It’s spring cleaning time, the season to spruce up, refresh and brighten, to clean out the closets, sort out the drawers and get a fresh start. I’m always amazed to realize that, once again, my junk drawer is full, my closet is a disorganized mess and I need to do something about it. It seems to be so easy to accumulate those piles and so daunting to face getting rid of them.
I generally give my harp playing a “spring cleaning” too. While the need for musical refreshing is less obvious than the pile of papers on my desk, it is no less real. There is a “winter rust” that accumulates, due to over-crowded schedules and too little practice time. I need to brush away the cobwebs and bad habits and get my playing back in shape.
Perhaps you don’t have any harp “spring cleaning” to do. But maybe you haven’t realized some of the seemingly innocuous habits – I call them Harp Happiness Killers - that can drain your energy, sabotage your progress and derail your momentum. The good news is that making some easy changes can put the sparkle back in your playing again.
Harp-Happiness Killer 1
“Sometimes I only have a few minutes to practice, but tuning my harp takes up all the time.”
This is an easy habit, both to fall into and to free yourself from. Tuning your harp every day will help keep it in tune, so that on those days when you only have a few minutes to practice, you can skip the tuning and get right to the playing. Another strategy is to schedule a “tuning time” each day whether you practice or not, so that your tuning never takes up valuable practice time.
Harp-Happiness Killer 2
“I know I should do my scales/exercises but they’re so boring and I don’t have much time to practice.”
When is practice time well spent? When it is in service of your playing, and nothing serves your playing better than keeping your technique sharp. If your exercises don’t interest you, try creating a rotation of exercises that will give you some variety. Also, have a “lite” version of technical warm up for those days when you’re truly short of time.
Harp-Happiness Killer 3
“When I practice, I’m not sure what I should really do so I just play some pieces and call it a day.”
Not having a plan for your practice before you sit down at the harp is a sure way to not make any headway. Each day’s practice should have a purpose and a goal. My best tip is to leave a note to yourself on your music stand each day at the end of your practice session, stating what you want to work on the next day. It’s a great time and energy saver!
Harp-Happiness Killer 4
“I never really finish a piece. I just get it kind of ok then put it away and start something new.”
Why aren’t you finishing? Where do you get stuck? It’s time to figure that out or enlist the help of a teacher to figure it out with you. Make it your goal to finish a piece to the point where you could play it for someone every 60-90 days at least. Imagine how fast your repertoire will grow!
Harp-Happiness Killer 5
“It takes me so long to learn a new piece of music. I‘m a terrible sight reader.”
If there is a musicianship skill – for instance, sight reading, rhythm, or theory – that is holding back your playing, this is the time to do something about it. Take a course, work with your teacher, find online resources. You can develop whatever skill you want, but only if you make a plan and act on it.
Harp-Happiness Killer 6
“I hate playing chords.” “I just can’t play fast.” “My left hand is weak.”
Technique is always a work in progress. Don’t accept your current level as your glass ceiling. A technical weakness is just the next one to be addressed, not a fatal flaw. Studies, exercises and etudes abound – use them!
Harp-Happiness Killer 7
“I know I’ll never be really good, so it’s ok if I don’t try too hard.”
I actually had a student say this to me once, and I suspect that there are other harpists who feel this way but wouldn’t dare say it aloud. I don’t believe harp happiness comes only to remarkably gifted players; it’s for all players. Harp happiness is about playing the music you want, the way you want. It’s not about being world-class; it’s about being you.
That being said, it’s about being the best you. You absolutely can play the harp in a way that will satisfy you, please a listener and allow you to express your musical creativity. Don’t settle for less than that. You’re worth it!