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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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Tempo Is Not a Number

Mar 11, 2018

“Tempo is not a number,” I said to my student.

My student was trying hard to work his piece up to speed, one metronome notch at a time, and was still some distance from the metronome mark printed on the page. I thought his current tempo was actually fine and told him so.

“But it’s not the right speed,” he said.

“It’s a good speed,” I countered....

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Do You Worry About the "What-Ifs" ?

Mar 04, 2018

Do you suffer from the "what-ifs"?

My student was preparing for an important performance. We still had two or three lessons before the date, and I was confident she was prepared.

But at her next lesson she surprised me. Her playing was excellent, but she didn’t have the confidence in her playing that I did. She had a case of the “what-ifs.”

  • What if they don’t like me?...

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Repetition: Mindless or Mindful

Feb 25, 2018

Much has been said – and I have said my share – about how to practice. Practicing with intention, deliberation and focus is the practice method that separates the successful musicians from the rest. (By successful musicians, I don’t just mean those with big music careers. Every musician is successful who is learning, playing, sharing and enjoying her music in ways that are...

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Rejecting Perfection

Feb 18, 2018

Perfection has its good points, I guess. I wouldn’t  know because I’ve never been there.

Perfection appears to us as an ideal, our Mount Olympus, the place we strive for. It is that ever-elusive musical rabbit we chase in each practice session and every performance.

But is perfection really a suitable goal for a musician?

Perfection isn’t just a nearly impossible task. I...

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