Playing without Stumbling

Is it a challenge for you to make it through a tune without stopping?

In many cases when working on an arrangement, all goes smoothly until the melody becomes developed and the tunes goes off the beaten path. At this point the student becomes lost in a world of fingerings and complications. It’s frustrating for the student, who wants to play smoothly and lyrically but also wants to play interesting arrangements that are beautiful.

A possible solution for you might be to divide your practice into distinct focus groups:

1 – Melody

2 – Chord names

3 – LH 4th finger placement

First and foremost, it is important to focus on the melody. Be able to play it through smoothly; try singing or humming it. Try to say the chord names while you’re playing the RH – even say the name slightly before the downbeat. Secondly, focus on the 4th finger of the LH – think of it as leading or making way for the melody. Be able to play it without hesitation. After steps 1 and 2, you are ready for step 3 – a basic yet beautiful arrangement. Remember that if it flows and sings, it is simply beautiful. When you feel comfortable with the simplicity, try step 4, which is a slight elaboration of the melody.

I’ve taken “Star of the County Down” and divided the written music into focus groups. Print out each of the 4 pages and work on them in order for the best results. Links to the pages are below this article.

The first page centers around the melody without LH, but with the chords. You are encouraged to say the names of the chords while playing the melody. Chord names are provided.

The second page emphasizes the melody with the chord tonic, which is notated along with the chord symbol. After you are very familiar with the melody and saying the chords, try adding just the tonic of the LH, and be sure to have your 4th finger in place slightly before the downbeat, showing preparedness, since your LH prepares the way for the melody.

The third page utilizes all you have learned thus far, for a simple yet pleasant arrangement of this lovely tune.

The fourth page is a slight elaboration of the melody, creating interest for both player and audience. Because you are now very familiar with lessons 1 – 3, you can now focus on a more developed melody with confidence.

Enjoy the path of learning and music!

Mary Radspinner

1star county down mel and chords – part 1

2star county down mel and one lh note – part 2

3star county down mel and simple lh – part 3

4intermediate version – part 4

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1 Response to Playing without Stumbling

  1. Joan Woodhull says:

    Some time ago I copied your 4 examples of Star of County Down and gave them to a harp playing friend. (From ‘Playing Without Stumbling’) She was very impressed with them and your method. She wants to know if you have any books for sale using this method.
    Thanks, Joan Woodhull

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