If there’s one thing you could say with certainty that all we harpists want, it’s being able to play the piece we’re working on. That’s why we started the harp, so we could play beautiful music on a beautiful instrument beautifully. But we all know the struggle it takes to make that happen. And we all know the frustration of persisting through the struggle and feeling defeated because there are two measures smack in the middle of the piece that just won’t work.
Call them what you will: problem spots, tricky spots, twisty measures, awkward passages, or maybe names that involve four-letter words. These spots are like a teenager’s pimples. They appear at the worst times and no matter what you do, you can’t really cover them up. They seem to last forever. And the more you mess with them the worse, the worse they get.
Fortunately, pimples do eventually go away. But problem measures won’t necessarily. I know that doesn’t seem like...
It’s Memorial Day today here in the U.S. and that marks the unofficial beginning of summer for us. The pace of life slows down a little, especially the pace of harp playing. The concert season is over, and although the wedding season has begun, you may be feeling a little at loose ends where your harp playing is concerned.
I realize it might not be summer where you are, but our topic today will be relevant for you too. I want to talk about what to practice when you don’t have anything to practice for.
When we have playing engagements on the calendar, it’s easy to know what to practice. While we’re busily learning all the music we need for that playing date, our practice time never seems long enough. We promise ourselves that as soon as things slow down, we’re going to really spend focused time working on our technique or our sight reading or improvisation or…
Those good intentions are a lot harder to act on when things really...
What always happens is…
That statement is one that I ask each harpist who enrolls in our Certified Coaching program to complete. Some harpists have no idea how to complete the statement, and I tell them that if they needed to answer it, they would know how. The harpists who need to complete that sentence, know it when they read it. These are the harpists who know that they have an issue with distraction.
It’s not a black mark against them, of course; distraction is an issue for all of us. But sometimes distraction becomes a roadblock instead of just a minor speed bump. It’s one thing to be distracted by a phone call from a friend when you were about to start practicing. It’s very different if you miss several days of practice each week because of phone calls. If those phone calls always happen, you have a distraction problem.
Naturally, phone calls aren’t the only kind of distraction problem. Today I want to get crystal clear about several common and...
It used to be somewhat fashionable to be a control freak, or at least to declare that you were.
It didn’t start out that way. According to Merriam-Webster, the term was first used in the 1970’s. It was the epithet of choice used to label those who belonged to the “Establishment” rather than to the free love “do your own thing” hippie generation. Then in the 1980’s, trends like power dressing and the rise of conservatism made controlling behavior look like something desirable, something to aspire to.
Today we understand the danger of controlling behaviors. So why do we still work so hard to control ourselves and the music we make?
I didn’t recognize some of my own control issues with regard to my music for a long time. Maybe you don’t see yours either, so let’s start with a few possibly revealing questions. See if you identify with any of these.
Music learning isn’t a race, we all know that. That doesn’t stop us from wanting to get to the finish line, to that magical moment when our piece is “done.”
Ironically, if you ask a group of harpists exactly what “done” means or how to tell when you get there, you’ll get a few very indeterminate answers and more than a few hems and haws. Is the finish line the point when you can play the piece with no - or with very few - mistakes? Is it when you have it memorized or when you’ve played it for an audience? Is it whenever you want it to be? Is it when you’re so sick and tired of practicing it that you just want to put it away?
When I started blogging in 2012, I had a mission to spread harp happiness, to help harpists enjoy their playing and their practice, to enable them to find and keep the joy in their harp playing. In my teaching in the years just prior to that, I had begun to notice an increasing number of...
Building a repertoire sounds like something only a master harpist would need to do. Yet all of us need to have music that we can play anytime and anywhere we want. But building a repertoire sounds like a huge project. I’m going to show you today that all you need to do to build - and more importantly, to maintain a repertoire - is one pen, 3 sticky notes and 5 minutes.
Impossible? Not impossible. In fact, we’re going to take the seemingly impossible task of building a repertoire and make it simple. It’s a little like turning a black diamond ski run into the bunny slope, or turning Mt. Everest into a molehill. Okay, maybe that’s a slight exaggeration but if you’ve ever struggled with having pieces ready to play at a moment’s notice or keeping those pieces you’ve finished in your fingers, you’re going to find today’s episode is a game changer.
One of the first coaching students I worked with online, and this was...
Do you have a daily warmup that you use to start your practice? If you do, I’m sure you rely on it to help you get your fingers and your focus ready for your practice session. That’s exactly what a good warmup should do, or at least that’s one of the primary functions of a warmup.
If you’ve worked with me as a student or in my online community or even if you’ve listened to this podcast for awhile, it will come as no surprise that I have fairly specific ideas about warmups: what they should and shouldn’t do, how long they should be, what their purpose is in relation to the rest of your practice. And naturally, I want to share those ideas with you today.
Today’s episode is a masterclass episode, meaning that it’s a “play along” episode. So you will not only learn my best warmup strategies, but you will get to try them out by playing along with me as you listen. If you’re not at your harp now, that’s ok; listen...
To paraphrase the 17h century English poet Andrew Marvell,
“Had we but world enough and time,
This scattered practice were no crime.”
Andrew Marvell was referring to “His Coy Mistress,” but we might well apply these lines to the kind of practice we so often find ourselves engaged in. It’s not that we don’t have goals or that we lack the ambition to improve and grow. It’s just that there is so much wonderful music in the world and we want to play it all. It’s a big feasting table and our eyes are bigger than our stomachs, or in this case, our collection of music we want to learn far exceeds our available time to learn it.
It wasn’t quite so difficult when we had no YouTube, no Instagram and no TikTok to bombard us with videos that make us musically hungry. Instant sheet music downloads are a threat to our practice capacity as well. When we had to leaf through a paper catalog of music and order an expensive book that may take days...
By the beginning of February, I’m done with winter. The holiday playing is long over; spring is still weeks away, no matter what the groundhog said. I’m feeling the winter blahs, and not just in the day-to-day things. This is the time of year when my practice can suffer from the blahs too.
Have you ever noticed how when you have important things to practice for, you enjoy your practice more? You have more energy for it, because there’s a good reason to practice. It’s never a struggle to practice when you have a lesson or a performance coming up. But it can be hard to drag yourself to the harp bench if there’s nothing on the calendar. If you have nothing to practice for, it’s quite possible you have no energy for practice.
Practice is certainly easier to do when you know you simply have to practice. But what if you don’t have to practice? How do you stay motivated and energized?
The simple answer is that you might not be able to stay...
As you probably know, one of my words for 2023 is freedom. It’s a motivational word, meaning the idea of freedom energizes me. It’s an aspirational word, meaning I want to experience the feeling of freedom every day. Most importantly, it’s an action word. I want to actively bring more freedom into all areas of my life and into the lives of those around me. That includes you, my friend. And that’s where freedom in our harp playing comes in.
I’m on a mission to set harpists free from the tyranny of some of the things that keep them from achieving what they want in their harp playing. That’s the main focus for the webinar I’ll be presenting soon on Creating Harp Freedom. I’ll be talking about some of the hidden enemies of progress and what you can actually do to defeat them.
But in assembling the materials for that webinar, I realized that there is one enemy that many harpists face, one that is too big to be covered thoroughly in...
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