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Top 10 Reasons NOT to Practice Scales

May 20, 2018

I used to resist practicing scales.

My teacher thought they wee important, but I just couldn’t see it. Playing music – heck, even practicing music – was so much more interesting. Plus, when I was done practicing music, I had something to show for it, a piece I could play. Who wants to listen to scales?

I had all the excuses too. And then I learned better.


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Escaping The Technique Trap

May 14, 2018


Are you in the technique trap?

Maybe you have managed to escape the trap, or maybe you just don’t yet know you’re in it.

What is the technique trap? It’s the practice path that turns out not to be a path at all, but a circle that leads nowhere new.

Perhaps this sounds familiar…You slog away at your technical practice – scales, exercises, etudes – with...

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Four Essential Elements of Technique

May 06, 2018

Do you think you know what the essential elements of technique are?

I used to think I did. From early on in my harp studies, they were drilled into my head, if not always into my fingers; elbows, wrists in, thumbs up, etc. I learned what amounted to a complete catechism of the points of harp technique.

Lately, however, I’ve been considering technique from a wider perspective. What if...

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Listen Like a Superhero

Apr 29, 2018

"Be sure to listen!"

This was my teacher's final piece of advice before I played my first orchestra rehearsal. I was only 12, and I was playing with a local community orchestra. I was a little nervous. All the other players were grown-ups. The part I was playing was unfamiliar, but back then every orchestra part was unfamiliar.  Adding to my discomfort was the conductor’s heavy...

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Three Times When Not Practicing is NOT an Option

Apr 22, 2018

Are you not practicing today?

Those are the most powerful words that anyone can ever say to me. They are the ultimate reminder – or possible kick in the pants - that as a musician my job is to practice. Daily.

When is it okay not to practice? Dr. Shinichi Suzuki, founder of the Suzuki method, had a very clear philosophy. When he was asked by his young students when they should practice,...

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Beautiful Thumbs or All Thumbs?

Apr 15, 2018

Do you love your thumbs?

We harpists have a love/hate relationship with our thumbs. They can carry the melody well with their power. But they can also be a weak link in scales and arpeggios. They have a knack for being too loud when we need them to blend and too weak when we want them to be beautiful.

Thumbs play several crucial roles in our playing. Physically, they balance and stabilize our...

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Moving Up or Going In Circles?

Apr 08, 2018

Are you moving up, making progress? Or do you feel like you’re going in circles?

I always visualize progress as ascending a spiral staircase. You move upward, but in a sort of circular way. You keep working on the same skills but at increasingly higher levels.

Beginners practice scales. Virtuoso performers practice scales, too, but theirs are usually faster, more fluid, more athletic....

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Follow Your Ambition

Apr 01, 2018

Ambition is not just the property of the young and upwardly mobile. It isn’t exclusive to those destined to be superstars. Ambition is a natural part of the human condition.

It is sometimes viewed as prideful, immoderate, immodest, overbearing or selfish. But it is more properly cast in a neutral role: ambition is what you do with it.

When was the last time you thought about your...

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Focus: Keeping Your Eye on the Ball

Mar 25, 2018

Focus is the difference between whiffing and missing the ball or hitting it out of the park.

I am finally starting to believe that spring is on its way. We still have snow in our yard, but the sun feels stronger and the scent in the air has changed. And baseball opening day is this week.

When baseball season starts, summer can’t be too far behind. Soon major league stadiums, community...

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What You Don't Know About Deliberate Practice

Mar 18, 2018

Do you understand “deliberate practice?” If you don’t you’re not alone.

Much has been written about deliberate practice since K. Anders Ericsson, a Swedish psychologist and professor at Florida State University, first wrote about it in the 1990’s. Ericsson’s research led him to the conclusion that it was not so much innate ability that led the highest...

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