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Listening With Your Third Ear

aural skills news Sep 24, 2018

Are you listening?

Good, because I want you to hear this: while practice, particularly properly focused practice, is the primary path to progress for any musician, the most important skill you can develop to propel you on that path is listening.

What makes listening so critical to your success?

First, it is your most important tool for identifying errors in your practice. If you don’t hear what is wrong, you can’t fix it.

Second, careful listening helps you match your actual playing to your ideal playing. You can assess your current skill level in relation to the way you want to play. Improvements in your tone, technique and expression, for instance, begin with hearing where you are now and comparing it with where you want to be. Once you hear an issue, you can create a plan to eliminate it.

Third, listening is perhaps the single most important skill in ensemble playing. Whether you are part of an orchestra, a harp ensemble or just playing with one other person, your...

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No Time to Practice? Try 15 Minutes!

news practicing Jul 16, 2018

You have no time to practice?

Perhaps you’re getting ready for a trip or you have a special project at work. Maybe a family member needs extra care right now. Or maybe things are just crazy.

Whatever the situation, if you can find 15 minutes, you can do enough practice to tide you over the busy period.

Can’t find 15 minutes? I can help you with that too. But first let’s talk about why that 15 minutes is critical.

If you’re like most musicians, you would like to be doing an hour or two of practice each day. When that hour is used efficiently, you can experience growth over time, developing your technique, expanding your repertoire, preparing music to perform. An hour may not be enough to accomplish everything you would like as quickly as you wish, but it will get the job done.

I know how frustrating it is to feel that you have no time to practice. When things feel out of control, it’s so easy to tell yourself, “I’ll get back to it next...

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Still Still Still

Still Still Still

Still, still, still,
One can hear the falling snow.

Some Christmas carols are joyous and celebratory.  Others reflect the peace that is also characteristic of the season. If “Silent Night” is perhaps the most well-known of those, the closest runner up would have to be the Austrian carol “Still, Still, Still,.”

The carol is a wiegenlied or cradle song with a traditional folk song melody. The tune sets the lullaby mood with a lilting arpeggio that calls to mind a mother’s soothing whispers to her child.  The original German lyrics bring those whispers to life, translating literally as “Hush, hush, hush, for the little child wants to sleep.”

Here are the English lyrics used most commonly:

Still, still, still

One can hear the falling snow

For all is hushed

The world is sleeping

Holy Star its vigil keeping

Still, still, still

One can hear the falling snow

Sleep, sleep, sleep

'Tis the eve of our...

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Etudes: The Case For and Against

news technique Oct 01, 2017

There are etudes, and then there are etudes.

In harp pedagogy, we have the basic fundamental studies like the Pozzoli etudes in the Grossi Metodo per Arpa and the flashy concert etudes of Zabel and Posse.

For those more familiar with the piano repertoire, these translate roughly as Czerny studies and Chopin etudes.

In fact, Chopin is likely the name we associate most with etudes, no matter what instrument we play. Chopin wrote 27 studies for the piano in the 1830’s and these works are legendary for their technical demands and musical depth.

But not all etudes are like that.

Some are written specifically to help us develop our technical skills. These are usually less musically rewarding, much shorter and less interesting to practice.

Still, etudes have been considered an important component in musical training for centuries. For instance, the keyboard studies written by 16th century Italian organist Girolamo Diruta (c. 1554-1610) are still considered significant today.

Despite...

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Create Your 90 Day Focus Plan

news practicing May 28, 2017

Your 90 Day Practice Plan - Perfect for Summer

In this video, you will discover:

  • Why I love setting goals in summer
  • The power of a 90 Day Goal
  • How to set a goal in one of the 3 Growth Areas
  • How to plan your steps toward your goal
  • How to use my two page 90 Focus Plan PDF to make it all happen

Click this link to download the free PDF.

Below is the transcript of the video and the links to the PDF mentioned. 

Here it is Memorial Day, the unofficial-official start of summer, and it's the time that I am setting my harp goals for the summer. Are you doing the same?

I think summer is the perfect time to set a goal. First of all it's that 3-month, 90-day window that is the ideal amount of time for setting a goal working through it, achieving it and then going on to the next thing.

Second of all, in the summer, even with all the vacation time or away time whatever else might happen, I have the extra energy to really focus on one thing. I focus on whatever the one thing is that's...

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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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Eliminate the Negative - 3 Bad Habits to Stop Now

 

The Andrews Sisters

"Accentuate the Positive, Eliminate the Negative..."

These motivational words are the opening lyrics of a 1945 song by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer The song won the Academy Award that year and was a huge hit for Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters.

Negative thinking is one of the hidden dangers in music practice. It can masquerade as perfectionism, striving to be your best, trying to make everything correct, even as being "objective" about your playing. And it is probably impossible to banish it entirely; after all, music is a demanding pursuit at any level.

But I feel it is important to recognize negative thinking and negative actions for what they are - self-sabotage. If we can acknowledge the ways in which we actively work against our own success, then we enable ourselves to defeat the negative and pursue a more positive course.  I'd like to suggest positive antidotes to three common (and sneaky!) negative habits.

Negative Habit 1: "I'll...
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3 Steps to Musical Success This Year

What would musical success look like for you this year?

I’m guessing that like the rest of us you have made some New Year’s resolutions, and that being a musician, some of those resolutions are about your musical growth. Whether it’s about doing more practice or learning a special piece or taking more frequent lessons, there is always a way we want to improve and grow musically.

But over the last few years, I have finally given up making resolutions, not because I don’t believe in setting goals, but because I find that the way in which we make resolutions leads more often to failure and disappointment than to success.

I am, however, a strong advocate of goal setting, although I have gained a new perspective on that as well. I am convinced that dream goals are important. Dream goals are those big pie-in-the-sky goals that make us smile when we think of them. But dream goals can also feel daunting just because they may seem too unrealistic.

For a musician,...

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Defeating the Holiday Music Madness

The holiday music season is in high gear!

Black Friday is not only the beginning of the holiday shopping season; it’s the start of the holiday music season. There are church programs, student recitals, parties, concerts, music gatherings of all kinds. The holidays are a special time and what makes that festive gathering extra special? Live music.

And what makes live music? It’s not a what; it’s a who. It’s you.

And now your music stand has overflowed into piles of music on the floor, all of which has to be practiced and performed in the space of a few weeks.

But this is not the time to panic. It’s time to plan and strategize so that you can practice, play and still enjoy the holidays. Yes, it is possible.

Read on for my tips to help you prepare to play well this month without stressing out or having to forgo holiday festivities.

  1. First, take care of yourself. Eat well. Sleep enough. Stick to your usual exercise routine. Read or meditate. You are the...
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