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Sitting Pretty: Check Your Harp Posture

practicing technique Jun 24, 2013

Posture is arguably the most important physical factor in playing any instrument. It is the first thing our teachers teach us and unfortunately often something we forget to check as the years of lessons roll by. Our posture is the foundation for our technique and our best defense against fatigue and injuries. Whatever instrument you play, if you understand

                                                                                                      HenrietteRenié (1875-1956)

correct posture with your instrument, and you check it each time you practice, you may discover a new sense of freedom and comfort.

I have reviewed the advice on posture from three standard harp method books: Complete Method for the Harp, by...

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Fear: What Are You Afraid Of?

Fear is a part of everything we do. And in music performance we confront our fears daily. Unfortunately, sometimes it can become an obstacle that seems to big to overcome.

You don’t need to let fear hold you back. There are clear strategies for battling various specific fears. But whatever you’re afraid of, there are some basic steps to take to arm yourself for the fight.

1. Accept it. Fear is an inescapable part of the human condition. We are all fearful about some of what we must do on our path to our desire. You are not less of a person for being afraid, just part of the human race.

2. Investigate it. What will happen if you give in to your fear? What WON’T happen if you give in to your fear? What’s the worst thing that could happen if your fear is realized? Answering these questions honestly will give you an honest assessment of the reality of the situation.

3. Decide if the reward is worth the risk. Yes, you get to choose. You don’t have to do...

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Three Things I Wish I Had Years Ago

music miscellany Jun 19, 2013

Old School. Back in the day. Whatever you call it, I’m old enough to have been there. And a recent Facebook post by a former student brought home to me some of the important changes that I have seen in the harp world.

Her post was this photo with the comment “Well that’s a new one.” But it’s not; it’s an old one. She had never seen a patched string before. Harp strings were not always as affordable or easily available as they are now. When a string broke, if a harpist didn’t have the correct string it was sometimes possible to tie to pieces of string together and have a decent replacement. The Method for the Harp book even shows you how to tie the knot.

I never did this myself. My teacher had used this technique from time to time but recommended her students to keep a full complement of strings.

But there are some other changes I have seen that have made a huge difference to harpists, and musicians in general. These are the three biggest...

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My Five Favorite Evernote Uses

music miscellany Jun 17, 2013

 © Carlos Torres

Perhaps you are a fan of Evernote, as I am. I use it for everything. It’s my notepad and my filing cabinet, and I can access my files from anywhere.

In case you don’t know Evernote, here’s a quick overview. It is a filing system in the cloud. You can keep your files in Evernote and they sync seamlessly between your computer, your smartphone and your tablet. You create a “note,” and then store your note in a “notebook.” These virtual notebooks keep your notes organized. You can also add tags so you can easily search for items. You can even create stacks of notebooks, which is a great way to keep similar information together.

For instance, I have a notebook stack titled “Students,” and in that stack is a notebook for each of my students. In that notebook, I can have as many notes as I like. I keep track of a student’s repertoire, billing, deadlines. I even...

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3 Reasons You Need to Attend Harp Mastery Day

Saturday, June 22 I will be giving workshops at “Lark Music Presents Anne Sullivan’s Harp Mastery.” I am very excited about this first-time ever event. I will be able to share some of the valuable things I learned from my teachers and from my own years of teaching privately and at the Curtis Institute of Music. And I am especially looking forward to meeting many of you and putting your faces to your names!

So why do I think you need to attend Harp Mastery Day? I have three reasons that I hope you will find compelling:

1. I want you to be able to play the harp the way you want. Harp Mastery is all about finding the satisfaction, fulfillment, growth and achievement that you are looking for in your harp journey. Like me, you are drawn to the harp for a special, personal reason, and I believe you can find exactly what you are looking for when you have a focused and goal-oriented approach to learning the harp. So whether you are preparing to play in Carnegie Hall or...

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Enjoy Your Summer Practice? I Do!

practicing Jun 12, 2013



I love practicing in the summer. I always feel motivated, relaxed and inspired.

It all started the first year I went to harp camp in Camden, Maine. I had never had a daily schedule that was completely my own. I could spend the day however I chose, and the most important thing only my daily agenda was practicing and lots of it. My day was essentially free of distractions and I was able to discover how and when I did my best practice.

Since then, my summers have become a little more complicated, but some of the things I learned that first year of harp camp have remained part of my summer practice strategy.

1. I practice first thing in the morning. Early on a summer day when the air is still cool, my motivation is at its highest level. I can’t wait to get to work. And I like to do as long a practice session as I can. When I was a student, I used to practice for four hours straight. I don’t recommend...

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Turn Around an Epic Fail – Part 2

musicianship performing Jun 10, 2013
We all have them from time to time, an epic fail in a performance. Whether it’s a memory slip you can’t recover from or a glaring error that cuts to the core, you wish that the floor would open up and swallow you whole. The first installment of this two-part blog post showed you how to move forward and get your groove back if this should happen to you. This second part will show you how to help someone else, for instance, your student, if it happens to them.                      ©

One of the hardest moments I face as a teacher is that moment when a student is playing in a recital, and the performance is not going well. All my nerves are at attention, willing everything to sort itself out. My whole being goes into survival mode, sending out mental messages of help, mentally willing the right pedals or strings or notes. And as soon as the crisis is over, I instantly start analyzing the...

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Turn Around an Epic Fail – Part 1

performing Jun 07, 2013






          © Kimball

We all have them from time to time, an epic fail in a performance. Whether it’s a memory slip you can’t recover from or a glaring error that cuts us to the core, you wish that the floor would open up and swallow you whole. This first installment of a two-part blog post will show you how to move forward and get your groove back if this should happen to you. The second part will show you how to help someone else, for instance, a student, if it happens to them.It shouldn’t have happened. You practiced, you prepared, and still it happened, with everyone watching. The epic fail. And it has happened to most of us, including me. And it feels horrible.

But after the dust settles, you have a choice. You can either wallow in the embarrassment and self-pity, or you can decide that this is a learning experience, one that you won’t have to repeat if you take the...

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Harp Mastery Notes and Quotes

This is an “odds and ends” sort of post with some important news, some blog post updates and a couple of quotes to motivate you.
Practice, which some regard as a chore, should be approached as just about the most pleasant recreation ever devised.
– Babe Didrikson Zaharias, American athlete (1911-1956)

Post Update: Lawrence had a great addition to the Schubert Ave Maria blog post from last week. Many of you told me you enjoyed reading the different texts to the song, and Lawrence took it a step further and sent me a translation of the Eastern Orthodox text:

O Theotokos* and Virgin rejoice,
Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee;
blessed art thou among women,
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb,
for thou hast borne the Savior of our souls.

*Theotokos: (Greek) Birthgiver of God

Music correction: Lawrence also pointed out that the intermediate lever version of the “Ave Maria” that I offered last week assumes that your third octave A is tuned to natural...

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Develop Your Glissando Color Palette

musicianship performing May 31, 2013






     © Brian Santa Maria iStockphoto

Not long ago, I played a contemporary cantata at a church. The piece had an uncomplicated harp part, and I settled myself comfortably for an easy rehearsal. My first entrance was a simple glissando upsweep, and as I played it, I got the little electric thrill I always get when I play a glissando. It’s the thrill that says, “Listen to this, everybody. It’s the harp!”

My first harp piece was “The Purple Bamboo.” It was a fun first harp piece, and the glissandos made it an immediate favorite. From the very first, I fell in love with glissandos. And I never get tired of playing them.

Of course, my fingers have suffered from too many glissandos at times, but every time I play one, whether in a solo piece or in orchestra, I enjoy the moment. It is a sonority unique to the harp, and one of the easiest to play. In fact, nothing other than perhaps chocolate, is as...

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