I have been teaching many students who started playing the harp as adults. Very soon I noticed that there is one thing they all had in common. While they love music and are very keen to play, they often find it really challenging to fit the harp practice into their busy schedules.
My students often say that they find it much easier once they have established some sort of a routine which allows their practice to be more regular. Sometimes they decide to choose a specific time and practise always at this specific hour. Or, they use another activity which happens regularly in their life as a trigger for their practice – for example taking the children to school and playing the harp right after. Everyone is different and everyone has different needs.
How can you find your own practice routine?
What practice means for you?
Could morning practice give you the sense of accomplishment that would energise you for the rest of the day? Will it put you in good mood and help you focus? Or do you prefer to think of it as a treat and some time for yourself at the end of a long day?
Morning or evening?
Personally, I find that the practice I do in the morning is the most efficient and valuable. It also charges me with positive energy for the rest of the day and gives the sense of calmness about the upcoming performances. In the evening, I use the time with the harp to revise and enhance what I did earlier during the day.
However, this may be completely different for you! Experiment with different practice times to find out what works best and gives you that unique feeling which you want to feel when you play.
Plan it (realistically)
When you are more aware of your needs, it is time to plan the practice to make sure you that it is actually possible to play when you want to! Which is why you may want to…
Start the day before
Take a look at your schedule and the activities which already are in your calendar. Consider your energy levels throughout the day. If you know that you will be very busy at work and probably come back home quite exhausted, don’t try to add an hour of evening practise to your schedule. Instead, look for possibilities of shorter practice earlier during the day. On the other hand, if your children require the attention most of the day, you may only be able to find time to play your instrument when they are in bed (make sure you ask somebody else to take care of the monsters that could come out in the dark).
10 minutes every day or an hour every week?
Baby steps is the method that definitely works when learning to play any instrument. Although 10 minutes a day would sum up to about an hour of practice per week, spending 10 minutes with the harp every day will give you so much more than an hour once a week. It is also probably much easier to find 10 minutes in your busy schedule rather than a whole interrupted hour!
Put it in the diary
Once you have picked the times that work best, mark them in your diary. Allow some leeway in case you don’t manage to start on time or a string breaks just before.
Set up a reminder
To ensure you know when the practice time comes, set up a reminder 10 to 15 minutes before your planned time. You can use this reminder to start preparing your tea then so it will be ready right on time for your session with the harp!
Ask family to help
Explain to your family what playing the harp means to you and why it is important for you to practise. Tell them when you plan to play. You may even want to put your practice schedule in a place where everyone can see it. I am sure your children will be delighted if you ask them to remind you about the time for your “harp homework”! This will also help them understand how important is it for you.
Arrange your practice space the night before. Find the music for the pieces you intend to work on and put it on your music stand. This will also have a great advantage of prompting you to semi-consciously plan on what you are going to practise and use your time in a more organised way.
If there is anything you think you may need for your practice, like a pencil, a metronome, a piece of chocolate (that’s definitely me!), a bottle of water – have it ready too.
You may also want to tune your harp the night before (or at the end of your previous session) as well replace any broken strings. All that will save the precious time you have reserved for your practice.
Use your time well
You have your cup of tea ready. Now it is time to log out of Facebook, put your phone in the flight mode… and enjoy!