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What Will Your Musical Legacy Be?

music miscellany May 22, 2017

What is your musical legacy? 

Maybe you don’t think you have, or will have, a musical legacy. You’re not a famous performer, or a teacher of prodigies. Maybe you don’t think you even play especially well. What kind of musical legacy could you leave?

I attended a meeting of my local chapter of the American Harp Society this weekend. It was our first meeting since the death of one of our long-time members. She taught almost all of the other chapter members and was essentially synonymous with the harp in her community. She died at age 95, having played the harp for 88 of those years.

We dedicated a portion of our meeting to sharing our favorite reminiscences and anecdotes. One thing became clear – this well-loved harpist left a legacy. She left her musical imprint on the generations of harpists that she taught and the countless listeners who attended her performances. That’s a legacy any of us would be proud to leave.

But what makes a musical legacy?...

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Program Notes the Right Way

performing May 14, 2017

"Program notes? You want me to talk?!"

The time will come when you will be asked to “say something” about music that you are about to play.

I can’t remember the first time I was asked to speak about my music, but I do remember my mother’s urging me to “tell them what you’re going to play.” And I remember my first experiences as a twelve year-old, performing for ladies’ luncheons and delivering my “harp talk.” Thank goodness there was no YouTube back then.

Fortunately, experience is a wonderful teacher, and I learned over the years how to speak confidently to an audience. Even more importantly, I learned the one secret to making verbal program notes painless for me and interesting for an audience.

The secret is this: your program notes are not designed to show how much you know or how brilliant you are. The purpose of your words is to introduce the audience to your piece, just as you would introduce two people to each...

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Practice Detour: Use GPS and Get Back on the Road

practicing May 08, 2017

A "Practice Detour?" Let me explain...

Have you ever been driving on a familiar route only to be confronted with a “Road Closed: Detour” sign? The last time that happened to me I found myself taking numerous turns through a bewildering maze of rural roads with no sign posts. I had decided to trust that the car in front of me knew how to navigate the detour and that eventually I would emerge at a place I recognized. I kept driving, feeling a little anxious, a little hopeful, determined to forge ahead into parts unknown and uncertain if I would be able to reach my intended destination.

Oddly enough, although I didn’t recognize the roads, I recognized the feelings. That’s exactly what a Practice Detour feels like.

What’s a Practice Detour? It’s that moment when you realize that your practice doesn’t seem to be moving you forward. So you double down, practicing longer with more determined focus. You dust off your practice journal, plan a...

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Claim Your Independence

news technique May 01, 2017

It's Independence Day - for your fingers, that is!

In this video you will learn exactly what finger independence is, why you want it and how to get it.

I share the five practice tips that will help your fingers do what you want them to, the way you want them to.

Plus I walk you through my secret for success with one of the most challenging finger-twisting patterns. (Think Conditioning Exercise No. 5.)

Enjoy!

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The Musician's Progress Activator

practicing Apr 24, 2017

I can do it. Ten more times. Get it right this time. Try it again. Last time. NOOOO!

Practicing is hard. Making progress is hard. Not seeing your progress is frustrating.

You’re an adult. You understand that the results from practice reveal themselves over time. But there is a point where we start to wonder how much time. No matter how grownup we are, it’s that classic kid question, “Are we there yet?”

On one hand, there are times when low stress, regular practice routines are just what we need to keep in shape, to stay connected to our instrument and to enjoy making music.

However, when you are ready to pick up the pace and make some strides forward, you have to commit to hours of grueling practice, gnashing of teeth and pulling of hair, right? Wrong. Really wrong.

Progress is a result of the right kind of practice and the right practice goal. I have created a simple three-question system that will show you how to focus your efforts so you can get there...

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Power Hour: the Practice of Champions

practicing Apr 17, 2017

What if you could power up your music study by adding one hour (or even one half hour) to your practice each week?

This one hour would help you focus your work, eliminate unnecessary repetition, multiply your practice effectiveness and streamline your path to progress. Plus your next lesson will be a good one.

Sounds like a recipe for harp happiness, doesn’t it?

With results like that, would you consider that one hour to be a worthwhile investment of your time and energy? Ok then, read on…

Do you remember the Wheaties cereal slogan, "Breakfast of Champions?"  It's a reminder that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Breakfast jumpstarts your metabolism. It provides the fuel that encourages your body to expend energy and use more calories. This is what makes breakfast especially important if you want to lose weight.

A good breakfast leads you to eat better overall. You are less likely to crave unhealthy snacks and more likely to eat foods with more...

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Where Perfection Meets Possible

musicianship Apr 10, 2017

Perfectionism has a bad reputation.

We have heard about all the evils of perfectionism – the frustration, the self-doubt, the endless critiquing.

But is perfectionism the same thing as trying to get your piece correct, trying to make it right and without mistakes?

And if we allow that we can’t achieve perfection, what’s the point in trying? Do we stop practicing at some point and say, “Never mind, it’s good enough?”

More to the point, if even the masters of our instrument don’t feel that they deliver perfect performances, where does that leave the rest of us?

I believe that there is a balancing point, a way to keep that impossibly high standard before us without sacrificing our sanity. I think that we need to work at a place I’m calling the intersection of The Perfect and The Possible.

Imagine yourself standing in a circle. This circle is your musical progress at this point in time. You have some pieces you can play, but you have more...

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3 Mind Blowing Ways to Practice Etudes

practicing Apr 02, 2017

Mind blowing? Maybe not exactly that, but these ways to practice your etudes will make your practice time much more effective and even more fun. In the video I mention the Etude a Day Challenge, If you want to check it out, you can find it at HarpHappiness.com.

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Practice: A New Definition

practicing Mar 27, 2017

Let me give you the scenario. I was 13 or 14 years old and my friend was on the phone wanting me to go to the movies with her. I was completely resentful of the time I was going to have to spend practicing instead of being able to go to the movies. You might have imagined that I always loved practicing, but my parents usually had to threaten me, even in my early teen years, in order to get me to practice. As far as I was concerned, practice equaled punishment.

Fast forward just a few years and I had figured out where the fun is in practicing. Even though I would occasionally be disappointed at missing time with my friends, I understood the big payoff in practicing. Of course, more of my friends were musicians, too, and had their own practice to do.

But the big attitude change for me happened when I took a different perspective on practice. I redefined what it meant as a concept, for my harp playing and for me personally.

One Definition of Practice

One common definition of...

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7 Surprising Benefits of Memorization

musicianship Mar 20, 2017

Do you memorize your music? You should.

Let me be clear. I don’t believe it’s necessary, or even desirable, to memorize every piece you learn or to play all your repertoire from memory. But I do think it’s a good idea to practice your memorization skills. And the best way to do that is…to memorize.

I have written before that memorization is less about remembering than it is about learning. That old phrase about knowing something “by heart” speaks to the essence of memorization done the right way.  When you have truly memorized your music, you have learned it so well that it has deep roots inside you.  Your knowledge of the music is not superficial, accidental or merely “in your fingers.” It is not just muscle memory. It is more than intellectual understanding. It is visceral.

Many students need to be convinced to try memorizing their music. Those who sightread easily may feel that taking the time to memorize slows down their...

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