March 30, 2016

It's what you put in

One of the most disheartening things is when you work really hard on something and it still doesn’t come.  It’s enough to make you crazy – especially if you convince yourself that it should be easy. We have all sorts of things we tell ourselves – but are we identifying the right things to improve?

I found a quote from Eric Lindros (Hockey player for those of you who just said, “Who?!” – remember how I like to cast a wide net!), ”It's not necessarily the amount of time you spend at practice that counts; it's what you put into the practice.”  

How true!

So, what do you put into your practice? Here are some things you could do to help you practice more effectively:

1. Know what you’re doing! What is your plan? What do you need to work on? Reading? Rhythm? Fingering? Know before you sit down.

2. Make a plan. Don’t just sit on your bench and hope for inspiration – once you know what you need to work on, plan out how you’ll work on it in this practice (of course a longer term plan will also be helpful for staying on track).

3. Work at your own speed. Want to play that new reel at wicked speed? Do you really think you’ll be able to do that while you’re still struggling to remember what comes next? Work at a pace that allows you to think, to work through the intricacies, the hard stuff!  The speed can come later.

4. Include warm ups and exercises – these are not just drudgery. Exercises and warm ups allow you be ready to work and to develop skills and techniques that allow you to develop while working.

5. Recognize the difference between working through and playing through. Working through is the tough work of breaking the music down so you can build it back up again.

6. There is no one right way to practice. But you can learn a lot from teachers and other more experienced harpers - so it might be a good idea to listen!

Put the right stuff into your practice and make it count!

March 23, 2016

It’s like brushing your teeth

Practicing is a lot like brushing your teeth.  It isn’t fun, but it is good for you.  And it’s important to do it every day! So here are some reasons that practicing everyday is important:
  • Practicing gives you an opportunity to develop a better relationship with your harp and with your music.  For at least 200 years (from the earliest credit I found, although lots of people are credited with saying it) musicians have been quoted as saying, “Miss one day of practice, I notice; miss two, the critics notice; miss three, the audience notices.” Each day of practice helps strengthen your relationship with your tools – the harp and the tunes.
  • Just like you need the repetition of brushing your teeth every day, your practice needs repetition.  The repetition is a good foundation for a structured practice that allows you to focus on the work you’re doing while you’re practicing.
  • When you brush your teeth each day, you tend to do it the same way every time.  This structure is good for your practice too.  Doing your practice basically the same way each time helps to assure you do a warm up, some exercises to build technique, music you are learning, play something for fun each day so you don't skip something or spend too much time but rather do a little of each activity of your practice each day.
  • That structure also helps you transition from the hustle-bustle of the rest of your day and settle into the good fit of your practice structure.
  • And just like brushing your teeth, your goal is to do a good job, not to be perfect.  In each practice you do work and develop – you don’t get to perfect…and that’s ok. It gives you a place to start the next day.
  • Practicing every day, like brushing your teeth each day, gives you a consistency that you can build on, day after day.

So, each day, before you brush your teeth, sit to your practice – it’s good for you, every day.

March 16, 2016

Spring has Sprung

While it might take a little getting used to after an interminable winter, one upside to Spring is the lengthening days.  All that natural light provides so many opportunities.  And most of those opportunities can only help you to improve your harp playing.  Here are five ways to let Spring in that just might also help you grow as a harper:

  • Take a walk 1 – get some sunshine.  There are plenty of articles available to remind you that getting a little sun each day will improve your mood and possibly make you healthier. 
  • Take a walk 2- get some exercise. There are also plenty of articles available that document the importance of getting a little exercise.  Not only is it good for your heart but also your posture, and your mood.  All you need, according to the popular press is a 30 minute walk each day (or more if you are more fit) to build strength which will allow you to sit at your harp longer and more comforably.
  • Breathe – all winter you have been inside in heated rooms.  Go outside and breath some fresh air!
  • Open a window (or at least the curtain) – natural light is more available as the days get longer each day and is a welcome change from all those winter light bulbs! Longer days also mean that you feel like you have more time to practice!
  • Learn – use that extra time each day to practice a little longer, learn a new tune, prepare for a new event, get ready for summer workshops.

Use these longer days to build your strength, stamina, and suppleness so you can play all season long!