playing. Pay attention to creating a beautiful tone and thoughtful expression. It’s better for your fingers, your stress level and your music. Breathe into the music as you play and feel it feed your soul. That’s when the magic happens.

Let’s not forget the joy that comes from giving: from sharing your music, your gifts, your love of the harp. You could even share this article with a friend and spread the relaxation around. What a musical and peaceful holiday this might be!

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