This blog is one of a series. Each includes one of the students’ final projects from my online course “Hip Harp Toolkit,” along with  their answers to five questions I asked them to answer. You can such as “am I technically delivering the tune with the proper tempo, volume, placing, fingering for best effect” in a performance to “letting those concerns go and connect with my inspiration, my joy in playing the piece, my way of interpreting the piece” – the ACTUAL REASON FOR PLAYING!

I still experience some hesitation here and there – I think one thing is that I usually play The Selkie in C, and this time it’s in G. So, Brian Boru in G, Selkie in D, and the Yellow Bittern in C.  Something that hindered me in the past was basing my fingering of a tune in relation to the red and blue strings rather than concentrating on the pattern itself – I’ve been breaking myself of that habit – thanks to some advice I got from Sue Richards and from DHC. I know playing it over and over slowly will help – I will engage a metronome for further work.

I did have the sense of the clock ticking – you can see I barely got into Brian Boru before modulating. But I totally understand why snippets of a tune are preferable as an example of one’s work.

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

Freedoms include the ability to visualize many different approaches to intros, vamps, variations, and a coda – the blocks, you might suspect, is selecting one or more and being consistent with them. Sometimes I want to change them in the middle, but that might be challenging for listeners – but with the right approach and more experience, I might be able to pull this off.

3. What challenges did you meet to connect with your own freedom of expression in this project?

Settling on a particular song in a particular key with a specific intro, vamps, and variations. I am experiencing freedom with doing a lot of transpositions. Future challenges include modulation within pieces, and multiple modulations to add excitement and occasional suspense to a piece.

4. What were your personal “Ahas” & Takeaways?

Continue the practice, continue the exploration, try everything at least once, and then again a few more times and play with them, and remember to breathe doing all of this!

5. Is there anything else you’d like to tell people who are watching your video?

My musical passion just keeps building and building, and I’m taking this to the other melodic instruments I play – the kantele, and the sansula, to the percussive Middle Eastern instruments I play – doumbek and bendir – and to the hybrid melodic and percussive instrument, the Hang. Every day I discover something new, no matter how small, or occasionally, how large.

DHC says:  

It’s so fun to see you keep developing every part of what you’re doing!  I love the way this video looks and I love that you’re stepping out and taking chances, playing in keys you’re not as familiar with and sharing all this beautiful imperfect completion with us!  (… and I really like the cat at the end … I remember when he was just a tail wagging into the edge of your homework videos!)

What was this project all about?  What were the Guidelines?  The project description was to take 3 contrasting tunes and create a medley no more than 3.5 minutes using techniques from the course, like introductions, melodic improvising, embellishing, turnaround endings and modulating from key to key. (If you’re not a musician, you’ll know when they’re modulating when you see them reach up to shift the levers, which change the harp into a new key).

One of the core principles of the course is “Imperfect Completion” so each of the “Final Projects” is really a “Beginning Project.”

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