July 30, 2014

Make your mark

There are a number of basic things that we can do to help us learn music, play better, and have an easier time of getting from one to the other.  Usually these things are simple, easy really.   Marking your music is one of those things.  So why do so many people skip this important step?

Ok, I don’t have an answer for that, maybe because it seems difficult?  Or because we never want to do the fundamental work which looks easy but usually is anything but?  Since we don't have an answer, instead let’s focus on what marking your music can do for you (besides get you from first look to easy playing!).  Here are six reasons to mark up your dots!

  1. Marking your music requires that you read through the music first.  I always tell my students that reading music is like reading Greek – if you keep practicing it, a little at a time, it will get easier. Practice enough, it will become effortless.  
  2. Writing in reminders (in pencil – things change!) will help you remember!  Pencil in your fingerings and placements until you’re comfortable (then you can erase and fill the space up with phrasings, dynamics, tempo changes, and other notes.
  3. Mark your lever (or pedal) changes.  You might think you’ll remember to make the lever change, but when push comes to shove, the reminder is good to have (it also helps your remember to practice the change as part of the music not as an afterthought).
  4. If you’re in an ensemble you can mark reminders of what other players will be doing.  Or you can pencil in changes the director adds to your notes.
  5. You can mark passages you are having difficulty with and need to practice more – you can break them down, rearrange them, and mark how you’d like to proceed.
  6. You can also mark to remind you when you get to your lesson of specific questions you’d like to ask.

Never forget that you have the dots in front of you to help you remember.  Adding marks to the dots will allow you to remember more.  Marking in pencil gives you room to develop, grow, learn and change how you play.  And remember -- the marking is there as a guide – nothing is sacrosanct about the marks – just erase when you’re ready to move along!  Enjoy making your mark!

July 23, 2014

Take it slow

Why are we so impatient with ourselves?  We are always sure that other people are having an easy time of it, but really, we all struggle from time to time – with a technique, with a phrase, with a tune, with reparation for a gig.  

But really – why are we in such a hurry? You might think we’d rather slow down and enjoy the time at our harps, but instead we pressure ourselves.  We can really work ourselves up.  Sometimes we pressure ourselves right out of enjoying playing!

So, how can you tamp that impatience just a little, and in the process not only learn more and play better but also enjoy your time on the bench more?  Here are 5 things you can do to be more patient, take things more slowly, and likely play better:

  1. Set a goal.  I know, you’re probably tired of hearing me say that, but it really does help.  Goal setting will allow you to make a schedule (even if it’s notional) and then you can be sure that you have enough time to meet your goal.
  2. Part and parcel to the goal setting is to write it down!  In addition to capturing your goal, you can capture your progress in a journal.  Your journal can be written or audio – the form is not as important as being able to gauge your progress.  In addition, reviewing your journal will help you get through those times when you are only focused on how far you have to go rather than how far you have come.
  3. Be positive – you will get there…how long and how easily is directly related to the time and effort you put into getting there.
  4. Practice patience!  Like everything else, becoming more patient with yourself, allowing yourself to take the time you need to attain your goal, requires practice.  Don’t be disheartened if you slip, don’t give up if things don’t look like they are going well.  Enjoy the journey in anticipation of the destination!
  5. Be kind to yourself.  Talk to yourself as you would a good friend – give yourself encouragement to continue and permission to develop.

Spend the time you need to become the harper you want to be.  Be patient.  Take it slowly. Do the work…and reap the reward in good time!

July 16, 2014

Time to act

Its about that time – we’re a little over half way through the year.  That makes it a great time to review how you are progressing toward your goals for this year.  You’ve had plenty of time to forget your resolutions, to have slid off your goals, to need to be gently reminded of where you wanted to go this year.

Back in January I suggested you do these six things:

  • Write it down
  • Think first
  • Focus
  • Keep your space neat
  • Make a habit
  • Develop a ritual

So, how are you doing?  If you’re making progress – congratulations!  Keep it up and you’ll have a really productive year.   

If you’ve “fallen off the wagon” you have plenty of time to get back on course.  Review (or actually set) your goals, identify the specific steps to get you there, and then schedule time for yourself to perform those steps.  And within the year, you’ll have done really well and made progress!