Enjoy Your Summer Practice? I Do!

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Summer practice

©iStockphoto.com/Kameel

I love practicing in the summer. I always feel motivated, relaxed and inspired.

It all started the first year I went to harp camp in Camden, Maine. I had never had a daily schedule that was completely my own. I could spend the day however I chose, and the most important thing only my daily agenda was practicing and lots of it. My day was essentially free of distractions and I was able to discover how and when I did my best practice.

Since then, my summers have become a little more complicated, but some of the things I learned that first year of harp camp have remained part of my summer practice strategy.

1. I practice first thing in the morning. Early on a summer day when the air is still cool, my motivation is at its highest level. I can’t wait to get to work. And I like to do as long a practice session as I can. When I was a student, I used to practice for four hours straight. I don’t recommend that for you,  and I don’t do that any more. It’s a recipe for injuries like tendonitis. But I like to take advantage of that early morning energy to do as much work as I can. Then the rest of the day is free for whatever comes along.

2. I do slow practice. I go at full speed all the rest of the year. I need the summer to pull back and relax my fingers, my mind and my spirit. I work my way through my exercises, etudes and repertoire slowly and carefully. My hands enjoy it and my technique improves. I concentrate on my tone. I review my posture. It’s back to basics.

3. I try something new every day. Whether it’s a new warm-up routine, reading a new piece of music or just mixing up my usual practice order, I change things up. Summer is a great time to experiment with music of a different genre or whatever strikes your fancy. The pressure is off for the moment, so revel in it.

4. I do observe a non-stick policy. I hate sticking to my harp bench or my harp, so I make sure my bench is covered with a towel. Since perspiration can damage a harp’s finish,I often put a soft cloth over my shoulder as well.

5. I (gasp!) practice barefoot. If you play a lever harp, you can practice barefoot anytime you like, but we pedal harpists know it is against the rules. (Why it’s against the rules may be a subject for another post.) At my advanced age, I don’t think my pedal technique will be seriously compromised, and it feels like one of those little indulgences. Note to my students: practice barefoot if you like. But don’t come to your lesson in bare feet or flipflops! That’s always against the rules.

6. I sometimes practice outside. I keep my harp and me out of the sun, and I don’t bother on a windy day, but if the weather is nice, it is a wonderful treat to play for a while out on my patio. I want to get every minute of pleasure out of a beautiful summer day!

7. I always set a summer goal. Sometimes I study all the works of a single composer. Other years I concentrate on learning my repertoire for the upcoming season. I love learning Christmas music in the summer. You could try playing the Conditioning Exercises in every key. Or learning that “bucket list” piece. Pick a fun focus and you’re on your way!

Do you have special practice routines in the summer? Tell us in the comments!

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  • Elizabeth Volpé Bligh

    I like to get started on repertoire that is coming up in the future, to get it into my brain and fingers before I need it. This is especially useful for university students who must learn a huge amount of music while still managing all their academic requirements. This eliminates the stress of last-minute cramming, and gives you the opportunity to “let the cream rise to the top”. The summer is also a great time to build or re-build your technique, which makes it much easier to learn pieces in a hurry once your deadlines start appearing.

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  • Anne Sullivan

    You are so right, Elizabeth! in fact if I don’t learn next year’s repertoire now, I might as well not bother. I try to make plans with my students so they can do that too. Great point about technique as well!

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