Training, Practicing For The Moment

The Many Phases of Harp Playing

One of the biggest things, that I have wondered and worried about, is how to prepare for an actual performance or performances. Because, I want to have many, as a singer and harpist. Now, I know, how to prepare as a singer, because I feel as if I grew into being one. Meaning, I had a sixth sense about it, through years of experience.  That while, I was singing, I would imagine myself performing, how I would express the song and the sound of the music.  I would imagine how I would sing to the audience.  A little strong vocals here, a little soft vocals there.  Now, I have a harp of which I have to do the same thing. But, I totally feel like a fish out of water.  I have no sixth sense about this what’s so ever, when it comes to playing the harp, and even in the context of imagination. One would think, that I would just apply the training, that I had done as a singer, to the harp.  Yes, it is possible, but for some reason it was not intuitive to me.  Nope. I had no idea, and there was no use in dwelling on it.  So what I did, was check in with my teacher Beatriz (Bea).   

We talked about the fundamental components to concentrate on when preparing for performances. Now, as I write this, I’m not really, ready to perform as a singer and harpist together.  I will be, but my quest, now, is to prepare for it.  And this is what my teacher, Bea had mentioned.  She said to me that one of many things I needed to learn to do, is to be in the moment, and play as if I was trying to reach the people who were supposedly listening. If you were playing to someone’s heart, how would you play it?  This was something she advised me, to say to myself, before I play.  This all came up, when I would play a song for her, that I’ve learned.  I would play the song straight through, no dynamics, or breath.  I would just play it steadily. Then the second time, I would play it, with the dynamics and with a lot more feeling.  I would get into it, or “play into it” as Bea, calls it, the second time around.  She asked me why I played that way.  Playing it through the first time, and then playing for real thing, the second time?   I really didn’t have an answer for that, but what I had in mind, was to show that I executed the techniques and tempo steadily. And the second time around, I would just play it, like a real performance.  She advised me to break that habit straight away.  She mentioned to me, you only get one chance to play in a performance,  so to speak. She said I needed to practice how I would actual play in the performance.  She said that I have already done the training. Which is learning the song, reading the music, getting the song in my head and in my fingers.  Now that I have all the tools, I should now concentrate on how to perform it for listeners.  

That’s what I did as a singer. So this made perfect sense to me. So part of the practice, with songs that I already have learned, is to think about how to reach the audience.  In singing, my goal has always been to reach the audiences’ heart. With the songs I am singing, I want them to either know that the song understands misfortune or suffering. But I also, wanted them to know, and myself to know, that there is hope. With that thought, I would imagine when singing, that I would raise my hand in front of my face, palm facing upward, and blowing beautiful and loving notes, out into the open, and have them surround the audience in a loving hug or embrace.  That is the image I use sometimes when singing. This now seems like a pretty good image I want to use, when playing my harp, in addition to singing, hand and hand.  

There have been times when my teacher has told me, to imagine myself in the place I wanted to be.  Playing confidently, being in the moment, singing and playing the harp, and have the two sounds combined, to create a sound that is lovely, strong and empowering. What great tool to use to help in preparing for performances. It’s like a revelation.   Stay tuned for the next written blog I have next, which is the about words “practice and training”.  These two words have just changed my life.