February 22, 2017

Some lessons are easy!

I'll say something more verbose next week - after I've finished seeking inspiration.

February 15, 2017

Taking it all in – Learning new stuff

We are always learning – in school, at work, in social situations, and all the times in between are opportunities to learn.  So, when we sit at our harp it would be helpful if we knew exactly how to go about learning new music.  There are many ways to learn and it helps to use as many as possible.  It does help to actively think about how you will learn and here are eight ways to help you learn your music and how to play:

  1. Take care of you: if you’re thirsty or hungry you will have a harder time focusing, so before you start be sure to hydrate and have a snack.
  2. Know before you go: as they say, “plan your work and work your plan” – you’ll have an easier time learning if you know what you are trying to learn before you start!
  3. Think first: it will be easier to take in the music if you analyze it before you try to play it.  Look at the music or listen to the tune so you have some idea of the patterns that are coming and you’re not totally surprised by each note!
  4. Don’t start from zero: practice the fundamentals so that when you get to the more advanced stuff you are not also working on the basics, just the new music.
  5. Get up: it is important to learn the rhythm and to help get that down you might have to get up and move to find it.
  6. Write it down: keep your journal up to date to capture your plans, your progress, your successes and insights you get along the way.
  7. Take it in small sections and build it up: music is serial – that is, all the notes don’t hit you at once!  Rather, they stream by over time (except for the chords!). If you have already done the analysis (see 3 above) you can learn the patterns as time flows.
  8. Use all you've got (hear, see, feel) – Learning is hard work – use everything you have to make it go better, faster, and learn more music!

February 8, 2017

Break it up and move along

February is a great month – not so long that you get bored with it, not so short that you can’t learn something new – so this month we’ll focus on learning.

Reading music is a challenge for many people.  It is, after all, a whole new language. Written music conveys a lot of information in relatively little ink.  Ok, it does look like a lot of ink!  Music scores are built from a set of symbols that come together to express musical ideas.  Just like letters build to make words, sentences, paragraphs, or entire stories!

So how do you get to the meaning of all that ink?  Well, you have to read it.  It’s important to remember that just like in a word book, those little strokes and splotches convey a lot of information.  The score conveys pitch, movement, rhythm, volume, and more.  That’s a lot to take in and it can be intimidating.

Musicians with strong formal training quite literally read a score.  Just like you read a book, their eyes move along the lines as they recreate in their heads what's being conveyed. They have a lot of practice - they've already sat at the equivalent of the blue bird table just like you did when you were learning to read words.

Sounding out words?  Reading aloud?  Pronouncing (and mispronouncing) strings of symbols while you learned what they meant and how to voice them.  Remember that?  No, you probably don’t (or the details may be fuzzy) – you practiced very hard to learn the symbols, then to put a couple together (remember sh-, ch-, th- and ae, ai, ea, oa?), and then put more together, until you were speeding through sentences and then whole books! 

You need to do the same thing with your score! Practice reading, learning the symbols.  Then practice reading them in pairs.  Then move on to longer strings, until eventually you are zorching through entire tunes.  Keep at it and soon you’ll be reading Sonatas and Symphonies!!

But it all starts by looking at the sheet and not panicking but by slowly breaking it up, getting the idea and moving on to the next couple...just practice, take it slow, acknowledge the work you are doing.  Break it up and move along!

February 1, 2017

Harpa 2017 is Full!

The holidays are past us and the new year is firmly established – and the Harpa 2017 trip is all booked up!  We are excited to be finalizing planning and the itinerary as we all begin the work of preparing to share music. 

Sue Richards is acting as Concert Mistress and has identified some fantastic tunes for us to share.  Harpa founder Beth Kolle and the the irrepressible Therese Honey with us too!  And we have a diverse group of people that are looking forward to traveling together building friendships and seeing Scotland -- it's a full and fun group!

We’re even starting to look forward to the challenges of taking a harp on travel.  Ok, “looking forward to” might not be entirely accurate, but it will all be worth it to be where so much of our favorite music comes from!  We will be playing lots of music and are looking forward to giving back with concerts for good local causes.

We’re not all harp players but we are all fun.  We will be visiting St Andrews, Glencoe, Skye, Ayr, Dumfries and Galloway and more.  And we’ll be posting pictures – I’m sure of that!  Keep an eye on our Facebook page too: www.facebook.com/Harpaniks

I’m so looking forward this trip – I know we’ll have a great time!