Monday, October 8, 2012

Harp Practice Episode 4 - Bb, F# & pedaling E and C while playing!

Behold! The three songs most frequently heard in our living room lately: Le Bon Petit Roi d'Yvetot, The Keel Row, and Largo! I'm slowly getting better at each one........ I promise, someday I will play well enough to deserve to play this beautiful harp! ^_^ At this point I'm just glad if I remember a song has pedal changes in it before I start plucking... they tend to catch me completely off guard if I don't stay focused. I'm taking October off from lessons and focusing on exercises when I have time to play. We're traveling every weekend and there's simply too much going on for me to devote enough attention to my practicing until things settle down in November. I wish I had a tiny harp I could travel with, ah well! Probably someday!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Le Sigh!

The past few days my harp has been sitting in our guest bedroom with the dust cover on to prevent it from getting gross from our kitchen cabinet sanding and to keep it safe from our cats who are going a bit nuts from being quarantined from half the house while we paint the cabinets. I woke up this morning to find that my darling husband rolled it back to the living room this morning for me while I was sleeping. I also found my 3rd octave C had bitten the dust. Kinda saw this one coming since we took that string off and put it back on, like, twice, trying to isolate/diagnose the buzz. Thank goodness I bought all those replacement strings in Virginia! This'll be another chance for me to practice restringing! The first time this happened it took me maybe 40 minutes because I was trying to follow some knot tying guide and I got all confused... Today I'm shooting for 30!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Bye Bye, Buzz!

Well folks! I'm back from the VA Harp Center! Le buzz a disparu! Grâce à dieu...and also the very kind and knowledgeable Amy and Ivan! Apparently I had some string anchors contacting the back of my soundboard or something that just needed a little twisting. So! I learned something about diagnosing buzzes on the harp! I also scored some replacement string loot (first 3 octaves) as well as my own copy of a fun warm-up book I've been borrowing from my teacher. I'm back home with a harp that doesn't have a mysterious buzz, ready to get back to practicing. I feel like I've seriously slowed down on my progress lately. Work has been so stressful and I haven't been making enough time to practice. I'm promising myself not to get discouraged, just to make a change in my habits and make more time to play! Speaking of making time to play... I better get to it! :)

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Totally Buzzed

You guys... There is a buzzing sound coming from my fancy new pedal harp. It's so annoying. I've tried a few things to figure out where the buzz might be coming from. Alas! No luck. It started in my third octave C a couple of weeks ago, and over a week or so it seemed to travel down to the neighboring B and A... but now I only hear it from C. (Whoa, cool story bro -- I know!) Yesterday at my harp lesson, my teacher, her husband and I attempted a few things including loosening, removing, and replacing the string... we tried putting a small piece of fabric between the string and the soundboard... we looked under the base and pressed firmly on everything we could think might be causing it, but the buzz persisted. I'm going to have to rent an SUV (because I don't have a harpmobile - or much need for one - yet) and drive the harp up to Virginia for someone to look at it next week. My engineering mind has me so ready to take this thing apart and figure it all out myself, but I know better than to do anything that might jeopardize my warranty! I would love to learn to be a harp technician, though. What fun it must be to know all the technical ins and outs and be able to perform maintenance yourself! This kind of thinking must be how people get into fixing cars...

Harp Dreams

We Netflix'd Harp Dreams the other night... Can I just say, WOW! Competitive, super focused and extremely goal-oriented people blow my mind. Maybe my apathy towards the idea of being THE. ABSOLUTE. BEST. at something, or my overwhelming love of all things and my need to figure out a fair amount about everything and not dedicate my whole life to just one thing baffles others. I got so excited when Yolanda Kondonassis came on the screen. I have her book, On Playing the Harp, which I affectionately refer to as 'The Yolanda Book' and often reference when I can't quite get my harp claw oriented properly during practice. Anyway, I admire those people for competing and following their dreams, and I really admire their dedication. The documentary made me wish, for a fleeting moment, that I had moved off to Paris or something to seriously study music or art (see how I can't even narrow that field of study down?). These kids are amazingly brave and talented! And Indiana is a big harpist hub?! WHO KNEW!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Mad World (Cat Version)

My friend Fred has shown some interest in learning to play the piano and asked me to teach him a few things... some of them ridiculously difficult (ok, Fred, I cannot rock out to Led Zeppelin by ear, sorry), but I did learn to play Mad World (Gary Jules version) for him - and why not also learn it on the harp? It's extra fun because I get to take my harp out of C and into E♭! Woohoo. And what a joy it is to change keys with pedals!! I'm so smitten with my new harp it's borderline creepy. This isn't the best I can play the song, but I think you'll know why I chose this clip to publish. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

My First Broken String!

YOUGUYS. It happened! Either while I was out or while I was sleeping... which is how everyone said it would happen. I always imagined my first broken string would smack me in the eye while I was playing and render me blind... Fortunately it's a pretty high note I don't use too often, so I can live with the harp like this while I wait for a replacement. (Again, really wishing there were harp stores everywhere so I wouldn't have to wait, it can't be good for the harp to sit like this!) It's about time for another video! I have a few new songs I've been working on, and from the photo you can see that I have a new friend to introduce ^_~ !

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Harp Shopping!

I took a day trip to the magnificent Virginia Harp Center today, mainly to make googly eyes at all the pretty harps and hopefully get closer to making a decision about what to do with my rent-to-own Troubadour VI when the 6mo is over. (My mind is made up now!) I have a really inexplicable emotional reaction when I'm around a lot of instruments at once. I get overwhelmed. Am I alone? (Almost afraid to ask - Is this diagnosable? Ha...) There's just something so awesome and comforting about it... Anyway! I spent a great deal of time gazing at and playing a new Style 100 (oh em gee, I think it's *the one* you guys!) and also playing a used Style 30 circa 1967... Both harps blew me away in person in a way you can't really read about or hear in recordings. I gave a few other harps a chance, but nothing compared to the Style 100. For me, it's the total package. I got some excellent advice from the forum at ~ A kind soul suggested that I have the person working at the harp center play the harps for me so I could hear how they fill a room rather than just what they sound like as you play them. The woman at VHC was more than accommodating, and hearing the harps from a distance really helped me get a feel for the volume, character, and tone of the individual instruments. Again, I wish that harp stores were everywhere so I could do this every week. However, I am fortunate that the VHC isn't too terribly far from where I live. I've got some big decisions to make soon!

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Shit Harpists Say

The girl walking in on the broken string is the best part. :)

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

First Recital: Check!

I played in my first recital last night! Of course, I made my nails super fancy to mark the occasion. It was my first time transporting my harp, first time playing in front of people I don't know (live), first time with my name written on any sort of music program in at least 7 years... it was so fun! My Troubadour VI fit beautifully in the folded down back seat of my husband's Honda Civic... Now I only need to gain more confidence and learn to drive a stick shift and I'll be all set for playing more in public! Everyone at the recital was very warm and encouraging! I played a small song from my rinkydink beginner harp lesson book and then my Clair de Lune/Pavane combo... It wasn't perfect, but I got through it fine - shaking hands and all! My teacher, Kelsey, played a neat Celtic medley with a recorder player and violinist (pretty awesome!). Kelsey's teacher, Amy, played Impromptu Caprice by Gabriel Pierne, which is the most insanely awesome thing I've witnessed on harp to date. The harmonics! BOOM! I was so impressed. After the recital, we mingled a bit and I mustered up the courage to ask to play Amy's pedal harp -- it's a Lyon & Healy semi grand, I don't remember the model but it's over 10 years old and has a really beautiful sound. The sound quality and general feel are so extremely different than my Troubadour. It was a dream come true for me, just to play a few arpeggios and push a couple of pedals down and see the mechanisms in action and hear the result. I left the recital feeling giddy and accomplished! I'm so grateful to have been included last night! I'm also very excited that the recital is over, because now I can start focusing on NEW THINGS!!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Unwillingly Anxious & Shy

We had some friends over recently for small a dinner party and I was so thrilled at the thought of playing my harp for more than just our cats or whoever happened to be walking by our house on nice days when I'm practicing with the windows open... but I clammed up. I froze. I saw faces of people I admire and adore and for some reason instead of it comforting and empowering me, I was terrified. I wanted them to be impressed by my progress but I could barely handle the silence and their focus as they all patiently waited for me to play a note. None of these people play harp, they have no idea how it should sound, they won't recognize the tiny songs I've been learning, but I was petrified. I eventually managed to convince them to look away & carry on a conversation and I played a few songs somewhat smoothly. I don't know how I'll overcome it, ultimately, or if many of the performers I admire so much are even over it after multiple albums released and concerts played. Actually, I've heard Chan Marshall has stage fright. If that's true, I know I'm in good company. Shy, reclusive musicians unite!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Clair de Lune/Pavane Pour Une Infante Défunte (segments)

I'm making some progress on two pieces that are very dear to me... Clair de Lune is my favourite classical song - My aunt played this song as I walked down the aisle at my wedding a year ago & Pavane is for my lovely friend Caroline, who got a few bars of the sheet music tattooed to her forearm at the tender age of 18 and somehow managed to keep it a secret from her family for months. Ha!

Both arrangements come from Classical Selections - Book II (for lever harp, yay!) by Angi Bemiss & Balfour Knight. I find these arrangements the perfect challenge for my current skill set. Maybe they are even a bit beyond my level, but I think they are simple enough that I should be able to master them with continued practice. I also really love playing classical music rather than the tiny exercises in my lesson book, although I understand it's important to remain focused on the basics as I progress.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Style 100, I love you so...

I love love love the harp, but I am a grungy 20something with an overwhelming fondness for rock music, victorian homes, and cat videos. As fun as I think it would be to eventually be good enough to play in an orchestra, I'm more interested in exploring what else I can do with harp. I dream of being on stage at some cozy venue wearing a long flowing gown and rocking out on pedal harp as my husband accompanies on banjo... Actually, my favourite recent past time has been playing my electric guitar & looping it through the amp and then improvising a melody over it on the harp. It's such a pain to get both instruments in tune together, but it's well worth it!

I've spent some time looking online at pedal harps (like a kid looking through a toy store window, knowing mom & dad aren't going to stop for me to go in), but I keep finding myself coming to the same absurd conclusion - columns either look so silly and pretentious, or they're just lackluster and unspectacular like an extremely long newel from a boring stairwell for giants! However, the Lyon & Healy Style 100 is totally speaking my language. I feel like the column has a funky, art deco quality to it while remaining formal and elegant. I also think the retro-ness of it makes it more interesting when I consider its separation from its natural habitat (orchestra, wedding). The Style 30 is also awesomely designed, but I'm not completely sold on the shape of the body. I'm bummed that harps aren't as popular as guitars so that I could have my choice of many fine manufacturers, but as long as Lyon & Healy keep making the Style 100 I think I'll be all set. Now... if I could only find $22,500...

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Harp Practice (Episode 3: Recent Harpings.)

Melody bearing vague resemblance to Zebra by Beach House arranged for harp by yours truly. I'm still working on making it less bleh, it was just exciting to pick it out (in the wrong key, but whatever). Lots of exciting harpness has been going on since I last posted. My husband got me some classical music arranged for lever harp for our anniversary, so I am learning Clair de Lune, but I'm currently quite terrible at it. My Lyon&Healy Troubadour VI arrived about a month or so ago and I've returned the lovely Dusty Strings harp I had been renting to the wonderful lady who lent it to me. Oh, and I named my harp Queen Daniel.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Keeping Time

I ventured to a wonderful local string instrument store and found this gem... It's exactly what I was looking for! Compact, old fashioned, delightfully annoying! They also had some $100 owl metronome that I just couldn't bring myself to buy... cute as it was. I haven't used a metronome since I practiced piano at my parents' house, probably pre-2004. I find it helps to have the metronome going as I familiarize myself with a new tune... It's been ages since I've read sheet music regularly, and I am completely rhythmically challenged. In high school band I remember always laughing with my friend Caroline that our section (the pit! Yay, vibraphone/marimba/glockenspiel!) went through a time warp because we would continually find ourselves lost in different measures than the rest of the band, much to our director's dismay. Beat on our stands all you want, Dr. Spencer, it's not helping! We did better in jazz band, I on bass guitar & Caroline on piano... but the nature of jazz music only allowed for a partial masking of our shared affliction.

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Harp Practice (Episode 2: Harp is Hard.)

Alternate Title: Tyler Attempts to Learn 'Sur Le Pont d'Avignon' ................maybe next week! It can be so frustrating sometimes, between lessons, when no one is there to say "Oh! Here's the obvious thing you're doing wrong with your wrist that is causing you to be so bad at playing this song.." - As I fiddle with repositioning and playing and replaying the same dang song over and over, I find myself fading out, happily... just glissando myself into a trance.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Harp Practice (Episode 1: First and Second Fingers!)

I'm a total beginner on harp. I've had 3 lessons so far. At the moment, I am only practicing songs with 2 fingers on each hand. This week I am working my way up to using 3 fingers... and hopefully gradually get better at positioning my arms and closing my hands after playing a note! It's so awkward getting started. Fortunately, my cat Edwin is totally supportive.