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So here we are in Lockdown 3! Dreary weather, nothing much to do outside in a built-up area and kids to home-school… EEK!!
I’m Sar, I’m 31 and a mother to 2 girls. I work part-time for Hands on Harps, as well as dog walking and making homemade crafts and candles. I’m usually very busy and don’t have much in the way of spare time, but here we are in Lockdown 3 with predictions of more time on my hands than I’m used to. I soon realised, as I have little experience with playing instruments, that this would be the perfect time to learn to play the instrument I craft. Whilst learning the woodworking skills, I have become increasingly intrigued by the harp and maybe this will help me expand my knowledge, as well as give me some space and tranquillity in all the madness of the pandemic. So here it goes!
Previously I have had no music reading skills whatsoever and, although I briefly played the flute in secondary school, that was a long time ago and I can’t count the number of hot dinners I have had since then! I must admit, I’m nervous. I always struggle to stick at learning something new for fear of sounding silly or messing it up too much…after all everyone is way better than I will ever be right?! WRONG! That’s my usual thought process kicking in. So first off, let’s get rid of the negative thought processes and I’m going to start afresh. Secondly, the videos will allow me to learn visually, the way I learn best. Thirdly, have fun, try something new and share it with all of you!
Today I picked up the harp, I have signed up and I’m ready to go! First step….tuning. Although I have done a little tuning in the workshop, I still find myself nervous of it and find I don’t always tune as accurately as I would like. Well, what can I say, over the course of the week I already felt more confident. I had more time to choose the tuning app that suited me best and took my time to get it right (I prefer Gstrings).
It worked and tuning became a quick must do before learning, rather than a lesson in itself! I played about a bit, leaving it slightly out of tune and running my fingers up the harp. I then tuned it and repeated it, trying to train my ears to how each string sounds when properly tuned. I also realised you didn’t have to be a mouse with plucking the strings, you can really pluck a string with confidence and it sounds so much better! I felt like I was fine ‘tuning’ my skills for the future (I know) to give me confidence with the basics. The short videos explaining how really helped me to retain the information better. One thing I did find is to make sure there isn’t any white noise in the next room when doing all of this. I found out that my washing machine spins at an ‘F’ and high spins at about an ‘E’. I have made a mental note to practice in between cycles from now on!!
I ended the first lesson feeling elated. It took me, I kid you not, 5 minutes to run through the first lesson Frère Jacques !! What a buzz I felt! After an hour of practising, I may still evidently be on my first lesson, slow and with plenty of mistakes, but I could play a tune on the harp without having to follow the video! I really hope this isn’t just beginners luck!
Over the course of the week, I could see that I was already creating bad habits. I kept playing through the videos and noticed that I was only playing with 1 finger, whereas I should be using all of my hand. I slowed it down and corrected myself. This was frustrating! Was I just not made to play an instrument? No Sar, come on, this is your first week….keep practising and you got this!!! This is what learning is about! It’s ok to make mistakes….
The next week went really slowly. It seems the Tong household wasn’t going to be as quiet as first thought…so many Zooms!! Who needs fractions anymore anyway and how many biscuits can you eat without noticing when working from home?! My mental health is never brilliant at this time of year, but I was finding it super tough right now! It didn’t help that I was struggling to retain the information. I was hung up on the 1 finger mess up and was trying to perfect that, let alone start on the next lesson. But I kept going, practising little by little and started to love what I was doing again. I actually felt it helping my low days, giving me the time and space to focus on something calming….not about the briefings and whether Boris is ever going to get that mop sorted out! Then I had a thought, rather than trying to perfect one lesson at a time and feeling like I’m getting behind, why not do a little run-through of each lesson every time I practice. So I tried it the next day and it helped! I felt like I accomplished a lot more in this practice and came away feeling hopeful that this can still work!
So here we are at the end of the second week. Overall I’m really enjoying the challenge I have set myself, not only learning something new, but the challenge to take some “me time” too! I’m not tempted to give up yet! The third lesson has been sent through and I plan to use my new learning technique…less pressure on perfecting each lesson, exercise or tune, but to play a bit of them all, to stay positive and have fun!
Until the next blog, stay safe my friends….