Practicing Harp Happiness:
Technique and Musicianship Collection

Sharpen the practical skills you need to be a better harpist and musician.

Episode #067: 7 Ingredients of a Glorious Glissando

Here’s a riddle for you: What can go up or down but never side to side, can be like a gale-force wind or a whisper of a breeze, and is easy to do when you don’t know how and much harder when you do? I’ll bet you got it in one guess - it’s a glissando. In case you didn’t get it, here’s why a glissando is the right answer.

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Episode #066: Hands in the Air: Raising and the Art of Letting Go

Form follows function. I expect you’re familiar with that quote but you may not know the entire context. The phrase is a vast simplification of an idea put forth by architect Louis Sullivan, mentor to Frank Lloyd Wright, in his 1896 article titled “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered.” Working from an idea of the ancient Roman architect Vitruvius that a building should be solid, useful and beautiful, Sullivan developed his overriding philosophy, what he called the single "rule that shall permit of no exception."

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Episode #064: Spice Up Your Scales for Technique, Flexibility and Speed

Scales are so simple on the harp. Unlike on other instruments all our scales have the same fingering. I remember being a young piano student and struggling with the fingering patterns that seemed different for each major and minor key. Those black and white keys caused a lot of fingering complications. But on the harp, all our scales are fingered exactly alike. All the changes are in our levers or pedals, not our fingers. It couldn't get any easier.

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#059: Confused About Markings? 10 Common Harp Markings Explained!

If the fairy godmother of harp appeared today to grant you just one wish, what would it be? Would you wish for a new harp, flying fingers, an endless supply of music? I know what I would wish for: standardized harp markings.

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Episode #058: Quick Fix Episode: Fixing 3 Common Thumb Issues

Today's episode is a brand-new podcast feature, a “Quick Fix'' episode. These are special episodes designed to take your harp learning out of the realm of the theoretical and get totally practical. It’s obviously not enough just to know why something is important, although that’s a great place to start. Sooner or later you have to actually do whatever it is, and for that you need to know how

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Episode #053: How to Add Color and Variety to Your Sound

My harp teacher could make any harp sound amazing. I was astounded every time I heard her do it. On the occasions when she came to my house and played my harp, her magical touch on my very ordinary harp brought it to life in a way my practice never did. And it was MY harp! My teacher was Marilyn Costello. She studied with Carlos Salzedo at the Curtis Institute of Music and had a lifetime career as principal harpist with the Philadelphia Orchestra. And she had the warmest, richest, most liquid tone I have ever heard.

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Episode #052: Need a Fix? Try My Favorite Exercises!

There will never be a shortage of exercise books. As long as there are harpists, they will want to develop a more facile technique to make their playing easier, faster, more fluid and more musical. Scales and arpeggios will always be staples of our technical work but obviously, there is so much more that goes into harp technique. And with the plethora of choices of exercise, etude and method books, where does a harpist start?

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Episode #050: Metronome Methods For The Unconvinced

Tick, tick, tick, tick…the constant click of a metronome could conceivably drive a person crazy. I am now - although I wasn’t always - a metronome fan. Though this may sound crazy to some of you, the metronome is my favorite practice tool because it helps me fix errors, create flow and it gives me time to play a piece or a tricky passage correctly.

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Episode #049: It’s All in the Wrist: The Crucial Link

Do you suffer from uneven scales, particularly when you cross under or over? Do your fingers sometimes fumble to find the strings? Is your tone warm and lovely some of the time and other times thin or weak? Have the drills you’ve tried made no real difference? Here’s the miracle solution to all these problems… and more!

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Episode #047: Left Hand Literacy: Skills Your Left Hand Is Missing

Does your left hand struggle to keep up? Your right hand seems to have its act together, but your left hand always takes longer to feel comfortable with the notes, no matter what piece you’re learning. Are you thinking that I have a hidden camera in your practice room? Not at all; it’s simply that I have had my own left hand issues too.

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Episode #044: Five Fingering Rules You Need to Break

Ask a group of harpists what the hardest part of playing the harp is and you’ll get a lot of different answers: the technique, playing hands together, reading the notes, playing chords, putting on a new string, or maybe even moving the harp. Every harpist has his or her own bugaboo, a particular challenge in their playing. But we all agree that one of the trickiest parts of playing the harp is the fingering.

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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 #039: Love Your Chords! 3 Ways To Make Them Lush and Lovely

You and your harp are the perfect Valentine’s love story. You met your harp, fell in love and the rest is history. When I talk about harp happiness here on the podcast and elsewhere, I’m talking about that love connection you have with your harp - that magical feeling that you began with and about continuing that feeling, deepening it, nourishing it, helping it flourish.

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Episode #036: Sight Reading Should Be Easy: 4 Simple Strategies

Does sight reading scare you? Do you wish you could instantly play any new piece you want to learn, even just enough to get the idea of how it sounds? Being able to read music fluently and learn it quickly is a “someday” skill for many harpists. Fortunately, you can improve your sight reading with a few essential skills that you are probably already practicing. The dramatic and nearly instant results will amaze you!

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Episode #034: Tweaking Your Technique: 3 Ways to Level Up

Is your technique your biggest harp issue?
Perhaps you know your technique is holding you back. Maybe you know you need to find the next level but aren’t sure how to get there.
Today Anne reveals three ways to level up your technique and free your fingers to do your bidding. The good news? You might be doing the right things already. The better news? A faster, more accurate and secure technique is just a few simple tweaks away.

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Episode #028: Expression from the Ground Up: Form and Flow

The most powerful musical expression isn’t created by magic. It’s written into each note. It’s up to the performer to discover it and bring it to life. If you’ve ever questioned your expressive choices or felt uncomfortable making those choices, today’s show reveals how to discover the composer’s intention and interpret it with creativity and confidence. Plus I’ll show you where to look - and listen - for the hidden expressive clues in any piece.

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Episode #024: Glorious Glissandi: Your Essential Practice Guide

Without question, the glissando is the signature harp sound. It’s likely the very first thing you ever tried when you first touched a harp. It’s equally likely that at this point in your harp journey you have questions about how to make them sound glorious. On today’s show I will share the expressive secrets to a sweeping glissando plus the technical specifics. Whether your favorite term is glissando, sdrucciolando or flux, you can make it magical.

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Episode #021: Music For The Ears: Are We Too Visual?

I used to listen. For instance, when I first started playing the harp there were no electronic tuners; I had to learn to tune by ear. I am convinced we harpists have lost some essential listening skills. What role does listening play in your daily practice? I believe listening is too often the last resort. On today’s show I suggest some practical strategies for making focused listening and informed musicianship part of your harp playing every day.

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Episode #020: Finger Agility For The Accident Prone: Your Guide To More Facile Fingers

Do you think you’re too old or too uncoordinated to have agile fingers? Think again. Agile fingers aren’t just for the young or the gifted and they don’t happen by magic. Developing finger facility is key to faster learning and more stumble-free playing. Listen and discover the three things you need to stop doing and the three you need to start doing now to teach your fingers to play with more speed and security at any age.

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Episode #017: Goal Setting For Harpists 2: Choose Goals You Can Meet

The first step in achieving a harp goal is believing you can achieve it. On this show I interview Houston harpist and Harp Mastery® Certified Coach Caitlin Mehrtens. Caitlin is expert at helping her students succeed and she shares her advice on how to choose the right goals for you, as well as the two most powerful factors for success.

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Episode #016: Goal Setting For Harpists 1: The Four Levels of Goals

Do you resist setting goals for your harp playing? Maybe setting goals feels like it will stifle your creativity or take the fun out of your harp playing. Maybe you think goals are only for “serious” harpists. This show reveals why goals are crucial for every harpist who wants to improve.

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Episode #014: Taming the Terrible Thumb: 3 Secretes to a Musical Thumb

Is your thumb timid or a tyrant?
We harpists rely on our thumbs - just try playing a scale without them. They are our longest fingers and undoubtedly our strongest. They double our reach on the harp strings. But how musical are your thumbs? In this episode, I will show you how your thumbs can be expressive with a supple, fluid sound that can make a melody sing or blend in beautifully with your other fingers, and how to fix common thumb problems.

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Episode #013: Master Your Metronome: Do's and Don'ts for Metronome Haters

Which would you choose: practicing with the metronome or sitting through your kid's favorite cartoon AGAIN?
If the metronome feels like torture, this show will save you from going click crazy. The metronome isn't just for playing fast; it's for creating time to be correct and musical too. You'll learn the proper (and nearly painless) ways to use the metronome - not as a paperweight- and save tons of practice time too! You can play along with me too!

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Episode #010: Beyond Dynamics: 3 Keys to More Musical Harp Playing

Musicality is so much more than dynamics. It is truly our own self-expression, our individuality revealed through our music. In our role as interpreters of music written by others, we often limit ourselves to following the indications the composer has written on the page. But with so many more tools and options for bringing creativity to our music, why should we stop at dynamics?

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Episode #009: Fingers on the Strings: Pointers for Placing

Placing is the first thing we learn when we start playing the harp. After our first glissando, after we find middle C, our first discovery is that we must suspend our hands in mid-air and that placing is how we stay physically connected to our instrument. But placing brings its own set of challenges.

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Episode #006: Minor Keys: A Scale of a Different Color

Have you ever thought of your music as having colors? Or thought about a color difference between major and minor?Maybe to you a minor key is just another key. But to me a minor key is so much more. As a musician, I first learned to listen critically with minor keys. As a teacher, I have seen that minor keys (much more so than major keys) open the door to understanding music theory.

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Episode #004: What Does a Shaky Technique Really Cost You?

Fast flashy scales and graceful arpeggios are one sign of a strong harp technique, but they aren’t the only indication. In fact, even if you never expect to play fast music or super-difficult music, you need a strong technique.

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