The 9 to 5 Life

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    redharpist on #218475

    Hello, fellow harpists!

    I kind of want to revive this area of the forum because this is exactly my lot in life. I work in regulatory and legislative affairs, which can be a bit stressful. My harp is my happy place, though I have to admit that I can be lazy about practicing when I come home mentally exhausted. Offering to play for friends and family gives me a deadline that forces me to practice, but it can also become stressful when the event rolls around! LOL! But, because I’m a harpist I offer to play for weddings as a gift for those I love. I haven’t had to buy a wedding gift in well over a decade 🙂

    As a side note, my younger son plays the upright bass and we’ve started playing gigs together. It’s been a nice bonding experience that also keeps us practicing over his summer break 🙂

    Sylvia on #218535

    Be glad you have a job. There’s an old saying about musicians….keep your day job. Actually, it should be….make sure you HAVE a day job.
    Music has to be pretty much extra for most people, I would guess.

    evolene_t on #218541

    Hello, RedHarpist!

    I’m like you, I work in a rather intense setting. I’ve always loved listening to the harp and it definitely helps me focus during work.
    My first full-time job gave me enough pocket money to invest in harp lessons, and later on, a harp!

    But I was extremely clear from the start : this is a hobby in the full sense of the word. Much as I would love to be instantly a great musician, I cannot afford having yet another part of my life that might bring me stress. Instead, it should always be pleasurable. I love the phrase “My harp is my happy place”! 🙂

    Now, I insisted on this point a few times with my harp teacher, who’s fully on board. I’m always worried that I’ll come across as insensitive : after all, she’s dedicated her life to the instrument, both by playing it and teaching it, through the fun and the dreary. But she knows the kind of stress that can come with the type of work I do and we’ve agreed to have a very flexible arrangement for setting up classes and regarding my practice.

    The “flexibility” part is enhanced by the fact that I can be away from home 80% of the time, and on average I won’t be sleeping in my bed maybe 40% to 50% of the time in the past few years. So I actually really don’t have the 9-5 life and the opportunity to practice the harp for X minutes every day. Investing in a small double-strung harp has enabled me to take it with sometimes, which I would never have done with a 34 strings harp (or bigger).

    I realise that most people on this forum would be horrified at such a casual/cavalier approach to harp-playing, but it works for me. Most people don’t understand me not being home either, so this is a case of “whatever works best”.

    This actually has an impact on the repertoire as well : my teacher will set pieces that are harder than my level, which I’ll practice little by little whenever I can. And I’ll fool around and compose on my own as well ; so my playing level will seem a bit random, which I love.
    To be precise, I came to the harp wanting to play celtic and medieval music, not classical : again, I believe that my cavalier way of practicing would not be suited to learning long pieces of “art music”. (In French, we contrast musique savante, “learned/academic music” with musique populaire or folksy, popular music. Much as I like listening to the former, I’d much rather play the later).

    I’m always fascinated to read testimonies of freelance harpists btw… Maybe we have something in common after all

    redharpist on #218637

    Haha! I am happy I have a day job, Sylvia! My kids cost way too much for me to survive on harp playing alone 😉

    Evolene, my practicing habits would probably horrify other harpists as well. I can let my harps (harps plural because I just bought a second) just sit for weeks if I don’t have any gigs coming up. That’s why I’m always offering to play for people (another reason to have a day job, I don’t often play for money). I’ve played for almost 30 years, but because it’s a hobby and I lack discipline, I would only consider myself an intermediate player.

    balfour-knight on #218639

    Oh, friends, I have enjoyed reading your posts here! I am one of the very fortunate musicians who has always worked in music, my passion! Be it ever so humble, I have always been able to make enough money doing what I love. I do confess, one has to be happy with a small income, but if you are doing what you love, life has so much more meaning and enjoyment.

    Wishing all of you fellow Americans a very happy July 4th! Cheers, to all of you,


    Sylvia on #218646

    BK- I’m happy for you, and I hope you have good health insurance and income for retirement.

    duckspeaks on #218649

    One can’t always have everything. But I am glad I got started at all when not so young! Day job pays for what you love but robs you of the time to binge on it.

    Another 9-to-5-er.

    redharpist on #218661

    I like the way you put that, duckspeaks!

    Carol Freshour on #223483

    This topic interests/applies to me as well. I’m approaching retirement and although I played other instruments when young, picked up the harp relatively late. I was looking forward to having time to really focus and practice a lot, so the practice time I fit in after work was a joy. Then some life things happened and I lost momentum, now I struggle to practice enough, see no forward progress, and just feel frustrated. Not sure how to break out of this negative spiral … does anyone have experience or advice? Carol3T

    naisha on #223533

    Hi there! First of all, I don’t have a harp yet, I play the ukulele but I think this can be applied to any instrument. I am also in a similar situation. Music is a hobby to me, so no pressure. I wouldn’t worry about what other people may think about my practice habits, schedules or lack of, or if I take too long to learn easy things. Everyone has their own circumstances, so if something works for you, that’s perfect 🙂
    Carol, when I see no progress and get frustrated, what works the best for me is to find really easy pieces or melodies that sound nice, chords or arpegios that sound good together, and just play them and fool around. A melody that is simple doesn’t mean it’s worse or less. So it doesn’t matter if it’s far below your actual level, if it sounds nice and it can make your frustration go away, I say go for it and enjoy. Also, if I’m learning a difficult one and only have let’s say half an hour to practice, I practice it for some minutes and the rest of the time I play things that I already know. That way it’s very difficult to get frustrated. If you spend all your time trying to play something that doesn’t sound good (yet) you can end the session with a bad sensation, at least that’s what happens to me.

    Carol Freshour on #223594

    Thanks Annie. I also just saw something in NYT that reminded me of another benefit, that the act of practice itself can be like a meditation. I’ll try to remember and focus on that, rather than on any outcome.

    susan-koskelin on #223720

    Don’t give up! When I was still working, I never felt like my practice accomplished much because I was usually too exhausted to practice well. People kept asking me to play though, so I had to keep practicing.
    Are you taking lessons? A good teacher is a great motivator and keeps your technique and musicality in the forefront of your playing. Also they help with repertoire appropriate for your current level.
    Look for a harp circle or an ensemble or just one other musician to play with. I started playing duets fairly early with another harpist who was about on my level, and we not only progressed but we had a great time. We laughed our way through many practices.
    The two of us now play in an 4-harp ensemble that plays all over our area.
    Retiring made a huge difference in my practicing. Now I practice in the morning and love that.
    Best of luck and keep at it. You’ll be glad you did.

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