Making technique fun

 

In part 1 of this series (which you can read here) I likened technique to a plate of vegetables- it’s colourful, has lots of different textures, you can do lots with it, and it is terribly good for you. But not everyone likes to eat their veggies, and sometimes even the best cooked Brussel sprout just needs a little something extra to help it go down. So here’s 3 tips for making technique fun (or at least palatable!)

 Yes, it's those Brussel Sprouts again.

Yes, it's those Brussel Sprouts again.

 

Tip 1- Use props. The most success I have had with teaching technique came about when I introduced about 20 Angry Birds into my studio. Everyone, from the youngest to the oldest of my students, loves them to bits. Literally to bits as there are now only a hand few surviving.

Forgetting to keep that elbow up? You need Froggy! And what about getting out the Pink Envelopes, or Fluffy Dice?

These are all props that I use regularly in my teaching. All my students know them and what they stand for. And they all make technique fun.

 Let these bad boys sort out your technique.

Let these bad boys sort out your technique.

 

Tip 2- Swap roles. A harp lesson is not just about playing, but also about observing and learning from others. Changing up the roles of student and teacher enables the students to see, not just do, technique. They can also learn to use their ears and hear what it is that happens when the hand position is changed, or scales left lumpy. Teaching a group class is also a fantastic way to encourage those skills of observation and then application while reassuring participants that that troublesome 3rd finger can be a common problem, and that time and practice has worked for others, and can work for them too.

 

Tip 3- Make it real. Learning how to use your fingers and hands or churning through countless exercises is not an isolated undertaking with no relation to real life and real playing. Listen for the difference in sound if you hold your finger a certain way. Feel how easier it is to put your 4th finger under on a scale if you keep your thumb up.

Having trouble with a passage in a particular piece? Look at what is happening technically at that point- are there some tricky arpeggios in the left hand perhaps? What a great chance to focus on the tasty vegetable of arpeggios. Throw some relevant studies into the pot, give it a stir and, hey presto, that tricky passage has got a whole new flavour.

Take technique away from being academic or theoretical, spice it up and inject it with some real world purpose. Because that is what it’s there for!