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Harp Column Practice Challenge: Day 1

Today is the first day of the 2022 Harp Column 30-Day Practice challenge (HCPC). I thought I'd invite you to take this journey with me, so you can see first hand how, even for a seasoned harpist, daily practice and pushing oneself out of your comfort zone can be a struggle... but not one that can't be overcome! (I hope). It will also keep me accountable. No giving up halfway through if there are people expecting daily posts from me! Haha!

The HCPC consists of:

  1. Go For The GOLD this year by practicing like an Olympian to give a gold-medal performance at the end of this year's challenge.

  2. Commit to practicing your chosen piece for a minimum of 20 minutes total each day throughout the challenge.

  3. Optional: Share your progress on social media by tagging @HarpColumn and #HCPracticeChallenge on social media!

There are webinars and inspirational daily posts, of course, and some weekly drawings for Harp Column prizes too. Then there are mini-challenges each day that are emailed to us. Today's challenge: "Plan out your weekly practice goals for the whole 30 Day Practice Challenge."

The piece I chose for the practice challenge is Baroque Flamenco by Deborah Henson-Conant. I chose this intermediate level piece for a number of reasons. First, it's not too easy, but not too difficult either. It pushes me just enough that I have to work at it, but it's not so difficult that I'll want to throw my harp out the window. Second, it utilizes styles and techniques that I've never actually tried before, such as strumming and percussive flamenco rythms. Thirdly, I just love the playful, dramatic charadcter of the piece overall. I love the contrasting baroque and flamenco bits, the plentiful glissandos, and the inherent passion of the piece. Lastly, DHC has composed arrangements of this piece in multiple levels, and because the piece consists of a series of sections, I may be able to start to incorporate more advanced versions of certain sections later (though for the purposes of this challenge, I'm just commiting to the Intermediate version for now).

Okay, so Day one Challenge. Here's my plan:

Week one: Memorize baroque theme, practice baroque theme with metronome and get it up to speed (quarter note = 126 - 138); Practice intro arpeggios with metronome to get them smooth; practice strumming intro - minimize buzzing.

Week two: Flamenco Variations 1, 2 and 3 - work with metronome, get them up to speed. Especially the arpeggios in var. 3 - work on getting even notes.

Week three: Cadenza, transition and coda: learn, memorize practice

Week four: Put the whole thing together, smooth out transitions, focus on emotive elements, dynamics, polish.

Going with the "Olympics" theme, there's an opening ceremony today at 2:00 with pro harpist and competitive swimmer Kathleen Wilson, which I plan on watching. Will post about that tomorrow.

Here's a little taste of today's practice session: the baroque theme with metronome set on 108 (yes, I use an old fashioned metronome. I prefer it over the blips and bleeps of the electronic ones). I practiced this in the two octaves, back and forth, staying at 108, with the intention of just getting it smooth and into my muscle memory. Tomorrow I'll work my way up the metronome a bit.

Thanks for beginning this journey with me! Tune in tomorrow for Day 2!


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