I was able to spend a day at the Somerset Folk Harp Festival recently and it was a great day of harps, harp players, workshops and concerts. It was hard to choose which workshops to attend, there were so many great choices.
It brought to mind a question that many of my students ask themselves and then ask me. They want to know what is next for them. What’s the next piece I should learn? What’s the next skill I should develop? What’s the next step in my plan?
This is a concern of many of my adult students. They don’t want to waste their time and money. They want to learn to play the harp. They’re hard-working, motivated, and they want results.
Clearly, the next step will vary from student to student, but if these are the types of questions that you’ve been asking yourself, there are a few considerations that can help you arrive at the right answers for you.
Strengthen your foundation.
It never hurts to spend some time dedicated to improving the skills that make the most difference in your playing. Try a three or four week plan that works your technique, gives you some sightreading practice and includes some rhythm and note reading drills. Ask your teacher to help you craft a plan that will strengthen the areas where you are less confident and push your limits in the areas where you are stronger. Be sure to set definite goals and a firm finish date for your plan. Then go on to use your improved technique and musicianship skills to learn that piece you’ve always wanted to play.
Expand your horizons.
Most of us have a particular genre of music that we are drawn to. You might find comfort and inspiration in the music of Bach, where someone else prefers Latin rhythms or atmospheric new age music. So this time, instead of reaching for another piece by your favorite composer, find a piece outside your usual repertoire range. Spend a few minutes exploring YouTube for some music that is new to you. Find a piece you like, even though it wouldn’t necessarily be one you would normally choose. Then give yourself a deadline: set a date by which you will have the piece finished enough to play for a teacher or a friend. It doesn’t have to be a real performance, just a chance to share your musical adventure.
Scratch an itch.
Do you have a “dream piece,” one you have always wished you could play, but you know is too difficult? Decide to learn just one phrase, one line or one page of that piece. You may not ever work up to playing the whole piece, but you will be amazed how rewarding it is to just have a taste of it in your fingers. And there is another benefit: you will find that working on a small section of something hard will help you develop your harp skills faster than you thought possible. Don’t be afraid to ask for a teacher’s opinion if you want help selecting a section to focus on.
Go for quantity.
Instead of taking a serious approach, take a few weeks to play through some music books that are collections of easy pieces. Get some Sylvia Woods books you’ve always wanted to try, or some beginner repertoire you never learned and play through several pieces each day. Just play through them; don’t worry about practicing them to perfection. You will be improving your sightreading, giving your technique lots of different challenges and adding to your repertoire. Even better, you will be reminding yourself that playing music is fun. And we all need that from time to time.