Don’t Lose Momentum on Your Vacation

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Backpacking vacation

No room for a harp!

You deserve a vacation, some time off away from everything, even away from practicing the harp. But how can you make sure you don’t lose momentum when you’re not able to practice for a week or two?

Some instrumentalists have it easy. They can grab the handle on their instrument cases and go.

Not so for us harpists. If you have a little harp or a Harpsicle, you can take that along to keep your fingers in shape. But it won’t really help you practice the Salzedo “Variations”, if that’s the piece on your music stand.

So how can you vacation and not feel guilty about not being able to practice? Let me share a few techniques that I have used to help keep working on technique, repertoire and musicianship when I couldn’t get to an instrument.

1. Technique. Most of us have little finger games that we use to warm up or shake out our hands and arms which improve flexibility, strength and coordination. These at are easy, fun and great to do even when you’re not practicing. And if your vacation plans include any physical exercise like hiking or swimming, you can count on that overall conditioning benefiting your playing as well.

I also think that vacation time is the perfect time to study technique. Away from the harp, you can study your hand and arm position, even your body position with complete clarity. Sit at an imaginary harp and consider your balance, your posture and your support muscles. I also study my finger technique. I find that without the distraction of notes to play, I can practice playing imaginary strings with perfect technique.  I “play” very slowly,  watching my fingers carefully.  This is also a terrific remedy for any issues with tension in your playing.

2. Repertoire. If I am learning some new or difficult repertoire, I usually take the music with me on vacation. I can study it away from the harp, focusing on the expressive details that I may sometimes gloss over in regular practice. I can play “air harp” to help learn the continuity of the piece. I can begin to memorize it. I can listen to recordings of it, either from CDs or online.

Sometimes I will assemble “dream” programs of pieces that I would like to add to my repertoire, or new combinations of pieces I already know well. Vacation is also an opportunity to “play” through familiar repertoire in your head. This is great for keeping your memory of the pieces fresh or just finding out how much music you know!

3. Musicianship. During the year,  I am so focused on practicing and performing, that I sometimes lose track of the larger musical world. Vacation is a time I can discover something new about the music of a particular time or place, or about a composer or performer. Even if I can’t play or practice, I can still read and listen and learn. Then I can return home refreshed and energized to get back to what I love to do best: play the harp!

Just for fun: watch this kitten playing the “air harp!”

Enjoy your vacation!

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