Musicality

One of the hardest things for me is to make a piece sound ‘alive’. Adding things like dynamics, being aware of the musical sentence, transcending the written notes and CREATING something.

That always worries me. Because when people talk about musical talent, they always mention things like this. You can play the notes, but it’s better to make mistakes than to make pieces sound dead. And as I struggle to make my pieces sound like something that doesn’t sound like boring repeated phrases, I start pondering whether I’m actually good enough to become good at the harp, is this struggle worth it all, why buy a pedal harp when you obviously don’t have any talent and apparently, talent is very important and –

The scientist / positive side of me always says things like – but really good harpists practise a lot, you need to spend at least ten thousand hours on it, THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS TALENT  – – and yet, as I struggle with dynamics in a piece, I can’t help but thinking – perhaps I’m very untalented.

Fortunately, my teacher is hugely emphasizing this aspect of harp playing. While I might have preferred to spend some more time on technical development, she continues to focus on dynamics, on phrasing, et cetera. I always went along, feeling I couldn’t really do it anyway but perhaps it helps and another perspective on playing might also be nice and it won’t hurt, will it?

Today I finally understood why. For me, music is always a stepwise process, stumbling and blundering along and then SOMETIMES there is this rare moment in which everything is clear and I notice something – that I actually made progress. Today I was preparing Opwekking 192 (a worship song) and I was just playing through it and then I noticed – wow, it’s doing something to me and it’s just boring worship. Actually, I hate playing worship on the harp, as all the nice and fast songs are hard to play ‘nice and fast’ and the slow songs are too cheesy. But today, it sounded different.

More alive. More dynamics. And I wasn’t even doing it consciously, I was just listening to myself and playing.

Perhaps that’s the key. Listening. Feeling what the music is doing to you. Today, part of that elusive concept of ‘playing musically’ became a bit more clear to me. But I guess it will always be a struggle…

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2 Comments on “Musicality”

  1. The struggle gets easier. And the phrasing and dynamics get easier the more you play and the more your hands become comfortable on the harp. My harp and my recorder teachers ask that I think about how I would sing the tune – where would I breathe? Where is the peak of excitement in the phrase that a voice would bring out? Thinking about singing it really helps me when I’m playing.
    It also seems to be normal in this harp learning journey to wonder if you have any talent at playing the harp, or whether it’s a big waste of time. If you had no talent at all you wouldn’t be as far along as you are. And if you love the process, and love those moments when you CAN listen and feel what the music is doing to you, it’s worth every minute you put into learning to play.
    If you have a chance, pop over to my blog and click the link for The Listening Book Audio, and listen to “I’m Not Musical.” It will ease your heart.


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