April 27, 2011

Is Time on your side?

We’ve been talking about the physical and mental demands of participating in the great summer offerings that will help you become a more accomplished harp player. Now you know the importance of preparing. But to do that, you have a little more homework to do.

You need to set a schedule. This is gradually lengthening practicing time. You really shouldn’t practice for an hour today and four hours tomorrow. That would just invite injury!  Instead, look at your calendar and give yourself plenty of time to ramp up the amount of time you spend practicing. Add a little more time each day until you’re playing significantly more than you are now.

There are two reasons to look ahead. First, you might have heard, time flies like an arrow (you might also have heard fruit flies like a banana, but that’s not important here). It will be time to go before you know it. If you don’t establish your practice schedule, it’ll be time to leave for your selected event and you won’t have done any of the work you needed to do to be ready. This is potentially heartbreaking because no one wants to leave a workshop or other event knowing they would have gotten so much more out of it if only:
  • Their hands hadn’t given out on them
  • Their shoulders didn’t ache
  • Their backs didn’t throb
  • Their heads weren’t so full
  • Their arms weren’t so tired
  • Their practice didn’t prepare them for this performance! 
The second reason to look ahead is that you may already be busy. And while it is good in principle to say to yourself, “I will practice more each day.” it is very difficult to achieve. What with day jobs and the rest of life’s sundry demands, you might have difficulty fitting in more practice time. I find that the only time I can consistently practice (without everything else getting in the way) is before 6 am. Now, I’m not advocating that for you, but you may have to really give your schedule a shake to get more time at the harp into it!

You’ll note that I have not indicated how much time to add, in what increments or up to what threshold. This is because it will be specific to each individual. If you’d like more guidance, feel free to contact me- I offer ergonomics lessons that focus on your specific performance which will help you determine the amount of time you should be adding to increase your play time and performance without also incurring injury. You know where to find me...

April 20, 2011

This Build up is not waxy or dulling - but rather gets you where you want to go!

Last week I started talking about improving your condition so you could play better. But how do you do that, exactly?

No matter what you decide to do this summer, make sure you condition yourself. Be prepared to spend more concentrated time on your bench. Remember that workshops are hard work – you do a lot of concentrating. So spend some quality time taxing your brain before you go – you want to be ready to take in more. This is not the time to start trying to sight read Faure’s collected works to perform – but you could spend a little more brain time as you get ready to go. Learn some easy pieces by ear, read something new (not to performance, just practice your reading).

You’re going to be physically tired – you’re going to be working hard. And you’ll be spending your time doing things you don’t normally get to do – sitting at your harp! To have the stamina to spend that time on your bench, you should work up to it! Be sure your fingers, arms, shoulders, back and tush are ready for the demands you’re about to place on them. Spend more time at your harp in preparation. Be diligent about those exercises – get out your favorite book. I am currently switching back and forth between Grossi and Friou - use what works for you.

And don’t forget to stretch. You’re doing a lot of hard work to prepare. Stretching will help keep you limber and flexible and stronger – more able to enjoy the workshop time. Be physically and mentally ready for your workshop – don’t let little nagging bits of unpreparedness ruin your summer workshop. Be prepared so you can soak up loads of learning. You may not be ready yet, but if you start now you’ll be ready to have a great workshop experience!

April 13, 2011

Conditions are favorable for Conditioning

Last week I listed things that might help you prepare to get the most out of the summer program you choose for this year (or programs if you're lucky!).  As I mentioned, all the events I listed are wonderful opportunities to learn new stuff, meet great people, and harp, harp, harp! But to get the most out of any event - you MUST be prepared. And to be prepared for the rigors of these summer outings – you must be in good condition.

We all know that even a weekend workshop can be really draining – it is a lot of work to be in early lessons and late night sessions, lectures, practicing, coffee breaks and shopping – they all take their toll. In addition, these are chance to be surrounded by other harp players – some less advanced than we, others the shining stars of our world who turn out to be real, approachable people. All this amazing stuff takes energy. And it’s not that we don’t have the energy – we just don’t usually expend it all at once like that! Most of us are lucky to get an hour a day at our harps. So a weekend workshop in which we are at it from breakfast ‘til bedtime is a significant ramp up! And the week long events are even more challenging

So, regardless of the program you elect to participate in this summer – make sure you condition yourself. Be prepared to spend more concentrated time on your bench – concentrating. Be sure your fingers, arms, shoulders, back and tush are ready for the demands you’re about to place on them.

Also give your calendar a good hard look. Every workshop is chock full of information – new tunes, new techniques, new people, new approaches, new outlooks. So be kind to yourself – clear a little time around the event so that you won’t be rushed or stressed before you get there – be sure that your mind is in good condition to learn too!

And when you get there – be there! Enjoy the time but focus on your harp life – don’t bring a bunch of other work with you – there’s not that much time, you’re going to be tired, and mostly likely, you came to the event to focus on your harp playing – other stuff can wait (not true emergencies of course, but work – make it wait!).

Just imagine the condition you’ll be in when the activity is over – you’ll be flush with excitement, primed to go home and play more, ready to take on new challenges – you’ll be in fantastic condition!

April 6, 2011

Summer is coming and that means much more important things than bathing suit shopping!

Throughout March I posted about harp opportunities that occur in the summer. I have personally attended each of these annual events and I am happy to encourage you to participate in them as well. Of course, if you were able to participate in only one, I would strongly suggest coming to Scotland on the Highlands and Islands Tour - because it is so much FUN - and we'll have a great time! There are only a few seats remaining 22 - 29 August - a beautiful time to visit Scotland. You know the drill - if you'd like more information or to reserve your seats - go to my webpage: http://www.jeniuscreations.com/Harp_Tours_of_Scotland.php

However, as I mentioned, all the events I listed are fantastic opportunities to learn, meet new people, talk harp, play harp, eat and sleep harp! But to get the most out of any event - you MUST be prepared. And to be prepared for the rigors of these summer outings – you must be in good condition.

As with all future events, if you’re planning to get the most from the summer harp event you select – you want to be ready….and you know that I’m going to tell you the getting ready means setting some goals!

I’d suggest that your primary goals be tied to the event you’ve chosen. Are you going to be able to hang not only through the workshops during the day but the sessions that go on all night at OSAS? Or are you going to go to a workshop during each period of Somerset? Are you going to come to Harp Camp and end the weekend elated and excited rather than elated and exhausted? Are you going to spend the week traveling through Scotland and come home with all the tunes learned?

Your goal is up to you. But you also need to set interim goals that help move you along between now and when you go. Here are some suggestions:

Improve your condition. Whether you need to work up to playing more each day or just need to improve your overall fitness so you’re more able to tackle learning more, you can establish smaller goals that help you get there with “check in points” along the way. This will assure you pace yourself and allow you to evaluate how you’re coming along.

Build up your playing. No matter our level of experience, summer programs are fun – and tiring. One reason is that we don’t normally get to spend so much time playing – so be ready – build up! To do that, you need to figure out what will work for you, implement that plan, and assess that you’re sticking to it.

Set a practice schedule. We are all busy. Frankly, deciding to go to a summer event adds more to your schedule than just the event itself – you have to get ready. Setting a schedule will help you do that.

And remember that a goal also helps you keep your eye on the prize – remember every day what you are working toward and thank yourself for doing this small thing for you!