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!
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,”...
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.
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...
“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...
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.
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.
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,...
As I am writing this, I am beginning another year’s Harp In The Mountains Festival. This is the seventh year that I have hosted a small group of dedicated harp students, mostly high school and middle school age, for a week of ensemble playing and learning about the harp.
This year the students range in age from 11 to 17, and as you might guess, their skill levels are very different. But I am sure that this year will be no different from other years. The week will work its magic, and we will surprise ourselves with how much we can accomplish in one week.
Perhaps my favorite thing about this week is the feeling of pride that the students come away with. They know they are performing at a higher level when they leave than when they came. And they leave camp not only having had a fun week, but having improved reading skills, ensemble skills, technical facility and confidence. How does this happen in just one week?
There are several factors behind this growth spurt, and they...
Have you ever been stumped trying to figure out how to organize your practice? Sometimes it’s because we have too much to do; other times it’s because we don’t have enough to do and our practice is aimless. Here’s my solution for those times I need a little structure: I use my “40/40/20” recipe.
The “40/40/20” method is easy to explain. Every day, 40% of your practice time should be devoted to technique and musicianship, another 40% to pieces in progress, and the remaining 20% on reviewing repertoire. I would divide a one-hour practice session like this: 25 minutes for technique, 25 minutes for current pieces, and 10 minutes for review. The math isn’t exact, but it’s close enough.
From a teacher’s standpoint, it’s like a megavitamin: everything is in that one formula. You will be working on scales and arpeggios or other exercises and etudes, which are necessary to warm up your fingers and develop your technique....