I started harp practice today with a leisurely warm-up. I began by playing a one octave scale with each finger, alternating left-right, left-right, up and down the strings of my harp. First the index fingers, then middle fingers, then ring fingers, and finally thumbs took their turns plucking a C-Major scale.
I love the feeling of my fingers loosening up as each finger plays. I love hearing the pure tones of each string as it is plucked, love hearing how each tone becomes richer and fuller as my fingers remember how to close into my palm. I love how while my middle fingers are playing their scale, my shoulders relax and my heart lifts, my back lengthens and my head effortlessly centers itself on the top of my spine. I love how my breathing deepens and slows, attuned to the slow tempo of my plucking. By the time my thumbs are playing, my ears are awake and hearing my thumbs make sure contact with the strings at just the spot that makes them sing.
As I shift to playing unplaced four-finger scales, I feel my back supporting my arms, and how effortless it is to place my fingers on the strings as a result. When I start playing placed scales, my hands find their way, and I wonder at knowing the territory that is my harp. Hands no longer require conscious direction, only conscious attention.
In under ten minutes, I’m fully present, alert and comfortable, soothed by the transition to Music’s time and space, and ready to work.
I often think that I don’t have time for a warm-up. I’ll move straight into very slow playing of repertoire instead. It’s not the same. Starting with repertoire requires that I be present to the tune before I have settled on the harp bench, before I have become present to the harp, to my body, and to Music’s whispers in my heart.
Warming up – too important, and much too lovely to deprive myself of this simple pleasure.