|Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on April 13, 2019 at 11:00 PM||comments (0)|
We've all heard the old adage that "practice makes perfect" but have you ever considered how the environment may affect your practice? Is your music room promoting productive practice habits or is stopping you in your tracks? In this article I offer a few basic tips on how to organise and set up your practice room to optimise your environment for music practice.
1. Have an actual music room
For some, this can be easier said than done. The basic idea behind this is that you are creating physical boundaries for where the music practice takes place. Once you walk in, you should go into practice mode. When you walk out, you can do whatever you like. Ensuring you only have music-related items in the room will help minimise non-musical distractions.
2. Make sure there is enough light
Don't make "it's too dark to see the music!" an excuse for not practising. Ensure you have enough light to see properly as you don't want to strain your eyes.
3. Make sure the room is neither too cold nor too stuffy
If the room is too cold you might find that your fingers don't move with as much ease and flexibility as usual (you might need to spend some more time warming up). If the room is too hot that could also cause issues. Having windows, a heater, fan or air-con to regulate the temperature of the room is excellent. Ideally the temperature of the room should be fairly constant for the instruments anyway.
4. Devise an organised way of putting away your music
There is nothing more annoying than having to spend 20minutes looking for a piece of music! For the budding musician, this may not be an issue. However more advanced musicians who have collected a stack of music from years of learning will benefit greatly from finding a way to file away music. I put away my music books in cardboard boxes. I have boxes for grades 1-3 music; grades 4-6 music; advanced grades; technical work; aural & theory; & wedding music. This is just an idea. You could organise your music in alphabetical order by the name of the composer, as long as you can remember the composer's name!
5. Have pencils & erasers handy
Again this is something that may sound insignificant but can make a huge difference. We might need to notate something on the music - fingering, timing, expression markings, pedal diagrams. But if we have nothing to write these in, there is the possibility we might just stop to practice because we can't be bothered getting a pencil. By having a few pencils around the music room, this issue is solved! Other items I highly recommend are: eraser, sharpener (unless you use a mechanical pencil), coloured pencils if you like to use colour. Avoid using pens as pen markings are difficult to remove. A ruler is also handy if you photocopy music and the staff has been cut off at the edges.
6. Make sure your chair is appropriate to your height & instrument
This is crucial for good posture and making sure we don't injure ourselves. If you sit too low at the harp, the harp will weigh a tonne on your body. Having an adjustable chair is the best way to go so that you can adjust the height of the chair as you grow.
7. Have all tuning equipment close by.
Similarly to having pencils handy, you want to be able to have your tuning equipment (tuning key, chromatic tuner) close by so that if you notice your harp is really out of tune and it is putting you off, it will only take a short moment to fix it. So the good old "out of tune" excuse doesn't work!
8. Keep your notebook from your lessons open on your music stand/piano.
Forgot what your homework was? It should be written in your lesson notebook. Keeping it open ensures you check you are getting the set homework completed.
9. Invest in a metronome
Eventually you might be required to do a bit of practice with a metronome, a musician's best friend and worst enemy! Metronomes help us to play in time and not rush or slow down. It helps us identify areas in our pieces where we hesitate. It doesn't mean all your practice should be done with a metronome but it is a useful tool especially in the lead up to performances. Investing in a metronome is therefore a good idea. You can either buy one from a local music store, order one online, or these days you can download metronome apps. Google also has a metronome, so there are a lot of free options.
10. Avoid distractions
So that means: turn off mobile phones, turn down (or off) the tv. Anything that can ring will make it that much more difficult to focus.
I hope these 10 tips help! If you try some or all of these out, I'd love to hear if you notice any difference in your practice!
|Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on April 13, 2019 at 10:55 PM||comments (0)|
I have added a new video to my Youtube channel: a harp cover of Perfect by Ed Sheeran.
|Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 24, 2019 at 2:25 AM||comments (0)|
Weddings are some of my favourite events at which to play the harp. It is always such a joyful event - and at times weddings can be pretty emotional, too!
Yesterday (Saturday March 23rd, 2019), I was booked to play for the wedding ceremony and pre-reception. The wedding was located at the beautiful Caversham House in the Swan Valley. As a wedding harpist, I have played at numerous different venues and locations - restaurants, public parks, wineries, resorts - and I have to say that Caversham has to be one of my ultimate favourite wedding venues. The gardens are always meticulously and perfectly trimmed. It's so quiet and peaceful, and so green. The huge staircase down at the Hidden Gardens looks like it's right out of a fairytale! That said, it is not the easiest venue from a harpist's perspective (but at least there is a long ramp to get the harp down to the garden).
Caversham House is a pretty spacious estate and it was my first time yesterday playing up at the Marquee Wedding space (as opposed to the Hidden Gardens).
I set up the harp in the shade and provided some background music whilst the guests arrived. The ceremony begun a little later than planned. I played three songs for the processional: Thousand Years for the first two bridesmaids; All of Me for the next two; and I finished off with Wagner's Bridal March when the bride arrived.
During the sand ceremony, I played Tale as Old as Time and Perfect by Ed Sheeran; and during the signing of the register, Elvis' timeless Can't Help Falling in Love With You.
And already, all the formal requirements of the wedding ceremony were completed, so it was time for the newlyweds to walk down the aisle. Taylor Swift's "Love Story" on the harp accompanied their first steps as a married couple.
I remained another hour and a half to play some background music during the pre-reception drinks and nibbles.
|Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 9, 2019 at 11:50 PM||comments (0)|
An objective of my studies to become a certified harp therapist is to be able to play and improvise in a variety of musical genres, from classical to contemporary, movie music to jazz and even oriental music. A genre that I focused on recently is plainchant. Here is a video of my own arrangement of the plainchant Victimae Paschali Laudes:
Plainchant is an ancient sacred singing tradition, dating from medieval times. Usually, the chants would be passed down aurally, as opposed to being written down, since the musical notation system we use today was not in place back then. A medieval composer by the name of Guido of Arezzo eventually devised a way of notating chants, using a staff comprising of four lines. The different pitches would be represented by black squares (called neumes) (see video below).
Plainchant has a number of musical characteristics that make it quite distinct from other types of music. First and foremost is that it is generally monophonic. Monophonic is a term which describes the texture (or number of musical lines) that make up a piece of music. As the prefix “mono-” means one, monophonic means that the music is made up of a single musical line: the chant itself. All singers sing the same melody and there is no accompaniment or other musical line backing up the chant. It can be rather unusual to hear unaccompanied singing these days:
Another characteristic of plainchant is that it tends to be based on the musical modes. In music we have at least seven different modes; the ionian and the aeolian are the two most common (being the major and minor modes respectively). The chant I performed on the harp in the video above is in the dorian mode, meaning that is like a minor scale but with a raised sixth scale degree. Plainchant has a distinctive musical sound and flavour from the use of those modes.
Interestingly enough, plainchant does have an association with therapy. In the Abbeye de Cluny in France, monks used to sing these chants to people who were dying. The musical qualities of plainchants can be beneficial in therapeutic settings: for some people, plainchant will sound unfamiliar and thus will not be associated with any emotions. They can therefore focus on the sound and relax into it. As the rhythm of plainchant is usually quite free-flowing rather than strict, the speed at which to play each phrase can guide or reflect a person's breathing.
I hope you found this short article about plainchant interesting!
|Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 6, 2019 at 1:25 AM||comments (0)|
Some kids willingly go to their instruments and take their own initiative regarding their music practice. For others, practice seems to be a chore, and it is not always easy to get them to play their instrument. As a teacher, I can easily see which students have put in the work over the week, and I can just as easily see when no progress has been made. In this article, I will outline the importance of music practice, provide some general guidelines regarding how long a child should practise their instrument, and finally offer some tips for parents.
First, let me give you an overview of what I mean when I write about practice.
So why is practising important anyway?
As for how long a child should practise, it is unrealistic to expect a definitive answer as it depends on a number of factors, such as the energy levels of the child at the time of practice, when practice is being done, the attention-span of the child, their age, their knowledge of music … when I was teaching at MLC, the music department recommended to parents that in their first year of learning, kids should practise 10mins a day; in their 2nd year, 20mins; in their 3rd, 30-40mins. I would add that these are minimum guidelines, and children should always be encouraged to practise for longer. Furthermore, any upcoming performances, auditions or exams are likely to require more work.
In my experience of learning two instruments and teaching a number of students, I would advise that shorter but regular practice yields better results than the occasional very long practice. Furthermore, I would recommend dividing practice time into segments spread throughout the day. In the case of children, perhaps 5-10mins in the morning before school, and 5-10mins after school.
Lastly, it is not so much the time that counts but the quality of the practice. Mindlessly repeating a piece or an exercise just for the sake of it is not going to be as effective as being fully engaged in the listening of the music being made. Making sure the correct fingering is being used, that the right note is being played, that it's at the right dynamic and speed, and that our fingers and hands and posture are appropriate, are all elements of what constitutes engaged practice.
As a parent, I highly encourage you to be as involved as you can with your child's musical practice, although less so for the more mature students. Here are some things to watch out for, and some tips for helping your kid fill your home with their music:
I hope this article helps in promoting healthy and productive practice sessions at your home with your child.
|Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 20, 2016 at 4:25 AM||comments (0)|
I was lucky and privileged to play for a wedding this early afternoon.
The groom's brother contacted me this week to ask if I'd be happy to play for the wedding, 10min of background music, plus a special request for the processional. I was more than happy to!
The venue was Willow Pond Garden in Canning Vale. It is a very pretty garden, but I have to say I was slightly afraid of the harp falling in the water when crossing the bridge!
After setting up, I played my usual background music repertoire, which included both classical pieces and popular tunes.The special request was "Ballad of the Goddess" from Zelda, which is this really cool-sounding, celtic-ish melody!
Congratulations to the bride & groom, was a pleasure playing music for you and your guests!
|Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 19, 2016 at 7:10 AM||comments (0)|
On the 13th of March was the first annual harp gathering of the year for the WA Harp Society. All the members of the society were invitedd to attend, and about 20 people showed up, with another 20 or so making up an audience. We played 9 ensemble pieces, and a smaller group of harpists also performed 2 songs. The theme was St Patrick's so we were all told to dress up in green; also, the pieces were mostly celtic tunes (although we played the theme of Game of Thrones!). I was put in charge of leading the whole group, which was both slightly nerve-racking, but also very fun! At the end of the session, I performed an original song, "My Little Bird".
Photos: WA Harp Society
|Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on March 6, 2016 at 5:55 AM||comments (0)|
The second season of WACO was fun, rewarding, exciting, and very successful!!! For this season, WACO supported Guide Dogs WA and we managed to raise (brace yourself) $19 000!!!
I only performed in two pieces. The first was Debussy's Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun. There was a second harpist so it was great to have some company during rehearsals and on stage! I also featured in Samuel Parry's own arrangement of Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
Well done to everyone involved, and I'd like to say my thanks to whoever attended one of our concerts - the support is very much appreciated.
|Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on January 24, 2016 at 6:10 AM||comments (0)|
As I am now the resident harpist at Riverside Ensembles, I participated in two wedding expos this month.
The first was the eBridal Wedding Expo. It's a huge expo, has hundreds of vendors, is held at the convention centre, and runs over two days. I played two solo sets on both Saturday and Sunday. When I was not playing, the string quartet was performing. It was very fun but what was even more surprising was that a couple booked me to play for their engagement party which was on the day of the booking (ie. I got the gig on the day!).
The following week-up I was in Willetton for The Wedding Faire Grand Opening Expo - again representing Riverside Ensembles. It was an invite event which meant there weren't as many vendors, but they were all high quality ones. It was a children-friendly event (there was a bouncy castle, fairy floss and a face-paint stall). I got to wear a flower crown which was a really cool finishing touch (and which definitely confirmed the harpist stereotype I think!)
The following photo was taken by The Wedding Faire - Australia.
|Posted by Eliza Bourgault du Coudray on December 28, 2015 at 3:25 AM||comments (0)|
On the 20th of December I played harp for my last worship service as a Wesley Scholar.
I accompanied the choir (directed by the amazing Angela Currie) for two movements from Britten's A Ceremony of Carols. It was lovely and a lot of fun. I also played J.S Bach's Prelude in C as my solo piece. The rest of the service was filled with readings from the Bible, music played on the piano by the exquisite pianist Caroline Badnall, other choir songs and of course congregational hymns.
After the service, they even gave me a card and a candle to thank me for being a scholar. It was so sweet & kind of them.
I loved my time as a Wesley scholar. Everyone there is so supportive, friendly and interested. Being a Wesley scholar has definitely helped me as a musician through the regular performance opportunities. I was even able to purchase a new instrument with the scholarship money so it has been a huge career boost. I strongly recommend any current UWA music students to apply - you won't regret it!!