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Five Essentials for Your Teaching Studio

music miscellany Aug 19, 2013

I love cool gadgets, but when it comes to teaching music students, the best teachers go old school. They realize that having a successful and profitable teaching studio requires a few basic ingredients to run smoothly and create opportunities for their students to grow.

If you teach, you probably have all these systems in place already. But if you’re like me, there are always refinements you want to implement or ways you would like to make things better for yourself, your students and their parents.

So here are five essentials that will help keep you and your students motivated and organized. Please feel free to share your favorite tips in the comments below!

1. A written fee schedule

Don’t be shy about setting a fee and sticking with it. Write it down, so there can be no misunderstanding. Be sure to include price per hour, half hour or 45 minute lesson. State how and when students should pay. For example: “Lessons will be paid monthly in advance, due on the first...

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My Top 5 Takeaways from my Emergency Practice Plan

musicianship practicing Aug 14, 2013

    

 

 

 

 

           One page of my practice log

I want to report back to you on my experience using the 40/40/20 plan as the structure for my emergency practice.

First, the results. I did get enough practice, despite two days of travel time when I could only manage one hour instead of two. Everything that needed to be prepared was ready. Would I have liked more prep time? Certainly! The concerts, especially the first one, took every ounce of concentration. While I always concentrate during performance, this time I had no wiggle room. And there were some elements that no doubt would have been more refined with some additional practice.

But the point of this experiment was twofold: could I prepare two difficult chamber programs of fairly familiar but challenging repertoire in only two hours a day for two weeks if I had no more time than that? My qualified answer if yes. And here are my top five takeaways:

1....

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12 Ways to Start NOW!

 

 

 

 

 

 

           
 
© berc – Fotolia.com

We all have dreams and goals, but achieving those dreams and goals is not easy. There are endless traps and distractions. Often the hardest part is just getting started.

Maybe you’re the type that can’t sit down to practice until all your other daily chores are done, leaving you tired and uninspired when it’s finally time to start.

Perhaps that tricky passage or that lengthy piece your teacher wants you to practice seems like too big a nut to crack.

Maybe you have an exciting new project on the horizon – a recital, a composition, a work project – but you can’t see how to get over the first hurdle.

Here are a dozen quick ways to fight inertia and get your personal ball rolling!

Can’t sit down to practice?
  • Go for a 15 minute walk. Not longer, not shorter. Fifteen minutes is enough to clear your mind of cobwebs and leave...
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Two Essential Wrist Techniques

technique Aug 07, 2013

   © William Ceron – Fotolia.com

It’s all in the wrist. Maybe not ALL, but certainly, a harpist’s use of the wrist is an important feature of technique.

Normally, I believe the wrist should be steady. When you play a scale, for instance, your wrist shouldn’t flex in and out to accommodate your fingers. Instead, it should be part of the support system for your hand. Your arm, starting with your shoulder, through your upper arm and down to your wrist, should be stable so that your fingers can play with certainty and place with accuracy.

NOTE: A healthy ergonomic position for your wrist is slightly bent inward at a natural-feeling angle. Keeping your wrist flexed at too great an angle can lead to injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome!

One wrist technique we harpists use is to “throw back” our hands by bending back at the wrists. This is most often used with a two-hand trill. I have heard it described as “plucking a chicken,”...

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Mastery or Fluency?

musicianship practicing Aug 05, 2013

That hippest harpist Deborah Henson-Conant wrote a great blog post recently about mastery. She pointed out that the heralded “10,000 hours to mastery” isn’t what most adult learners are interested in. (By the way, you can read about the 10,000 hours in Malcolm Gladwell’s book Outliers: The Story of Success .) What they want, DHC writes, is fluency. And I totally agree.

I believe your mastery of the harp is the achievement of your personal goal, whether that’s playing in your living room, or your church, or joining a harp circle, or anything else. And that absolutely requires fluency.

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My Homemade Harp Base Cover

music miscellany Aug 02, 2013

We all know the importance of protecting your harp from the weather and from bumps and scratches. And if you move your harp often, as I do, you must have protective covers.

I am definitely a fan of those wonderful transport covers that Lyon Healy has. But they are expensive and very bulky. (I know – bulky is the point.) And I have three concert grand harps to cover.

So when I needed a new base cover, I decided to try a homemade version. It’s not fancy, but it does the job for a lot less money. It’s also something of a conversation piece. Here’s the design I came up with, as executed by my talented mother-in-law:

It’s very much like a large shower cap. We cut the base fabric following a tracing of my harp’s base and adding some extra room for padding and seams. For the fabric, we used some Gore-Tex that was leftover from making some groundcovers for underneath camping tents. The Gore-Tex is waterproof and very durable. Plus, I now have a camouflage...

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The Three Steps to Memorization

         
 
 
 
 
 
   
© Photo-K – Fotolia.com

“Please memorize this for next lesson.” These are words that send chills through many musicians. Do you dread playing from memory? Do you feel ill-equipped for this task?

So many times I hear students of all ages say, “I could never play from memory. I can’t remember anything.” Music memorization really isn’t all about remembering. It’s really a specific process that enables you to know a piece at the very deepest level, and perform it with more conviction and musicianship than is possible any other way.

When I have a piece well learned, that is to say, memorized, I can play it more like the composer must have heard it in his head. It is a musical whole, and I am able to interpret it, rather than just play it. It’s like being “in the zone;” your awareness is beyond your physical activity.

This is not to...

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My Emergency Practice Plan in Action

performing practicing Jul 29, 2013

Somehow I lost the last month. I had great intentions and a well-crafted practice plan, but it just didn’t work. We had a family reunion, plus I held harp camp and my website has been having issues. I had minor surgery. My son moved out of his apartment into another apartment and then went to on Italy for the summer. It’s been busy here, not really unusual, just busy.                     

                                                                       s© iQoncept – Fotolia.com                                                                       ...
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Musings on the Canon

music miscellany Jul 26, 2013

It wasn’t the bride’s fault that she picked the steamiest day imaginable for her lovely garden wedding. But there I was, under a tent, playing a wedding ceremony in the middle of a heat wave. To top it off, I was playing the Pachelbel Canon. I know people either love the piece or hate it, but I don’t usually mind playing it.

This time, however, I found myself playing the Pachelbel for two sets of grandparents, two sets of parents, six groomsmen and the groom and six bridesmaids and the bride. And it was a long walk up to the front.

It gave me a lot of time to think, and I began to wonder if there was more to the story of Herr Pachelbel. So here are some facts about the man and his piece for you to keep in mind at your next wedding job.

Johann Pachelbel (1652-1706)was well-known and respected in his day as an organist and composer. He was sought after as a teacher, and his many compositions were regarded as the peak of the southern German style.

The Bach Connection
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Summer String Survival Tips

We just finished another fun week here at Harp in the Mountains. Harp camp is always fun, and this year I was privileged to have a great group of students. As always, we rehearsed a lot, but we had fun too. And this year’s heat wave made the swimming pool the best place to take a break from practice.

We like to call ourselves the only harp garage band. The garage is a perfect space for us to rehearse as an ensemble and to store the harps. Some years here at harp camp we have enjoyed our pleasant and balmy summer days and rehearsed with the garage doors open. This year, we kept the doors closed and relied on a dehumidifier AND an air conditioner. Even so, we had more string breakage than usual.

You can’t always prevent string breakage. Gut strings especially are vulnerable in hot, humid and changeable conditions. But there are things you can do to keep the inconvenience and expense to a minimum.

1. The obvious: keep your harp indoors, in climate-controlled conditions,...

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