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Practicing Harp Happiness

#051: Get Out of Your Own Way: The Story of the Sacrificial Leaf

Are you trying to do too much? 

As a harpist or harp student, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed. There is so much music to learn, so many skills to develop, so much technique work you need to do and not nearly enough time to do it all.

If this sounds distressingly familiar, I have good news and bad news. 

The good news is that this is totally fixable. The bad news is that only you can fix it.

Don’t give up yet though, I do have powerful suggestions and advice for you today that will help you figure out what is really important for you to practice and what isn’t. My guess is that about half of what most of us practice daily isn’t really essential or helpful. That’s a scary idea! 

Stop for a moment and imagine the implications of that. It could very well be that you’re spending an hour of practice and getting only 30 minutes worth of results. You think you’re using your time well, but you may be doing too many repetitions or...

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#045: Bridging the Gap Between Practicing and Playing

Practice makes perfect.
Perfect practice makes perfect.
Exactly what are we making perfect?

There is truth in those two statements but they are misleading too in a potentially dangerous way.

The truth is that how we practice determines how we play.

The danger comes if we take this to mean that if our playing isn’t as perfect as we want it, we haven’t practiced hard enough. So when our playing falls short of our expectations, we practice longer or more carefully or with more grit and determination. Longer practice can lead to injury or boredom. Practice focused on being correct often fails to be musical. And grit and determination are not conducive to beautiful, relaxed harp playing.

But there is one kind of practice that causes our practice to translate into the kind of playing we want. If we practice in this way, we play better in our lessons, we are more relaxed and we are able to be more expressive. 

This kind of practice is absolutely critical to our success, to...

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#042: Use Your Practice Time Wisely - Even If You Can Never Stick To a Plan

Sometimes planning is counterproductive. 

I know this sounds strange coming from me because I am a huge advocate of having a plan and working the plan when it comes to your practice. That’s truly the secret of being able to play the music you want and creating harp happiness over the long haul.  There’s power in a well-conceived and consistently executed plan, particularly when it comes to your practice.

But planning doesn’t come naturally for everyone. The good news is that it isn’t the only path to progress. 

In my house, my husband is the true planner. For example, while I was working on this podcast, he was browsing the web, planning out activities to schedule for a trip we have coming up. I like to do my research on these things too, but he likes to have everything planned out day by day as soon as possible. I prefer to get where we’re going and get the feel of the place before I make my decisions. I want to get my bearings, to sort...

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#041: Your Questions Answered: Questions From The Podcast Email

Today’s show is dedicated to you, the podcast listener. I have gathered some of the most interesting questions from our podcast inbox and I will be answering them in this episode. 

After all, advice is only good if it’s the advice you need when you need it. Obviously, a podcast isn’t the same as individual instruction, or having your harp teacher on speed dial, but it’s important to me to talk about the topics that matter to you, those things that will make a difference in your harp playing. That’s one of the reasons I like to give you an action step or two with each podcast. Taking action, doing something rather than just talking about it, is how progress happens. It’s how we grow. Just think; if we only talked about practicing and never actually did it, our harp playing would never improve. In fact, it would start to wither and die. 

If being a harpist - or harper if that’s more “you” - is part of who you are, then...

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#040: Moving Up: How to Find the Next Rung of the Ladder

Today you are going to get a promotion. Or rather, today I am going to give you a promotion. Or even better, today you are going to give yourself a promotion.

A promotion is exciting. It may come with a new title, or a certificate or a diploma. It likely entails new responsibilities and new challenges as well as new and as yet unimagined opportunities. It signifies a higher level of competence and the confidence that others, at least, have in your achievements to date and in your potential. And that gold star, that new job title, that salary raise is proof of your accomplishment.

But where is the proof of your harp accomplishment? How do you know that you’re making progress, or keeping pace with whatever goals or timelines you have set for yourself? Where’s the guidebook that says, “You are here,” and shows you how to get to “there?” 

Yes, we do have some ways to gauge our progress. Music exam systems, like the ABRSM or RCM exams, provide an...

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#038: Kaleidoscope Practice: Focusing On What Matters

Imagine you found yourself stranded alone on a deserted island. It’s a beautiful place or it would be if you knew a little more about it. Are there dangerous animals or poisonous plants? How will you survive? You need food, clothing and shelter, but you have no idea how to provide them for yourself. Out of necessity, you begin carefully and slowly, learning just as slowly by sometimes painful trial and error. 

Sometimes harp practice can feel like that deserted island. You tune the harp and sit down ready to work. But you don’t have a clear direction. You don’t know if you’re doing the right things the right way. And there’s no one by your side to give you advice.  You have plenty of notes from your last lesson, but essentially your teacher told you what to work on or accomplish, not so much actually how to do it. Are you wasting your practice time?

On the other hand, you’ve probably experienced the feeling after a lesson where your...

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#037: Playing Without Fear: My No-Sweat Performance System

Let’s face facts: performing is scary. 

Even though you’ve practiced that piece a million times and a million different ways and you feel you know it backwards, forwards and inside out, there are so many variables in a performance situation that it’s no wonder we’re scared. 

Yes, there are ways to “bulletproof” your music and yourself. But that’s not what today’s show is about. Today we are putting the focus on the fear itself. That feeling of fear is real, even though we can tell ourselves there isn’t anything to be actually afraid of. We are going to call out the fear we feel, bring it into the light, give it a name and learn how to get past it.

We’re not talking about perfection here. We’re talking about management: of your fear, your expectations, your adrenalin, your focus. And while I can’t guarantee that you won’t have any fear, I can promise you that the strategies we will talk about...

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#033: Choosing Your Next Step: How to Eat an Elephant

The energy of the New Year can be a trap as our good intentions become overwhelming. We burden ourselves with too many resolutions, too many projects and too many brilliant ideas. That’s the fast track to disappointment.

Today Anne explains why the best strategy for harp success in the new year is a one step at a time approach. Choosing your next best step and creating a plan to ensure you take that step are key to your harp happiness this year.

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected]

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#031: Relax, Review, Enjoy: A Practice Plan for the Holidays

Is holiday harping making you stressed? As the angel said, “Fear not!”

We all find it difficult to find practice time during the holidays, even though this is the time we need to keep our fingers ready to play. In this episode of the podcast you will discover a stress-free practice plan that will keep you in shape, no matter how many cookies you still need to bake. All it takes is a few minutes and a little planning.

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected]

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#027: Cure the Carol Blahs: Strategies for Practicing Music You Know Too Well

If you find it difficult to practice Christmas Carols, you are not alone.

Reviewing holiday music is an unusual kind of challenge. Everyone knows the songs so well we dread making even a single mistake. But we know them so well we practice on autopilot. On today’s show I share how to do the practice you need and still keep the holiday spirit with three simple strategies that make even the most tired carol (or any music) fun to practice and play.

Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 

Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at [email protected]

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