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Practice Suggestions…

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  • #87858
    vince-pierce
    Participant

    I’m open to just about any advice you all have. I really want to make
    some big advancements this summer in my playing, and I would love to
    have some input from those of you who have been through this already!

    #87859
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    Vince- As a teacher myself, I would need a lot of information about your current situation, what level you are playing at, what you’ve already worked on, how you have gone about learning technique, what your own teacher is like, etc. to make any kind of suggestion that would be useful to you.

    Having said that, I can say that you can put in an enormous amount of time and effort and get nowhere because you are practicing inefficiently, practicing the wrong material for your level, or have a teacher who really doesn’t know how to move you forward. I’m always amazed at the number of students I encounter who have been with the same teacher for years and have not improved. They just sort of tread water. There are numerous things that you can do to improve, but simply putting a lot of time in is no guarantee of success.

    #87860

    For tips on how to maximize the impact of your practice time, get Philip Johnston’s book, “The Practice Revolution” from http://www.practicespot.com. Ditto everything Carl said. Also, be very analytical when you practise your technique. Slow down and really listen to the sound each finger makes, then make changes if that sound is not what you want to hear. Buy some good technical exercise books such as Lariviere, and go through them with your teacher. Identify what you feel is weak about your technique and set about isolating the problem, fixing it, and repeating the fixed technical excerpt until it’s as natural as walking. Practise scales, arpeggios, trills, octaves, inversions, ornaments, harmonics, any patterns that you can think of, and also practise dynamics and shading. Do all this while scrupulously staying relaxed and breathing through it all. If your fingers or arms feel tight, imagine how tight they will feel in a performing situation!

    #87861
    vince-pierce
    Participant

    Oops…I should have been a little more specific!

    I will be taking lessons over the summer. I will begin Lariviere and Chanson dans la Nuit, and I am currently working on Syliva Woods’ arrangement of Canon in D, La Joyeuse by Rameau/Salzedo, and exercises from the Salzedo/Lawrence method book. I seem to be working on a lot of scale patterns and finger crossings (Canon and La Joyeuse), and I’m trying to clean those up. Also, I’m working on oscillation (which is definitely a weak point for me), avoiding buzzing when replacing on scale patterns in the low octaves, and trying to stay relaxed and comfortable when playing. I’ve noticed that it seems to make my finger crossings better when my thumbs are higher on the strings and third and fourth fingers are lower. I also want to work on my left hand; when I place all four fingers, as in a scale pattern, I feel like I have no control and I don’t get much sound. Also, I want to better observe and eliminate extraneous motion from my playing and make that more fluid. I think I might videotape myself. I will keep you updated on what my teacher says. I’m not sure how many lessons I will be able to get this summer, but they will be very useful nevertheless. I think that’s it, and if you’ve read all that, thanks! 🙂
    Vince

    P.S. – Carl, you’d be glad to know we are having a harp maintenance workshop tomorrow. We’ll be replacing strings and each of us gets to refelt a pedal on our gold Salvi.

    #87862
    carl-swanson
    Participant

    Good luck to you Vince. As far as the harp playing is concerned, I can’t tell you how important it is to have a really good teacher to work with. You can learn an awful lot of bad habits by working alone or working with a teacher who either can’t teach well or is not that good a player herself. But if you do have a really good teacher(who is a real pest about doing things correctly!) then the way you practice is extremely important. There is a little booklet by Jane Weidensaul called SCIENTIFIC PRACTICE which is excellent. I recommend it to my students. It will give you a lot of good ideas on how to practice effectively.

    #87863
    unknown-user
    Participant

    Hi Vince,

    Have you thought of going to one of the summer schools they have in the states? That can be a good way to get some intensive work done…as it takes you out of your environment (and its distractions) and into a situation where others are working too. I often feel you learn as much from the other students about repertoire, practise technique and your own foibles

    #87864
    vince-pierce
    Participant

    Thanks! I wish I could do a summer program, but it seems impossible to even get my teacher to give me lessons over the summer, and she wouldn’t approve of me going to something like that without her knowledge and consent. Anyhow, I am definitely going to try to go to some concerts…in fact, my teacher’s teacher is performing at a festival pretty close by at the end of this month, and I’m hoping to go to that. I think she’s playing a Debussy trio. The festival orchestra is doing an all-Ravel concert that same day, I think, so it’s a great opportunity to hear harp! Thanks again for your suggestions!

    Vince

    #87865
    unknown-user
    Participant

    Owww an all Ravel program…fantastic! That would be my dream gig! If you can get hold of some of the harp parts involved that can be useful. Sit right up front, on the harp side of the stage, and follow the music and what she/he is up to.

    The Debussy is probably the Trio Sonata for flute, viola and harp. Interesting harp part, utilizes the mid range of the harp more so than the upper. I’d definitely try and get hold of that so you can follow the part, or familiarize yourself with it prior to the concert.

    I used to always do this at my teachers harp concerts, and I remember the first time a student (somone elses!) did that to me..sat right in the harp cornor with his music, staring at me in a discerning way with pursed lips. It was scarey in a way! But also kind of nice to feel

    #87866

    It would help to know your age and where you study now. It almost always comes back to maintaining good hand position and keeping your fingers low, bringing them in without forcing, and replacing with as little movement as possible. Look at the photos in the method, and constantly compare your position to Miss Lawrence’s, since you are studying that. No matter how advanced you get, the issues remain position, finger action, efficiency of movement, lack of tension/stress. Oscillation is mainly for clean replacement until you are completely steady. What you may need for the control you desire is a lot more repetition. Re-read the instructions in the method: do each exercise AT LEAST ten times, and as Miss L. would say, that is ten times perfectly, a bad one doesn’t count, so you have to start over each time you make a mistake. Forget about the boredom of the same notes, it’s about noticing how what you feel changes, how after seven repetitions it begins to feel secure and your fingers move more easily and feel more supple. Repeat the exercises in more octaves. Make up variations on them. I don’t use the chord progression in LaRiviere, I use the same principles but use the chord progression in the Conditioning Exercises. Train your mind like a muscle to concentrate and be strong in focus. Follow each thought to its ultimate conclusion. If you can ever come to Philadelphia, you sound like someone I would enjoy working with.

    #87867

    I remember you now. The Rocky Mountain Summer Conservatory is the closest, best summer program I know of that you might get to. You definitely need to study intensively in the summers. If you are up to the orchestral parts, you could try Chautauqua Institution. If your teacher is unavailable in the summer, then you might try Ellen Ritscher in Dallas for lessons just for over the summer. You will definitely want to go into graduate harp study for as long as possible, a diploma, then a masters, then professional studies or doctoral program.

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