59 episodes

Is playing the harp harder than you thought it would be? Ever wish you knew the secrets to learning music that only the experts and the eight year old YouTube stars seem to know? Want to finally finish the pieces you start and play them with ease, confidence and joy? Harp Mastery founder and Harp Happiness expert Anne Sullivan believes every harp player can learn to play the music they want the way they want. Tune in as she clears the confusion around topics like fingering, technique, sight reading and practice skills and shares the insider tips that help her students make music beautifully. Whether you’re playing the harp for fun or you’re ready to take your playing to the next level, each Practicing Harp Happiness episode will reveal the strategies and insight you need to fire your imagination, enjoy your practice and love your harp playing.

Practicing Harp Happiness Anne Sulllivan

    • Music
    • 5.0 • 10 Ratings

Is playing the harp harder than you thought it would be? Ever wish you knew the secrets to learning music that only the experts and the eight year old YouTube stars seem to know? Want to finally finish the pieces you start and play them with ease, confidence and joy? Harp Mastery founder and Harp Happiness expert Anne Sullivan believes every harp player can learn to play the music they want the way they want. Tune in as she clears the confusion around topics like fingering, technique, sight reading and practice skills and shares the insider tips that help her students make music beautifully. Whether you’re playing the harp for fun or you’re ready to take your playing to the next level, each Practicing Harp Happiness episode will reveal the strategies and insight you need to fire your imagination, enjoy your practice and love your harp playing.

    Confused About Markings? 10 Common Harp Markings Explained!

    Confused About Markings? 10 Common Harp Markings Explained!

    If the fairy godmother of harp appeared today to grant you just one wish, what would it be? Would you wish for a new harp, flying fingers, an endless supply of music? I know what I would wish for: standardized harp markings.
    That may sound to you as if I haven’t given this wish a lot of thought, but actually I believe if the harp fairy godmother would grant that one wish, it would save all of us harpists much time, confusion and frustration. Allow me to explain.
    Harp notation is anything but standardized. Take a simple technique like a harmonic. Most composers write harp harmonics where they are to be played, which results in the note sounding one octave higher. But there are a few composers - Carlos Salzedo, most notably - who write their harmonics where the notes actually sound, meaning that we need to play them one octave lower than they are written. Many harpist composers explain which system they are using with a note to the performer printed on the music. Unfortunately, the vast majority of works for harp leave this important piece of information unwritten for the players to figure out for themselves. 
    And that’s merely one example. Harp markings seem to change with each new generation of composers and arrangers. Harpists must become detectives, scouring the page for clues to decide what a marking means and learning what to do when you can’t find any clues. 
    Other markings are just plain confusing. Take harp fingering from some of the 19th harpist composers. Rather than use the number 1 to indicate the thumb, some composers used a plus sign or an “x” to indicate the thumb. To add another layer of confusion, the fingers 2, 3 and 4 were indicated as 1, 2 and 3. It’s easier to read these pieces without the fingering at all than to try to translate the fingering as you play.
    Sadly, I can’t clear up all the harp marking inconsistencies for you in one podcast. What we will talk about on today’s show are the meanings of 10 fairly common markings. I will tell you what they mean or in some cases what they don’t  mean and most importantly, when you need to use your own judgment. Also, at the end of our discussion, I will share a wonderful free online resource with you that will help you with many more harp marking questions. 
    One word of warning: there’s one three-word phrase that crops up repeatedly in today’s discussion. I won’t tell you what that phrase is now; you’ll recognize it soon enough! 
    Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 
    Harp Notation Manual by Gunnhildur Einarsdóttir Related resource The Mysterious Case of the Extra Accidental blog post Harpmastery.com Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at podcast@harpmastery.com 
    LINKS NOT WORKING FOR YOU? FInd all the show resources here: https://www.harpmastery.com/blog/Episode-059

    • 35 min
    Quick Fix Episode: Fixing 3 Common Thumb Issues

    Quick Fix Episode: Fixing 3 Common Thumb Issues

    Today's episode is a brand-new podcast feature, a “Quick Fix'' episode. These are special episodes designed to take your harp learning out of the realm of the theoretical and get totally practical. It’s obviously not enough just to know why something is important, although that’s a great place to start. Sooner or later you have to actually do whatever it is, and for that you need to know how. 
    So from time to time here on the podcast, I’ll be sharing my favorite quick fixes, the nuts and bolts step by step instructions to put some of the things we’ve talked about - or that you’ve asked me about - into place in your harp playing.
    The inspiration for today’s show was a comment I received in response to a podcast episode I did nearly a year ago, episode 14, about Taming the Terrible Thumb. On that podcast I talked about how your thumb should work, the proper mechanics and the reasons why those mechanics were important. But more recently I got a comment from a listener asking for more detailed instructions about how to implement some of the things I mentioned on that show, and I have to tell you it was a wake-up call. It’s so easy for a teacher to assume that a student knows something, and unfortunately, many students are hesitant to ask for information they need. They figure it’s their fault, that everyone else already knows it and they’ll just figure it out themselves. I’m very grateful that this particular listener reached out to me - you know who you are - because I’m certain that there are other listeners out there with the same question.
    Answering your questions, being a resource to harpists, is a main part of what we at Harp Mastery® are committed to doing. We don’t want you to have to figure it out yourself. There are plenty of things that are hard about playing the harp, but getting answers to your questions, especially the questions that are stopping you from making progress, shouldn’t be one of them. 
    So today, for our inaugural Quick Fix episode, we will not be merely talking about what your thumb should be doing; I’ll be sharing how you can fix the issues you might be having with your thumbs. There are three common complaints that harpists have about their thumbs: thumbs that are too soft, thumbs that are too loud, and thumbs that are tense. In fact, most playing challenges related to your thumbs come down to one of those three, even if they seem to have a different cause. 
    So as you listen, don’t be afraid to push pause and try some of these techniques at your harp. That’s what a Quick Fix show is all about.
    Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 
    Join us at My Harp Mastery now. Doors close on June 30! Related resource Are Your Fingers Failing You? 10 Quick Fixes blog post Harpmastery.com Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at podcast@harpmastery.com
    LINKS NOT WORKING FOR YOU? FInd all the show resources here: https://www.harpmastery.com/blog/Episode-058

    • 36 min
    The Success Habit: How to Fuel Your Courage, Confidence and Creativity - PHH 057

    The Success Habit: How to Fuel Your Courage, Confidence and Creativity - PHH 057

    What is success when it comes to harp playing? And is it something you’re really interested in anyway?
    Success is a loaded word. It’s easy to imagine success only in terms of applause, record deals and bouquets of flowers, even if we know that’s a Hollywood-style illusion. Even considering success from a more realistic perspective, you may not feel that success is what you’re looking for in your harp playing. Your goals may not include winning competitions or playing solo recitals or making CDs. I want to challenge your idea of success on today’s show, to show you how your success is more important to you than you may think and that it is the single most important factor in your harp happiness. If that sounds difficult, let me reassure you right now. It’s much easier than you think and quite possibly more rewarding than you have imagined.
    I want to share a quote from Albert Schweitzer, a theologian and musicologist as well as an organist, and famous for his edition of the keyboard works of JS Bach. “Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful.”
    I love the way Schweitzer connects success and happiness. For us harpists, that kind of happiness isn’t just the happiness we feel when we play well. It is finding happiness in the work we must do in order to play well. If we dread our practice or feel guilty about it or feel like we’re going around in circles and not making progress, we are off the success path. 
    Success, or at least the kind of fulfilling success we want, doesn’t need to involve gritting your teeth and grinding out another practice session. That’s actually the wrong way to go about it. 
    Success is something that can and should be a daily part of your harp life. It is built with small steps of courage, confidence and creativity. And the more small steps you take, the more success you build. You can think about these steps as daily wins, if you like, and today we’ll talk about how you can create those wins consistently by fueling your courage, confidence and creativity. This is about finding the fun in your practice, not in a way that avoids the hard work, but in a way that allows you to renew your love of the harp no matter how hard you’re working.
    Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 
    My Harp Mastery membership is open! Join us before the doors close! Related resource Make Success a Habit With This Simple Formula blog post Harpmastery.com Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at podcast@harpmastery.com
    LINKS NOT WORKING FOR YOU? FInd all the show resources here: https://www.harpmastery.com/blog/Episode-057

    • 35 min
    Learning versus Practice: Which End of the Binoculars Do You Use?

    Learning versus Practice: Which End of the Binoculars Do You Use?

    I love silly jokes, and I hope you do too, because I’m going to share one with you now.
    Here goes: 
    How do you catch an elephant?
    You hide in some tall grass and make a sound like a peanut. When the elephant comes by you look through the wrong end of your binoculars, pick him up with a pair of tweezers and put him in a pickle jar.
    Silly joke, right? But it’s appropriate for our show today. We are going to be talking about how we learn a piece or how we practice it, which may be slightly different. Then we’ll look at our music learning through the lens (hopefully through the right end of the binoculars) of big picture practice and little picture practice.
    Let me ask you a question: if I asked you to tell me how you practice, what would you say? You’d probably describe your practice plan and if you begin hands separately or hands together, how many times you repeat a passage and how long you practice. 
    But if I asked you to describe how you learn music, what would you say? Would your answer be different? I’m guessing it would. Maybe you wouldn’t even be sure how to answer the question. 
    I believe we think of practice and learning as two separate things. Learning somehow sounds more cerebral, more about gaining understanding and knowledge. Practice is the physical work of practice, the rote repetition, drilling the notes into our fingers. Clearly we need both of these elements if we are going to play our music well. We need to blend them into a single process that will allow us to learn the notes and the music beyond the notes. 
    That’s where big picture and little picture practice comes into our discussion. They are the two ends of the binoculars, if you like. And that was the topic I chose for my first Harp Mastery blog post 10 years ago this week. 
    Today, I’ll go much deeper than I did in that blog post. I’ll talk about the techniques of each kind of practice - big picture and little picture - how they’re useful and when they aren’t. Then I’ll show you how to create a balanced practice strategy so you won’t find yourself looking through the wrong end of the binoculars.
    Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 
    My Harp Mastery community membership is opening soon. Learn more now! Watch the video of today’s podcast. Related resource: Big Picture vs. Little Picture Practice  blog post Harpmastery.com Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at podcast@harpmastery.com
    LINKS NOT WORKING FOR YOU? FInd all the show resources here: https://www.harpmastery.com/blog/Episode-056

    • 51 min
    Overcoming Fears, Doubt and Misgivings: Take the Long View

    Overcoming Fears, Doubt and Misgivings: Take the Long View

    What have you done lately that was courageous?
    I hope you shouted your answer, said it loud and proud.
    Okay, now answer this one.
    What would you have done recently if you hadn’t been so fearful?
    That’s not exactly a “loud and proud” moment. But we all do it; we let our fears, our doubts, our nerves get the better of us. Talk to any person who is super-successful in their field and they’ll confess to having their insecurities, their own sleepless nights worried about the decisions they’ve made or not made. Most people aren’t fearless. But successful people have learned that many times fear is the only barrier between their present and their future. Success comes only when they are able to go through the fear to discover what lies beyond it. I often talk and write about how to find the courage and the confidence to share your music. You may call it “performing,” but at Harp Mastery® we call it ”sharing your music.” Whatever you call it though, you still might feel your palms sweating and your stomach churning. Playing for someone, sharing that part of yourself where the music lives is scary for each of us. I’ve been sharing my music for a lot of years now, and I know many of my students don’t really believe that I ever get nervous. I do of course, but I have learned to expect the nerves and I have learned that I can play through them. On this show, I want to tell you about an act of courage - a small but really scary one - that I”ve never talked about before. It turned out to be an important one, much more important than I knew at the time.
    You see, ten years ago I took a blind leap of courage into the unknown; I started a blog. You may not think that took courage or that I was nervous about it, but I certainly had my doubts and misgivings. I didn’t know if what I was about to write was worth sharing. I didn't know if I would actually be able to come up with things to write about. I didn’t know if anybody would like it or would criticize it or laugh at it. I didn’t even know if anybody at all would read it. But I did it anyway, and if I hadn’t, Harp Mastery® wouldn’t exist. I didn’t have a website or an email list or a Facebook account. I didn’t even have high speed internet; I had a dial-up connection.
    That was over 600 blog posts and 55 podcasts ago. In the intervening years, Harp Mastery® has reached literally thousands of harpists through my writings, webinars, courses, coaching programs, retreats and challenges. And it feels like we’re just getting started.
    But this podcast isn’t about me or Harp Mastery®. It’s about you. I want to help you understand what’s really in your way, stopping you from playing the harp the way you want, sharing your music with the people you want. Most importantly I want to share the lessons I learned about fear and courage over these last ten years so you don’t have to learn them the hard way. You can take the shortcut path around your fear and find your harp courage. I’m going to give you an assignment too, so be sure to listen closely!
    Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 
    Your assignment: decide on your act of courage for today and post it in the comments or email it to me at podcast@harpmastery.com.  My very first blog post. Related resource: Beyond Fear: Daily Acts of Harp Courage blog post Harpmastery.com Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at podcast@harpmastery.com
    LINKS NOT WORKING FOR YOU? FInd all the show resources here: https://www.harpmastery.com/blog/Episode-055

    • 40 min
    An American Romantic: The Music of Stephen Foster for Harp

    An American Romantic: The Music of Stephen Foster for Harp

    Stephen Foster is often referred to as the “Father of American music,” or “America’s first songwriter,” neither of which is strictly true. However, Stephen Foster’s extensive output of songs and the strength of their popularity more than 150 years later attests to the powerful connection his music creates. The homespun appeal of his words and music evokes gentle images of family, home, love and longing that are in sharp contrast to his more difficult reality. 
    In fact, there were many ironical contradictions between his music and his life. His songs paint vivid pictures of life in the South, but Foster never lived there and only visited there once. HIs music was a staple in music hall minstrel shows, but Foster himself was an ardent abolitionist. His life came to a close not with the “Old Folks at Home” but alone in Bellevue Hospital in New York City. 
    Nonetheless, his music is filled with singable melodies, uncomplicated harmonies and a romantic sentiment that not only still touches the hearts of listeners, but is suited perfectly to the harp. 
    On today’s show, I will discuss - and play for you - 3 songs by Stephen Foster. Two of these are less familiar ones that I believe are worthy of more attention. The third is a very familiar one. I will share my insights about Stephen Foster’s music and give you some tips for playing it well, with the right stylistic touches to make it sound authentic but fresh and beautiful. 
    Also, I wanted to make it a little easier for you to play some of Stephen Foster’s music yourself so I have created PDFs of all three of the arrangements I’m playing for you today and I will tell you how you can get them at the end of our show.
    But my goal today is really to give you an inside look at this music and the man who wrote it. So let’s begin by imagining yourself back in 1826, July 4th, 1826 to be precise.
    Links to things I think you might be interested in that were mentioned in the podcast episode: 
    Check out the Stephen Foster arrangements featured in today’s show in our shop. Add both to your cart and use the discount code FOSTER at checkout to get one of the pieces at 50% off! Beautiful Child of Song and Jeanie with the Light Brown Hair Willie Has Gone to the War Related resource: A Musical Memorial Day  blog post  Harpmastery.com Get involved in the show! Send your questions for future podcast episodes to me at podcast@harpmastery.com 
    LINKS NOT WORKING FOR YOU? FInd all the show resources here: https://www.harpmastery.com/blog/Episode-054

    • 40 min

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Thank you!

I’m fairly new to the harp and as an adult learner I find your podcast helpful and uplifting. I especially enjoyed the episodes on confidence and on the benefits of being an adult music learner. Thank you!

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