We'll do a limited number of short audio episodes and share them on this blog.
Our goal here is to help our most valued subscribers, people who support the most what we do.
Sometimes we'll answer questions together, sometimes separately.
So today's question was sent by Jan who is taking advantage of the free trial of our Total Organist membership program.
Here's what she wrote:
"Dear Vidas and Ausra,
My most pressing question is... how can I keep a steady tempo?
My teacher tells me every time I have a lesson, in every piece that I play, that I am playing with multiple tempos. I think that I am playing with a steady beat but when I test with the metronome, I am all over the place.
I am stuck as to how to fix this problem. At present I do some of my practice with a metronome.
I am not a beginner. This is frustrating and disheartening.
Thank you for your help."
Listen to what we had to say this morning about it while doing our 10000 step practice in the woods.
IMPORTANT: If you would like us to answer your questions for #AskVidasAndAusra and share on this blog, please post them as comments and not through email.
Make sure you add a hashtag #AskVidasAndAusra because otherwise your question might get lost among many other comments people leave. With the hashtag #AskVidasAndAusra we'll know exactly you want us to answer them in the correct place.
We are looking forward to helping you reach your dreams.
Are you excited as much as we are? You should be.
When you practice, miracles happen.
Vidas and Ausra
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Vidas: Hello guys. This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And, this is episode number one of our new show, #AskVidasAndAusra. We're very excited and we're walking here though the woods now in the morning, and you can hear the birds singing, correct? How are you feeling today, Ausra?
Ausra: I'm fine. What about you?
Vidas: Yeah, I think I'm quite ready to answer people’s questions. We received four questions so far, and we have four episodes lined up for you. And, today we're going to basically answer the first question that came to us, and it was written by Jan, and it was wonderful question, I'm trying to read now. And, she writes things about playing with a steady tempo. Here is "How can I keep a steady tempo?" That's her question, and I will explain. She writes "My teacher tells me every time I have a lesson, in every piece that I play, that I am playing with multiple tempos. I think that I am playing with a steady beat but when I test with the metronome, I am all over the place. I am stuck as to how to fix this problem at present. I do some of my practice with a metronome." And, she writes that she's not a beginner and that's, of course, frustrating and disheartening.
So, Ausra, do you think that this kind of problem is common among organists?
Ausra: Yes, I think this problem is common among all musicians, not only organists, because even pianists or violinists can have the same problem.
Vidas: That's true. Do you remember the time when you had this problem? Because, it was probably a very long time ago.
Ausra: Yes, I remember one time, when I was working on Bach’s C Minor Prelude and Fugue.
Vidas: BWV 546?
Ausra: Yes, I had that problem in the prelude.
Vidas: And, especially in that episode, when the eighth notes change with the triplets, right?
Ausra: Yes, that's right.
Vidas: So, what helped you that moment to solve this problem?
Ausra: I don't remember exactly, but in general I thought a lot about it. Because then, later in life I returned to that piece. I just could not understand how I could play so badly at that time, so arhythmically.
Vidas: Yeah and our professor, we were studying by the same professor Leopoldas Digrys, I think at the time. And, he was very mad, actually, because of this spat episode, and-
Ausra: I think he just kept shouting at me and I think I was scared of him, that I could not play it correctly, so never shout at your students.
Vidas: That's rule number one. Even if you are frustrated with your students, you should not shout at them, right? But, of course, back to the question. Imagine Jan is having the same thing like you had back, maybe some 20 years ago, when you first started playing the organ. Or, other people around the world, also facing the same problem. What do you think, Ausra, keeping the steady tempo might be possible if a person plays with the metronome all the time?
Ausra: Actually, metronome is only to check your tempo, what tempo you should be. But, it's not a good tool to practice with it all the time, because finally when you will have to perform this piece, during exam or during a recital, you will not have a metronome. Metronome doesn't let you to show the structure of a piece, actually, because keeping the steady tempo is not the only thing you have to do in the piece. Because, there are other structural moments, cadences where you might have to slow down a little bit, or fasten up a little bit to show the structure of a piece. To play like a human being, not like a robot. And that’s, I think, why a metronome is not such a great idea to practice with it all the time. Maybe time after time, you can do it, but not all the time, and I don't think that metronome will solve this problem of playing in steady tempo.
Vidas: Hey, do you remember we have in Unda Maris studio, this wonderful lady who is practicing with us for six years now I think, from the beginning. And, she has the goal to master all the eight little Preludes and Fugues, right? And, she has mastered, I think five or six of them by now. Just a couple of them left, right? And she is really determined, but one of her major problems is really keeping the steady tempo in pieces, right? So, remember what we suggested to her too? I think to count out loud and sub-divide the beats. If, imagine she plays the piece in 4/4 meter. I think we said counting out loud those four beats, four quarter notes, and doing this loudly, counting out loud. Because, as Jan probably experiences, because a lot of people think they are playing in a steady tempo, and even counting naturally and evenly. But, it appears that when they listen to the recording, it's not true, right? Or, when somebody else is listening from the side. The only possible way that I found, is really to force yourself to count out loud steadily. Would you agree, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, it's very helpful, but you have to do it loudly. Or, to do it mechanically with your mouth, with your tongue, just sub-divide. For example, sixteenths, feel them, because otherwise if you will do it only in your head, it doesn't happen. It will not work.
Vidas: Right, because you think you are counting steadily inside of you, right? In your mind. But, your music can be all over the place.
Ausra: That's what I did when I learned Icarus by Jean Guillou. I sub-divided all the time, the smallest values, with my tongue. It actually really helped, because it's a tricky piece to play it technically and to play it rhythmically correctly, in a very fast tempo. So, that's what I did to beginning of learning that piece. I would just sub-divide all the time, and even do it in my performance. At a final stage, sometimes I would sub-divide at least some spots. Just to keep it in good tempo and rhythmically, correctly.
Vidas: So, then probably the shortcut to this, for Jan and others, to master the piece at the level that she could really play fluently, in order to concentrate on the counting, right?
Ausra: Sure, because another problem why the tempo can change. It might be that ... Although, she is not a beginner, yes? At the keyboard, but still, all of us have some harder spots in the piece and some easier spots, and sometimes when you get to the harder spot, you start to slow down. But, when you know you are playing an easier place, let see, where the sequences are going all the time, you sort of starting to go faster and faster because it's easier. You really need to make sure that places where you slow down are not technically harder than other places.
Vidas: Right. All of the episodes in your piece, in your mind, should be of equal level of complexity. Although, some episodes might have 16th notes, or even 32nd notes, or triplets, or syncopation, right? But, you have to master those episodes so well that they should be as easy as playing quarter notes, let's say, or half notes in other spots, right? So, wonderful. I think Jan can now try this technique, and other people can try this technique.
By the way, Jan is our Total Organist student and really tries to perfect her organ playing through our study programs and coaching, training materials, which also a lot of people have found tremendously valuable. And, right now we have this 30 day trial period, where you can really subscribe for free and try out all the material without any payment for 30 days, for one month. And, if you like it, you can decide to keep subscribing and if you decide it's not for you, you can cancel before the month ends. So, I think we will go on with our day to day things right now. As we are walking through the woods, I think the birds are singing quite loud, and mosquitoes are biting in my legs now, because I'm wearing shorts and my feet are basically uncovered. And, it's a really beautiful view, very green, wonderful morning. Ausra, what piece will you be practicing today, by the way?
Ausra: I think I finally will learn the Piece d'Orgue.
Vidas: Piece d'Orgue, right?
Vidas: It's a fantastic piece. Do you need my fingerings that I am preparing for this?
Ausra: I think it will be helpful.
Vidas: And pedalings right?
Ausra: Yes, especially nice that I don't have to write them down myself.
Vidas: Right, right, because sometimes people don't like to write fingerings because it's a lot of work to do this, but if somebody can provide the fingerings and pedalings for you, that saves maybe 30 hours of work for some people, right?
Vidas: Wonderful. So guys, this was Vidas and Ausra talking to you from the woods of this vicinity of Vilnius, Lithuania. And, if you like this episode and would like to ask us more questions related to any area of organ playing, basically, we'd like to help you achieve your dreams. So, click on the comments section of this post and send us your question. But, makes sure we find this question, because a lot of comments we get is not related to our podcast, right? But, basically to anything else. So, if you want us to find and answer your questions directly on this #AskVidasAndAusra podcast, right? So, make sure you include hashtag, #AskVidasAndAusra and post it on the comment section of this blog.
So, thank you so much, guys. This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And, I hope you will have a tremendous success in your practice today.