Another Year Of Harp Lessons Begins

I’m just back from my first harp lesson of the semester. It’s the start of my eighth year of harp lessons. It’s another opportunity to joust with the critical voice that would like to take me down by saying, “You really should be further along than this.” And another opportunity to counter the offensive by remembering that there’s no schedule for progress and mastery, that it takes however long it takes.

I admit, I would have enjoyed it immensely if I gone to my lesson having mastered rolled four-finger chords, and the combined glisses and harmonics of one piece, and the quick two-finger tremolo in the second piece I’m working on. And I’d be thrilled if I had awakened one recent morning able to sight-read and sight-play something more complex than first-grade piano pieces at tempos faster than 50 beats per minute. Alas, none of that has happened.

So today we worked on the rolled chords, and the two-finger tremolo. Again. Both are better due to the work I did on them this summer. And my teacher continues to find ways to help me get my fingers to cooperate with what the music would like them to do. The rolled chords and the tremolo were better at the end of my lesson than they were at the beginning.

And that’s the point. It’s not how many years I’ve been taking lessons, not how long it’s taking me to finish these two pieces, not that I’m still working on rolled chords. It’s that I’m still working, still learning. It’s that I am blessed with a teacher who sees and inspires the progress I make, who continues to believe in me and my harp journey. It’s that I am still in love with the harp and the process of learning to play.

I had a good harp lesson today. . . . . .

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8 thoughts on “Another Year Of Harp Lessons Begins

  1. What would you say is the most difficult thing about learning the harp? Is it the beginning stage? I’d love to take it up as it’s something different but don’t have time to be learning something that’s really complicated.

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    1. HI Daniel- I think what is most difficult about learning harp is different for each person. Some of that depends on your prior music background. For instance, if you already know how to read piano music for two hands, you’ll have an easier time learning to read harp music. In the beginning, learning the proper hand position and how to coordinate both hands on the harp is pretty challenging for most people. One of the best things about the harp is that even very simple music sounds lovely, so you can enjoy the sounds you are making fairly quickly. But getting beyond the beginning stages takes much time and hard work. You absolutely have to clear a space in your life for harp study and practice if you want to make any progress. I think the harp has to be something that so captures your heart that you just can’t not do it. Hope that helps! Janet

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  2. Beautifully said. I have that same, critical inner voice regarding my first-ever manuscript. I tried to reduce distractions by temporarily closing my home studio and giving myself a deadline. All that came of it is sorely missing painting and mosaics, being stressed by the looming completion date for that first rough draft and finding other creative distractions, poetry course and blogging being a couple (at least they’re writing). You have helped me breath more deeply again with, “… there’s no schedule for progress and mastery, that it takes however long it takes” and affirming what’s truly important in creative and artistic ventures “… still working, still learning …” Thank you!

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    1. I’ve got three pieces in the hopper that I’m trying to finish. The one with the pesky tremolo is Danza de Luzma by Alfedo Orlano Ortiz. The one with the gliss and harmonic coordination challenge is Concert Etude by Susann McDonald. The third one is an arrangement I wrote of the traditional tune The Grenadier and the Lady. It’s the first time I’ve written an arrangement that I’ve then had to learn how to play – I’ve always arranged tunes to get them simple enough for me to play! I think I wrote this arrangement with everything in it that my left hand needs to learn how to do.
      My favorite piece I’ve learned so far is Reverie, by Marcel Grandjany, closely followed by his Nocturne. But the Grenadier piece might edge them out, if I can ever play it!

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  3. This just makes me happy. I feel the same way, although I have to be my own teacher now. Just today I was practicing the same passages for the billionth time! Gradually they are getting better, and those places are transforming from just-notes to music. The work is slow, but satisfying.

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