What’s next for you?

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What will you do next? Fotolia_41332753_XS

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.

So what’s next for you? Tell me in the comments…

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  • Iris Linkletter

    Thank You I have just wrapped up a 2 day workshop under Christina Tourin and she is remaining in Shediac to do her Harp Therapy level 2 week with those students who have been working up to that level. I on the other hand was such a beginner I felt way out of my depth but she was aware of us beginners and geared work to our level; but it opened up my mind shall we say to the possibilities of an area that up until recently I hadn’t given much thought, I was so focused on acquiring a skill level that hearing my own desires in each note I played that were allowed to be heard…well it was quite a new concept.

    So your question “What Next has been swimming gently from corner to corner in my mind..It has inspired me to keep letting it work through my thoughts and not put the course behind me and think of it as a good experience and do nothing more with it.

    Hope your birthday was wonderful and thank you for putting this column out for people like me somewhere in the world to read. Have a wonderful week.



  • Jennifer

    Hi Anne. Thanks for all you do to instruct and motivate. Great advice. I have been a musician most of my life, but I am fairly new to harp. It is so important to stay fresh, focused and inspired. I would like to try Somerset sometime. I attended Southeastern Harp Weekend for the first time last year and I am very excited about being able to attend again this year.



  • Carole Smith

    I wish I had known you were at Somerset this year. I went for many years, but have not attended for the last 2 or 3 years.

    Per one of your suggestions, I “retrieved” lots of music that I love but usually got lost in my bookcase due to day-to-day work on music for the harp orchestra and my church. It became apparent at your workshop in June that I had nothing to play from memory. I wanted to try out that man’s carbon fiber harp and all I could do was scales. Not good. It took 4 days to gather my favorite songs and I loved every minute. This music is now in a binder marked “Fun Stuff”. Playing one of these songs gets me in the mood to practice. They also are the reward for playing through a full hour or so of practice on songs I need to learn.

    My “stretch” is Claire du Lune. That one will take a long time not only because of all the notes, but also because of the unique timing (timing is my weak spot). I love the music and will keep it at the harp.

    What’s next for me? Playing music I love on an instrument I love. And, hopefully, being able to play for people without feeling the need to throw up.


  • Robert Stone

    I like the idea of trying just a few bars or a phrase from pieces you like even if the entire piece is beyond your present ability- it’s also good to look at the entire sheet music of a piece you like, just to get a “feel” for what it looks like, and follow along with a recording or Youtube video.


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