March 5, 2014

Choosing new music

There is so much great music in the world and many of us want to play it all!  However, at some point you must select the music that you are going to choose to learn and acknowledge that it is not possible to learn it all.  When you select a tune, whether it’s for competition, performance, weddings, healing or simply to amuse yourself, you should think about a few things to assure that you select the right music for you.
  1. Do you like it?   Early in my harp career I got excellent advice - don’t play music you don’t like!  Just don’t.  Life is short, enjoy the music!  (If you are booking weddings, this does have the unintended consequence of requiring you to know more music so you have something to suggest to counter a request you don't like.)
  2. Does the arrangement work for you?  We all have strengths and weaknesses.  We have “tricks” we like, while there are others that just don’t fit our hands.  Make sure you select arrangements that are a good match to you…or arrange the tunes to make that match.
  3. Does it match your comfort zone? This goes both ways – if you are seeking to add to your repertoire, staying in your comfort zone will make learning the tunes easier and faster.  However, if your goal is to learn new things while learning new tunes, work outside your comfort zone and stretch!
  4. How are you going to play it? What’s it story to you? There is more to playing than getting the notes in the right order – what do you want to do with the tune?  You can be forming those ideas while learning the notes but coming to the tune with the story in mind might make it easier to learn.
  5. Is it over-played?   If everyone is playing a particular tune (especially if you’re choosing a “party piece”) do you want to be playing the same music?  Select the tunes to catch your attention.  [Note – this does not include session tunes, in which case the entire point is to learn tunes everyone is playing!]
  6. When you play the song for the first time, does it seem easy?  One of my favorite  indicators that a tune is a good fit is that it comes "falls into my hands".  Don’t beat yourself up learning a tune that will not come together in your hands.  There are so many to choose from.  And if you really, really love the tune - come back to it later - it might just surprise you.
And don’t forget to have fun while selecting new tunes.  Enjoy the process!

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