1) Practice is not performance. Very often people enjoy playing the piece in the way they would perform it during a recital or church service. However, if you truly want to learn to play this prelude and fugue with confidence, you first have to realize that the different approach is needed for practicing on your own.
2) Playing the piece in its entirety is not the best option. For the best results, avoid playing the entire piece from the beginning until the end until you are ready. The thing is that when you play this prelude and fugue, you are likely to make quite a few mistakes. Consequently, if you do not stop and correct your mistakes, you are likely to repeat them again and again.
3) Instead practice in short fragments. Subdivide this piece into manageable units of about 4 measures each. Remember that the piece is quite long and it is best to work on a few measures at a time. This way your chances of making a mistake greatly diminishes.
4) Don't underestimate the power of separate voices and voice combinations. In such polyphonic texture with several highly independent parts it is difficult to listen to each voice equally well. Consequently, you are likely to miss some important details in fingering, pedaling or articulation. Do not play all the voices together unless you have mastered them individually, in pairs and 3-voice combinations.
5) Later make the fragments longer. As your playing of this prelude and fugue becomes better, start expanding the fragments by doubling them in size. It is important that you become accustomed to gradually increasing the length of your practice without stopping. This way you will prepare yourself for public performance in the future.
6) Put the hands and feet together. After you master individual voices and voice combinations, it is time to play all parts together. If you were honest in learning the previous step, you will be surprised how fast and enjoyable is the practice process.
7) Make at least 3 correct repetitions. Try not to advance to the next combination or fragment unless you can play the current one at least 3 times in a row correctly. A master organist Marcel Dupre used a system of 10 repetitions in his teaching.
This is an optimum example. However, in order to see the positive results with the shortest amount of repetitions, play without mistakes at least 3 times in a row. If you make a mistake, you will have to start counting from the beginning.
Go on and start learning Prelude and Fugue in B flat Major, BWV 560 today by repeatedly practicing short fragments. And don't forget to take advantage of learning separate voices and voice combinations. By doing so you will discover that you are on the right path to the mastery of this wonderful composition.
Do you have your favorite techniques which help you practice this piece? Share your experience in the comment section.
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