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Learning the Harmonium

So in November, I finally became the owner of a beautiful Harmonium and have been learning to play it ever since. My goal is to be able to host Kirtan sessions, which I find wonderfully uplifting. This is my first video in which I play some kirtan songs I'm reasonably happy with. But there’s still a long way to go yet!

Learning the Harmonium is a big shift for me - I’ve played lots of instruments since childhood; I started with descant recorder then tenor recorder and then clarinet. I play gongs, and drums, singing bowls, tubular bells, chimes, crystal bowls, tuning forks, shruti box, monochord …. but never in my life have I attempted to play anything keyboard based.

<img src="https://images.squarespace-cdn.com/content/v1/5d8aa184239fd0080c6e8bda/1610979683306-DCEUMAO0SCQEZB4LZKQA/2020-12-04+12.02.17.jpg" alt="2020-12-04 12.02.17.jpg" />

2020-12-04 12.02.17.jpg

I think I’m lucky I only have to navigate the keys with one hand; I can’t imagine trying to play different keys with each hand! For the harmonium, it’s one hand for keys and one for bellows. But even that was complicated at first. Remembering to keep operating the bellows, and at a constant speed (and not the same speed “in” as “out”) was hard - and if the bellows stop, so does the music! But now I’ve got the basics under my belt I’m really enjoying learning to play. I look forward to each practice session, and enjoy sticking with each lesson until I feel confident enough to move on - for once I’m not trying to skip ahead to the next bit. Taking my time and slowing it down has been lovely.

The next step is to be more confident in my voice and sing louder - as you can hear, the harmonium is loud, and this is on the quiet “setting”! So I need to sing louder and stronger. Another thing to practice, which I’m also enjoying. I’m not a born singer by any means, but I’m learning that in devotional practice, it’s not about being perfect, it’s about intent (and hopefully not hurting people’s ears if you choose to share it!)

So here’s my first video. In a kirtan session, participants sing too, and may also be playing shakers etc. There's usually another host playing drum or guitar as well. And it can all be quite energetic, so this is by no means the finished article!

Let me know if you'd like me to upload more videos as I learn more.

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