How long until I'm good enough to perform?
This is a question I receive often on YouTube videos and I always think, "this is a trick question!” It's kind of like asking whether you're talented enough or whether you're too old to start playing the harp. The answer is always: just do it! If you have passion, time and perseverance, you are the perfect person for the job.
So before we get into tips, here are 3 things that will impact the time it takes to be prepared enough to perform:
The number of pieces you need (setlist length). This depends on the event. If you perform background music for hours, you'll need lots of songs. If it's just one song, it will take quicker to prepare.
Difficulty of the pieces. If you are happy to perform a simple piece, it will be much quicker.
Low or high pressure situation. Performing at a wedding (high pressure) will take more time to prepare for than performing for friends and family.
If it's a super-low pressure performance and you need one simple piece, you could be ready to perform for the first time in just a few weeks!
TIPS for being ready to perform:
1. Choose the right pieces
The easier the pieces for you, the more quickly you will be able to feel confident and ready to perform for others. But choosing harp pieces that are easy is not just about it sounding simple - it is about the skills that are required, which is not obvious at first glance.
For advice on how to choose pieces that are the right level for you, go here.
2. Use effective practice techniques
Getting a piece smooth and performance-ready does not just 'happen'. If you only ever play the piece from the start to the finish and don't break it down in your practice time, you will find it really hard to get it ready to perform [link]
3. Face your fears!
It's normal to feel anxious a performing - it can be an extremely vulnerable thing to do! But don't let the fear of people judging you hold you back [link] from sharing your music with others. The harp is such a beautiful instrument, all you need to do is pluck a few notes and people will be enthralled!
4. Practice the performance, not just the piece
If you are normal, you'll probably find that stepping in front of people to be the centre of attention does all kinds of things to you: your heart will start racing, your knees shaking, your brain will feel fuzzy and your hands feel sweaty.
I have a super important tip for making this moment less frightening: practice performing, not just playing! Before that big moment, you need to play your piece in front of your husband, friend, a camera recording yourself, your cat or whoever else will listen! Get used to playing for others and get out of your own head into the realm of sharing with others.
And make sure that when you are practicing performing, you don't allow yourself to stop and correct something that went wrong... no stopping allowed when you're performing! If you make a mistake, just pretend as though nothing happened. You may find that your audience won't notice if you don't react visibly.
5. Ease yourself in: low-pressure performances
There's no need to put yourself in terrifying performing situations from day one! Performances like at a wedding, in front of a large crowd or for a paid event can really ramp up the pressure, so it's great to give yourself lots of practice with performing if you'd like to do any one of those.
Choose some low-pressure ways to perform, like having friends over for dinner, for elderly or sick friend, or for your harp circle. If you don't have a harp circle, join my Virtual Harp Circle - we all share the pieces we are learning when we are read, and it is a very encouraging environment.
6. Don’t wait until you’re perfect!
Basically, just do it! You can spend your life waiting until you have ____ right or have an impressive piece or don't feel nervous any more. But all that time, you are losing out on sharing your wonderful music with those who could benefit from it!
I have a question for you: Don’t you like to listen to simple but beautiful music? Even if it's not complicated, sharing music from the heart can still make an impact. Not all of us are meant to be a concert harpist, but I believe every one of us can make a difference to those around us by sharing our music with others.
Learning can take patience, but it does help to perform early on, rather than waiting until you’re perfect. So start performing as soon as possible! You can do it!!
What is your plan to get performing today? Let us know in the comments! If you have a harp friend who might be encouraged by this , make sure you SHARE it with them.