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  • Newbies withoout teacher: How do you structure your practice?

  • Annais Ryder

    23 March, 2021 at 11:57 pm

    I wonder how to go about working out a practice structure.

    Are you following one book? Mix a few? Is it technique, theory or learning a piece? How much of each? How many pieces are you learning simultaneously? What is a ‘pass’? Is it a youtube video?

    What about goals? Any deadlines?

    I kind of feel the need to work out some sort of a system, cos I like my ducks in a row.

    Please share!

  • Judiann Maddigan

    25 March, 2021 at 3:09 am

    I started with a teacher but am now on my own. My practice sessions are divided into six segments, and they are rotated. It’s not all six every day.

    • Warmup. That’s typically something with triads, such as Christy-Lyn’s Sailing on a Lake or Anne Crosby Gaudet’s Whirling Leaves.
    • Exercises. I pick a single exercise and practice it slowly and deliberately with the metronome for 5 to 7 days. Lately it has been Grossi rather than Friou. I’m also working on rolled chords, as well as left hand crossing under for 1-5-8-9-10 and 1-5-8-10-12. Those techniques are above my level, but since they will take months, I’m starting early.
    • Learning. Two pieces that I’m working on, one brand new and one I’ve had for a week or two. Some of these come from Play the Harp Beautifully Level 2 by Pamela Bruner.
    • Memorizing. One or two pieces I’ve previously learned that I’m trying to commit to memory.
    • Sight-reading. I sight-read pieces at a lower level than I’m learning. I have several easy, progressive books with good fingering.
    • Repertoire. Ten of my previous pieces are in a presentation book. I play through two or three per day, random order. This hasn’t worked as well as planned; ten is too many. I need to choose only a few favorites and build from there.

    I do multiple short practice sessions per day. My goal is simply to put in the time, trusting that progress will happen. No deadlines, just enjoying the process.

    • Annette Kelly

      25 March, 2021 at 9:47 pm

      Excellent and helpful. Wish I could hit print!

      • Judiann Maddigan

        25 March, 2021 at 10:08 pm

        Thanks, @annette.kelly 👋. You can highlight the text, copy it, and paste it into another program that will allow you to print it. But better yet, before you print, take my six categories and personalize them for how you would do your own practice sessions. Then hit Print.

        • Annette Kelly

          25 March, 2021 at 10:11 pm

          Thank you. Actually I took a screen shot and will tweek for me and write in my harp notebook.

    • Amanda Barnes

      26 March, 2021 at 5:07 am

      This is a great structure! I’ll have to jot it down and try it out.😀

    • Claire Lécuyer

      27 March, 2021 at 4:19 pm

      Wow, what an organization Judiann! That’s inspiring, I’ll try to build something like this, it may take a while but should be very useful. I have NO structure at all! Just trying not to work too much pieces at the same time. I don’t do enough exercises, but definitely should do. I bought the Deborah Friou book one week ago and didn’t use it yet, I prefer to play music ^^ Bad habit, I know…

      So, no tips to give, sorry, but thanks for yours! I’ll be curious to read other examples.

  • Tara Carolin

    25 March, 2021 at 5:08 am

    I am impressed with @judiann.maddigan ‘s structure and organization. I consider Christy-Lyn my teacher. I have thought about trying to schedule a one-off lesson with a local teacher, but so far have been learning on my own with the video courses. I have previously dabbled in violin, piano, and guitar, but never to any level of proficiency, so am mostly a music newbie, still struggling to sight read quickly. I do like warming up with Sailing on a Lake (but don’t always do that). I did work my way (most) of the way through Pamela Bruner’s Learn to Play the Harp Beautifully, but feel like I learn more from Christy-Lyn’s tutorials. I rarely do exercises, and most people will tell you that is not the way to go. I keep around 10 pieces in my “active” repertoire that I try to play at least weekly. I usually have one I am learning that I play daily, along with the most recently completed one that I am polishing that I play almost daily. Then I will play through 1-2 others depending on how much time I have. When I have more time, I will focus on trouble spots and do practice loops to iron them out. My husband sometimes accompanies me on guitar on several pieces, and that is fun to learn to play in sync with someone else. I often only have around 15 minutes/day to practice, but sometimes get in 45 min to an hour when working through a lesson.

    • Claire Lécuyer

      27 March, 2021 at 4:25 pm

      Hi Tara, my so-called structure is quite similar to yours, except for the daily practice and the guitarist husband (that must be cool!). My “problem” is, it’s hard to me to find time to play everyday, but when I start, it can’t last only 15min, I always want to do more so I end up with a 1 hour session haha. I’m trying to create something more regular and reasonable.

      I like warming up with Sailing on a Lake too! Happy to see that i’m not the only one who doesn’t like exercises. Though it surely must help to progress…

  • Tammie Quinones

    3 May, 2021 at 6:16 am

    Hi Annais, Thank you for the wonderful question. I was thinking the same thing. How am I going to learn/practice the harp without a teacher? Judiann answered our question. Excellent! Thank you Judiann for your share and insight. Pressing on to practice!



  • Emilia Ramey

    3 May, 2021 at 7:25 pm

    I have less structure than I would like, but I always start with tuning my harp. I have a few good teaching books, and I really recommend Pamela Bruner’s Play the Harp Beautifully. I am trying to work out a better structure for myself, so I am glad you posted. First I want to work out my goals, so then I know where I am trying to head for! I will check back here for ideas! @judiann.maddigan I love your practice structure, thanks for posting 🙂

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Emilia Ramey.
  • Sharon Cullen

    3 May, 2021 at 11:27 pm

    I was doing good with the repitoire and lately got away from it and now am stumbling on some of my previously memorized music. I am finding the further advanced I get the more difficult it can be memorizing. But i am working on several new pieces because I can get very bored listening to the same song over and over and over again! But they are at different levels of being finished.I have been playing harp 3 months now and play advanced beginner to early intermediate. I have no trouble reading music as I’m a musician already. But I am new to strings so chords are new to me. My biggest issue is getting my speed up and not hesitating. That usually happens with memorization when I have a brain fart. Excuse me. That’s the only way I can describe it!

    I have been working the Magic Hands program which is good.it works on hand placements that can be more common in celtic music but it works for any. Like 432 strings skip one and place 1 on the next would be called the mitten, or the bow tie would be 43 skip 21 etc. you go up and down the scale daily one octave and in doing so within 3 weeks these hand placements are pretty engrained. The point then is you can put a picture or name above your music and all u need is the first note and if it is a mitten you know the placement. It eliminates have it to read a whole string of notes at once when you are sight reading fast. It is very interesting. And in celtic music it can go fast. This is one of their tricks. There’s about 10 I think. Then working on chords. 1-3-5, 1-5-8, 1-5-8-9-10 etc. look it up on YouTube the woman’s name is Carol Kukkas I think. Something like that. You can purchase her program

    So my practice is spaced out through the day. I start with something fun and easy that I know, then I go into a piece I’m learning while my brain is fresh. Then I rest, I come back and do exercises, then I rest, then I come back and work on either the same piece or one I am further along in that can be easier to progress on later in the day. Sometimes I practice 5-6 times a day, sometimes 3. But I try to get at least 2 hours a day in. I’m retired. But I am also an artist and I’m falling behind on my painting!

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by  Sharon Cullen.
  • Arlene Stepputat

    4 May, 2021 at 12:51 am

    This was so helpful. I have been away from my harp for about 2 weeks with other pressing issues. I am so happy to know others sometimes only get a few moments in here or there.

    I must remind myself that I am playing for ME and the joy of that first and then as I progress I can share with others. It has to be from joy for me and it is so easy for me to make it a HAVE TO obligation that doesn’t serve at all. ( And I was on vacation for one week so the harp didn’t come with us. Stayed home with the dogs and cat!) Thank you community. I needed this.

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