Sunday, March 5, 2017

Helping Your Child to Practice

Realistically, it is the rare child that is eager to sit down and practice. They need their parents help motivating them and developing good practice habits to help them through those slow times.  

~Pick a time and place in their daily routine where practice can be the focus instead of the sideline.  Have a quiet spot without distractions.  Make sure there is good lighting, a music stand, the harp and a chair of the proper height for your child.

~Schedule regular practice time.  It is teaching them discipline.  Keep sessions age appropriate in length.  A young child learns a lot in 15 minutes several days a week, if they apply themselves.  The quality of time is more important than the quantity.  I would rather see 20 minutes of concentrated, focused work than 45 minutes of mindlessly running through things again and again to put in the required time.

~Set daily goals as well as weekly ones.  Occasional loftier goals are helpful too - a recital, performance at church, school talent show, etc.  

~Join your child for practice time frequently.  You don't have to be an accomplished musician to be a music helper.  Being with your child and being attentive to what he or she is practicing shows that you are interested.  If you cannot be sitting with them, let them know you are listening by giving words of encouragement or commenting on how well they are playing.

~Play along sometimes, if you play an instrument.  If not, sing along.  There is a great bonding that occurs between parents and children who create music together and the child improves in the sharing.

 ~Turn "practice" time into "play" time.  All kids like to play, so simply replace practice for play in your vocabulary.  They will be "playing" music  or "playing" their harp instead of practicing their harp.  A wise person once said, "Make a game of it with your kids!  They will be less likely to balk because they are playing and having fun." 

~Sessions don't have be dry and boring.  Occasionally and randomly, let your child pick a fun, lesson related activity.  Here are some ideas to keep things interesting - perhaps a bowl with slips of paper in them with the ideas written on them.  Or write on a popsicle stick.  Be creative.  Let your child join in the fun and add their own ideas too.  To get you started:   
  • Play as fast as you can
  • Play really, really sslllloooooowwwwwllllyyy.
  • Make up words for the music.
  • Sing the notes.
  • Whistle the tune or hum or sing la, la la.
  • Record or video them playing.
  • Make up their own song.
  • Wiggle your head and play at the same time.
  • Play with your eyes closed (only memorized songs, of course!)
  • Let your child teach you  - notes, song, technique, musical symbols, timing.
  • Select a song they know and like, and try to pick out the tune.
  • Give a concert for grandparents, friends or stuffed animals!  Phone or Facetime concerts work too.  That can be their session for the day.
  • Have a review day where they play songs they already have mastered.  It will show them how much they have progressed.
  • And a happy surprise - no practice that day! 
~ Expose your child to harp music in CDs, YouTube videos, concerts, etc.  It is very inspiring for even young ones and helps remind them of why they are learning to play their special instrument - the harp.

~Last, but definitely not least, let's talk about incentive.  This is a positive reward for something your child has done - and a wonderful way to encourage your child to want to behave.  A reward can be given for a good attitude while playing that day or practicing without being asked, etc.  Colored beads, coupons, or tokens can be saved up and turned in later for a reward.  Let your imagination be your guide.  This is opposed to a bribe, which pays them to do something you want.

~All children will balk at times. No one knows your child better than you what will motivate them. Use your creativity.  The sky is the limit.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

How do I find the perfect lever harp for me?

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe - which is the best harp!  Since I am frequently involved in helping students and friends buy or sell their harps; I want to share what I think is important in choosing THE one.  Finding the perfect harp for you can be a daunting process, especially if you are new to the harp world.  There are almost limitless variables to consider and since a good harp is a big investment, you want to be as informed as possible.  Initially, I always advise new students to rent for a few months, for a couple of reasons - first, to make sure that playing the harp is something you want to pursue; and second, to become better versed on what is the best harp for you.  After playing for just a little while, you will develop an ear, appreciate the sounds of different styles of harps and develop preferences.

Since most beginners will start on a lever harp, the focus here will be on smaller harps.  We will discuss additional features of pedal harps at a later date.

In making your selection, you first have to be able to answer the questions below.  Your teacher will be a big asset in helping you:

How many strings to I want on my harp? Folk harps range from 28 strings to 40.
Do I want full levers, none, or partial?
Is ease of moving the harp important to me?
Do I want new harp with a warranty and a higher price tag, or used "as is"?
What string spacing works most comfortably with my hand?
Do I like looser tension or tighter?
Is the size right for my height - is it comfortable to sit behind the harp?
Which type of harp back feels best resting on my shoulder - square (stave back) or round?
Is the harp strung in folk or pedal gauge strings?  Which feels best on my finger tips?
Is nylon the sound that I like or do I prefer the sound of gut strings?
Is the harp made by a reputable manufacturer?
How much am I willing to spend?
And lastly, what wood finish and overall look do I like?  Strictly a personal decision there.

If you are considering a used harp.  There are many places to look for a quality used instrument.  Again, help will be invaluable in this area from your teacher.  When purchasing used, here are some additional questions to ask the seller:
   Age of harp - serial number.  The age can be verified with the manufacturer.
   History of ownership - original owner?
   Has it been keep strung, regularly played?
   Where has it been housed?
   What accessories come with it?
   Any cracks and dings - are they structural or merely cosmetic which can be repaired?

   Be sure to play the harp and assess the sound and feel.  Then weigh the cost and quality of a
   used harp at a lower price with the comparable new harp with a warranty.

GOOD LUCK - and happy harping!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Oh, Give Me a Home -- SOLD

Looking for a quality lever harp?  Consider me:  I am a 36 string Salvi Livia, built in 1998 and have a walnut finish.  I've had 2 owners.  The serial number is #20768.  A new Livia sells for $4,250, so I am a bargain at $2300.   I come with a dust cover and a heavy duty fitted, padded transport cover with convenient wheels which is like new (sells for $340)!  My tuning key and a digital tuner are included.  Height, weight and all dimensions can be found on

Notes from sales agent (aka - me):  This is a former student's harp 
who is no longer playing.  The harp is fully strung and holds its pitch and has a full, rich, sustained tone.  It is strung with folk nylon and has a full set of sharping levers.  There are some minor nicks and scrapes as any harp would pick up along the way.  There is also a nonstructural crack about 1" long off the side of the second sound hole from the bottom.  It does not affect the integrity or sound of the harp in any way.  An estimate to repair this is $200 by a good luthier or competent furniture repair person and that is reflected in the price.  Located in south Orange County, California.  Any shipping costs will be paid by the buyer.  Sold as is.

Call, text or email with any further questions.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Upcoming Harp Concert

The Orange County Harp Troupe is so excited to be presenting Kim Roberston!  She will be here in a little over a month.  No tickets needed, so come early to be assured of a seat.  Doors open at 6 pm.   Refreshments will be served after the concert and you will have a chance to browse Kim's books and CDs.  Look forward to seeing you there!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Pedal Harp - For Sale SOLD

I am helping sell the harp of a dear friend and former student who passed away suddenly.  It is a beautiful Salvi Diana, high gloss mahogany finish in pristine condition.  It was built and purchased in 2006 from the manufacturer.  She was the original - and only owner.  The harp was purchased for her own enjoyment and it was never used as a gigging harp.  It comes with the additional accessories of:  harp trolley, dust cover, three piece transport cover, collapsible padded bench, and folding music stand.  There is also a tuner, metronome, and tuning key.  If you are in the Southern California area, you are welcome to come by and play it.  Her family is asking $19,000.

Please pass the word to your harp friends.  I can be reached by email or phone [listed under Teaching Studio] for any additional questions.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Ensembles - You Mean I have to Count?

If you are fortunate enough to have a harp ensemble in your area, consider giving it a try.  Playing with others is a great way to learn new skills, gain experience, and challenge yourself; as well as make lasting friendships.

Our local Orange County Harp Troupe was formed several years ago.  It all started when a student new to the area wanted a join harp circle, since she had enjoyed one at her previous home.  I held a tea in my home and invited anyone locally who might be interested in forming a group to come.  It was after a local harp concert, so there was a large group of interested people to draw from.  Regular meetings began shortly thereafter.  We have had an amazing 15 years and are still growing strong.  We have played for churches, hospitals, nursing and retirement homes, veterans groups,  and Irish and Scottish fairs to name a few.  We have also had Christmas parties, end of the year pot lucks, sponsored workshops and concerts, and even took a cruise with a presenter!  The opportunities are only as limited as your groups collective imagination.

HELPFUL HINTS learned along the way:

Start by laying a good foundation for your meetings.  You will need to select a board – at least President, Vice President, Treasurer and Secretary to run the meetings and help determine the direction of the group – frequency of meetings, music, events to perform, etc.  There should be time either at the beginning or the end of each rehearsal for a general meeting for voting and discussion.  Ahead of time usually works well. This cuts down on chatter during your rehearsal and there is always time during refreshments afterwards to toss around ideas.

At the designated meeting start time, everyone should be setup, tuned, and ready to play.  Have a tuner that picks up the vibrations of your own harp only.  It takes some longer than others for setting up and they should plan accordingly.  Try to start on time and don’t wait for latecomers.  There will always be some!

During your meeting allow time after each piece for discussion - tempo, tough parts, repeats.  Remember to have a pencil handy to mark your music so your memory doesn't have to work overtime! Designate one person to count two bars at the beginning to start everyone off.  During rehearsals, a loud ticking metronome is helpful too, to keep the tempo even.

For performances, strive to look like a professional group.  Position yourselves in close proximity to each other, so you can see and hear each other.  If the venue allows, a semi-circle is best.  Learning to listen to others and playing together is a real skill!  Practice pulling your harps to your shoulders at the same time, as well as muffling at the end of each piece, and standing your harps back up in unison.  Also practice bowing - the audience will be clapping!   For a cohesive look at performances, wear coordinated colors; or try matching accessories, such as a scarf, to unify the look of your group.

If you are in the Orange County area, please join us - beginners welcome!  If there is no harp group in your area, consider starting one - your life will be enriched.

Upcoming OC Harp Troupe Events

We are looking forward to performing for the following two holiday events.  If you are interested in joining the harp troupe, please contact one of the people listed below in the flyer.