November 25, 2015

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hope you have a wonderful day of Thanksgiving - take a little time to play your harp!

November 18, 2015

And the leaves kept falling…

It’s autumn and the leaves have all turned color from green to reds and yellows and now brown.  They are falling from the trees to the ground…and so, it’s time for the raking to begin.
We, none of us, get younger.  And with year autumn that passes, raking those leaves may become more of a chore, leaving you sore for a while.  That soreness is from doing unaccustomed work – but it is also a result of not stretching after doing so. 

But you can get sore from not stretching after work to which you are accustomed as well – that includes after practicing or performing.  Even daily practice takes work – from your whole body!  You should continue that work into a stretching routine which will not only reward you but will allow your muscles to rest and be prepared for the next practice session.

Performing (even if for the curtains and the cat) adds stress which you will likely carry in your body. Therefore stretching is also important after each performance.  By adding a stretching phase to your practice time you will train yourself to do the stretches which will carry over into your performances.

You will want to stretch your fingers and hands as well as your arms. But you know that.  You will also want to stretch your large muscles – the ones that hold you up on your bench and give you the scaffolding to hold yourself and your harp.  That means you’ll want to stretch your back, legs, buttocks, and abdomen.

Adding a stretching routine will allow you to gracefully end your daily practice while doing yourself some good!

November 11, 2015

Celebrate Peace

Today is Armistice Day, Veteran’s Day, Remembrance Day – no matter what it is called where you live, it is an opportunity to remember the fallen who gave their lives so we could enjoy ours in peace and freedom.

That seems like a good reason to give them their due through music.  There are so many things you could do at this point –
  • You could commemorate the original armistice and play the tunes of the day – there were some great tunes written at that time including Keep the Home Fires Burning, It’s a Long Way to Tipperary, or Carry Me Back to Ol’ Virginnie
  • You could play music from other post war eras including anything from Irving Berlin
  • You could compose your own pieces
  • you could play in a number of places including a VA home or for a veteran’s group or another civic group
  • You could, of course, do nothing 
Just play – and enjoy that you can in peace!

November 4, 2015

Read widely

I’ll read just about anything, even if, in general, I’m not that interested in the overall topic.  I was recently reading an article in Men’s Health* magazine (see what I mean?) about Stephen Curry (basketball player).  Note, I'm not a huge basketball fan (ok, really, it's my least favorite sport to play or watch). But this short article focused on how he worked hard to make it in his profession.   

Now you might think that professional basketball has nothing to do with playing the harp, but what he said resonated with me so I wanted to be sure you saw it. 

Apparently he wasn’t yet “basketball sized” as a freshman in high school so he had to work especially hard to get in to play (also, his father was a pro basketball player so you know that right off the bat he was going to have to be better than good to make the cut).  It was what else he said that captivated me:

He spent a long time dedicated to crafting his skills.  He’s quoted as saying, “It’s still a work in progress but with anything, if you stick with it and keep working at it, eventually you’ll figure it out.”!!! This is a man, considered to be at the top of the heap in his profession, who understands that fundamentals are called that because they support everything else you do while performing.  And he also understands that development isn't a "one and done" proposition but rather the result of steady, consistent, intelligent work.

He also talked about doing specific things to make his practice harder than his performance – he practices on gravel so when he gets to the court, working the ball will be easier.  This is the same as practicing in the dark, while people talk to you, on a scary carpet, in a variety of places, or some combination of these, so that when you’re in the gig you’re prepared and can play well.

The other thing he said that really struck me was this, “You either put the work in and reap the benefits….or you try to take shortcuts….But it doesn’t work that way…” Yikes – so true! We all know that no one wants to play exercises, but they do have a direct impact on your later ability to play.

The underpinnings of practice are the same, whether you play basketball or the harp.  What you put in shows up in your results.  The inverse is also true – if you don’t do the work, you’ll only get part of the way.  This is true whether you are a full time professional, a part time professional, or an amateur content to play for the cats and the drapes.  Be as good as you can make yourself, know where you are going so you can get your hard work in and enjoy the rewards of good performance. 

*Men's Health, November 2015