What if you decided to explore a new way of playing music, where you learned the basic building blocks of music itself, and then you ‘built’ a new piece every time you played?

That’s what members of “Hip Harp Academy” learn to do – to build and discover music as they’re playing, and let it be new each time, without the security-blanket of the notes on the page. 

Enjoy these video shares from the 2021 Fall program at Hip Harp Academy  where our motto is “Connection … not Perfection”

Click the toggle beneath each video to read the personal creative journey of each player – and if you play the harp, join us at Hip Harp Academy.

[ See All the Winter 2021 Projects:  Projects #1  –  Projects #2  –  Projects #3


Eily Aurora:

I have become a better teacher. How DHC broke down song structure makes it easy to teach and learn at any level of playing harp. The best way to learn is to teach!

Eily's Insights about this Project

Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

I am sending a 2.5 minute piece of the Skye Boat song with the 5 part arrangement structure for my final project. I am improvising on the melody and modulating to the key of G and back. I will be using it for a performance in a few weeks called Deep Winter Song! 

Describe your written materials – if there’s anything in particular you want to say about it to help people know what they’re looking at, add that here.

I really fell in love again with the Outlander Series recently. This melody has been in my head for a while. It was freeing to improvise with it and make it into my own song through the epic skills and resources of this class. 

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

– Modulation, melodic improvisation, stride, harmonic minors, use of 5ths below the melody note, dominate chord for the intro, vamp, left land expander at the end, sequences

– Smiling while performing
– Progress Tracker

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

– Playing the piece 20 times or more, starting with the basic melody and expanding from there. I started to work on this final beginning project yesterday, so I had to work hard and fully accept its imperfections. I actually started to play it while watching outlander as a way of inspiring the emotion of the dramatic series. 

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

– Terror I was not enough and I had failed my hopes for this program by percrastinating on the final project. 
– Sadness that I didn’t have the time to make this piece as good as I wanted — to add singing to it, for example. 

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

– Integrating and digesting the new patterns/possibilities by repetitive practice in order to be able to spontaneously draw out these tools when the moment arises

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

– I became a better teacher. How DHC broke down song structure makes it easy to teach and learn at any level of playing harp. The best way to learn is to teach !

What were your personal “Ahas”?

– the joy of modulation and use of harmonic minors to expand the emotional depth

– How structure is FREEDOM! 
– Make the melody CLEAR and then explore 
– Use of the basics of JAZZ – 2516 251 – or other progressions as foundations for improvising 

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

If I was a character in Outlander, I would be a magical faery, wearing a flower hat (like the one in the video) and play the harp to calm the violence and change history so our present world would be more filled with beauty and magic. Yes!

Ruth Shepherd:

My project surprisingly happened, and is a Fantasia on Season of the Night. This is my first and only recording. There was no ‘practising’ – it was a spur of the moment decision to see if I could actually video record playing fluently with expression and feel.

Ruth's Insights about this Project

Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

My final project surprisingly happened, and is a  Fantasia on Season of the Night.  This is an improvisation on sections of Season of the night, using chord patterns of 2 or 4 bars repeated.  

Describe your written materials – if there’s anything in particular you want to say about it to help people know what they’re looking at, add that here.

This is my first and only recording. There was no ‘practising’ – it was a spur of the moment decision to see if I could actually video record playing fluently with expression and feel.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I love the vamps we play at the start of each class and find them so useful to incorporate into my playing – like moving the bass and keeping the RH playing the same pattern. The minimalist idea of moving one thing.  
Using chords ii, V, I when in a minor key was new to me and revolutionary.  I also feel so much more confident with modulation using this technique.  
Exploring sus 4 chords has been an ear opener. I now appreciate their function of subtly creating tension and helping build intensity and love the no nonsense way DHC describes them – G in the bass, F chord in your RH (add inversions for flair). 
Exploring Stride has been fun, especially the various cluster chord patterns that can be used in stride.  Another example of shifting the pattern. Playing stride LIGHTLY was a revelation to me.
Using a vamp as a sequence and as a way to connect sections of improvisation is a very useful and satisfying tool. (e.g. C, B, A.   B, A, G.  etc).  And I just love the cross-rhythm effect of using hemiolas!  So many fun things – I think I even sort of get bisbisgliando now, after the beautiful feathery interweaving fingers vamp we had as a warmup recently. 

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

Pacing myself and knowing when to stop is the most important thing for me; if I overplay, I can’t use my hands for days, so I really have to listen to my body, maintain awareness and balance activities.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

Being in this class is a fabulous ticket to harp freedom. It’s so inspirational and comforting to be with DHC and harpists opening to new ways of being at the harp.  Really realizing that ‘we all have that’ – self-consciousness; irrational fears and worries etc – is also very freeing. 

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I have a long pattern of being a procrastinating perfectionist and a completion addict, so I decided when the course started that I wouldn’t do a final project.  That in itself was freeing and pattern breaking.  Then a glimmer of hope seeped in when I got the invite to the “Get ‘er Done” class. That class was the turning point.  Releasing all the excuses and putting some positives in was great.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

I think it’s helping me think laterally, look at things from other perspectives and find more creativity in more mundane activities.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Realizing in conversation with DHC that my main block – being able to maintain some sort of structure when improvising – was because I generally play music to accompany guided meditation.  My playing is led by where the meditation is going.  This helped me understand why I had trouble keeping to a structure. I realize that I naturally create some sort of introduction and intentional ending whenever I play now, so there’s at least a 3-part structure.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

This was a One Take Wonder, done late last night at a time when I am very busy with work.  After DHC suggested that the idea I had could be considered a ‘Fantasia’, it gave me the liberty to try.  I had not even played the ‘piece’ in its entirety before the first take.  My aims were maintaining fluency, expression, and using different feels. It was way too long, so I also had my first attempt at editing video.

Nancy Brockman:

It took the constant encouragement of DHC and fellow classmates to convince me that I was ready to take the plunge and the results did not need to be perfect. So much is abut the journey.

Nancy's Insights about this Project

Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

This project is an example of how I have used some of the principles to expand on an important piece in my repertory used in playing for actively transitioning patients in the Transitions Lifecare Hospice Home where I play weekly.  I have focused on the use of the intro first note in the piece leading into the dm and am in an open 5th to stableize the piece while the melody in arrythmic form uses the beautifully simple single notes in the plainsong chant.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

A subtle form of the 5 part arrangement format.  The intro is actually a slide from the low D, and the drone stableizes the melody in Dorian mode.  The melody has spaces to follow the patients breathing patterns.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

It took the constant encouragement of DHS, Sally, and fellow classmates to convince me that I was ready to take the plunge and the results did not need to be perfect. So much is abut the journey.  Now, I just need to master the tech procedures.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

Since this is the first time I have done a video of my playing, I struggled to get the visuals–lighting, background, dress, etc. into an acceptible setting.  And I had to deal with my reluctance to do the project, since I felt I wasn’t ready to do it. But when are we ever ready?

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

The nature of my work with end-of-life patients as a Certified Music Practitioner, is all about letting go. It is a liminal space, between heaven and earth. And this needs to be heard in my music. This has been reinforced with all I have learned in the HHA.  So many ways to explore. I have a new understanding of my music and its limitless possibilities and connections.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

This class has surpassed my wildest expectations!  The Challenge blew my mind open and I was hooked.  From the structure and bones of the music to the embellishments and emotions, a whole new dimension in my music has opened up.  I love the patterns, progressions, improv possibilities, I have expanded, both my knowledge and imagination to reach a new level.  I want to go back through each lesson and prior years, and go over these teachings again and again, so I am still processing and will be for some time as I discover new ways to use this wonderful new information.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

The confidence that I will eventually be able to play what my mind and heart have received, but it will take time and focus, since I am a slow learner.  One of the benefits of the recorded lessons is the ability to stop and go over a section again and again until I get it.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

As a newbie, I have found the Hip Harp Academy environment to be warm, positive, and supporting.  My fellow students have come to my aid in helping me with my technophobia and confidence. And my thanks to DHC, for the fantastic teaching, positive support and inspiring imagination.  I’m in for the long haul.

Stefanie Bieber:

Stay as simple as always, sometimes ideas to make it more complex jump in, but finally I always get back to simplicity.

Stefanie's Insights about this Project

Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

This is a quick-and-dirty recording fo my favourite song “Salaam mewlana” I put together with some photographs from our home in Sweden.
It is sort of a 5 part arrangement form, the exploration part is where the solo voice sings the words in different languages.
I was just trying to improve with recording technique.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

The five part arrangement form using intro, exploration and ending

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

I have been playing the song very often recently. Nowadays with all the fighting oninions in the world  I am utterly longing for peace, so I decided to bring my part with this video

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

I would have loved to do a much longer version, and I WILL. I struggelded with the limitation to 3 Minutes.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

Stay as simple as always, sometimes ideas to make t more complex jump in, but finally I always get back to simplicity

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

Keep it simple

What were your personal “Ahas”?

keep it simple

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

Feel!

Melinda Ostrander-Aviles:

I challenged myself to use the idea/snippet until I came up with a completed piece. I feel a sense of accomplishment and a “can do” attitude whenever one of these improv starters/snippets becomes a real piece of music.

Melinda's Insights about this Project

Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

This is a piece that came out of improv.  It was from the snippet with interlaced hands.  I experimented playing it in different ways and this is what emerged.  I was going for something meditative or transcendental.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

snippet – interlaced hands

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

I worked on evenly playing with both hands.  When I found patterns I liked, I let go and let the music flow.  When you are not afraid to explore or make mistakes, it flows more freely.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

relaxing and letting go

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I challenged myself to use the idea/snippet until I came up with a completed piece.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

I feel a sense of accomplishment and a “can do” attitude whenever one of these improv starters/snippets becomes a real piece of music.

What were your personal “Ahas”?

My ahas come when I can use a snippet in a unique way.  Sometimes it is in a way that transforms the original idea.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

I struggled with the tempo and trying to fit the project into a shorter format.  Ideally, I might take it a bit slower.  What do you think?

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Learn more about Hip Harp Academy, a year-long membership program for harpists who want to develop their skills and self-confidence in improv, arrangement, performance and self-expression - with an award-winning coach and a vibrant, supportive creative community.

Hip Harp Academy

SW:

I am sending a birthday card to my violin teacher. In the video I said, “Congratulations. I wish you a great birthday. The presents will come!” My “aha” was to keep practicing, it’s all about connecting.

SW's Insights about this Project

Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

I am sending a birthday card to my violin teacher.  I’m a beginner on the fiddle.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I didn’t play an intro or vamp. The principles I used, it is not about perfection, but connection!

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

We did the video in one take. Normally, I don’t dare to play fiddle for people.
During the course I gained experience with making videos, which made it easier.  The chats have helped to get ideas.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

I find it a bit stupid to send in a fiddle card instate of a harpproject.  It were busy times and then COVID came into our house.  I have chosen an easy way, to relax and get better and to send in this one.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I talked to a singer to make an project. My plan was to use this for the Final project. Because I had to go in quarantine, we couldn’t meet live. Challenge how do I accomp a singer? What do I do with many modulations. How can I play good grooves?

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

I find it difficult to choose. I have many ideas, but keep hesitate, what I shall do? it is oké, what I do?

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Keep practicing with, it is all about connecting.
Learn to deal with my insecurity thoughts.

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

I love Feedback and ideas, how I can develop.

In the video,
I said. Congratulations. I wish you a great birthday. And I said the presents will come!

Charlene Elderkin:

I haven’t composed anything in a long time. What was fun about this is it transformed very organically. After improvising, there were phrases that i just kept coming back to. That’s when i knew this wanted to be something more formed.

Charlene's Insights about this Project

Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

Riff Expansion-turned-composition

Starting with the C/F riff, add melody
Am/F riff with melody, 
3rd section C-Dm-Em-Dm-C ending with an F
ending.
There is NO dominant chord in this piece.

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

I was captivated by the C/F riff that DHC showed us in a chat. A melody came to me that very first day and I kept working with the riff to see what would happen. The first melody you hear never changed.

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

I didn’t think I was composing anything, I just kept exploring the C/F riff. After awhile I added Am/F for variety’s sake. At some point the Am/F  improvisation seemed to be settling into a defined melody. Then I added a chord progression from a song I recently arranged for a third part. That melody came in really quickly, and was nothing like the song i stole the chord progression from. 

(I’m not smiling at the camera because I need all my focus to get the rhythm/fingering right.)

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

I haven’t composed anything in a long time. I’m usually improvising or arranging. What was fun about this is it transformed very organically. After improvising long enough there were phrases that i just kept coming back to. That’s when i knew this wanted to be something more formed.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

Once the basic composition was formed, I realized I needed to be consistent in the LH rhythm, which is syncopated. I also worked on figuring out the most efficient fingering.

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

Without those extended riff warm-ups I may never have done this. 
I don’t give myself permission to just play around with the harp. 
Exploration! Curiosity! Get out of the rut. 

What were your personal “Ahas”?

No dominant chord! Any of the three sections could be repeated as many times as I want, it is a good therapeutic piece for that reason. I could also add lyrics. I will keep exploring and see what happens.

Beverly Inman-Ebel:

The photos are of my parents starting when they were very young and continues through them as parents and grandparents. Some tears and a lot of happiness went into the visuals.

Beverly's Insights about this Project

Describe your video so I know exactly what you’re sending me. If there’s anything special you want me to look at, listen to (or ignore), tell me what it is.

I am hiding in this video. The death of my father hit me hard. The viewer will only see pictures of my parents and me as I grew up.

I lost this entire semester, yet, I did not want to quit and not submit anything. I went very basic and got through it. Just let me know what is working.

This might be a good example for harpists who want to hide and need to keep it simple.

Describe your image – if there’s anything in particular you want to say about it to help others know what they’re looking at, add that here.

The photos are of my parents starting when they were very young and continues through them as parents and grandparents.

Is there anything else you want me to know about your graphic/written homework?

Some tears and a lot of happiness went into the visuals.

 

Anything else you want to say?

While basic, emotionally I needed to do this!

Janice Schonwetter:

Simple can be as beautiful as complex if done well; this is a lesson I keep relearning every time I try something that is more complex than my current ability. 

Janice's Insights about this Project

Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

My final project is my arrangement of Swan Lake using principles learned in HHT. 

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

formula of intro-melody-explore-melody-outro;
helped me understand various options for intro, explore and outro

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

Logistically – I tried something new, dressed up “staged” setting to match song.  Creating the iidea was fun and I was excited to do it. That was fun but I realized that it was uncomfortable at first because I was not in my normal space.  I liked my idea but was less thrilled with the actual execution of it. Emotionally I still get very stressed and frustrated when I don’t get the result I have in my head with just a few takes.  I get stressed and tense rather than just letting myself go and enjoying the experience.

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

See answer above.

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

I still really struggle with self criticism, I would like to get better at letting go and accepting imperfection so it does not take so long to make a video I like okay and be able to submit more homework for feedback. Also had some technical and logisitcal challenges that added my stress level while trying to get this final project filmed. 

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

time management goes out the window when I am trying to do a video homework;
I listen to lots of music and have also been taking some other classes on playing by ear.  These plus DHC courses and community are really helping me with the musicality of my playing – especially interesting chords and inversion and phrasing for improv

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Simple can be as beautiful as complex if done well; this is a lesson I keep relearning everytime I try something that is more complex than my current ability. 

Lesley Macleod:

What really inspired me was DHC’s challenge to create a ‘fantasy performance ~ mine takes place in a candlelit village hall at the end of the universe ~ the occasion is a once in a millennium ceilidh at which there are artists, poets and musicians from different centuries who I would love to have met.

Lesley's Insights about this Project

Describe your final project so I know exactly what you’re sending me.

HHT Final beginning project Celtic medley
This is a medley comprising three of DHC’s abridged celtic tunes.
I  didn’t submit a half bake as I was still not sure what to do at the time but I did know that I wanted to attempt a medley of tunes and some modulation, neither of which I had done before.
What really inspired me was DhC’s challenge to create a ‘fantasy performance ~ mine takes place in a candlelit village hall at the end of the universe ~ the occasion is a once in a millennium ceilidh at which there are artists,poets and musicians from.differnt centuries who I would love to have met : Corelli,Botticelli,Caroline,Neil Gow and Robbie Burns to name but a few.
There I’d food and drink on the candlelit tables and at various points through the evening every guest gets up to perform.or speak.
I am playing as the guests arrive and I am delighted to be able to contribute to the atmosphere of conviviality and enjoyment and to watch all the guests having great conversations and enjoying each others company

What principles from this course or from chats did you use to develop, perform, and record this project – and how did they play a part in your process?

The five part arrangement form
The ‘works every time ‘modulation trick
Three part turn around

Give a short description of what it took for you to be able to play what you did – both logistically and emotionally.

A lot of time!
Much more than I would normally have put in on my own  but I thrilled about this and feel I have accomplished more than I thought possible

What freedoms and blocks within yourself did you connect with (or struggle with) in the process?

Keeping up with everything has been a challenge but so exciting

What challenges did you meet while connecting with your own freedom of expression in this project?

So many ideas and having to narrow everything down

What other parts of your life were impacted by what you learned in this class, and how?

I have used the videos I have made to share with members of my family and enthused to other people about what I have been doing
Amazingly it has impacted my life more than I expected

What were your personal “Ahas”?

Too many to enumerate but probably the main one is the 5 part arrangement form

Is there anything else you want people to know when they watch your video?

No

Special Thanks

Very special thanks to harpist Sally Walstrum for collecting and curating these video gifts (including the 20+ others that we’ll be sharing in coming days). Sally – you are a joy and an inspiration.  And thanks to everyone in the Academy for your willingness to share your gifts with the world. You make this a richer world to live in. (DHC 12/24/21)

Are you a Harp Player?

Learn more about Hip Harp Academy, a year-long membership program for harpists who want to develop their skills and self-confidence in improv, arrangement, performance and self-expression - with an award-winning coach and a vibrant, supportive creative community.

Hip Harp Academy

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