Often I have harpists come to me with a particular concern. There seems to be one issue, one real stumbling block that is in their path no matter what they do. These harpists are usually the “good student” type, even if they aren’t taking regular lessons. They practice diligently; they love music and the harp. But this difficulty has been so persistent that they have come to doubt their ability to play the harp at all, let alone overcome this one problem.
They have usually tried several different methods to resolve the problem and are frustrated by a lack of positive results. Sadly, by the time they come to me for help, they are near the quitting point.
Most often, much of this frustration could have been avoided with a proper diagnosis.
I’d like to share with you seven of the most common complaints that I help harpists with every day. Each of these problems could have one of several different root causes. In this post, I outline the most common causes of each these problems. See if any of these sound familiar… (Note: Be sure to read to the end of this post for a special announcement!)
1. I can’t get anything up to tempo.
This is most likely a practice technique issue. What are your practice techniques, exactly how are you trying to speed up? There are a couple other questions to ask as well: Is your technique sufficient to play at a faster speed? Are you afraid of going too fast?
2. I never really finish a piece.
Do you give yourself a reason to finish a piece: a due date or a performance, for instance? Do you simply get tired of working on it before it’s finished? (There’s a cure for that, you know.) Are you a perfectionist? Are you tackling music that is beyond your current playing level?
3. I fall apart when I perform.
Do you practice using techniques that will support you in performance? Practicing for performance is different than just learning notes. Do you set small performance goals for yourself, or are all your performances “high pressure” ones? Are you expecting too much of yourself? Are you being too hard on yourself?
4. I have trouble concentrating when I practice.
Have you eliminated distractions from without and within? Do you have a plan for your practice? Have you set goals for yourself, not only long term goals, but practice goals for each piece each day? Do you use practice techniques that involve your mind not just your fingers?
5. I am a slow music learner.
How is your note reading? How is your technique? Do you practice in ways that push you to learn faster? Do you set a reasonable schedule for learning a piece and then stick to it? This one probably requires an outside opinion, not a self diagnosis.
6. I don’t know what I should be learning.
Do you want help setting a curriculum for yourself? Are you confused about why your teacher has you studying certain etudes or repertoire? Do you want every piece you work on to be furthering your musical education in some way? Or do you just want to know how to focus your practice?
7. I never seem to get any better.
Says who? Do you feel like you’re going around in circles? Does your teacher keep telling you the same things over and over? Do you need an objective assessment of your playing? Do you have a plan to work on one particular piece or aspect of your playing? What does “better” mean to you?
If any of these stumbling blocks, sound familiar to you, I encourage you to ask for help with them. No student should have to suffer constant frustration with no sense of the reward and the joy that playing music can give. I know you want to play the harp beautifully, but just this once, be the squeaky wheel and get the grease that makes your playing easier. Don’t go this alone – ask! I’m here to help!
And here’s the special announcement: I am holding my first ever teleseminar next Monday, November 24 at 7:00 pm Eastern Standard time. I will be introducing my new mini-course, “Improve Your Focus in Your Practice and Performance,” and giving a presentation called “The 3 Things You Must Do Now to Love Your Harp Playing in 2015.” You can attend FREE, either by telephone or on the web, and you will have a chance to ask questions of me as well. The seminar is free, but you need to register here. I’m excited about this chance to talk with you – don’t miss it!