October 26, 2016

Christmas is coming

Are you ready?  We know it’s coming – it happens the same time every year.  It’s easy to be only sort of excited. On the one hand, it’s easy – you know all the songs and you can kind of get away with playing the same stuff every year.  On the other hand, that can get sort of boring, never learning anything new and always playing the same stuff.

So, what’s a harper to do?

Well, you could take the easy way out – no one would know.  You’ll entertain your audience, even if it is the curtains and the cats.  You will coast through the season and all will be well. You’ll play stuff you’re comfortable playing and your stress level can stay (relatively) low. But you would know you hadn’t learned anything new.

Or you can take the difficult way and play all new music – the crazy carol written in 12/8, that jazzy arrangement of your favorite post-war song, that new, lever change filled music that was published lately.  You’ll have to work really hard (actually, you should have already started), you will be stressed out nearly every time you play and you will be uncomfortable until January!  But you will know that you have stretched yourself.

Maybe the best path to take is the middle road – add some new pieces while continuing to play your favorites.  That way, you can have a little growth, but from a strong base. You will know you have had a little stretch and you will still be able to perform confidently.

At your various outings, play those tunes your audience will be happy to hear.  And don’t forget that nothing makes Christmas music more enjoyable than mixing it with other music. Even the cats will enjoy that!

October 19, 2016

Don't Miss! WAFHS Getaway

The 2016 Washington Area Folk Harp Society (WAFHS) Annual Harpers' Getaway will be held November 4 - 6, 2016 – you don’t want to miss it!

As always, there are two excellent presenters coming and you won’t be able to help but to learn a lot.  There’s also the concert, the fellowship, and the venue – all things to look forward to.  But there isn’t much time left to register.

The presenters this year are the irrepressible Haley Hewitt from Boston and the amazing Judith Peacock Cummings from Seattle via Scotland. 

The Getaway is at Shepherd’s Spring near Antietam Maryland in Sharpsburg, MD. There will be excellent learning opportunities, lovely social opportunities, and of course, the Silent Auction!

Deadline to register is October 21.  Go to http://wafhs.org/getaway/ for the details and the forms.  Don’t miss this opportunity!

October 12, 2016

It’s the little things

You know that I am always suggesting that you develop a journal.  I have told you that writing things down will help you in the long run.  And I bet you believed me.  And I’m nearly as sure that you still haven’t started journaling.

You’ve probably told yourself that journaling would be good for other people – those that have less experience than you do, those that have more experience, those that are professionals, those that are hobbyists, et cetera, ad nauseum.

Because journaling is like cod liver oil – yes it’s good for you, as long as “you” refers to someone else!

But look at this way – writing it down will help you remember…where you’re going…where you’ve been…what you’ve been through to get from one to the other.  And this is important because it will allow you to see small, incremental changes in your playing.

Because no one makes giant leaps every time!  We all progress in little (tiny? minute?) steps.  And those small steps ahead are difficult to see – especially if you (actually do) practice every day!  It is a forest and trees problem - it’s just perspective.  Regardless of the metaphor – we are not especially good at seeing our little victories.  Ever notice how your nails always need cutting but you can never catch them growing?! Same thing!

You wouldn’t wake up and say, "I think I’ll run a marathon today".  You know it would take a lot of work and exercise.  You would build up - slowly, over time, while you adjust to the work.  

You do the same thing with your music – with incremental progress you will be able to do amazing things – by working at it a little over a long time.  That’s not news – so you might as well help yourself by making your progress clear.

In effect, you can use your journal to catch your nails growing!  And to see those little progress markers in every day.

October 5, 2016

Fewer than 90 days left!

You might have seen that there are only 90 days remaining in the year (fewer by the time you read this!).  Have you made significant progress toward your harp goals for the year? Do you remember what they were? Did you write them down? Did you make a plan?

Fear not – all is not lost – there are, after all, nearly 90 days remaining to make some progress.  So you can end the year with a strong (and deserved) feeling of accomplishment!  And if you are no longer aligned with the goals you set (or if you never got around to setting goals), here are seven things you can still finish this year to end on a high note of accomplishment!

  • Now is not the time to be wishy-washy – identify specifically what you want to work on (e.g., “I want to play Glenlivet at 200bpm” rather than, “I want to play faster”).You can file your paper music – Alphabetically? Chronologically? By type? Up to you, just do file in a way you can find it!
  • Make your 3 x 5 card index of tunes so you can keep more of your repertoire in your fingers (see previous post).
  • Identify “little things” that need to be fixed in tunes you are already playing – and dedicate the remaining year to fixing them (you know, smooth out that fingering that always makes you miss in the fast tune; actually do the exercises and etudes that will allow you do perform a technical element accurately; commit to memory that chord progression for that air that you love but always stumble in).
  • Identify appropriate, strong, measurable goals for next year – and write them down! (and there is nothing magic about 1 January – you can start now)
  • Commit to actually practice every day for the rest of the year.
  • Write down what you do each day so you can see your progress.
Just keep focused on what you’d like to accomplish and make a plan to spend the end of the year moving toward that!