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Practicing Harp Happiness

#014: Taming The Terrible Thumb [3 Secrets to a Musical Thumb]

Is your thumb timid or a tyrant?

We harpists rely on our thumbs - just try playing a scale without them. They are our longest fingers and undoubtedly our strongest. They double our reach on the harp strings. But how musical are your thumbs?

In this episode, I will show you how your thumbs can be expressive with a supple, fluid sound that can make a melody sing or blend in beautifully with your other fingers, and how to fix common thumb problems.


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

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#013: Master Your Metronome [Do's and Don'ts for Metronome Haters]

Which would you choose: practicing with the metronome or sitting through your kid's favorite cartoon AGAIN?

If the metronome feels like torture, this show will save you from going click crazy. The metronome isn't just for playing fast; it's for creating time to be correct and musical too. You'll learn the proper (and nearly painless) ways to use the metronome - not as a paperweight- and save tons of practice time too! You can play along with me too!  

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

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#012: Three Steps to More Confidence [And Better Harp Playing]

Confidence isn’t something you're born with; it’s something you build. It’s gradually formed from experience. It’s bolstered with successes and sharpened with failures. If lack of confidence is holding you back, you have the whole thing backwards.

In this episode of the show, I’ll share some of my own struggles with self-confidence and the experiences which helped me grow and get stronger. I’ve also helped many students feel more confident in their harp playing and I will show you how you can follow those same steps on your own.

You will discover:

  • The hidden dangers of the “comfort zone.”
  • That it’s not really a lack of confidence that is holding you back.
  • How you can feel more confident when you can’t see any reason why you should.
  • The two most powerful words for building your confidence.

Are you feeling more confident already?

There’s no need to worry. I’m right beside you. Let’s do this!

Links to...

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#011: Clair de lune [A Harpist's Guide]

music and meaning Aug 02, 2021

Some composers change music forever, Claude Debussy was one of those. 

Debussy is generally credited with the rise of the Impressionist movement in music. The Impressionists focused on the mood and atmosphere of music, conveying it through tone color and flow, rather than sharp musical detail. 

The paradox of this music is that, although it often seems outside of time even without a tempo or pulse, the very formlessness of it is written into the music. Following Debussy’s printed directions is often the easiest way to get the expression you want. You can and should approach this music in the same way you would begin a Bach or Mozart piece - but you need a little more information first.

On today’s show we will explore three features of Debussy’s Clair de lune. You will discover:

  • How Debussy uses them to create the moonlight mood of the piece. 
  • How they reveal Debussy’s intention for the piece.
  • The best practice techniques to employ so that you...
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#010: Beyond Dynamics [3 Keys to More Musical Harp Playing]

Musicality is so much more than dynamics. It is truly our own self-expression, our individuality revealed through our music. In our role as interpreters of music written by others, we often limit ourselves to following the indications the composer has written on the page. But with so many more tools and options for bringing creativity to our music, why should we stop at dynamics?

In this episode, I will reveal three ways in which you can make your music - any piece of music - more musically expressive. You will discover:

  • Why you need to focus on “dimensions” instead of “dynamics.”
  • How to practice playing more expressively whether you’re an expert or a beginner.
  • How adding more expression to your music may be the key to solving some of those trouble spots in a piece.

Plus, I think you’ll learn how to do the most creative and interesting practice you’ve ever done!

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the...

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#009: Fingers on the Strings [Pointers for Placing]

Placing is the first thing we learn when we start playing the harp. After our first glissando, after we find middle C, our first discovery is that we must suspend our hands in mid-air and that placing is how we stay physically connected to our instrument. But placing brings its own set of challenges.

Are you a “Last Minute Letty,” getting on the right strings at the last second?

Maybe you are a “Not Ready Yet Nellie,” and you make the music wait while you find the right strings.

Or maybe you are a “Fumbling Freddy,” struggling to make your placing clean and correct.

The tips I share In this podcast episode will help you fix your placing issues and learn to help your fingers find the right strings, on time, every time.

You’ll discover:

  • The real purpose of placing, 
  • How to practice proper placing easily,
  • The “Rule of Ones,” my golden rule of placing, and
  • The magical marking that makes it all work.

Let’s get your...

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#008: Harp Playing Hiccups [How to Make Your Music Flow]

I used to worry about getting the hiccups while playing a concert. Fortunately, those hiccups never happened. But I have had plenty of musical hiccups and maybe you have too. It’s time to make our music flow.

Musical flow, or continuity,  can be hard to achieve, if you don’t know how. In this episode, I reveal what you must do to create continuity as well as what you must not do.  If you have struggled making your music sound seamless, expressive and effortless, this is the podcast episode for you. 

You will learn:

  • The three “must have” elements of flow.
  • Practice tweaks to instantly create more continuity in your playing.
  • My four step system that you can use to incorporate more flow from the very first day you start learning a piece.

If you'd like to go a little deeper, my 30 Days to Done course shows you exactly how to use those four steps to take a piece of music from bumpy start to seamless finish, in - you guessed it! - 30 Days. The link...

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#007: Music of Revolution [The Liberty Song]

music and meaning Jul 05, 2021

Music has the power to inspire, to encourage and to unite. No song reveals this more clearly than the one written by a Philadelphia lawyer in 1768.

“United we stand,” are words familiar to every American, but few of us know that they first appeared as lyrics of what was perhaps the first song of resistance in the colonists’ uprising against British taxation. 

This podcast episode is dedicated to the story behind this song of the American Revolution, once iconic and now much less familiar than its jeering British contemporary tune, “Yankee Doodle.”  With words by John Dickinson to a tune borrowed from an English opera, this song became a key player (pun intended) in the American quest for liberty.

No, it wasn’t a harp tune, but I will play it for you anyway and you can download my harp arrangement of it too!

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

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#006: Minor Keys [A Scale of a Different Color]

 Have you ever thought of your music as having colors?  Or thought about a color difference between major and minor? 

Maybe to you a minor key is just another key.

But to me a minor key is so much more. As a musician, I first learned to listen critically with minor keys. As a teacher, I have seen that minor keys (much more so than major keys) open the door to understanding music theory. And as a harpist, I appreciate minor keys for the creativity they allow me, again more than major keys. And I love the way minor sounds, its tonal color.

Today's episode isn’t just about the facts of minor but also its color - what makes minor sound like minor and what makes it sometimes sound almost like major. Major and minor are more closely related than you might think. But it’s not all rainbow talk today. 

You will also learn: 

  • My 3 number system for making sense of minor key signatures and scales.
  • The 5 essential minor keys for harpists to know. ...
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#005: How to Know if Your Music is Done [Finding the Finish Line]

Do you have nothing to play except a drawerful of half-baked pieces?

You’ve practiced hard to learn your piece. Now what do you do with it, especially if you aren’t planning to perform it? Keep practicing, and if so, for how long? Put it away?

If you’ve ever wondered how to tell if your piece is really done or what to do with it when it is, you are not alone.

Starting a piece is the easy part. Your energy level is high and you’re ready to dig in. Then the going gets tougher as you drill the notes and the fingering. Finally, the piece begins to turn into music. This is when you discover that you have no clue what to do with it now. 

On this week’s podcast episode, I reveal not only how to decide when your piece is finished, but also the four “finish line” options which allow you to polish your piece for performance, or put it away with pride and a couple of things in between. 

Having a clear plan for your piece is key to your...

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