July 29, 2015

Is that a full stop?

If you’re going to improve your music reading, you have to know what all the ink means!  So, let’s start with the . Yup, that's a dot - a . 

Nope, it’s not a full stop – in fact it means the complete opposite – it means add half again. 

No matter what the note is, the . gives you half again as much.  Got a quarter note, add a . and then you have 1 and ½ beats.  Got an eight note, add an additional sixteenth note value.  Got a half note, add half its value – an entire beat.

When you’re reading a piece of music, these . become very important.  They can be easy to overlook because they are small and there can be a lot of information on the staff, but they become very clear when you count the beats in the measure.  I know you’re counting each beat in every measure so you would know right away if you missed any of the .’s!  If, while you’re counting (including the .’s), you have too many beats (or not enough beats), you know right away that you need to go back and reread the measure. 

Like reading words, at first finding the dots, remembering what they mean, and counting them out will be painful and will require painstaking attention and reading.  But with a little bit of work each day you will become a better reader!  Given enough time and practice, when you look at a page of music, you’ll know what to do with all the .’s!

July 22, 2015

Brain work – Enharmonics

No one likes to learn theory.  No one even really likes to think about theory.  But one of the important things about theory is that it helps you build a vocabulary that you can use to talk with other musicians…and actually understand what they’re talking about.

And the words shouldn’t be the way we differentiate ourselves from one another, but often that is what happens – someone uses a word that sounds like you should know what it means but you have no idea what they are talking about!  So, here’s the first of these – just so you can stay in the conversation!

So what are Enharmonics?  Enharmonic is the word used to describe two notes of the same pitch that have different names.  This is easier if you look at a piano – 

For example – if you look at the right black key in the set of two – you can call this D# (if you are in the key of EMaj) but might also call it Eb (if you are in the key of B Maj).  They are the same sound (this is not entirely true – if you’re interested we can address that later – but for our purposes, they are the same sound) but have two different names.

If you have your harp tuned to Eb Maj, you can either leave the A lever down (to have an Ab) or you can lift the G lever (to have a G#).  You’ll get the same note (assuming you have tuned correctly!).  The challenge is to remember what string to play when!

Enharmonics allow you to have both notes (either G or G# and or Ab and A#).  Note that, unlike the piano, you can’t have both without flipping levers. And that’s ok – as long as you plan ahead!
You’ll get better at using enharmonics to get more out of your harp if you practice reading the music and “translating” the notes in your head as you play. 

July 15, 2015

2015 Reading Challenge

We all know that we should be reading more.  Reading takes practice.  It is more challenging on the harp than on other instruments because the music isn't propped up directly in front of us – we have to add turning our heads to all the other effort of reading.

Some of us complain that we don’t read well, or fast enough, or accurately enough.  And we have forgotten how hard we had to work to learn to read initially…it was so long ago that it escapes us how hard it was to master!

There is a way to make reading easier – PRACTICE!!

But practice is also easier if we have a goal – so we’re going to have a Summer Reading Challenge!  The goal is to practice our reading so it becomes second nature (or at least is closer to second nature than it is now!).

The Challenge will be on for six weeks.  The plan is to read through as much music as possible in that time.  You can select music that you are interested in.  You can read melody lines or both hands – whichever will get you further along in reading the music you want to read more easily. The point is simply to practice your reading so it will get easier!

My goal is to read a new tune every day!  I’ll post a list at the end and we’ll see how I do – hope you’ll join me – start keeping a list in your practice journal and you can send them to me in August!  Start reading – you have until 26 August!

July 8, 2015

Push a boundary

Being creative seems like it should be easy.  But, sometimes you want to be creative...and nothing comes.  And it seems that the harder you think the less anything good happens!  

Maybe you just need some inspiration.  You could do the usual thing – sit there and try to come up with something you will deem creative.  But if that had worked, you wouldn’t need to read this.

What are some other ways you might spur your creativity?  Here are 4 ways to move forward:

1. Read poetry – develop motifs that reflect your reading of the imagery in the reading

2. Take a walk – listen to nature (or the city) as you walk and bring forth those elements in your music

3. Look at photographs – can’t get out?  Don’t want to read poetry?  Use a collection of photographs to inspire you to tell the musical story of the photo.

4. Exercise – or more appropriately, do some exercises – but not etudes – play scales, chords, arpeggios.  They do sound different if you are seeking inspiration.

Don’t sweat it.  Some days, nothing will come of it, but other times you’ll generate all sorts of great tune ideas!  Be sure to capture what you do come up with (even if you are not happy with it) - build a collection of ideas that you can review later.  Continue to work those and see where you go - you never know where you'll end up!