I always have looked forward to summer as a more relaxed time. It’s a season when I can pause, slow down the pace of my work without guilt, knowing that I am refreshing myself so I can start the autumn with renewed energy and enthusiasm.
This summer, however, is completely different.
We’ve all had too much time on our hands: time to work and time to worry, time that hangs heavy on our hands and hearts. Staying isolated so you can stay healthy and safe isn’t relaxing or refreshing. And as we anticipate the arrival of autumn, we can only expect more of the same.
Usually when I coach my students, we plan their success with this series of steps: first a goal, then a timeframe, then a plan. We always start by identifying a goal because having the right goal creates a feeling of necessity to achieve it, which creates momentum throughout the process.
But what do you do if you don’t have a goal right now? How can you find the energy to counteract the inertia and the feeling of helplessness that you might be experiencing?
I believe that some reverse engineering will do the trick.
As of this writing, we have about six weeks left in the summer. I suggest using this built-in timeframe as a catalyst to infuse energy into your harp playing. Consider the possibilities for your musical growth. Perhaps you could learn a special piece, work through a book of etudes, or make a series of videos. You could study music theory at the harp or study standard orchestra parts. You have a set amount of time between now and the end of summer, all you need is your goal. Then you can create your plan.
Or you could try my Six Week Success Plan. It’s a mini-curriculum designed to foster all-around growth, and it will set the stage for whatever more specific goals you identify in the future. It will also end the inertia and boredom as you focus on something new each week. I hope that you will also find that it fires your imagination and gets your creative juices flowing.
SIX WEEK SUCCESS PLAN
Week 1: Review Your Favorites
Get out your pile of “tried and true” favorite pieces and choose a few to review. You can choose different pieces each day, if you like. At the end of the week, choose a handful of pieces (three to five is the sweet spot usually) and review them every day over the remaining five weeks, so you feel fairly comfortable playing them. Don’t look now, but you’ve just expanded your repertoire!
Week 2: Sight Reading Samples
Along with your regular practice this week, spend 15 minutes or more each day sight reading. If you’re like me, you have music sitting around that you purchased but haven’t gotten around to looking at yet. This is the time to read through parts of those pieces, or any music you like. Treat this as an adventure, exploring new musical worlds. You don’t need to learn these pieces at this point; just sight read them. Also, remember to review the pieces you chose last week.
Week 3: Technique Week
Choose one exercise book and one etude book. Do at least one page from each of those books each day as part of your practice this week. Keep in mind the objective of each exercise and etude; what skill is it designed to help you develop? Do a different page each day for variety. Keep reviewing the pieces from Week 1.
Week 4: Learn One Piece
This is a challenge of a different sort. Find a piece of music in your collection that is short and fairly easy for you. Choose carefully because your task this week is to learn the entire piece and be able to play it at the end of the week. This isn’t just a “quick win” strategy. This is also a way to gauge your learning strengths and weaknesses, and to gain a realistic view of how long it takes you to learn a piece. Don’t forget to continue with your review pieces too.
Week 5: Theory Review
Do you want to review your key signatures? Chord structure? Harmonic progressions? Pick your topic this week and dig in! Don’t try to get everything done this week; just make headway on one thing you want to learn. Also review the piece you learned last week along with your other review pieces.
Week 6: Mini-concert
This week is “graduation” week. You will play a mini-concert featuring the piece you learned in Week 4 and your review pieces. You could include other pieces too if you like. You don’t actually have to play your concert for anyone, although that would make this even more special. The idea is to treat yourself to playing this week, instead of practicing. Just enjoy making music. If you want to video your concert, or invite friends to listen on Zoom or FaceTime, that’s fabulous, but this week is really for you - you’ve earned it!
Looking for resources to help you plan your success curriculum? The Harp Mastery website features courses designed to help you focus on many of these core concepts and skills. The Etude a Day Your Way Course will guide you through etudes in a way that shows you not just the “what” to practice, but the “how” and the “why” as well. The Four Weeks to Finger Freedom course is a powerful way to increase your finger agility and speed just by practicing scales the right way. And the 30 Days to Done course is a simple approach to learning any piece quickly. Check out all our courses here.