Vidas: Let's start the episode 39 of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. Today's question was sent by Parvoe, and he writes that movement of his left hand fingers always become a problem. Basically, he wants to improve his left hand technique, right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, I think so. Yes.
Vidas: I think for people who are right-handed, left hand technique is always a problem.
Ausra: Yes, it was, especially when you have to add to the pedals.
Vidas: Are you right-handed or left-handed?
Ausra: Yes, I am right-handed.
Vidas: Me too, so basically for both of us, this left hand thing is tricky, and needs extra attention.
Vidas: All right. How do we improve this? How do you personally improve left hand technique, Ausra?
Ausra: Actually, no. If I'm learning a tricky piece, a new piece, I not starting to play all the voice together. First of all I work on my left hand and pedals. This helps a lot, because right hand and pedal never give so much trouble as left hand and pedal.
Vidas: Exactly. For example, let's take it apart. When you practice an episode of music and you have a tricky left hand part, you want to repeat this fragment with the left hand maybe twice as many times, right?
Vidas: To speed up this progress of left hand.
Ausra: First of all, if you will play all this both hands together, so your left hand will still be weak, or weaker than the right hand.
Vidas: That makes sense because let's say you practice 10 times right hand, 10 times left hand, and 10 times pedals, right? Everything really becomes better and better every time you practice, but since left hand is your weakness, it's still a little bit weaker, right? It's not as strong as right hand.
What about, Ausra, right hand and pedal combination and left hand combination with the pedals? Do you need to practice left hand and pedals more?
Ausra: Yes, sure. Definitely.
Vidas: Also twice as many times?
Ausra: Actually more times than the right hand. I never count and know exactly how many times I practice with it, but definitely more.
Vidas: How do you know when to stop to practice this combination?
Ausra: Well, when it all goes smoothly.
Vidas: Until it goes smoothly?
Ausra: Yeah, sure.
Vidas: There is a difference between being able to play without mistakes, this combination, and getting it right every time.
Vidas: Which one would you prefer?
Ausra: Of course, getting right every time.
Vidas: Right. That's actually what professionals do. They practice until they cannot make mistakes in a given episode, and amateurs tend to stop when they play correctly.
Ausra: Sure. You know, of course, you can play exercise, a special exercise for a left hand. It helps also.
Vidas: What's your favorite type of left hand exercise?
Ausra: I would have to say that it's Hanon, but actually, personally, I like to play more like etudes on the left hand, something like Czerny etudes. Not always that technique which is suitable for piano technique is working for organ as well, but some of them actually work.
Vidas: Exactly, because Hanon is usually constructed in octaves, right? Parallel octaves moving fingers the same direction, you playing the same things. At the same time, right hand improves with the left hand together. You can play Hanon exercise five times or 10 times, or even once, both hands improve equally, but you need to improve your left hand more than right hand.
Ausra: Sure. Definitely.
Vidas: Yes, extra attention is really needed. In specific pieces, as you mentioned, Czerny etudes and other etudes.
Ausra: Of course, you have to play them on the piano, and in general for people who play electrionic organ, or electro-pneumatic organ work more on the piano, because it will improve your technique on regular piano if you have an access to it.
Vidas: Just recently, we met our friend and colleague, Paulius Grigonis, and he practiced on the mechanical organ at Vilnius Cathedral preparing for his upcoming recital, and one of his first comments was how different and difficult it is to practice on a mechanical organ because he was used to playing this electronic organ in his church without pipes. Right?
Vidas: People sometimes forget the sense of real resistance when it comes to the mechanical action organ. Ausra, do you think that sometimes builders of electronic organs make a special keyboard which is similar to mechanical action?
Ausra: Yes. Now everything happens. Yes.
Vidas: They improve with time, right?
Ausra: Yes, technology improves. Still, if you have another chance, choose a mechanical instrument.
Vidas: Play with piano.
Vidas: So guys, we hope that this advice was useful to you, and please apply this in your practice, and to please send us more questions. Subscribing to our blog at www.organduo.lt, and when you send us your questions, also please indicate your feedback about what is number one things you will apply from this or any other podcasts that you listen in your practice this week, right? This number one advice, which is the most crucial to you? Take action and apply it in your practice and let us know. We'll appreciate it a lot.
Okay, this was Vidas ...
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Remember when you practice ...
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Arnoldas Leleika on finding more practice time, choosing your organ repertoire wisely and expanding your musical horizons
Welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast #105!
Today's guest is Arnoldas Leleika. He is our student
from Vilnius University majoring in Chemistry but hopes to transfer to Medicine next year. He's just finished his freshman year and right away started playing the organ at our Unda Maris studio from last September and currently has chosen 3 pieces for the upcoming competition for young organists.
Arnoldas is very hardworking and motivated organ student and Ausra and I are very delighted that he came and found us in the organ studio.
He substituted for me a number of graduation ceremonies and recently performed at Unda Maris organ studio concert. You can read his thoughts about these experiences here and here.
In this conversation Arnoldas shares his insights about finding more practice time, choosing your organ repertoire wisely and expanding your musical horizons.
Enjoy and share your comments below.
And don't forget to help spread the word about the SOP Podcast by sharing it with your organist friends.
And if you like it, please go over to iTunes and leave a rating and review. This helps to get this podcast in front of more organists who would find it helpful.
Thanks for caring.
Listen to the conversation
Arnoldas Leleika on Facebook and YouTube
(Audio + transcript) #AskVidasAndAusra 38 - Joblessness is holding back my concentration when I practice organ playing
Vidas: Today is the 38th episode of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. And today's question was sent by Parvoe. He writes, "Joblessness is holding back my concentration when I practice organ-playing." As I understand, Ausra, Parvoe is suffering, and struggling, to get a job, right?
Vidas: Imagine that organ-playing is his, or her, in this case, I don't know, hobby. Not full-time activity. If you want to do the hobby in your spare time, you have to have enough resources. If he or she doesn't have that, then I can understand that this idea of, "I can't find enough resources, and money, and job to support myself," is hurting anything that Parvoe does, right?
Vidas: Is it possible to dismiss those external thoughts when you play the organ?
Ausra: I think you could do that. Then the organ-playing would become as sort of a therapy to you, but actually I think it's very hard not to have a job. Not to have money, because if you don't feel actually secure, then all other stuff just simply disappears.
Vidas: Yeah, it's a foundation of our feelings. You have to have security of health, and basic provision. You have to have a roof above your head, basically, and you have to find something to eat every day. Maybe even support your family, if you have one. I can really understand the struggle that Parvoe is facing. The first advice literally is to ...
Ausra: To find a job.
Vidas: Job, or additional income stream.
Ausra: Yeah, sure. Yes.
Vidas: These days, job is just one of the options, obviously. If Parvoe is living in a country where finding jobs is difficult, then perhaps he or she could really benefit from freelancing. Doing freelance work. Maybe he has a skill, some skill that somebody else in the world needs. There is, you know Ausra, this www.freelancer.com.
Ausra: Yes, I know that.
Vidas: Platform where you could find jobs and even offer jobs to people, for example. If I, and you, need somebody to do some task for us, we could hire a person from another country, or from the same country, basically to do this for money. We would pay them, and they would submit a task and if we are satisfied we would release the payment, and everything would be a win-win situation for everyone involved. The vice-versa is true, the opposite. If, for example, I need extra income, I could search for projects to fulfill and to earn some extra money.
Ausra: That's a good possibility now.
Vidas: You don't even have to go outside your house. You could do this on your laptop. You don't have to have really advanced skills to do this. You don't have to be a coder or a programmer, IT Specialist. These are very well-paid skills. We know that. There are hundreds and thousands of projects where you even need to enter data. Some kind of word processing document. Or even search for terms online. Maybe translate something. Do you think, Ausra, that ordinary people could benefit from such a platform like www.freelancer.com?
Ausra: Yes, I think so. Yes. That's now another opportunity.
Vidas: Yes. Maybe additional income. Maybe you will find a job, but if you have spare time and you still lack the resources, and still feel insecure, maybe then check out www.freelancer.com. This is a really a global marketplace for jobs. You only need your PayPal account there and you will be paid in PayPal. I've done this, I hired somebody to do some task. It worked very well. The vice-versa is true too. Guys, I hope you understand that possibilities today are really endless when it comes to additional income streams. Then you will feel more secure about your hobbies, such as organ-playing.
Ausra: Yes, and then you can practice and feel better.
Vidas: With your concentration.
Vidas: So guys, we hope that this answer was useful to you. You maybe feel inspired to go ahead and look at www.freelancer.com as one of the possibilities. Please send us more questions. We love helping you grow as an organist.
And remember, when you practice-
Ausra: Miracles happen.
(Audio + transcript) #AskVidasAndAusra 37 - When/how to use Bourdon 16' in the manuals?
Vidas: Let's start the episode 37 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by Maik. He writes:
"Hi Ausra and Vidas. I listened to your last podcast, and then a question came to my mind. When or how to use Bourdon 16' in the manuals? Greetings, Maik."
That's a very interesting question, right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, that's a very good question.
Vidas: Do you often use Bourdon 16', or any other 16' stop, in the manuals when you play?
Ausra: Yes, actually. I use it quite often because I like it.
Vidas: I think it's a good stop to add the gravity to the sound, right?
Ausra: Sure. There are a few cases when I use it in the manuals. For example, when I have Pleno, and if I have 16' in the manuals, I usually add it, because it gives to the Pleno this nice sound of gravity.
Vidas: Exactly. There is a specific instant in the Pleno with the mixtures when you must use 16' in the manuals. This is when the mixture is very low, has very low foundation. Maybe 4' basis. Basically, the lowest pipe in the mixture is 4'.
Vidas: Does that make sense?
Ausra: That's right, yes.
Vidas: Like at St John’s here in Vilnius, where we work, this mixture on the first manual is based on 4' level. A lot of organists who don't know this sometimes use 16' in the manuals when they see the need, but sometimes not, with the Pleno, with the mixture. I think on this particular manual they have to use it, because the mixture is very low.
Ausra: Also, another case to know when you can use Bourdon 16' in the manuals is, for example, imagine that you have no time to practice hymn playing for your service, and you still want to have some lower sound and don't want to use the pedal at all. You can just play, add the Bourdon 16' in the manuals and play it on the manuals.
Vidas: Exactly. It's much easier this way, but you have to understand, we are not advocating for omitting pedals. It's just for emergencies.
Ausra: Yes, it's just for emergencies. Yes. Another thing, when you know you can use the Bourdon 16' in the manual, for example imagine let's say, some kind of romantic piece, where you also have only manuals. Written for manuals. You have to have accompaniment in the left hand and, let's say, a melody in the right hand. You're playing on two different manuals. It would be very nice to have Bourdon 16', maybe Flute 8', in your left hand on one manual, and then to have something solo in the right hand.
Vidas: It's like a Bicinium, right?
Vidas: Bicinium. Two separate melodic lines. In the right hand you have this chorale melody, Cantus Firmus. Maybe without ornaments, or with ornamentation. You need this maybe a soft reed, or even a trumpet, or even mutation combinations. Even Cornet for the solo in the right hand. Then, as Ausra says, you need to have foundation in the bass with the left hand, so we add Bourdon 16' with the Flute.
Ausra: Sure. There might even be some interesting trio texture in the piece, where your left hand might play as a pedal line. Then you could also use Bourdon 16', and maybe have a solo voice in the pedal played by, let's say, 4'.
Vidas: Or 8'.
Ausra: Or 8'.
Vidas: The reed.
Ausra: Yes, reed.
Vidas: In the tenor basically.
Vidas: The lowest voice in this chorale setting would be the left hand.
Vidas: The left hand.
Ausra: I think in the literature you can find cases like this.
Vidas: You can even try to play Wachet Auf by Bach from Schubler Chorales. This way, basically the left hand would play the lowest part and the pedals would play the tenor chorale melody with the trumpet, let's say.
Ausra: That's a possibility. Also there are composers who write their registration down, so if they were to ask for Bourdon 16', you definitely use it.
Vidas: Excellent. Do you think that Bourdon 16' alone would sound well without any other stops on the manual too?
Ausra: Well, sometimes yes. That's not often, but yes, I think so.
Vidas: Sometimes when I improvise I need some dark textures in chords, and juxtaposed with some virtuoso melodic lines, flourishes in high pitch level at 4' registration, then I need to contrast it with darker sounds like to depict some different, darker moods. I use Bourdon 16', perhaps alone even. In the depth. In the bass register, so that listeners could get this dark feeling.
Vidas: Great, guys. I hope this was useful to you. Please send us more questions. The best way to do this is actually through email. Subscribe to our blog at www.organduo.lt if you haven't done so already. Just reply to any of our messages that you would get as a subscriber. Remember to practice, because this is the most important thing, because when you practice-
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Let's start Episode 36 of AskVidasAndAusra Podcast.
Today's question was sent by John and he writes the following question:
"Do you think it's achievable for me to learn Widor's Toccata by March next year? My youngest brother has just announced his engagement and the wedding will be in early April next year. Several years ago, he told me he would love to have this piece at his wedding one day. It's probably beyond my technical capabilities, but I really want to give it a go for my brother.
I played for the church service last week and everything went really well. You remember last time you ran the question answering series ... I asked about struggling to learn Tenor voice. You would be pleased to learn that I learned Tenor voice for all four hymns. So, I played all four parts for all the hymns now. It felt like I was struggling for a week with no progress, but I kept practicing the left hand and the pedals' combination. Then it just clicked, and it became together really well.
Thanks for all your great podcasts, answering people's questions. They're great questions and great answers. John."
So, Ausra, for starters, we're very glad about John's progress in church hymns.
Ausra: Oh, yes. Very much, yes.
Vidas: Because we've been communicating with John over a number of years now and he's been our most loyal subscriber, right?
Vidas: Right from the beginning, starting from 2012. He started to play hymns in churches regularly, but his challenge over the time was to play four parts together. He's been practicing three parts, so he's been missing tenor voice.
Ausra: Actually, tenor voice gives the most problem, I think.
Vidas: But you know what he did right, he didn't double the base with the pedal like many people do. They play four part hymns with the hands. Plus, they add the bass line with the pedals, which is not right. It will slow down your hand and feet independence process.
Ausra: Sure. I'm so glad to know that John achieved this independence. That's a very good sign.
Ausra: Because he has patience and he's such a hardworking man, I think he might get to that Widor's Toccata in time because he still has a lot of time. So, if he will start to practice now and will do it every day, he might be able to play it for his brother's wedding.
Vidas: Right, right. Now, it's the end of July. So, let's think about August. August, September, October, November, December, January, February, and March, eight months for one piece. Well, it's a little bit disappointing to learn only one piece over eight months, don't you think?
Ausra: Well, it depends on your goal.
Vidas: If it's a big goal like he has, maybe he can persevere but a lot of people will quit, I think.
Ausra: Yes, I'm sure and I'm just thinking, wouldn't it be possible to find an adapted version of Widor's Toccata? I'm not sure. I don't think I have heard about it but-
Vidas: I haven't, and it would be actually counterproductive because later maybe three years from now, he wants to repeat this Widor Toccata and his technique will be better by this time. But this easier, adapted version, I think you can find it online. You can find just about anything online now. So, for people who are really struggling but want to play it, sort of Widor Toccata adapted version, they can find, but perhaps we don't necessarily advise that, right?
Ausra: Well, yes. John will manage to play it, then he will have an excellent piece for many occasions because you can play it for weddings, you can play it for service, like as a prelude or as a postlude. That's a great postlude actually.
Ausra: And of course, for organ recitals too.
Vidas: Yes, and memorize. Above all, memorize this piece because you will love it and want to keep it in your repertoire for a long time.
Ausra: Yes, and I think it's a good piece to play from memory.
Vidas: I think the most challenging part with Widor is hand part, not the pedals and not together, hand and feet together combination, but the hand part, this toccata movement. But remember, Widor didn't like people playing his toccata too fast.
Ausra: I know. Sometimes, people go just like crazy, just playing like Harley Davidson tempo.
Vidas: Maybe not even Harley Davidson but let's say, Yamaha, on this race.
Ausra: Yes. It's really too fast. It makes that piece sound so mechanical.
Vidas: So, slow down when you practice. Practice in fragments, just like we always suggest with hard pieces. Even practice hands separately now.
Ausra: Sure, definitely.
Vidas: That's the first step probably.
Ausra: Yes, I think so.
Vidas: In John's case, I think he has to make a plan. Eight months, right? But for his situation, I recommend to be ready not one month before wedding, but three. Three months will give him enough time to be secure with this piece. So, maybe to be ready by February, that would be great. February, March ... Or maybe even January.
Ausra: March is actually the wedding, I think.
Vidas: Yes, so maybe by the end of this year. By the end of December 31st, he has to really play this piece for his friends or family without stopping at the concert tempo. That's his goal. With mistakes, don't worry about mistakes by that time. He will have three months to get rid of those mistakes. But make sure you really make a plan to learn enough fragments for each day and refresh your previously mastered material each day so that day by day, you complete this piece. I think it's doable, even if you learn just one line per day.
Ausra: Sure, yes.
Vidas: One line is maybe a couple of measures in this edition.
Ausra: Because in toccata, in the movement like this, there are lots of repetition.
Ausra: So when you will manage to, let's say, page or two, it will be a key to the rest of the piece.
Vidas: Yes, it's like an exercise. Your fingers will get used and adjust to the difficult level of this exercise and will get stronger and stronger each day you practice. But Hanon exercises would be beneficial too here. Don't you think?
Ausra: Sure, sure.
Vidas: Just like in any virtuoso piece.
Ausra: Also, I think it would be very good way to practice it on the piano, just do the hand part on the piano. That might help to. Because I found that with composers like Widor and Vierne and our great French composers that practicing from the piano helps a lot.
Vidas: Because piano was the basis, basically, of the organ technique at that time.
VIdas: Yes, good advice. So, find a usable piano and not the keyboard, not synthesizer, not electronic.
Ausra: Yes, not a synthesizer.
Vidas: But real mechanical piano.
Ausra: Because that mechanical feeling of a keyboard will help you to strengthen your fingers actually, to strengthen your muscles.
Vidas: If your church has a piano, practice on the piano too.
Vidas: Maybe you have a choir room, which has a piano. Not necessarily in the nave, but maybe in the choir room you can go and practice.
Ausra: Because if you will be able to play the hard parts of the piano well, it will be well on the organ too.
Vidas: Oh, yes.
Ausra: And it shouldn't be so hard to actually add pedals.
Vidas: No. You practice pedal preparation, of course, also.
Vidas: Pedal lines, that's a big key. But other than that, just a slow, persistent and regular practice, that's the key.
Wonderful. I hope this was useful to you, John, and other people who want to play Widor Toccata and learn to play it in eight months, let's say, from now. Make sure you don't worry about fingering. Ausra and I have prepared the fully-fingered and pedaled version of this piece. So, you don't have to write down every finger. We've done the hard work for you so that you can jump in and get started right away with correct, efficient, and persistent practice.
Please send us more questions. We love helping you grow, and the easiest way to do this is by subscribing to our blog at www.organduo.lt. Then you can reply to our messages and send or ask the questions this way but please be patient. We get tons of questions. We get to your questions eventually and answer them, but maybe not the next day and even not the next week because we have a line of people waiting really for help.
This is great, guys. Make sure you practice today because when you practice-
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Let's start episode 35 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by Robert. He writes:
"Vidas and Ausra, I have a question for both of you. I am working on Vierne’s Symphony no. 1, movement 6 “the Finale”. What would be the most effective, fastest way to play the last part confidently? I am challenged a bit by the triplets moving against the theme in the pedals towards the end of the piece. I would appreciate any suggestions you may have. Thank you also for what you do for the organ. It is encouraging and uplifting as a full-time church musician to receive an email each day from you. You're making a difference in this world. All the best, Robert."
So, Ausra, you remember this last episode of this symphony, right?
Ausra: Yes, I remember this episode actually, it's a beautiful sonata by Louis Vierne. I think you should answer this question very well because you have played this piece.
Vidas: In my experience, Finale was complex not because of the manual finger work, right? Manual passages. In my experience the difficult spots were coordinating hands and feet, especially in the secondary theme. Primary theme was okay, but the secondary theme was kind of tricky where you have canon between one hand and the pedals. So, that was for me. When Robert says the last episode with the triplets ... recapitulation, I think?
Vidas: I think what's happening is that probably he needs to work on his manual technique more. Maybe Hanon exercises. Remember, Ausra, Vierne writes in the exposition of the first theme you have double arpeggios. Broken chords with sixteenth notes, sixth in one interval, and sixth in another. Sort of tricky configuration. In order to get this right you have to play a lot of scales with double-sixth.
Sixth intervals in each hand, that will help you. That would be too difficult at first, then maybe you start with double-thirds first. So, Hanon has this good menu of exercises, collection on this. First part, second part, and later the advanced third part where you will find the scales with double-thirds and double-sixths.
But the recapitulation is easier actually because these broken chords are broken into triplets. You have I think only first interval is a double interval and then two notes running loosely as a passage. It's easier actually. Faster notes, but not double intervals like in the beginning. What would you think in this case Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, I would suggest that you would really have to practice probably just right hand and pedal, and then left hand and pedal. And place like this because if you have coordination problem that might help.
Vidas: But you are talking about the secondary theme where you have canons. I suspect canons might be also problem for him, too. What about the last episode with the triplets?
Ausra: Just practice slowly at the beginning until you feel comfortable while playing slow, and only then you will speed it up.
Vidas: It seems that people sometimes don't have enough patience. They think that they play too slow, and they think that public performance should be very fast. It does, it has to be fast but it has to be gradual process. You don't get better overnight, I think. Sometimes, if the challenge is too much, do you think Robert might benefit from taking easier toccatas first? Boellmann, Gigout...
Ausra: Well that might be a possibility too. Even maybe Widor's staccato is easier or not? What do you think?
Vidas: It depends. If you can play staccato chords easier than triplets, then it's easier. But maybe Boellmann for starters?
Ausra: Yes, Boellmann. It's a very good place to start.
Vidas: I don't know if Robert has played this staccato or not, but it wouldn't hurt to practice easier toccatas first and then play more advanced finale movements by Vierne and Widor from symphonies. But, definitely do not rush and play really, really slowly. Enjoy this process, and know that with every practice session you are really getting better, but you might not even notice that.
Ausra: And work on some exercises, you know it will definitely help.
Vidas: Exactly. So guys, I hope this episode was useful to you.
Ausra and I were really glad that, for example, Robert is finding our daily emails so helpful. If you want more advice please subscribe at at our blog, www.organduo.lt. Just like Robert you will get a lot of benefits from getting daily advice and inspiration.
And when you subscribe, please send us your questions. We love helping you grow. But don't forget to practice. Because when you practice-
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Welcome to #AskVidasAndAusra 34!
Some people suggested that audio only episodes of the blog aren't as powerful as having a text accompany our voices. We understand that our accents aren't always easily recognizable to some organists from other countries.
If you've been our subscriber for a while, you probably know how committed we are to helping you grow as an organist and providing as much value as possible.
In order to do just that, right now we are trying out the Rev transcription service (thank you James for your recommendation). We've used it before on some other projects and were impressed with their work.
Please let us know, if having a transcript of the audio is helpful because we presume some people like to read while others - to listen (and now you can do both, actually). Anyway, here's our answer to today's question about how to quickly change stops by hands.
Listen to the audio or read the transcript bellow.
Vidas: Hi guys this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And let's start episode 34 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by John. And he writes, „I have an Allen protégé L10 organ at home, a three manual help worked midi works set up in our church with only an 8 gigabyte memory computer and I play once a month on a two manual organ at Freemantle's Wesley church and a three manual organ at St John's Lutheran in Perth which has recently been fitted with a Peterson computer system. Sadly the wooden frame under the lower positive manual of that organ is slightly too low, so I have problems with playing the pedals properly on that organ. It wasn't built to AGO standards.
Before I read this question further Ausra, do you think that he can adjust the height of the bench a little bit?
Ausra: Yes, that might be a possibility, but it's always fascinating that you never expect to know that the organ will fit you well. You need to know to adapt to an organ, and that's the most fascinating thing of being an organist.
Vidas: A challenge, but also a benefit, right? On the piano, you know exactly that your instrument will be more or less familiar, right? Familiar environment and mechanics will be more or less similar, although the touch is different, but not as drastically different as the organ.
So, advice probably would be to adjust, right?
Vidas: To just in your mind that probably the ideal situation when the bench would be at the normal height, is ideal right, but ideal circumstances are not always found.
Ausra: Sure and he says that it's not up to AGO standards, the pedal board, but if he will travel to Europe, I don't think he will find organ in usual standards at all. It is rare in Europe actually.
Vidas: Yeah, you can find maybe at Paris Cathedral right, Notre Dame and many other famous places which were fitted specifically to AGO standards, and GDO standards German system is a little bit different too and a lot of European organs have this German system too. So, you need to adjust, I think. The more organs you play the better you will feel in any situation, I think.
Ausra: That's true.
Vidas: So let's continue, right. John writes further, „now that I am getting weekly lessons as compared to the occasional lesson once every so often on the pipe organ that didn't have a swell box, like many Dutch organs as I found out during the recent Dutch organ tour visiting Zutphen, Arnhem, Doesburg, Helmond, Roermond and others, all except for Doesburg organs are without swell boxes and no registration helps like thumb and pedal pistons.
He writes, „I am beginning to use the swell pedal more often and operating the swell pedal as it is not hidden in the music score as often is a problem, but I am slowly getting there I think.“ So Ausra, about swell pedals a little bit. When we don't have for example in our house we don't have a swell box, how do you practice pieces with swell box at home?
Ausra: Well I just imagine that I have a pedal and I am imitating that I am operating that pedal; opening it or closing it according to the score. And actually it helps.
Vidas: Yeah, you need to mentally visualize the swell box and place the right foot in approximate place.
Ausra: Yes, because even the swell pedal, you never know how it will be, because for example, like in our Philharmonic hall yes, on the Schucke organ, we have swell pedal which is far on the right side and it's really tricky to use it. So you just need to mentally adjust.
Vidas: Did you mention that the swell box operates in the opposite direction too?
Ausra: Yes. So it's kind of tricky.
Vidas: Yeah, but you need to adjust in your mind.
Ausra: Yes because if you are practicing the organ without the swell box and you will not imagine it, then you will get to the real organ with a swell pedal it will be a problem.
Vidas: So he writes further, „quickly changing stops, or even operating some pistons according to the score, isn't always easy either. There are often so many things to think of together, but it keeps you on your toes and it‘s an interesting hobby. So, John's main concern is as I understand, changing stops quickly right? By hand or by pistons, or toe pedals. How could he make this technique easier?
Ausra: Well, I think it will come with practice. The more he practices, the easier it will get. But for the beginning, for starters, you could use, maybe less registration changes if it bothers him a lot, and then he will get more comfortable with it, he can change as much as he needs.
Vidas: Do you remember the first time you had to change stops by hand, a long time ago probably, at the Academy of Music, right, or later? In Academy of Music we didn't practice that much with registrations.
Ausra: Well, in Lithuania it's funny, because you always just have assistants, even two of them on each side of the organ. But, and it's funny, like in the Academy of Music we had an organ with what 12 stops.
Vidas: Twelve or thirteen stops.
Ausra: Yes and still had at least one assistant.
Vidas: And sometimes two.
Ausra: Yes and sometimes two, but everything changed when we went to study to the States and we had to change registration by ourselves. It was a challenge for us at first, but I found out that its actually easier in some way to change registration for myself because I know exact spot where I have to change it. It makes actually my playing more musical.
Vidas: You slow down at this place.
Ausra: Yes, a little bit and it makes it good.
Vidas: You're prepared mentally.
Ausra: And then other assistants help me with registrations sometimes, we play things too early or too late. So I think it's better to do it yourself.
Vidas: Unless it is really, really too complicated.
Ausra: I know, yes. There is some type of music where it is probably impossible to assist yourself.
Vidas: Right. Remember at Music Academy we were in awe of one organist from abroad, but I don't remember, from Germany I think, he played Reger also on this Schucke little studio organ and he did everything by hand, and he operated swell pedal with his right foot you can say if you remember his name.
Vidas: Weinberger yeah! Weinberger was so virtuoso with his right foot on the imaginable swell pedal. And he did all kinds of virtuoso pedaling changes in order to accommodate swell pedal and also changed stops by hand. So, I think it comes with practice obviously. It's not an overnight adventure. Okay, then John, then later writes, „there are so many things to think of together when you play the organ but it keeps you on your toes and its an interesting hobby. Getting time to practice is also a problem and even more so that now I am retired.“
You see, people when the work right, during the day time, they have the day job and later in the evening perhaps they can practice the organ. But now, in John's case, he is retired and still he gets difficulty in finding time for practice. What would you suggest for him?
Ausra: Well I don't know. What would you suggest?
Vidas: Good question. Probably priorities right? You have to set your priorities straight. If I were in John's shoes, I would do a list of things I want to do. 25 most interesting things in my life I want to do. 25. Maybe every day, right, if I have that many. Then, cross out lower 20 and leave only the top five. And never think of the lower 20 again and you will find time for the top five things easy.
Ausra: That's a good suggestion.
Vidas: Because its just too much, life is short and you only live once and you have to concentrate on the most crucial things, the most things that make your life matter, right?
Vidas: And not all the passions are important I think, right? Your maybe top five. Concentrate on that and you will find you have enough time, I think. Excellent.
So he continues to write, „we are running a members for members concert this Saturday afternoon at the Scotch College Chapel which has an Allen Bravura L10, similar to mine. But then we have a Wurlitzer instead of an English organ selection. The other organs on that organ Baroque, French and American classics, are the same. Except for one or two stops it is a similar organ, so that means I can practice for my pieces at home. I am playing Largo by Gianbattista Martini, manuals-only piece and Louis Vierne's Communion on Opus 8 which needs some stop changes and swell pedal action.
We normally have real pipe organs for our Organ Society of western Australia functions, but haven't had a digital organ for some time, hence the decision for a recent Allen installation. Keep up the good work! I like your emails and appreciate your efforts. Kind regards. John.“
So Ausra, do you think that it is a benefit to have a similar organ at home and a similar organ in the recital?
Ausra: Well definitely. It saves some time and it makes you feel better.
Vidas: Right. It's a rare coincidence I think right, to have two similar organs at your disposal.
So guys, I hope this episode was useful to you. Please send more questions to us and the easiest way to do this is by becoming a subscriber to our blog at www.organduo.lt. You can receive the updates to our latest podcast episodes and you can reply to our messages via email and we can answer your questions on this podcast very easily then.
But please be patient because right now we have quite a number of future episodes lined up because people are really responding and sending us their questions. But make sure you wait, and if we don't respond right away with our answers, please know that they are on our radar and we will respond in the future ... in time, because other people are also sending many questions to us too. Wonderful!
This was Vidas...
Ausra: And Ausra
Vidas: And remember, when you practice ...
Ausra: Miracles happen.
(Audio + transcript) #AskVidasAndAusra 33 - How can I read complex modern music easier?
Today's question was sent by Paulius. He's is preparing for an organ recital where he will play Praeludium in C, BuxWV 137 by D. Buxtehude, Prelude, Fugue and Variation by C. Franck and my own Op. 39 - Festive Processional. This piece gives him the most trouble and Paulius wants to know how to learn to read complex modern organ music easier.
Listen to our full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
TRANSCRIPT (please tell us if reading the text of these podcasts would be helpful to you):
Vidas: Hello guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And we're starting episode 33 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast, and today's question was sent by Paulius, and he asked, "How can I read complex modern music easier?" You see, the situation, Ausra, you remember he is preparing for a recital in Vilnius Cathedral, and he is playing my Opus 39, Festive Processional, and there are a lot of complex notes and rhythms there. He is struggling to read those notes and rhythms correctly. So what would you suggest for him to do first?
Ausra: First of all, I think he must analyze how that piece is put together, how it's composed. Because if you will find the key from the composition, how it was set up, I think you will be able to learn it easier. Otherwise if you would just sight-read it, it might not make sense for you.
Vidas: Yes, you have to basically deconstruct the piece, right?
Vidas: And think about how the piece was put together before in my mind, right?
Vidas: So of course, it's not easy because he's not the composer, right? He has to look deep into what's happening, into the music. Do you think that finding out the different modes would help him?
Ausra: Sure, I think so, if it's a modal piece, you know. If it's based on a mode, then definitely it would help.
Vidas: This music has lots of improvisatory rhythms, because it was improvised first, and then written down, and it's sometimes difficult to play those syncopations, and the complex ties and dotted notes.
Ausra: There is only one way to learn it correctly. You must count the smallest rhythmic value and you must count in those values.
Vidas: That will help, right?
Ausra: Yes that will help. You wouldn't have to do it for the rest of your life, only while you are learning this piece.
Vidas: This applies not only for this particular composition but many other modern pieces, right?
Vidas: That people are playing regardless of nationality or style.
Ausra: Because, in my opinion, most modern music has very mathematical approach to composing it. If you crack that formula down it will be easy to learn. The hardest thing to find is what formula it is.
Vidas: You have to think deep into the chordal structure and keys. Sometimes those difficult looking accidentals and rhythms only mean that there is a hidden key to unlocking this process, right?
Vidas: Do you think that doing just once is enough or you have to repeat this process over and over again?
Ausra: I think you have to repeat it. Maybe sometimes in order to write in the score in which keys, in which mode in that particular episode. Just like, remember we are learning now. That piece written by you also, which you wrote originally for flute and organ. Now we are playing it with organ duo.
Vidas: Again. It seems like music written by me is complicated to play for other people.
Ausra: Well it's not that complicated. You just have to know to switch to different key very quickly.
Vidas: Yes it's good that sometimes I write the number of accidentals next to the clef for that episode. So you know in that episode how many accidental there are right away.
Ausra: Yes, it's very helpful.
Vidas: Sometimes I don't write it. Sometimes I write it next to the note.
Ausra: If it's easier for you, for example, this episode has three sharps and they are not added to the clef, you can do it yourself. Maybe, on top of that line you just write three sharps or four flats and so on and so forth.
Vidas: But you have to do this yourself then.
Ausra: The best thing about modern music is, if you will not play it, one hundred percent is written, nobody will notice it. I'm quite sure, so don't panic if you will hit a few wrong notes.
Vidas: By the way, what was the last challenging piece for you from the modern period that you cracked down and really learned to play, but it was difficult for you?
Ausra: This piece by you, Fantasia on the Themes by M.K. Ciurlionis, Op. 11a, for example, wasn't so easy in the beginning. I had to crack it down.
Vidas: And before that?
Ausra: Let me think, probably learning Messiaen.
Vidas: A lot of people love Messiaen, and it seems like an equal number of people hate Messiaen.
Ausra: Well, with Messiaen is a strange thing. I studied his compositional techniques quite a lot and in depth. The better I know his compositions, the less I like them. I don't know why, especially those late ones. Including piano and organ. If I had to choose, I would probably choose his early pieces, like Nativité du Seigneur.
Vidas: Do you remember you played Laudes by Petr Eben, Czech composer.
Vidas: Was it challenging for you to learn it?
Ausra: Well not as much as I expected at first because in the Lithuania we have this big thing him and Laudes. It seems like because professor Digrys started playing this cycle and it seemed like a very big deal. After learning, it myself I didn't find it so hard. It's sort of a mathematical piece too. Of course rhythms give problems.
Vidas: You applied your own advice.
Ausra: Yes. Petr Eben played organ himself. He knew the instrument very well - it fits into your hands, your feet. It's not like some crazy stuff that you are trying to adapt to your organ. It's actually all very natural.
Vidas: It's quite musically easy to guess what's happening once you know the system. Sometimes those polytonal things are difficult to guess but easy to decipher.
Ausra: I think the rhythm is probably the most difficult problem in the that organ cycle.
Vidas: How about music by Jean Alain. The 2nd Fantasie Was it difficult for you?
Vidas: It's not that easy to play.
Ausra: Yes it's not very easy but it's manageable. The most interesting thing I took the 2nd Fantasie after many years of playing it. Now I think the last time I played was way back in the Omaha Cathedral, where I played for the masterclass for Olivier Latry. Now I picked it up and I can almost play it in the right tempo.
Vidas: You practiced this piece so many times back then, when myself tried to sight-read this piece a few days ago, it seemed like it was coming back to me too.
Ausra: Yes, overall Jean Alain was not my most favorite French composer. I just feel so sorry but his life was so short.
Vidas: Right. Second world war.
Ausra: It ended so abruptly and so tragically. He would have been such a great composer. Definitely no less famous and good as Messiaen.
Vidas: I hope people can apply your tips and really decide for the piece first before practicing any organ piece but specifically challenging complex modern music.
Vidas: So guys, please send us more questions. We're really happy help you grow and the best way to do this is through our newsletter. If you subscribe to our blog at www.organduo.lt. You enter your name and e-mail address and you become our subscribers. You can read our blog and you can really communicate with us much easier and send us your questions. We will be happy to discuss them during the show.
Also please tell us about the sound quality. We recently purchased a new double lapel microphone and we are sitting in our living right now and chatting. Two lapel microphones are plugged into one smart phone. I hope the sound quality is okay for you. We are testing. Please give us your feedback too.
Wonderful. This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Remember when you practice-
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Paulius Grigonis on Finding Time for Practice, Setting Yourself a Challenge and Discovering As Many Organs As You Can
Welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast #104!
Today's guest is my friend and colleague Paulius Grigonis. Currently he is the main organist of St. Joseph church here in Vilnius, member of the Board of National Association of Organists in Lithuania and member of the European Chapter of American Guild of Organists.
He started his musical journey in 1989 at Kaunas boys choir school "Varpelis" where he studied until 1997. In 2004 he graduated from Vilnius University with the Master of Law degree.
In 2006 he began studying the organ with me privately and in 2007 became the organist at the Holy Cross church in Vilnius.
In the summer of 2007 together with me and Ausra, Paulius founded National Association of Organists in Lithuania and was appointed vice-president of this organization. In 2008 he won the 3rd prize at the 2nd Jonas Žukas Organist Competition.
In 2007-2010 Paulius led educational organ demonstrations "Meet the King of Instruments" in many Lithuanian churches, participated in masterclasses by Prof. Lorenzo Ghielmi (2013, Vilnius), Prof. Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin (2014, Paris), Prof. Maris Sirmais (2015, Kaunas), and Juan Carlos Asensio (2016, Marijampolė) for organists and church musicians.
Since 2014 Paulius leads the musical life at St. Joseph church in Vilnius and directs two vocal ensembles of the parish. Since 2017 he is the member of the Board of National Association of Organists in Lithuania and treasurer as well as the member of the European Chapter of American Guild of Organists and is preparing for his Service Playing Certificate test.
In about 3 days, Paulius will play a recital at Vilnius Cathedral and in this conversation he shares his insights about his practice procedures and obstacles he has to overcome in order to become a better organist - finding time for practice, setting himself a challenge and discovering as many organs as he can.
Enjoy and share your comments below.
And don't forget to help spread the word about the SOP Podcast by sharing it with your organist friends.
Thanks for caring.
Listen to the conversation
Above my head while I write
Chords above the staves.
Today's question was sent by Robert. Here's what he writes:
I'm practicing the last section of BWV 572 and wondering if at that fast tempo it's best to just write down the chords above the staves. What do you and Ausra think about that? Thanks again!
Listen to our full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
Please send us your questions. We love helping you grow.
Vidas: Today is the 32nd part of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Please send us more questions.
Today's question was send us by Robert. He is practicing Piece d'Orgue BWV 572 by Bach. He writes, "I wonder if in that fast 32nd note tempo it’s best to just write down the chords above the staves. What do you and Ausra think about that? Thanks again."
So, Ausra, I think he struggles with the ending part, right?
Vidas: Très vitement, Gravement, and Lentement. The last one, Lentement. The last part where you have 32nd note passages. And he suggests, maybe would it be helpful to write down the chords above the staves in order to grasp the meaning of the chords and master this passage easier.
Ausra: Yes. That's a good idea, if you know what those chords mean. It depends on how advanced you are in keyboard harmony, because for some people to realize what the written chord is might take longer than actually to read actual music. So, it all depends on that. But you know, if you are advanced with harmony, then yes, go ahead and write the chords down. It might be very helpful.
Vidas: But you have to know the meaning. I remember also, when practicing this piece a number of years ago, you see you have to understand how the chords move in this passage, right? So, not every note in this passage is a chord or a note.
Vidas: I think five notes in the hands, total, and one is in the pedal. So you have to skip, in your mind, every other note, I think. Right? And they then constantly change note by note every half of the measure.
Ausra: Yes. I think, you know, the best way would be probably just to memorize those couple of pages in the last section. This would be the very easiest way to do it. Because, I think when you will be playing in performing tempo, final performance tempo, you will not have time, neither to look at the score, nor to look at the chords. So maybe just follow the pedal part and memorize the hand part.
Vidas: But, this part is not too fast. It should not be very fast.
Ausra: Well, yes, because with 32nds the tempo is not that fast. It's not like Prestissimo, you know, on 32nds.
Vidas: The first part, Très vitement, is very fast.
Vidas: You have to be careful and play with good articulation.
Vidas: Sometimes people miss that by playing everything legato. And the second movement is Gravement, and it's so slow, right? So that everything is, again, legato. And it's a mistake, actually. You have to play all those intricate syncopations and difficult rhythms in the middle voices, as well as in outer voices with good articulation. But in the last part, it's not too fast. So, as Ausra says, slow down and memorize. Memorize one passage at a time, right?
Ausra: Yeah. And I'm still thinking about that middle section, that it shouldn't be so slow, because actually the metre is cut time. So you have to have only one accent, one strong beat per measure. So this will give the feeling of a flow, of a general flow.
Vidas: Exactly. But this is for later stage of practicing. For now, still keep counting in four and practice a little slowler.
Ausra: Yes. Especially that last section. And actually opening section, too, because it's very easy to overwork on those spots if you are playing fast, and then you will never be able to correct them.
Vidas: Yeah. That's a common problem with fast passages. Your fingers can play faster than your ear can grasp the meaning of the passage. Every time you practice, every time you play, you have to hear what you're playing. Listen exactly.
Ausra: Yeah. And in that last section, just listen to all those beautiful dissonant chords. They are so important.
Vidas: Okay. And perhaps, yes, try to write the chords down above the staves. Maybe, write down abbreviations of chords, not entire chord, but the meaning of the chord itself.
Vidas: Right. And that will be helpful, too.
So guys, please send us more questions. We will love helping you grow. What's the best way to connect with us, Ausra?
Ausra: To subscribe to our blog at www.organduo.lt.
Viads: You enter your email, and become a reader of our blog, and you get those daily messages with current podcast episode, and later advice, and you can reply easily, and we can help you go. That's great.
So, thanks guys. This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice ...
Ausra: ... miracles happen.
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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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