Be prepared, the famous Boy Scout motto. I’m thinking that Boy Scouts have nothing on harpists when it comes to being prepared. We harpists have preparation down, whether it is preparing our music, or stocking spare strings or packing our harp bag. However, there are times when even the best preparation doesn’t help, and you might be about to experience one of those times. Let’s call it the “Christmas Snowball.”
The Christmas Snowball shows up when the church music director decides that since you are playing the harp for the service and you’re there anyway, it would be a shame not to use the harp for every musical moment possible. So what started as a simple request - would you come and play the harp for one anthem with the choir on Christmas Eve? - snowballs into an additional anthem, various choral responses during the service, three carols with the congregation, a prelude selection or two, and of course, playing Silent Night during the...
What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? Climbing Mt. Everest? Swimming the English Channel? Raising a teenager?
Ok. I haven’t done the first two, but I survived raising a teenager and I think it ranks right up there near the top of the list of hardest things. I actually found a website the other day that listed someone else’s ideas of the hardest things to do in life. None of the ones I mentioned were on their list, but there were some that hit home, particularly as I was thinking about this podcast topic. One of them was giving up comfort, getting out of your comfort zone.
Sharing your music - playing in front of other people - is out of the comfort zone for most of us. When we play for others we are making ourselves vulnerable. It isn’t just about playing well, although that always helps. It’s also about feeling, however wrongly, that we are being judged, and that we may be found unworthy. It’s about revealing our artistic side,...
Do you feel like you’re failing yourself in your practice?
Maybe you feel your practice isn’t as consistent or as focused as it should be. Perhaps even when you have enough time to practice, you’re finding it difficult to get started. You might find yourself sitting down to practice and using all your time deciding what you should be doing. You end up feeling confused, frustrated and tired instead of energized and excited about playing the harp.
And then you skip a day of practice. Then another day. Then you really mean to get back to it, but something urgent crops up that absolutely requires your attention. Then you start to dread getting back to practice because you know it’s going to sound terrible. Even worse, you feel guilty for having it let slip.
Does this sound like you? Don’t think I have some magical power to get inside your head. I could tell your story so well because it’s been my own experience too. I don’t feel good about my...
A long time ago, I attended a concert by a famous pianist, and I overheard two audience members talking about how impressed they were, how the performer’s virtuosity and expressiveness showed true mastery of the instrument. And then I heard the comment that stuck with me: “He could make ‘Hot Cross Buns’ sound like a musical masterpiece.”
If you took piano lessons as a child, chances are that you played the nursery song “Hot Cross Buns” in your first few weeks of study. The melody only has five notes. It couldn’t be more simple.
But this idea made me consider what I believe is a common misconception among harpists who want to develop a repertoire of music. Whether their repertoire would be geared toward concerts or weddings or church music or local senior centers, harpists usually overcomplicate things. Naturally, we want to present music that our audiences will like and we want to play it well, but often we make it much harder for...
Benjamin Franklin, who had a note-worthy thought about almost everything, authored this famous truth: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”
Preparation is everything. We harpists understand that our practice is our preparation. We won’t be able to play well if we don’t practice. We get it.
But if you’ve been playing the harp for a while now, you have probably experienced the painful flip side. I’m talking about the realization that even with all the hours of practice you put into a particular piece, you aren’t guaranteed to be able to play it as well as you expect under pressure.
After an experience like that, most of us decide to double down on our practice, thinking we weren’t prepared enough. We hope that we have hit on the magic number - of hours or repetitions or practice sessions - that will be the perfect preparation. Maybe it works. Maybe it doesn’t.
So if practice is preparation, why...
It’s all in your mind. No, I don’t mean you’re going crazy. I’m sure you’ve come across the well-worn statement that 90% of performance, whether in sports or music or any similar pursuit, is mental. The idea, of course, is that your mental preparation, your mindset and your focus all are major factors in the success of your performance.
Even if the actual percentage may be hard to pin down, the idea is undoubtedly true. Our minds are powerful contributors to our success or our failure. Just look at the number of books and blogs devoted to this concept, from the iconic book The Inner Game of Tennis to Noa Kageyama’s insightful blog The Bulletproof Musician. (By the way, I’ve linked to both of those resources in the show notes for you.)
Today, however, I don’t want to dive into performance psychology. I want to deal with something much more practical, something you probably have heard about and wondered how to implement: mental...
Today’s show is a special one. It’s a peek inside our My Harp Mastery membership. You’ll be hearing part of a recording of one of our Monday calls. On this call, our topic was three skills that are vital for your harp playing success, in particular memorizing, practicing for flow and continuity, and sharing music with friends. These skills may not sound very exciting, but I really want to share this call with you because I talk about ways to look at your harp playing that may be very different from the way you usually think about your practice and playing. It was an eyeopener for some of our My Harp Mastery members, and I hope it will inspire you as well.
Because this is a recording of a call, you’ll hear me reference some materials that our members have access to but which I can’t share with you here on the podcast. Also, I am talking about these three skills in relation to one of our My Harp Mastery resources, the Scale of Success. This is a...
Christmas in July has become “a thing.”
The official story is that Christmas in July was first celebrated at a summer camp in Brevard, North Carolina in 1933. Being a classic film fan, I knew that Christmas in July was already popular by 1940, due to the film with that title. But now July is nearly as popular for Christmas as December and I’m beginning to think that we will soon see stores moving their Christmas sales from August into July.
Of course, for us harpists, summer is a great time to pull out that Christmas repertoire. In the slower days of summer, we can dedicate some practice time to refreshing and renewing our holiday hits list.
But you don’t have to immerse yourself in “Winter Wonderland” and “Jingle Bells’" or even “Silent Night” to put a little Christmas into your summer. If you’re the type who loves holiday music, then by all means dive in with extra mistletoe and holly. But if...
If you’re finally ready to think about making videos of yourself playing the harp, all I can say is, “Welcome to the party!”
You may have been one of the reluctant ones, thinking the technology was going to be too daunting. Or maybe your barrier to entry has been the fact that you just weren’t ready - until now, that is - to share your music on the wild wide-open worldwide web.
Possibly you were one of those who found the idea of making videos intriguing, but when it came down to actually doing it, you found the process surprisingly difficult.
What I'd like to do in this podcast episode is to help you through the challenges of making videos of yourself. While I’ll touch on a couple of tech-related topics, our focus today is really going to be you, what you need to do to prepare you and your music for making a video or even just an audio recording.
I’ve made numerous CDs and obviously I do a lot of video too, and I learned mostly the...
What are your plans for your harp playing this summer?
Do you have pieces you want to learn, maybe Christmas music you want to get a head start on? Do you have a few exercise or etude books that you plan to get through so your fingers will finally do what you want? Are you thinking summer is a great time to learn your key signatures or chords or improve your note reading or learn to improvise? Or maybe all of the above?
If your summer harp list looks anything like this, let me hear you say, “Amen.”
Most of us start out the summer with big plans, and not just for our harp playing. We have this imaginary idea that summer is endless and less busy and we’ll have time to get to all those things we can’t manage in the other three seasons. That’s a classic example of wishful thinking. Life doesn’t really slow down just because the days are longer and warmer. What usually does slow down is our drive to achieve, and that’s actually a healthy...