Many organists complain that they don't have enough time for organ practice. They have so many activities in their day and so they simply spend their days without practicing which doesn't get them closer to their goals. However, finding time for organ practice is easier than you think. Here is what I recommend to you.
If you want to find more time for organ practice, very first thing you can do is limit nonessential and not important tasks of your day. For example, if you find yourself watching online videos, surf the Internet for information, or interact with your friends on social media sites, you can just simply say to yourself that you have the goal to practice today. Shut down your computer, close the laptop or put your smart phone away and go to the organ bench. It's that simple.
Another thing you have to remember is that you don't need to spend a lot of time on the organ bench. If you only have 30 minutes available for practice, don't despair, just do it. It might be all you need if you practice wisely.
You can also practice organ during TV commercials when you are watching a movie or a show. Keep in mind that during any given TV program, there will be at least 15 to 20 minutes of commercial break so you can practice organ playing during that time as well. If you could master one difficult spot of your piece during TV commercial, it would be worth it.
You can also find adequate time for organ playing by practicing more on the weekends. Many people work more on the weekdays and are free on the weekends. If you practice only 30 minutes Monday through Friday that will be just enough and if you practice 2 hours or more on Saturday and Sunday then it will give you adequate practice time.
The most important thing about finding time is to be consistent in your practice. Try not to skip your practice sessions, be persistent and you will succeed in reaching your goals.
There is a saying that if you skip one day without practice, only you will notice it. If you spend two days without practicing organ, your teacher will notice it and if you spend three days without playing the organ then everybody else will notice it.
Apply these tips in your practice and you will find adequate time for organ playing easily.
How to Become a Renowned Organist
Many organists want to become famous and world-renowned in their profession. Achieving this level, when you are famous and respected is not easy. It takes many years of consistent and effective practice and proper guidance from your instructor. Here I have a few recommendations that might help you to become a renowned organist.
First of all, you have to practice consistently. By consistently, I mean you have to try not to skip even a day without practice of some kind. Even only 30 minutes will do, if you don't have more time available. Of course, if you are really serious and want to become a world class organist, you will have to find more hours for your practice.
The next thing you have to do is to develop your organ technique. Your finger technique and your pedal technique is best developed by playing special exercises like Hanon exercises and scales and arpeggios either on the piano or on the organ. You can develop your pedal technique by playing pedal scales and arpeggios regularly.
Another thing you have to do is to build up your organ repertoire. If you only know 10 pieces, then you most likely will be able to play only one organ recital. Keep in mind that you cannot become famous and a renowned organist if you only have just enough pieces for only one recital.
You have to be able to play hundreds of organ pieces so learn new pieces every single month. That will give you much more flexibility and variety and your organ concerts will be much more interesting for organizers.
The next thing you have to be persistent and persevere in your organ practice. You cannot be an organist who simply gives up whenever he or she meets an obstacle in their way. You have to overcome any challenge, any obstacle in your practice. Give your best effort and stick to the plan.
Finally you have to have goals. Without the goals and exact steps to achieve these goals you cannot reach that level when you are famous and renowned organist.
Consider my recommendations, apply them in your practice and with time you will be able to reach your goal.
How to Maintain an Old Organ
If you constantly practice on an old organ, I can say you are very lucky because old organs have this historical taste and smell and most likely mechanical action. Mechanical action helps you to be more precise and so it is more pleasant to play with tracker or mechanical action than on any other type of action. However, old organs constantly require taking care of them so here are my few recommendations on how to maintain and take care of your old organ.
First of all, keep in mind that the temperature and humidity level of the room has to be steady and consistent. If you keep them constant throughout the year, your organ will be in much better shape.
The next thing is to maintain the reed stops regularly - especially before important performances. Whenever you have to play in public with reeds, try to tune your reeds. This way your old organ will sound much better.
Finally, whenever you encounter a sticky note or a cipher, you have to go inside and fix it. Keep in mind that sometimes you will need screwdriver and sometimes you will be able to regulate the action with your fingers.
However, be very careful because that is an old organ and especially if that is a historical organ. Every adjustment you make will be very important so your every movement has to be precise, very small and elegant.
If you are not careful with your fingers, you can produce much damage to the organ and later a major restoration will be needed. It's better to consult an experienced organ builder who has a license to work with historical materials than to do it yourself and cause problems in the future.
Apply my tips when you have to maintain an old instrument and your organ will be in good shape throughout the year.
Finding Time to Practice Organ
I have met many organists who say that they don't have available time to practice organ. They would love to play this instrument but simply they can't find enough time in their day. However, finding time for organ practice is easier than you think.
Of course, you just have to figure out the most important tasks of your day. This might mean spending less time with your computer, spending less time watching YouTube videos, spending less time interacting with your friends on social media sites. This may also mean you could get up half an hour earlier or stay up half an hour longer.
Do the most important tasks of your day first and then you will have a little more time left for yourself. One thing that is important about finding time is understanding that you don't need to practice for many hours without stopping. You see, if you have only 30 minutes available for organ practice that will be just enough time to do it. So 30 minutes of wise practice might be enough to begin to see the results.
The problem is when you start skipping the day and spend the day without organ practice. If you practice one day and skip a few days, then your practice is not consistent. The most important thing is to spend every single day with your instrument at least for 15-20 minutes. If you only have 15 or 20 minutes try to repeat the previously mastered material.
If you have 30 minutes, then perhaps take 15 minutes for repetition of previously mastered material and 15 more minutes of learning something new. If you have more than that, of course, add some time for improving your pedal and finger technique - some technical exercises, scales or arpeggios.
So about 30 minutes a day will give you consistent results of your practice. If you are freer on weekends, then you can spend more time with your organ pieces during Saturday and Sunday.
Perhaps on weekdays (Monday-Friday) you only have 30 minutes for your organ practice but on Saturday and Sunday you can spend perhaps two or more hours. That will work very well for your practice.
Apply my tips and you will be able to find just enough time for yourself to play every day. Try not to make any excuses for skipping your practice.
Remember, if you spend one day without practice, only you will notice. If you spend two days without practice, your teacher will notice it. If you don't practice for three days, everybody will notice it. If you spend every day practicing just a little, then you are moving towards your goal one step at a time.
How to Learn Organ Pieces by Heart
When you take an organ piece that you love and would like to master it, the last step in mastering this composition is to memorize it or play by heart. Many people find it really difficult to memorize and play by heart because they simply don't know how to do it or they have been conditioned to think that it's really difficult and only geniuses can successfully do it.
However, there is a relatively simple yet powerful procedure in memorizing the piece. So here are my recommendations on how to learn organ pieces by heart.
Practice your piece in fragments. Take a fragment of four measures and master each individual measure. Play this measure five times when looking at the score and five times without looking at the score. Do this for each of the four measures in your fragment.
Then go back to the beginning of the measure and practice two measures at a time - measures 1 and 2, measures 2 and 3 and measures 3 and 4. After that play three measures without stopping - measures 1, 2, and 3 and measures 2, 3, and 4. After that, memorize measures 1 through 4.
If you do this for every fragment in your piece then you will have no trouble in memorizing it. You have to spend each day perhaps 15 minutes with each fragment and remember to repeat previously mastered fragments at the beginning of your practice session.
So little by little, fragment by fragment you will memorize the entire piece. Then you go back and practice two fragments or eight measures without stopping. When you reach the end of the piece, then you practice four fragments without stopping and so on.
You always have to double the length of the fragments. So finally you will reach the level when you can play the piece by heart from memory without looking at the score and without stopping fluently.
So you see how it is simple to memorize organ pieces in this step by step manner - learning fragment by fragment and then adding one fragment to another. Apply my tips in your organ practice and then you will be able to play organ pieces by heart easily.
It happens very often that organists were quite accomplished in their youth. For one reason or another they stop practicing playing the organ and gradually their playing skills decrease. Little by little their finger technique is not as good, their pedal technique is not as advanced and their hand and feet coordination doesn't work that well anymore. But later in life they discover that they want to come back to organ playing and start practicing the right way. So they wonder what the best way to get back to solid organ playing skills is. If you are interested in gaining your technique, coordination and fluency, then this article is for you.
Very first thing to remember is that you have to come back to organ playing very gradually. You see, even if you were quite accomplished in your early career, many years perhaps have passed without you practicing the organ so naturally you have much less ability right now. So what I recommend for you when you practice organ is to take easier pieces than you played in the past. Spend some time with them and you gradually will be getting in a better shape.
Another thing to remember is that your practice time also has to be quite modest at the beginning. Even though you might have practiced for many hours during the day in your early years, it doesn't mean that today you have the same kind of stamina. So start practicing for small periods of time of about 30 minutes long, take frequent breaks and rest a little. This will help you not to overexert yourself and keep motivated for years to come.
Additionally, you can start working on your finger and pedal technique and hand and feet coordination exercises. I recommend playing manual and pedal scales, arpeggios and other special exercises. These technical exercises will help you to get in a better shape and regain your former organ playing skills.
Finally, remember that you have to have some fun so choose your organ pieces wisely. Play organ compositions that you love and enjoy and never forget that organ practice is a privilege. Whenever you practice these organ compositions, make sure you fix your mistakes, work in small fragments, choose a slow tempo, and practice in separate voices and voice combinations. With time this will help you to advance in organ playing and get back to your solid technical skills.
I have met many organists who wish they could practice more efficiently, more effectively and achieve higher results in organ playing. However, their organ practice habits are sloppy enough so it is difficult for them to achieve these goals. In order to help them overcome these challenges and change their practice habits I would like to share some tips in this article.
One of the first things to remember is to practice regularly. That means you really cannot achieve higher level if you practice once or twice a week. So you should practice every day even if it means only 30 minutes a day. If on some days you only have 15 minutes available, repeat previously mastered material. That counts.
Also in each practice session you have to have a clearly defined goal. This means that whenever you sit down on the organ bench you should have a clear vision of what you are about to accomplish in this practice session. This goal can be very small, for example, learning these difficult four measures of your piece, memorizing a section of music or repeating previously mastered musical material.
Your organ practice also has to be wise and you should aim to correct your own mistakes. Too often I see organists make mistakes while playing organ and they don't stop and don't correct them. They would just keep going until the piece is over. This is an incorrect approach to practice.
What happens is that if you don't correct the mistakes, they just keep coming back the next time you will be playing this piece. Therefore, you have to correct your mistakes right away. But you should not stop here. You should aim for at least 3 correct repetitions in a row.
There is one more thing which helps to improve sloppy organ practice habits which is practice in fragments, separate voices and voice combinations in a very slow tempo. If you practice in this manner, you can control your movements and playing much better. Therefore, if you make any mistakes, you will easily correct them right away.
Try to apply my tips in your organ practice. Keep in mind your goals, practice regularly and be persistent in correcting your mistakes. This will help you advance in organ playing and achieve the results that you want.
How to Become a Competent Organist
Playing the organ can be a very exciting activity and many organists dream to become competent and proficient in their playing. However, achieving this level when you can be fluent in your playing and free of mistakes is not easy because you have to know the exact and specific steps to achieve this goal. So in this article I will give you my tips on how to become a competent organist.
First, you have to develop your manual and pedal technique. What this means is that your fingers have to be able to play anything you command to them. The best way to develop your finger technique is to play manual scales, arpeggios, chords, and special exercises regularly.
For developing a pedal technique playing pedal scales and arpeggios in all 24 keys works wonderfully. Take a pair of one major and minor key with the same number of accidentals and play a scale and arpeggio over one or two octaves. Do this every day for 15 minutes.
In order to become a competent organist you also have to develop your hand and feet independence. You see, even if all your fingers might be able to play anything you want and your feet can play even the most incredibly difficult passage of pedal lines, you still have to be able to play hands and feet together.
As you know, most of the time in organ music hands and pedals play different melodies. Therefore, your hand and feet independence has to be developed to a level when you could play anything with your hands and feet together.
The next thing you have to do is to develop a wide variety of repertoire. Try to learn new pieces every month. Your organ repertoire should be varied enough and should include organ compositions from many different national organ schools and historical periods.
For example, you should not limit yourself to the well-known organ works of Bach, Buxtehude, Couperin, Franck, Widor or Vierne but also try to learn and master pieces from lesser known organ schools like Spanish or German Renaissance, Italian Baroque or even compositions from the Middle Ages.
Also remember that you have to learn the foundations of music theory which will allow you to better understand your organ pieces you are playing. Learning basics of harmony, counterpoint, and fugue would be also beneficial. Finally, try your hand at organ improvisation - this will give you much joy from your increased creativity.
Apply my tips in your practice and with time you will become a competent organist. But remember you have to be consistent and systematic with your practice, persistent with your efforts, and never give up on achieving your goal.
How to Easily Provide Organ Accompaniments to a Weekly Parish Liturgy Without Stress
Church organists very often have to provide organ accompaniments to choir pieces and anthems every week. In other words, the organist has to be able to sight-read an unfamiliar organ score really well and to do it fluently during the public performance such as church service.
In order to be able to play organ accompaniments every week without stress and anxiety, you have to be able to sight-read really well so my first recommendation is to develop your organ sight-reading skills. The best way to achieve fluency in sight-reading is to practice playing new pieces regularly.
However, remember that you have to be systematic about sight-reading. Otherwise this practice will not work and you will not develop the skills that you need to play organ accompaniments easily.
Take a collection of organ music that you love and start playing one page a day. Don't play all the parts and voices right away because most likely that will be too difficult for you. What you have to do is to try to play just one single line and do this for the entire collection for a few weeks.
When this will become easy, go back to the beginning of this collection and start playing another line or part. So little by little you will be able to play the entire organ collection by playing just one line.
The next step would be to play two parts or voices at the time and later three voices and finally the entire four-part texture. Remember to proceed to the next step only when the previous step will become easy.
Do this in your every-day practice for 15 minutes a day and in short nine months you will easily achieve the level when you can play any organ accompaniment during your church service fluently and without stress.
Gaining the true left hand and pedal independence is very important for organists. This is because the majority of organ of repertoire involves playing different melodic lines for your left hand or tenor voice and pedals.
For most people playing with their right hand is much easier than with their left hand so this combination requires much more diligence and practice. So whenever you take a new organ piece, try to spend at least twice as much time on playing the tenor than other voices. Obviously the same applies for your pedal part.
When you can play the tenor and pedal parts separately, practice them together and play this combination over and over. The best way to play this combination is not to attempt to play the entire piece from the beginning to the end but subdivide the piece into shorter fragments of about four measures. This will help you to avoid mistakes and if you do make mistakes you will be able to correct them right away easily.
The next thing to remember about gaining tenor and pedal independence applies for church organists. Many organists who play the hymns are used to play the bass line with their pedals but at the same time play their bass line with their left hand as well. It means they double the bass line with their left hand.
In other words, they simply are playing the hymns with manuals only and adding the pedal part on top of them. This is not correct and it will slow down your left hand and pedal independence. You see, your left hand has to play different music than the pedals. My best recommendation for playing hymns is to play just the tenor part with your left hand and the bass line with your feet.
This way you will be able to achieve much better tenor and pedal independence. Obviously this independence will not happen right away - this will take many weeks and months to achieve the total freedom and flexibility. Therefore, you have to stay focused and think of your long term goal and to never give up practicing this combination.
This will help you to progress much further one step at a time every day. Most importantly, before playing tenor and pedal combination make sure you can play these parts separately without mistakes at least three times in a row.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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