• celticharplady

Harp Column Practice Challenge: Day 3

Updated: Jan 12

Day 3 of the challenge focused on listening. For inspiration, there was a very interesting article about learning how to curb one's inner critic, written by harpist and storyteller Rebecca Harisson. I have many thoughts about one's inner critic, but that's for another blog post. I enjoyed the article - it's always fascinating to learn about how other artists wrangle with these universal issues that plague us. My inner critic likes to remind me that I should be further along at this at my age, that I shouldn't need to return to the basics so often, that I should be able to play faster, that some of the master harpists who I so admire are younger than me and haven't been playing as long, that I should be a stronger sight-reader, etc. All this may or may not be true, but regardless, none of it will ever stop me. When you truly love something, you love it and you do your best at it, and nobody, NOBODY can convince you not too. Not even your own inner critic. If I am certain of anything in this world, it's this: I love my family and I love the harp.


After reading the article, I went for a hike in the woods. This was admittedly motivated more by my annual determination to shed the extra padding I put on over the holidays, but as it turned out, it became an exercise in "listening" in itself! It was cold. The trails were barren and empty of life. I was the only one there. The ground was frozen and the wind rustled the few dead leaves that were on the trees. Every sound echoed loudly against the stark quiet - the creak of the old wood bridge that covered the boggy areas near the lake, the wooshing wind, a lone woodpecker off in the distance searching for bugs, the crunch of the frosty ground and dry leaves beneath my feet. Three little waterfalls in the stream sang together forming a complex harmony. I tried to capture it in this video with little success...


Our "Olympic Event" today was to listen to a recording of our chosen challenge piece and follow along with the sheet music. I listened to a harpist on youtube playing it, as I couldn't find any recordings of DHC playing the intermediate version, only the fancy shmancy super-charged advanced version. It was fun to hear how this harpist interpreted some of the bits that I interpret quite differently. That's something I really love about this piece - there are so many opportunities to flavor it with your own style and truly make it yours. No two harpists will play it exactly the same.


It's my last day of vacation before I go back to work tomorrow, so I took advantage of the extra time I have today and really delved deep into practice. As planned, I spent a lot of time working on the two intros. The "extra" intro is a 2-chord progression of arpeggios. The chords are strange shapes and unfamiliar to me, so I started practicing them really slowly with the metronome and worked my way up. Here's a progression of me practicing it slowly to about the speed it should be:



And then there was the strumming intro! This is super fun to play. Totally new technique for me too, though since I played guitar in my teens and twenties, I picked it up pretty quickly.


That's it! Tomorrow's blog post will probably be sparse - I go back to work tomorrow and it will be a struggle to even get my 20 minutes of practice in, but I WILL! The plan is to work on Flamenco Variation 2 and start to put it all together from the beginning up to the end of Flam. Var. 2. That way I can see if anything up to that point needs some extra work in the latter part of the week before I move on.