Step 1. Play this melody with the right hand.
Step 2. Add a lower voice with the left hand moving note against note with the melody. The intervals should be major or minor 3rds or 6ths, perfect 5ths and perfect octaves. Parallel perfect intervals should be avoided.
Step 3. Repeat Step 1 with the left hand.
Step 4. Same as Step 2 but voices are inverted - the melody is in the left hand.
Here is a PDF file with this hymn tune for printing a MIDI file for listening.
NOTE: In every step play 3 correct repetitions in a row.
After you are done practicing, post your time and feedback to comments.
Try this simple and easy method of memorizing any organ piece in a slow tempo:
Step 1: Play it in 1 beat fragments.
Step 2: Play it in 2 beat fragments.
Step 3: Play it in 1 measure fragments.
Step 4: Play it in 2 measure fragments.
Step 5: Play it in 4 measure fragments.
Step 6: Play it in fragments of 1 line.
Step 7: Play it in fragments of 2 lines.
Step 8: Play it in fragments of 1 page.
Step 9: Play it in fragments of 2 pages.
Step 10: Play it in fragments of 4 pages etc.
NOTE: In every step practice every fragment 10 times (5 times while looking at the score and 5 times from memory).
Enjoy your practice and share your feedback in the comments.
Recently I received a similar question from an organist who is permanently in a wheelchair. It got me thinking about what do you do if you are in such condition? Is it possible to maintain organ practice habits somehow even though you would not be able to play the organ with real pedals?
I think if you really have a strong desire and a passion to enjoy and practice organ music, you can remember that organ practice is primarily a mental activity which of course involves the entire body.
Although you might not be able to move your legs, you could still practice manual pieces on the organ or on any keyboard instrument, such as a piano. There is such a vast amount of unexplored repertoire for hands only which you could take advantage of.
You can also practice on the instrument without a score. Here you simply memorize your piece or pieces and play them on the piano or a similar keyboard instrument. You can do it without using your feet while sitting in a wheelchair.
Another way to practice is on the table with the score. You can sit in a wheelchair and pretend you are playing the keyboard. Move your fingers on the table as you would on the manual.
Also try to practice with the score sitting anywhere you want, not necessarilly at the table. You can keep your hands on your lap. Your fingers could move in one place.
The last method would be to practice without a score and without an instrument. Memorize your piece and play it on your lap. This is a very powerful way to increase your mental capabilities because you will have to learn to hear the music in your head.
Apply any or all of the above tips in your practice if you are in a situation where you have to sit in wheelchair. Your medical condition should not limit your passion and dream in organ playing.
Do you use any other methods of practice which would be helpful for people with various disabilities? If so, share your thoughts in comments.
This question is much broader than simply playing organ compositions better during recital. It involves things like relationship of the organist to the listener, general musical education level of the listeners and their expectations, among other things.
Having this in mind, here are a few basic ideas which may help you to ensure that your recital will be appreciated by the audience.
1. Know your listener. What are his dreams, wants, desires, problems, fears? What keeps him awake at night? What is his worldview? How do you encounter him in a way that he trusts you? What are you trying to change in your listener?
2. Connect with your listeners through stories. Story-telling during the recital is a powerful tool which an organist should take advantage of. You can give interesting facts and details about the composer, the music, and the instrument which your audience can relate to. This way people can get much more out of your recital.
3. Choose a repertoire in a meaningful way. Remember that it's the listener that matters, not you. If you play average music for average people, there won't be much connection with your listeners. Instead, if you could program a remarkable recital with pieces that your listeners care deeply about, then you might be on to something. Remember the principle of variety - slow-fast, sad-joyful, loud-soft etc. Thematic recitals work splendidly in this case.
4. Keep in mind your instrument. Try not to play the music which doesn't work for your type of organ. Organ repertoire is vast and surely you can find an interesting program which suits your instrument well.
5. Develop your relationship with listeners beyond your recital. Start a blog, write a newsletter, create a video lecture or two, collect emails through a hand-out during the recital, interact with your fans through social media. These things really help you connect and lead your fan base.
A final note: less is more. In case of doubt, always program less music than you want. It's better to leave the listeners wanting for more than to be annoying and overwhelming.
What things do you use to keep your audience engaged during your recitals? Share your thoughts in comments.
If you feel that you are not making enough progress in organ playing, it may be because of your lack of self-discipline. Self-discipline is crucial to have, if you want to overcome any obstacles and challenges in your path to perfecting your skills.
I think people who struggle with self-discipline often have a choice - to continue practicing the way they are used to, keep doing what they are doing and keep getting the same results. Another choice would be to change inefficient practicing habits and start working on disciplining oneself.
Lack of self-discipline often arises because we as humans have love for things that are new. That's where so-called "shiny object syndrome" appears in your practice. This could be in the form of a new method, new technique, new piece etc.
You might think that the new practice method is going to get you better results. (Remember these new, easy, fast, and simple shortcuts dishonest marketers are promoting - like to learn to play organ confidently in 2 hours?). Shiny object might also be when you become bored with some challenging piece and start looking for something new.
Of course, we need some variety in our practice - there is no question about it. The days when a practitioner of martial arts would learn just one form or kata for 5 years are long gone. The same is true in organ practice - we need something exciting to keep our motivation up and to push through difficult days.
That's why the process of goal-setting is so important here. If you could write down a really exciting specific goal with a date, plan of action and daily steps, then all you need to do is simply stick to the plan.
One thing in particular is helpful to me in terms of self-discipline is the habit of performing in public. If I can arrange a date for the piece or pieces which I'm working on to play in a public setting (church service, recital or even for my friends or family), then I'm so much more likely to keep myself on track.
Then it would be much easier for me to stay motivated and self-disciplined throughout the long weeks or even months of solo practice because I would have an obligation to prepare well. This would prevent me from losing my focus and become a victim of "shiny object syndrome".
Do you have some tips and techniques which you use personally in your practice which help you discipline yourself? If so, please share them in the comment section below.
The aging issue is of course universal for many senior organists. They still want to practice, still want to perfect their skills and share them with other people.However, they also feel that learning process takes more time and it's not as easy as they would want to.
Although I'm not at that age, from what I hear what is helpful to senior organists are a few things:
1. Enjoy every moment on the organ bench. Always remember that practice is a privilege which we have to be grateful for. Sharing your skills with others to make their lives better is another privilege. Keeping this in mind, organ playing should be an activity you would simply treasure and miss if you couldn't practice.
2. Take your time and don't rush. At this stage of your life don't push yourself too hard. Although learning process might take longer than earlier for you, you are still making progress. Also don't attempt to play very fast. Start your practice at the tempo in which you can avoid making mistakes and stay in control. The general techniques for good practice habits still apply here.
3. Play only pieces that you really love. There is no point in practicing music someone else given to you that you don't enjoy or has little musical quality. The same could be said for the dry exercises unless of course they are meaningful to you and lead to the advancement of your skills.
4. Make frequent breaks in your practice sessions. I generally advise people to take rests, relax, and stretch about every 30 minutes or so. For senior organists, the breaks could be even more frequent. If you feel tired after playing for 15 minutes, there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Take a short break, walk a little, stretch or lie down with your eyes closed and drink some water. Then you will feel refreshed and will be able to practice for at least another 15 minutes.
5. Imagine master organists of the past who might have been your age. For example, Johann Adam Reincken (baptized 1643-1722) was said to have lived until 99 years of age and was still active as an organist in St. Catherine's church in Hamburg at the beginning of the 18th century.
However, baptismal records in his native town of Deventer indicate that Reincken must have been born much later - but still he was almost octogenarian at the end of his life. By the way, Reincken was a key figure in the formation of J.S.Bach as an organist and composer.
Do you have any special tips that you apply yourself in your practice which would be of value to elderly organists? If so, share them in the comment section below.
A few days ago I have received a request to prepare a score of Bach's Art of Fugue, BWV 1080 for manuals only (for piano or hapsichord or any other keyboard instrument) with complete fingerings above the notes.
While this might be very useful, I have come accross this score which has many fingerings written in (not all, but the most important ones). The rest you can figure out by yourself. If it's too difficult to complete the fingering, it simply means you need an easier piece.
Enjoy it but most importanly, I hope you will do something with it.
You can rarely find more frustrating situation than playing for several hours a day, 5 days a week, 20 days a month, and 250 days a year without seeing significant results of your practice. This is due to inefficiency in practicing methods and techniques.
Such person usually plays both hands and feet together right from the start regardless of the difficulty level of the piece. What happens is that a bunch of mistakes appear and the frustration kicks in.
The irony here is that sometimes we know that it's not correct to practice this way but we do it anyway. Sometimes we are aware of the need to play separate voices at first and combinations of voices later, to master shorter fragments repeatedly first and combine the fragments later but the thing is we are the creatures of habit.
It's really difficult to break that incorrect and inefficient practicing habit and start building something which will last a long time. I guess the real reason often is our inability to believe in the right practice methods and lack of internal faifth in what we are doing.
But there is no other way. We have to realize that only we are responsible for changing our future. Taking action and implementing the right techniques in our practice require guts and will-power for sure but if we want to achieve something which is worth seeking out, something which matters, then we simply have to do it.
There is no point keep doing things in your practice which develop more mistakes. Instead push yourself one step at a time every day a little further in your piece or pieces practicing the right way.
Start a new chapter of your practice. Right here and right now. You won't regret it. From what I hear, so many people have switched to efficient practicing methods little by little.
Never once I met an organist who said, "you know, I applied all of the correct ways of practicing an organ piece. As a result of that, my learning process is much faster and easier now. However, I decided to switch back to my old inefficient studying methods anyway".
No one would say such a thing, right? It's worth the time and effort, although these steps might sound like a really boring thing to do. In just 3-4 weeks, you can perfect your piece you are working on right now AND build a firm foundation for the future practice.
Some of the people ask me this question because it's frustrating for them to notice that they have developed this habit of trying really hard on some days but just going through the motions in other practice sessions.
I think this situation has to do with the lack of vision or a goal. They feel the inner need to practice but it's difficult for them to get excited enough about some pieces and so they practice but don't see a lot of progress in return.
Obviously, the choice of the music can be wrong for their current technical abilities, or practicing habits have been incorrect. At any rate they really don't see themselves going anywhere in organ playing as time goes. That's why their efforts are inconsistent, too.
In some cases, this kind of practice can lead to quitting organ playing altogether. Because what's the point of playing the organ, if you don't have a vision or a dream of what you want to accomplish in the future? So at some point the efforts of pushing ourselves during practice and playing with determination and focus disappear and an organist might give up playing this instrument in the long run.
If you struggle with inconsistent efforts, my advice would be to get really focused about what you want to achieve in playing the organ. Set exciting yet realistic goals.
A goal is not a goal if it doesn't have a definite date on it. So write down your goals on a separate sheet of paper and set a date of when you want to meet your goal. Then you have to think about the plan of how to achieve it. And don't forget the importance of writing down the daily steps, too.
My final advice would be to surround yourself with positive people you can trust who can support your efforts. It can be a fellow organist or a few friends who might appreciate what you are doing or a mentor/coach. Sometimes your family members can't provide such support and leadership.
This way if you can talk regularly about the progress of your practice, you will not feel alone on this mission and you will be more likely to stay on track with your plan of action and daily steps which will prevent inconsistent efforts to appear in your practice.
My article from yesterday about the difference in meaning between the words "practice" and "rehearse" in organ playing sprakled a nice flow of ideas from people in the comment section. I sincerely would like to thank everyone who shared their thoughts with the Secrets of Organ Playing community.
By the way, this article was inspired by the thoughtful comment (point No. 1) of J David H. in response to my 94 page guidebook "Organ Practice is Privilege".
Today I'd like to take this discussion one step further and ponder on what we need more as organists - practicing or rehearsing?
From the comments to yesterday's article it seems to me we all agree that the main meaning of practice is to polish something repeatedly in order to perfect it and the emphasis of rehearsing more or less is on preparation for performance in public.
Then the question is this - in our everyday practice, do we need more this repetitive drilling which polishes and perfects some exerpt or a specific skill or do we need more of testing different stop combinations or playing run-throughs as if preparing to perform a piece in public?
In a way, the answer might be very simple, just as Leon said in his comment - from Monday through Friday we practice and on Saturday we rehearse (if the performance is on Sunday). Of course there is a need to adjust the proportion of the two concepts in many cases depending on the difficulty of music being learned.
But it feels to me this question is a bit more complex. You see, I think some people still practice organ as if they are rehearsing. In other words, they play the pieces from the beginning until the end quite aimlessly never stopping to correct the mistakes they make.
We need to be really conscious about when we need to practice and when - to rehearse. I feel that this would save some people from a lot of frustration when they struggle to learn a piece of music.
Of course practicing and rehearsing can overlap sometimes, especially when we are getting more and more familiar with the piece (even if you are not thinking about performing it in public). That's the idea of playing without stopping 1 beat, 2 beats, 1 measure, 2 measures, 4 measures, 1 line, 2 lines, 1 page, 2 pages, 4 pages, 8 pages etc.
What do you think? Join the discussion and share your thoughts in comments.
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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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