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Practice Solutions Part 2: I Can’t Put This Hands Together!

From Dussek Sonatina No. 2

This is part two in a four-part series of posts designed to help you solve difficulties you may come across in your everyday practice. With a repertoire of techniques at your disposal, you can learn to solve nearly any practice difficulty. If you are not already a subscriber to HarpMastery, you can email me to receive the other posts in this series by email.

This post shows you practice solutions to try when a passage won’t work hands together.

Solution #1: Play all of one hand and some of the other

Why this works: Often the difficulty of hands together is in the amount of information that you’re trying to process at once. If you gradually work in some of the other hand, you increase the difficulty by small degrees only, working up to hands together in little steps.

What to do: Play each hand separately. Fix any technical issues in each hand alone. Start putting hands together by playing one hand alone and...

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Be in Control at Your Next Audition

performing practicing Jan 11, 2013

Auditions are horrible. If you’ve ever taken one, even an audition for the school chorus, chances are you had shaky knees, butterflies in your stomach and a head full of doubts. And if your auditions are of the kind where you feel that your whole future is in the balance, the nerves and upset might be a thousand times worse. And that doesn’t help your audition performance.

I have taken many auditions in my life, with varying outcomes. But as a teacher, I analyze audition preparation, performance and results through a different lens. I want my students to be prepared for the challenge, to be able to do their best and to come through the experience, no matter the results, with an attitude that will enable them to move forward.

For me the attitude is more important than the results. If the audition is successful, meaning that they “win,” then I want them to be able to analyze how they created the opportunity for them to win, so that they can have a blueprint for...

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Twelve Things You Don’t Know About Your Metronome

Interesting facts, quotes and trivia about the metronome. Enjoy!

1.Metronome gives a consistent beat The metronome was patented in 1815 by Johann Maelzel (1772-1838). He described it as an “Instrument/Machine for the Improvement of all Musical Performance, called Metronome.” His design was suspiciously similar to an 1814 mechanical musical chronometer developed by Dutch inventor Dietrich Nikolaus Winkel.

2. The word metronome comes from the Greek words metron (measure) and nomos (regulating).

3. Artists are going to be the metronome of society.” – Yoko Ono , artist, peace activist, experimental musician.

4. The metronome would not have been possible without the pendulum studies of Galileo Galilei (1564-1642).

5. Flutist/composer Johann Joachim Quantz used the human pulse as a reference point for tempo, using a rate of 80 beats per minute. (Versuch einer Anweisung die Flote traversiere zu spielen, 1752).

6. Beethoven was one of the first composers to...

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Practice Solutions Part 1: I can’t get this up to tempo!

This is part one in a four-part series of posts designed to help you solve difficulties you may come across in your everyday practice. With a repertoire of techniques at your disposal, you can learn to solve nearly any practice difficulty. This post shows you ways to pull a passage up to tempo when inching the metronome up isn’t getting the results you want.

Solution #1: Practice Hands Separately at tempo, Hands Together at half tempo

Why this works: Continual slow practice doesn’t give you the opportunity to make sure your technique, fingering choices, etc. will work at the correct tempo. You need to practice each hand at the desired speed to make sure. Also, until you can play each hand at tempo, hands together will never work.

What to do: Work each hand alone until you can play it at tempo fluently. Also practice hands together, but at a tempo as slow as you need to play it correctly, possibly half tempo or even slower. You will find that as your hands...

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Don't Put Your Holiday Music Away Until You Read This!

Here is a checklist of important things to do BEFORE you put your holiday music away for another year. These tips will help you prepare now to enjoy a more relaxed holiday time next year.

Over the years and the course of many holiday concerts and parties, I have learned some valuable lessons. I’d like to share with you what I have learned as a few steps which, if you take them now, will save you much preparation time and fluster next holiday season. Happy New Year!

1. Clean up your markings. Take the time to erase all those extra markings you put in your parts and to neaten the markings you want to keep. A neat part is always easier to practice and play. Also, if you play for the same conductors every year, you might want to do as I learned to do from my teacher. Her orchestra parts always had the conductors’ names in the margin with notes about their specific tempos and directions to her. She had a reputation for being a sensitive player, and part of that was just...

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Does Your Crescendo Have the “Wow Factor?”

The crescendo (and its counterpart, the diminuendo or decrescendo) is one of the first expressive tools we musicians learn. But has your crescendo lost its “wow factor?” Here are some quick reminders of what to do, what NOT to do, and a few practice techniques.

First, what NOT to do. I can almost guarantee that you have been guilty of one of these. We all have.

What NOT to do:

1. Don’t let a crescendo be an afterthought. Practice the expression of a piece, including any crescendi or diminuendi, in the early learning stages so they incorporate into your understanding of the piece.
2. Don’t tighten up. Staying relaxed throughout the crescendo will keep your tone even and your technique fluid.  One of the literal meanings of the word forte is strong, and you can’t be strong if you’re too tense and tight to play.
3. Don’t start a crescendo abruptly. A crescendo grows (the actual meaning of the...

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Make a Difference (Musically) in the New Year

The New Year always causes us to stop and think. We make resolutions. Sometimes we keep them. This year my only resolution is to remember to make a difference. Musically and otherwise.

There is one incident I recall that showed me just how much our music can make a difference to others, whether we are aware of it or not.

I was flipping through my folder of Christmas music recently and I came across a handwritten note. I see the note every year, and I keep it with my Christmas music on purpose to refresh my perspective when the season gets crazy busy.

It was given to me one afternoon at a background music job I was playing. It was an easy job, just a few hours of soothing holiday music in a dentist’s office waiting room. The harp music was a holiday treat from the dentist to the patients, and everyone in the office seemed to appreciate the live music.

The job was easy to play. The room was quiet to start with; I didn’t have to compete with the noise and energy of a...

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Invest in Your Music – Spend Your Christmas Cash Wisely

© Steve Cukrov –

Perhaps you were lucky enough to have Santa (or Grandma) give you some cash for Christmas this year. What could be better than to put that gift to good use by investing it in yourself and your love of music? Whether you are a music student, music professional or you just play for the love of it, I offer ten tips for spending that gift to make your musical life easier, richer and more fulfilling.

1. Stock up on accessories. Take advantage of the year-end sales at many music stores and stock up on strings, tuners, metronomes and any other essential tools that you use everyday. My favorite suggestion for harpists: a spare tuning key to keep in your car’s glove box!

2. New music stand or stand light. Improve your outlook with a new, less rickety music stand or a brighter stand light.

3. New repertoire. This is the time to add a few new items to your “must-learn” repertoire list. Include a couple of stretch...

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Merry Christmas!

music miscellany Dec 25, 2012

From our neck of the woods to yours, have the happiest of holidays! Anne

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The Two Most Important Things in My Harp Bag

There are two important things that will be in my harp bag when I go to my Christmas Eve performances this year. I am counting on them to keep me from worrying about those last minute crises that tend to arise at the worst possible moments. Both of these were gifts from thoughtful (and savvy) friends. I hope that these will help you be prepared as well.

The first item is my emergency stand light. This light saved my life, or at least my performance, two years ago. I was playing at a lovely candlelight service. As I set up and prepared for the service, I noticed the low light level, and I checked to make sure I could read my music and see the strings. All was well until just before the service when someone decided to dim the lights. Knowing that I had my emergency stand lights in my bag next to me, I reached down, pulled out the lights, turned them on and set my pedals for the first hymn. Having those lights with me saved me from eye strain, wrong notes and a lot of worry.


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