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The Formula for Success

There is a simple equation for success. Not that success is simple; it isn’t. But the formula is not at all complicated. And the formula is the same, whether you want to be a successful musician or a successful auto mechanic.

What is success? Is it superstardom? I don’t believe most of us yearn for that. For most of us, success is being good at what we do. We don’t need to be superheroes. We just want to be proud of our accomplishments, and to have others recognize the value in what we do. We want to achieve a goal.

The formula for success is this:  Patience + Diligence = Success

This formula is not revolutionary, but you can use it to revolutionize any aspect of your life and to be successful. Here is a brief look at each element of the equation.

1. Success: You must have a clear and realistic idea of what success looks like for you at that moment.  Understand where you are and where you want to go. Perhaps you are learning to play the piano. A...

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Practice Solutions Part 3: I can’t get through this difficult passage!

Solution 3
Excerpt: Minuet, from Sixth French Suite by Bach

This is part three 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 techniques to try when one passage is a persistent trouble spot. Perhaps the passage is the one part of the piece that you can’t get up to tempo, or perhaps the notes or fingering are awkward. These techniques will help!

Solution #1: Time warp

Why this works: Sometimes one passage just takes longer to prepare than the rest of the piece. By playing through the piece, but keeping that one passage slower, you can build in confidence and focus. The slow-motion time warp will help you begin to incorporate the difficult spot in a...

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The Grammy Awards, and the Winner Is…

I don’t watch much television. There are some shows I love, (NCIS, I Love Lucy reruns, and Turner Classic Movies) and many I don’t. And it’s my personal policy never to watch celebrity reality shows or awards shows, not even the Grammy awards.

But although I won’t watch the Grammy’s, I do like to know what classical artists and recordings made the nominations list. I thought I would pass on a few of this year’s more unusual nominees that interest me. You can find the Grammy awards list here. (The classical music entries start in the 70’s.)

Harry Partch: Bitter Music

In 1991 I had the opportunity to be part of a landmark recording of Harry Partch’s opera “Revelation in the Courthouse Park.” It was my first exposure to the music of this free-thinking musical pioneer. Partch was no mere composer. He attempted to create a completely new tonal system, devising his own set of instruments, since conventional instruments...

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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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