I began taking harp lessons about 2 years ago at the age of 67, could not read music nor play any type of musical instrument.
Hi Gayle. Hang in there. I am never as far along as I want to be either, and get very frustrated that it takes me MONTHS to memorize pieces, or my teacher explains something clearly, but by the time I walk out of the lesson, I’ve already forgotten it. You would think after 4 years of practice, I could remember what note was what, but again, I sometimes look at those pages, and I can’t read the
Maybe, to counteract the frustration, buy a book of really short, easy pieces just to have fun with. If you have more easily attainable goals, then the more difficult ones won’t seem as much of a yardstick to measure your progress by. Also, just for pleasure, play by ear, just noodling around the harp for a few minutes every day. This will remind you why you love it. Everyone has their own pace, and if you are practising an hour every day, then you are progressing.
Hi Gayle- I’m a retired music teacher and have taken lessons with an excellent teacher for 14 months. I am a good sight reader in both clefs, and had a few years of really bad piano instruction about 40 years ago.
I’ve just begun the first selection in Suzuki 2, finished the second volume of “Fun From the First”, and finished the first volume of “Classiques” (leDentu). It was very hard for me to relax and make good use of my practice time when I started because I felt as though it should be easier for me to play harp than it was.
Whenever I become frustrated, I go back in my books and find a piece that I worked on for weeks and thought I’d never ever be able to play, and after playing it slowly a couple times, I realize how much easier it is now.
Have you discussed how to practice with your teacher? If someone told you that they wanted you to learn to race walk, you’d think “Easy”, right? Actually, it wouldn’t be easy, because you’d need to know the very specific movements you’d need to perform in order to move as a race walker instead of your typical gate.
I have to admit, and I should know better, that I have wasted a lot of practice time brooding about how little music I can play. I suddenly had an “ah-hah!” moment just a week ago, and my lesson for this week sounds much better than all the lessons I’ve taken previously.
If you love it, or even like it a lot sometimes but don’t know if you can do it, don’t even think of giving up. If you’re not sure you love it, take a break for a couple weeks and see if you find yourself going over to your harp and plucking a little bit. If it’s calling you back, give it another try.
Some of Sylvia’s arrangements can be a little tricky, even the ‘A’ versions on some. I would suggest for Christmas music you get Dewey Owens’ Christmas Music Simplified. Very simple yet very nicely done arrangements.
It was one of the first books I used and I still use it. If I need a Christmas song but don’t have time to work on a difficult arrangement I can pretty much sight read these.
As for the chords it is all about getting a feeling for the timing. I would suggest doing a lot of exercises practicing arpeggio’s. As you speed up the arpeggios they become rolled chords. Just form the chords and play them one note at a time as smooth as possible. Play the chords going up the diatonic scale of the key you are in. Go as slow as you need to in order to play them smoothly. Eventually you will find you can go faster and faster until finally you will be able to play them simply as rolled chords.
And about the pedal harp… lots of people have the idea of needing to be worthy of a fine instrument. But a fine instrument can be the inspiration we need to progress. Don’t worry about having progressed to the point to warrant a pedal harp. You don’t need to warrant one, you just need to want one.
If you have the money for one and you want one then get one. Don’t worry about any artificially set bench mark you need to reach before you can justify getting one. These bench marks exist only in you head. The only bench mark the harp company’s care about are the ones in your bank account.
Tony, your post really hit the mark!!! I totally love what you wrote to Gayle. You are RIGHT ON the money in everything you said.
Gayle, you are awe-inspiring to me. The thought of beginning something totally foreign at the age of 67 is daunting to say the least. You did it! Not only that, but you are still DOING it. That alone is wondrous. Don’t worry about the progress you are making…..just enjoy the DOING of what you are doing. You are using your brain and your body and your heart. GO FOR IT, GIRL! And Tony’s right about the pedal harp. You just GO!!!!
Gayle-Congratulations on your work ethic and dedication to learning the harp. All these posts have some good ideas and you’ll need to pick and choose the ones that work for you. Here are a few more.
Try changing your practice habits. Practicing means pulling the piece apart and playing it in a way different from the final version. That means practicing(a lot) hands separately, or one or two measures at a time. Playing through a piece, beginning to end, is the worst thing you can do when you are trying to learn a piece.
If a particular pattern is giving you a hard time, like chords, then make an exercise out of that and spend a half hour just playing chords. For this reason I find that etudes are critically important to fixing technical problems and advancing your technique. Read my article that appeared in a recent Harp Column about using Etudes to improve your technique.
When you practice a piece you are trying to learn, start by going directly to the trouble spots and working on them first. Try putting a check mark or X above the music every time you trip or have to stop and regroup. There will be a lot of them at first. Then as you learn to play through each one with no trouble, remove the mark. That will help chart your progress and motivate you.
Lastly, learning any musical instrument is a process, and for me the process is the the fun part. Enjoy the act of learning a piece, of fixing a problem, and don’t focus too much on the finished product. Trust me, no matter what level you play at, the piece is never finished.
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