Difficulty learning a piece and still being able to follow the music

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    Simona Millham on #160417


    I’ve been learning harp at a leisurely pace for around a year, and have had a lesson approximately once every 3 or 4 weeks.

    barbara-brundage on #160418

    Yes, this happens to everyone, so don’t be discouraged. It means you’ve got the piece really about half-learned. When you really *know* a piece, you know it in your fingers (which you’ve got–that’s the hardest part) and in your head, too. You need to go back now and practice with the music in front of you: practice starting in all different places and playing by memory from those spots.

    Believe me, there’s no more horrible feeling than getting on stage with music, having a memory slip and not being able to get any help from the score because you don’t know where you are.

    These points to start from are generally known as “repair points.” How many you need depends on how complex the music is and what you’re playing it for. If you were learning a major work for a competition, say, you’d want one at least every couple of measures, for example. For something you’re just going to play in a casual situation, you’d probably need a lot fewer.

    barbara-brundage on #160419

    Since you just play for yourself, look for easy spots like the beginnings of phrases, after repeat marks, places like that. I’m sure your teacher won’t mind if he or she says, “Start here” and you point to a measure or two before and say, “Can I start here instead?”

    Simona Millham on #160420

    Thank you Barbara. I’m heartened that this isn’t an unusual problem!

    Sid Humphreys on #160421

    Look for the book, Power Performance. It’s helped me a great deal and it deals with “repair points”.

    tony-morosco on #160422

    Nothing to add to Barbara’s excellent advice other than to just reassure you that this does, indeed, happen to a lot of us.

    I memorize easily, and my teacher knew this. She would often make me stop and then start at a random measure just to see if I was really playing from the page or if I were playing from memory and just faking reading it as I played.

    So you are not alone.

    unknown-user on #160423

    Yes, this is a very common problem. I usually learn to start from each phrase. Although starting from random measures will help in the end, I would imagine that a

    Geri McQuillen on #160424

    Hello Simona,

    I studied with a concert pianist who freely marked my music lightly with a pencil.

    Seoid OC on #160425

    Maybe practicing sight reading would help?

    Simona Millham on #160426

    All great advice and I’m grateful and much encouraged. Thanks all!

    Pat Eisenberger on #160427

    You’re has been mine from the start with the harp. I’ve played several instruments over the years, and haven’t had this problem until now.

    At The Harp Gathering this year, I took a workshop by Frank Voltz called, The Geography of the Harp. It has worked wonders for me! The important thing is to learn to play without looking at your hands, and keep your eyes on the music. I can’t explain well how to do it, but I learn music much, much more quickly now. All I can say is try hard not to look at your hands.

    Frank will be back at the Harp Gathering next spring, and he does other workshops. If you have the opportunity – GO!!! You will absolutely amazed.

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