Thanksgiving “Performance”

Posted In: Amateur Harpists

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    lisa-green on #163834

    Hi all. I am extremely thankful to be learning to play the harp. However, the sensations I get when I try to play out of my comfort zone of my harp room are pretty unsettling. Last night I played for the group at my friend’s house. There were 3 kids under 5-1/2 running around, so lots of commotion, and very understanding people. Low pressure venue, right?

    Not so much. In a new space, with a fancy, colorful carpet underneath me, I feel like my eyesight is leaving me. The strings look all different, the harp sounds funny, I suddenly mix up the C and F strings and I feel like I’m in a dark tunnel trying desperately to get through.

    I’m taking my teacher’s and husband’s word for it that the more you do it the easier it becomes, so I’m forcing myself to take every opportunity I can to play for people. But, man! it feels like all my practicing goes out the window when I try to “perform!”

    I’m playing with a group at a nursing home on Sunday–another opportunity to battle my demons. Wish me luck!


    Kari Q on #163835

    Hi Lisa,

    I have to say, I completely understand that “in a dark tunnel” feeling.

    Audrey Nickel on #163836

    That is a very normal phenomenon for people who are just getting into performing on any instrument.

    rod-c on #163837


    You are not alone! I simply moved my harp to another room over the weekend…and stumbled through songs that I know pretty well. (Yes, the strings looked different with carpet under them, compared to the hardwood I’m used to!)

    Someone posted here a while back (I think it was Kay), who said she was playing at a public event and a woman in a

    lisa-green on #163838

    Glad I’m not alone in this!

    I tell you, each of the few times I’ve played for people, my appreciation for the professionals skyrockets. (And it was already exceptionally high to begin with.)

    That disappearing strings phenomenon is really a bear. Probably no other instrumentalist has to contend with an instrument that looks different depending on where you play it!


    jennifer-buehler on #163839

    I’ve heard some harpists say that they keep a tablecloth or throw rug to use as a drop cloth under them when they play.

    harpglo-jean on #163840

    Hi Lisa,

    I also have horrible performance jitters, and I’ve been playing harp now for two years. I’m in a harp ensemble, which does help, because each of us has to perform a solo every month, but still not the easiest thing to do…So, I’m also trying to perform in front of as many people as possible, and in different rooms too, because I have a tendency, when nervous or not in my comfort zone, to mix up my strings, or completely forget, or leave out a measure or two..I know there are some good books on this, “The Game of Music” is one of them, and I love what Pamela Bruener (great harper) says to herself before each piece, “I will play this with ease”…and I’m hoping that it will indeed get easier with more exposure time….good luck to us all!


    Audrey Nickel on #163841

    One thing you can learn from these jitters…the places where you fumble when playing in front of people are the places where you typically need to do more work anyway.

    carl-swanson on #163842

    There are two articles that I wrote which I think can help you with performing. Both were published in the HARP COLUMN several years ago, and the publishers were kind enough to allow me to put them up on my web site, Go to the Articles page to find them. One is called THE BIG DAY, and is about how to get a piece to performance level. The other is called A PERSCRIPTION FOR SUCCESS, and is about the use of beta and alpha blockers to counteract the effects of adreneline in performance.

    harpglo-jean on #163843

    Good point Audrey…thanks for that tip!…however, I do feel I’ve done more of ..”if you get nervous, you can flub something that you’ve never once flubbed before and never again…”


    David Ice on #163844

    Hi Everybody,

    Just a heads up….in terms of disappearing strings, if you’re playing at church for a candlelight service, your red strings turn black under candlelight.

    Briggsie B. Peawiggle on #163845

    I know that looking through the strings thing can get confusing, but I also work really hard at trying to “play blind” — that is get the actual feel of the strings so I don’t have to watch my hands so much. I’m not saying I can actually do that all the time, but I work at it.


    rod-c on #163846

    Re: Articles on Swanson site

    The two articles that Carl Swanson mentions are excellent articles on playing in public!

    Denise Lockamy on #163847

    It’s heartening to hear others have the same problems I have had trying to play for others.

    Audrey Nickel on #163848

    Another thing to bear in mind…to err is human!

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