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Musical Understanding Starts with Key Signatures

Jun 28, 2021
This post was first published on August 3, 2012. Updated on June 28, 2021.

At some point in every music student’s life comes the moment when she must learn all the key signatures. And at some point for every teacher comes the question from that same student: “Why do I have to know them?”

There are some easy reasons that we all give our students. They may need to...

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Three Little Things that Add Up to Big Changes

Jun 14, 2021
This post was first published on November 19, 2013. Updated on June 14, 2021.

So much to do and so little time.

If you're like me, you have stacks of music that are waiting for you to learn them someday. You have pieces that you are learning now and ones that you plan to start soon. You have exercises or etudes or other music you think you should be doing too. Who has time for all of that?

What...

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The Harp: Queen of the Drama But Not a Drama Queen

Feb 08, 2021

Whether you are a harpist or just a lover of the harp, you know the magnetic power of the sound of this magnificent instrument. The harp can sound rich and fluid, or sparkling and elegant. The harp can be delicate or dynamic or even heroic. This vast color palette makes listening to the harp endlessly fascinating and playing the harp an exciting adventure.

Composers also enjoy exploring the...

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The Practice of Listening: Why It’s Essential for Every Musician

Oct 19, 2020

And if occasionally he'd ponder
what make Shakespeare and Beethoven great,
Him I could love till I die.
Lyrics from “My White Knight,” from The Music Man

One of the first musicals I fell in love with was The Music Man by Meredith Willson. My parents had the original cast album which featured Barbara Cook as Marian the librarian. Barbara Cook’s voice was warm, clear and agile and...

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One Book, 10 Ways to Become a Better Musician

Aug 31, 2020

“What about this chord?” he asked. He was so eager to learn, so excited by the possibilities, that the excitement was visible in his face. I was almost as excited. It wasn’t very often that a student brought that level of energy to theory class. This was a question worthy of a thoughtful answer.

Actually, he and I had this discussion many times, especially in his first year of...

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Why You Need to Stop Following the Fingering

Aug 24, 2020

“Hurry up! You’ve taken enough pictures. They’re already in the next room!”

 

I heard this refrain constantly on one European trip. Actually, I didn’t hear it; I said it. My husband is always the one lagging behind the tour group to capture an interesting photo. In those moments, I’m always afraid we’ll miss what the tour guide is telling us, but...

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Making Connections: I Vow to Thee My Country

Aug 03, 2020

The tune to the song “I Vow to Thee My Country” is a favorite of harpists everywhere, thanks in part to skillful arrangements by artists like Kim Robertson and Rhett Barnwell. The melody is one of the themes from “Jupiter,” a movement of Gustav Holst’s iconic symphonic suite, The Planets. As is often the case, the back story is nearly as compelling as the...

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A Storyteller’s Guide to Musical Expression

May 11, 2020

There’s an art to telling a good story. Famous yarn-spinners like Mark Twain or the legendary Scheherazade knew how to captivate their audiences. It didn’t seem to matter what the story was about or how far fetched the premise was.The storyteller’s art is less about the material than it is about the delivery.

Children know this instinctively. I can recall countless sleepover...

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Family Connections: Alphonse Hasselmans

Mar 02, 2020

One of the powerful motivators for me in my harp playing and my teaching is the sense of legacy. I love thinking about the harpists who came before me, for whom the music that I know as standard repertoire was new and exciting, who studied with the legendary masters of the instrument. This history inspires me with a feeling of gratitude and an awareness of the responsibility that I carry as a...

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7 Reasons Tuning Your Harp Is Worth the Trouble

Feb 24, 2020

There’s a famous quote attributed to the composer Igor Stravinsky that every harpist knows: Harpists spend 90 percent of their lives tuning their harps and 10 percent playing out of tune. It has the painful ring of truth.

The harp is a treacherous instrument in this regard. The magic of the organic materials that comprise so much of the instrument is that they make the instrument very...

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