Practicing Harp Happiness:
Practice and Performing Collection

Stop going around in circles and learn to play the music you love with confidence.

Episode #149: Stick It! Your Guide to Secure Finger Placing

We harpists take our finger placement seriously. Getting the right fingers on the right strings at the right time is paramount. One misplaced finger and a whole passage can go wobbly.

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Episode #148: 10 Surprising Benefits of Practice Bursts

Call me crazy if you want. I know your ideal day might be a day at the spa, or sitting on the beach with a good book, or going for a hike in the mountains. Although those all sound good to me, my ideal day - or at least one of my ideal days - would be a day when I could practice all day.

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Episode #147: How to Study a Piece: Look, Listen and Apply

My husband’s family is German, and even before we were married I discovered that one of the things I had long heard about German housewives was true, at least in my mother-in-law’s house: Germans take a clean house seriously.

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Episode #143: How To Improve Anything - Including Your Harp Playing

Today I’m going to tell you how to improve anything. I know that sounds like a tall order, but we harpists are all about improvement. Every day in every way we want to get better and better. Many of us like this idea too: slow and steady wins the race. Yes, but remember tortoises live for a very long time. They can afford to take only the slow and steady approach. Some of us have a little shorter time frame in mind.

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Episode #141: 3 Great Ways to Start a New Piece - and 1 Terrible One

I might as well get this out of the way. This is going to be one of those podcasts that sounds like it’s telling you you’re doing it all wrong and you’ve been doing it wrong for years. I say it’s going to sound like that, but I want to be clear that’s not the point of our topic today. The real point is finding a path to growth, a path forward, and often finding a path forward means doing something different

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Episode #139: 7 Ways You Could be Using Your Practice Time Better

At its most fundamental, music is sound over time. When you take away the rich harmonies, soaring melodies, complex structures and intricate rhythms, that’s all you have left: sound over time. It doesn’t sound very creative or artistic, but those two elements are the basis of all music. How any single performer combines them is where the artistry lies.

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Episode #138: Creating True Confidence; Why the Little Engine that Could Got It Wrong

The Little Engine That Could was just plain lucky. If you remember that children’s book, when the little engine had to take over for the bigger engines to pull the train loaded with toys over the mountain, he kept telling himself, “I think I can,” even though it seemed clear he was much too small to succeed.

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Episode #134: Creating Stillness When You Need It Most

As I look back over 11 years of blogging and podcasting, there are some trends I notice, topics I talk about with regularity and even predictability according to the seasons. Of course, it’s not a surprise that in December one of the topics that is on my mind - and I’m guessing on yours too - is about keeping your sanity during the holiday rush.

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Episode #133: The Christmas Snowball: How to Handle Last-Minute Requests

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.”

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Episode #129: Performance Preparation: The Yin, the Yang and You

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever done? Climbing Mt. Everest? Making your first million dollars? 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.

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Episode #127: How to Set a Practice Schedule that Will Stick

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.

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Episode #124: How to Play Any Piece More Musically

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.”

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Episode #121: Being Prepared: When Practice Is Not Enough

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.

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Episode #119: Going Mental: How to Practice Without Your Harp

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.

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Episode #115: Rounding Up! 3 Non-Technical Skills For Success

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.

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Episode #114: 7 Ways to Prepare Holiday Music Now (Without Having to Practice Jingle Bells Again)

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.

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Episode #112: Video Confident: Empowering Tips for Frustration-Free Video Creation

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.

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Episode #110: Play Your Way to Progress: How NOT to Practice This Summer

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?

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Episode #107: A Cure For The Spots: How To Solve Those Problem Measures

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.

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Episode #106: 7 Things to Practice When You Don’t Have Anything To Practice For

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.

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Episode #104: What’s Getting In Your Way? How To Turn Distraction Into Action

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.

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Episode #103: 4 Lessons From a Reformed Control Freak

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.

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Episode #100: How to Get to the Finish Faster

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.

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Episode #099: The Shortcut Way To Build And Maintain A Repertoire

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.

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Episode #098: Masterclass Episode: Warmups With A Focus

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.

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Episode #093: Priority Practice: Learning How to Do One Thing at a Time

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.

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Episode #090: Blast the Practice Blahs: How To Practice When You Don’t Have To

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.

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Episode #087: Breaking Free From Perfectionism

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.

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Episode #085: Use The One-Two Punch To Plan Your Harp Growth in 2023

I attended one professional boxing match in my life. The reason I went was that a former harp student of mine was making her professional boxing debut. As you might imagine, I felt a little out of my element in the boxing club, which was actually one of the legendary boxing clubs in Philadelphia, but I had never been there before. And I’ve never been there since. What surprised me most was that I could actually relate to the experience a little, not because of my martial arts training, but because of my music training.

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Episode #080: Are You Taking Too Long to Learn That Piece?

“How long should it take to learn a piece?” I am asked that question so many times and every time my heart sinks. Why? First of all, there’s that word “should.” There are no “shoulds” in the learning process. The word “should” leads to the idea that there is one standard against which we could judge our efforts and which we could use to plan our music learning. 

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Episode #076: Are You In the Zone or Zoning Out?

What’s the big deal about being “in the zone” and how do you get there? You might have heard the zone described as total focus, as losing your sense of time and space, of being completely absorbed in what you’re doing. People use phrases like, “being able to perform with total concentration” or “losing all awareness of one’s self.” It’s also called a “state of flow.”

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Episode #075: Ditch the Drills: 3 Better Ways to Practice

Who wants a better way to practice? Yes, please! While it's true that music practice necessarily involves a lot of repetition and drill, there are better - and definitely worse - ways to go about it. Consider how many times you have gotten up from the harp bench having spent an hour on those four nearly impossible measures and come back the next day to feel like you’re starting back at square one again. I feel your pain, my friend, I’ve been there.

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Episode #072: Divide and Conquer: How to Practice a Piece in Sections

Have you ever wanted someone to just give you a system for learning a piece of music, a system that would work for every piece, every time? Me too. But there isn’t one. Ok, don’t give up on me yet. I do have one that will work for most pieces, most of the time, and I’m going to teach that to you today.

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Episode #070: Why You Might Be Missing Your Goals

Have you ever looked at your closet full of clothes and said, “But I don't have anything to wear”? Maybe you've looked at that big stack of music next to your harp and said, “But I don't have anything I can play!” I don’t know which is more frustrating. Actually, I do.

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Episode #069: Steps to Taking the Plunge into the Digital World with Kristina Finch

Today we’re talking technology, the technology that has changed the lives of harpists everywhere. It’s the world of digital sheet music - PDFs, tablets, computers, foot pedals, all the things that have made thick binders of sheet music a distant memory - thankfully! - for so many of us. Consider how an innovation works. Usually it doesn’t change the world all at once. The Wright brothers managed to get their airplane off the ground, but it took a lot of time and development before the general public could fly coast to coast.

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Episode #063: Practice Prescription: What to Do When Nothing Is Working

Here is a cry for help that I received from one of our coaching students recently: “I'm feeling discouraged because I don't feel that I'm making the progress I want. No fault of my coach, she's excellent! I feel like I'll have really effective practice days then go backwards.” We had a check-in call scheduled, so we were able to talk through some of her concerns, but I think what made the most difference to her was simply knowing that she is not alone, that we all feel this way sometimes, and that the backwards slide is actually a necessary part of the learning process.

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Episode #060: Enjoy a Guilt-Free, Harp-Free Vacation with the Perfect Re-Entry Plan

Summer is definitely here, at least where I live. The sun is shining, the grass is tall, the roadside vegetable stands are back in business. The bees buzz busily in the daytime and the fireflies make each night sparkle. It’s time for picnics and trips to the seashore. It’s also time to prepare for the end of summer, at least where your harp playing is concerned.

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Episode #057: The Success Habit: How to Fuel Your Courage, Confidence and Creativity

What is success when it comes to harp playing? And is it something you’re really interested in anyway? Success is a loaded word. It’s easy to imagine success only in terms of applause, record deals and bouquets of flowers, even if we know that’s a Hollywood-style illusion. 

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Episode #056: Learning versus Practice: Which End of the Binoculars Do You Use?

I love silly jokes, and I hope you do too, because I’m going to share one with you now. Here goes: How do you catch an elephant? You hide in some tall grass and make a sound like a peanut. When the elephant comes by you look through the wrong end of your binoculars, pick him up with a pair of tweezers and put him in a pickle jar. Silly joke, right? But it’s appropriate for our show today. We are going to be talking about how we learn a piece or how we practice it, which may be slightly different.

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Episode #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.

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Episode #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.

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Episode #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.

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Episode #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.

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Episode #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.

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Episode #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.

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

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.

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Episode #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.

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Episode #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.

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Episode #027: Cure the Carol Blahs 

Strategies for Practicing Music You Know Too Well. 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.

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Episode #026: Memorization: The Three Methods (and the Only One That Works)

Memorizing your music isn't essential, but developing your memorization skills IS. Memorization isn't just for people who want to play without music. It’s also a proven practice technique that creates critical connections between what you play and what you hear which translate into faster learning and longer retention. Even if you can’t remember what you had for breakfast you can learn to memorize - if you use the only method which really works!

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Episode #023: Practice It or Personalize It: How To Know If A Piece Really Too Hard For You

Maybe the piece is too hard for you. You could soldier on or you could put it away for later. Which choice do you make? Neither choice is satisfying. Instead of battling on or conceding defeat, you could choose to fix the problem. Asking the right questions will show you what you need to do to eliminate the obstacles so you can play the piece confidently and with pride. In this episode I will share six key questions and the all-important answers.

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Episode #022: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: How To Review Your Pieces For This Holiday Season

Too much music and not enough time? Here’s the solution you’ve been waiting for. While this holiday season may not have as many performances as other years, preparing all your music is still a mammoth task. You know the secret is in organizing it properly, but somehow every year you’ve indeed up scrambling to get it all done.

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Episode #019: Goal Setting For Harpists 4: Knowing When You Get There

If you ask a professional harpist how she plans her practice, she probably won’t be able to tell you. But ask her what she does every day and she’ll tell you her favorite routine, what she does first and what is the most important part of her practice. Pros learn how to practice efficiently and how to get consistent results from their practice. If you’ve ever wondered if you’re missing something in your practice, this episode is for you.

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Episode #018: Goal Setting For Harpists 3: Create and Protect Your Plan

Case Study: A 90 Day Goal In Action: On this show, I present a case study of a student whose 90 Day Goal was to improve her skill in playing hands together. You’ll see the plan come together as I walk you through each step of the goal setting process from idea to action. You’ll also learn how to adapt this plan for a different skill or change it for your personal learning style, along with critical safeguards to put in place to ensure your success.

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Episode #015: Do You Fall into the Practice Gap? 3 Steps to Finishing Your Music Faster

Have you spent weeks or months practicing your piece and it still isn’t ready to play? You have fallen into the Practice Gap!
The Practice Gap is the divide between making your music better and making it music. If you’re taking longer than four weeks to finish a piece, you’re in serious danger of being stuck on the wrong side. Revamp your practice system so you never have to worry about getting tired of your piece before you can actually play it.

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Episode #012: Three Steps to More Confidence (and Better Harp Playing)

Confidence isn’t something you're born with; it’s something you build. It’s gradually formed from experience. It’s bolstered with successes and sharpened with failures. If lack of confidence is holding you back, you have the whole thing backwards.

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Episode #008: Harp Playing Hiccups: How to Make Your Music Flow

I used to worry about getting the hiccups while playing a concert. Fortunately, those hiccups never happened. But I have had plenty of musical hiccups and maybe you have too. It’s time to make our music flow.

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Episode #005: How to Know if Your Music is Done

Do you have nothing to play except a drawerful of half-baked pieces?
You’ve practiced hard to learn your piece. Now what do you do with it, especially if you aren’t planning to perform it? Keep practicing, and if so, for how long? Put it away?

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Episode #002: How to Have a Perfect Harp Lesson

Every harpist wants to play well for her teacher. Somehow, though, we always find ourselves explaining that we played so much better at home.

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Episode #001: Find Your Practice Style: Style No. 3 "The Beagle"

We harpists all have our own practice style. You might not have thought about it until you discovered some of your harp friends have very different ways of practicing. Maybe this made you wonder if you’re practicing the right way or doing it all wrong.

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