Vidas: Let’s start Episode 79 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by Rose. And she writes:
“Dear Vidas, I love your products and have a monthly subscription. The problem I am encountering is that suddenly this week I cannot log in with my email. The system says there is no account with that address. I also tried my personal address, in case it was the one linked to the subscription, but it didn't work either. I receive my monthly bills at that address for some reason. I may have just created a new account with my new address as a way to try to get the system to remember me, but it is not linked to the monthly subscription, so I still cannot download scores through it. Can you help me so that I can log in to my monthly subscription account? Many thanks. Rose.”
Ausra: So, because I’m sort of technically challenged, maybe you, Vidas, could explain about this question and answer it?
Vidas: Rose is having a problem that from time to time, some of Total Organist students also face. And I’m very happy to help, and it’s not a big deal, we always find a solution through email communication. So first of all, if you cannot login into your account, don’t panic, just send me an email and we will work together. The issues might be not necessarily just one, but several…
Ausra: Could you explain just the most common issues? What you have encountered, from your experience?
Vidas: For example, Paypal--this subscription works with Paypal accounts, and people sometimes pay with their money directly taken from Paypal accounts, and sometimes from cards that are linked to their Paypal accounts; that’s not the same thing. And sometimes, they update their accounts--like maybe one card expires, and another card is linked again. So if you do that, sometimes Paypal doesn’t recognize your card, and your payment doesn’t go through, and then your subscription gets suspended. So at this point, you cannot really login into your account.
Ausra: So what should you do?
Vidas: Well, simply...There are 2 solutions. If you’re not suspended, but just simply, temporarily, Paypal is trying to deduct some money from your account, but unsuccessfully, and you have maybe 5 days period for that, and Paypal notifies me also, that they’re trying to transfer funds from somebody’s account, but unsuccessfully, and they will try again in 5 days.
So it’s not cancellation, not suspension yet, it’s like period of trials for Paypal. And during that period, I may write an email to you if you have this problem, and you can update your card. Maybe you have insufficient funds, for example; maybe add some funds to your card, and then this payment will go through, and you will get easily accepted to Total Organist website account.
Or just add another card, validate through Paypal, and Paypal will accept it and the payment will go through. You see how it works? It seems like technical work, but it’s really not. Paypal is trying various ways to find payment solutions from your account; and if either the payment method doesn’t work for them, or the money is insufficient in your account, then they get worried, and sometimes suspend.
If your subscription to Total Organist gets suspended--from that moment, you cannot log into Total Organist account. You write to me, if that’s the case, and if you still want to continue your training, then the best way would be to subscribe from the beginning, like a new student. What do you think about it, Ausra? Because Paypal already has suspended this account, you cannot really reactivate.
Ausra: Yes, I think the best solution is to start from the beginning.
Vidas: The best solution is to purchase your subscription from the beginning.
Ausra: But the best thing, first of all, I think--what to do--would be to send you an email directly.
Vidas: Email! Always email, and communications. And by the way you can try out membership for Total Organist for free for 30 days. And after that, if you like it, you continue with the full amount, monthly or yearly, if you want. Thanks, guys, we hope this was useful to you, to think about your payment options and subscription to Total Organist. And if you have more questions, please send us through email, and we will be happy to help you. This was Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 78 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Marvin. He writes, “I’m a beginner who still struggles with pedals, I really need your help”. That’s a nice and simple question, right?
Vidas: Imagine, Ausra, you have a student who just started playing the organ. Maybe he or she has piano technique of some sort, and can read the notes, but the pedals are new for them. So what would you suggest for starters?
Ausra: Well, maybe just start with some pedal exercises. Don’t try to play hands and feet together at the beginning. Do some simple pedal exercises.
Vidas: Don’t even try to play pedal scales. Right?
Vidas: In our Organ Pedal Virtuoso Master Course, we have pedal scales and arpeggios over two octaves, over one octave...But that’s more advanced technique, right?
Vidas: If you want to do that, to perfect your pedal technique and advance to the next level, then it will work; but first you have to reach the basic level, I would say. Ausra, do you think that playing hymns, for example, with pedals would be helpful? Melodies of hymns.
Ausra: Could be, yes, why not?
Vidas: Melodies--simple soprano melodies--
Ausra: But even at the beginning, I would say you just play everything in a very very slow tempo. Imagine that each note in the melody is written in whole-note values. And play them as that.
Vidas: Exactly. If you want to make your pedal technique a little bit more fluent, and not hit the wrong notes, then very very slow tempo is the key, and repetitive practice. You have to practice over and over again short fragments, maybe one measure at a time, two or even four measures.
Ausra: Yes, and then, when you will be able without any trouble to play that part in the bass, in the pedals, then you can add hands--and not both hands together, but maybe RH and pedal first, and then LH and pedal; and then everything together.
Vidas: In general, I think students should think about their goals first. And maybe my advice about playing hymns doesn’t work for somebody who is interested in playing real organ music, right?
Ausra: Yes. Then take just, for example, Little Prelude in g minor by J. S. Bach.
Vidas: And play just the pedal part?
Ausra: Yes. Because it’s written in long-note values, it’s very suitable for a beginner. Not the fugue of that prelude, but just the prelude itself.
Vidas: Yes. We have many solutions for everybody, right? But not everything works for everybody. You have to think and adjust personally what would you like, what is boring to you, right? Never play pedals scales and arpeggios if it’s very boring to you. Or never play exercises if it’s too boring. Maybe treat real organ music as exercises.
Ausra: Yes, you can do that. But some people love to play exercises.
Vidas: Exactly. So for some people, it’s gold! And I know one of our subscribers--his name is Leon--he writes (frequently) updates on his practice, so he loves to practice exercises both on the manuals and the pedals. And they challenge him really everyday, and he seems to enjoy it.
Ausra: Good for him. For example, when I was back in the School of Art, I loved these technical skills exams where we had to play scales, arpeggios, chords, chromatic scales, and the scales in different combinations and thirds, and so on and so forth. And you know why I liked it? Because I wasn’t worried about forgetting the text which I had during my other exams, when I had to play repertoire, and I had to memorize it and to play from memory. So it just seemed so easy to play scales, because you just know what it is! And you don’t worry about the text.
Vidas: Well yes, it’s already pre-designed for you: you don’t have to improvise or play something very difficult or from memory, you just play a simple scale up and down.
Vidas: Or other technical studies like arpeggios or chords.
Ausra: So I believe that some people can just love to play exercises and scales.
Vidas: Yes. And in some sense, they feel some sort of improvement.
Vidas: Because they are improving, actually. And they’re improving their technique, right? Of course they will lack the knowledge of applying that technique to real situations, to real music. That’s another side of the coin: you have to read music, real organ pieces, regularly.
Ausra: But going back to the original question, with pedal technique at the beginning you just have to be really patient, and try not to be too much disappointed in yourself. I’m sure that in time, you will succeed, and you will overcome those technical difficulties.
Vidas: Oh, by the way, Ausra, how was your first experience with organ preludes, do you remember?
Ausra: Horrible, it was just horrible! I played this G minor Prelude by J. S. Bach, and I could not get the right notes. At the beginning there is like G and then C in the pedal in whole notes...
Ausra: And I could not get that C. I would hit, like D or something else, instead of C.
Vidas: Did you play with your inside or outside portion of the foot?
Ausra: I don’t remember now exactly, but it just did not work for me.
Vidas: Your first teacher didn’t tell you the exact way to depress the pedals.
Ausra: No, she did not.
Vidas: Well, yes, technique is important, and it might get you quite far with organ playing. But, as Ausra says, be patient, right? And I think we all need to have some kind of reward every day, to feel that we are progressing somewhere, so if you play a set of exercises, then you don’t necessarily feel that you’re progressing. Maybe try to play excerpts of real organ compositions with pedals, too. Or, Ausra, tell us a little bit of your experience with organ demonstration for bankers the other day. Did you demonstrate something with your feet, the lowest voices?
Ausra: Yes, I demonstrated it.
Vidas: What did you play with pedals for them?
Ausra: Well, I just showed some--some excerpts, you know, just improvised, some...
Vidas: Improvised, that’s what I was looking for. Keyword: improvisation. Improvising a pedal melody is not something you should be afraid of, right?
Vidas: And it gets you familiar with the pedalboard, as well. You’re creating a melody, but at the same time, the pedalboard becomes your own, a little bit, more and more every day. So, besides those technical exercises, besides excerpts of real organ compositions--why don’t you play a melody of some sort, that you make up in your mind, on the pedals, too?
Ausra: Sure, that would be a great idea; it would help you to improve your pedal technique.
Vidas: And play hymns on the pedals, if you like playing hymns.
Ausra: Yes, maybe for starters, you could do hymns in closed position. And maybe you could play three voices in your RH, and pedal part (bass line) in the pedal, and don’t use your LH, at the beginning. It would make things much easier, I think.
Vidas: You mean to play the entire harmonization of the hymn! What about playing just the soprano melody with your feet?
Ausra: Well, you could do that; I don’t know how well you could apply it in the church service, I’m not sure.
Vidas: Mhm. So, explore everything, right? And keep something that works for you.
Vidas: That’s the best advice, probably. Excellent, guys. Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. Okay, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
First, the news:
Our 4th e-book "MY GOAL IS TO BE A BETTER CHURCH ORGANIST" (And Other Answers From #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast) is available here for a low introductory pricing of 2.99 USD until October 4.
Please let us know what will be #1 thing from our advice you will apply in your organ practice this week.
This training is free for Total Organist students.
And now let's go on to answering people's questions for today.
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 77 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Jerome, and he writes, “Can you please tell me the notes in this b minor chord progression?” And the chords are as follows: iv, ii 65, V42, i6, and V43. So, Ausra, I think this is a rather simple question about expanding and explaining chords to people how they actually need to be understood, right?
Ausra: But first of all, he just asked us to tell the notes, what the notes would be--
Vidas: In b minor.
Ausra: In b minor. So the first chord would be E-G-B...
Ausra: Then the second chord would be E, G, B, and C♯...
Vidas: That’s a second scale degree 65 chord.
Ausra: Yes. Then the next chord would be E-F♯-A♯-C♯.
Vidas: That’s a dominant 42 chord.
Ausra: Then next would be D-F♯-B-B.
Vidas: That’s a tonic 6th chord.
Ausra: And the next would be C-sharp-E-F♯-A-sharp.
Vidas: The last one, dominant 43 chord. That’s all in b minor. By the way, you can play everything in any key you want, in any minor key you want--it’s a nice transposition exercise. It expands your theoretical knowledge to other keys as well.
Ausra: I would say that’s a little bit of strange progression, because it doesn’t end in a tonic key, and begins not in a tonic key.
Vidas: So what could be the last chord, in your opinion?
Ausra: The last would be a tonic. It would be B, D, F♯, and B.
Vidas: B, D, F♯, and B.
Ausra: Also it’s a strange way to begin a progression on a subdominant chord.
Vidas: So before the subdominant, before this minor iv, you might probably need to use tonic.
Ausra: Tonic, but maybe 6th chord would be best, so it would be D, F♯, and B at the beginning.
Vidas: Can we spell them out in 4-part notation, just like in your harmony exercises?
Ausra: Definitely, yes.
Vidas: Because now we’re using the simple 3-note notation to be able to play with one hand only.
Vidas: If you want to play with both hands, you have to use 4 parts, SATB, and sometimes closed positions, sometimes open positions. So the first would be, let’s say, tonic, right? And tonic would be, in b minor…
Ausra: Well, if you want to do the subdominant next, then it would be easier, for example, for the beginners to not start on the tonic but to start on tonic 6th chord.
Vidas: Okay, so D in the bass?
Ausra: That would be a smoother progression.
Vidas: D-B-F♯-B. Starting from the bass…
Ausra: But in order to play chords like this, you have to have basic knowledge of harmonizing things. I don’t think it will be much use to our audience, if you will say this progression again in an open position. They just have to start with harmony--learning harmony from the beginning.
Vidas: So it’s too hard, right?
Ausra: I think so.
Ausra: That’s an entire course.
Vidas: Okay, so guys, if you want to play those 3-note, 4-note chords, in 4-part notation using both hands, and even learn to harmonize hymns, you need to learn the basics of chord progressions, and basic harmonic rules--how the voices have to move between the chords, and what is forbidden, for example.
Ausra: Because you know, resolving only one progression will not teach you harmony. If you cannot read chords like this, as I understood from his question, that means you have no basics of theory and of harmony.
Vidas: Okay, so we can recommend something. We can recommend a few courses. Probably the beginning course would be Harmony for Organists, Level 1. And I explain in this course all the major and minor, root position and first inversion and other inversions, tonic, subdominant, dominant chords, and even dominant 7th chords and inversions; and I will teach you how to harmonize the melody in the soprano. And that will get you started...and moving to the world of harmony, which is very useful if you are interested in playing hymns and understanding organ music that you play, for example.
Okay, guys. Hope this was useful to you. Please send us more of your questions. And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
I started a new project this week. I intend to teach myself how to improvise using 150 Genevan Psalm tunes. The first step is to play note against note in two parts two versions of each psalm - melody in soprano and melody in the bass.
Yesterday I practiced Psalms 1-10 and today Psalms 11-20.
Here are some videos I made with Psalm 1, Psalm 2, Psalm 12 and Psalm 13.
If you want to learn how to do it in two parts (not only note against note), my Organ Hymn Improvisation Level 1 will teach you the rules with any kind of melody - hymn tune, choral, chant, song or even a national anthem of your country.
#AskVidasAndAusra 76: I want to be able to take any music and create an arrangement which would be possible for me to play without automatic or electronic tricks, and yet would be found interesting and fun for whoever should hear it
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 76 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Paul. He writes, “I want to be able to take any music and create an arrangement which would be possible for me to play without automatic or electronic tricks, and yet would be found interesting and fun for whoever should hear it.” Ausra, is it a question about arranging music? Or improvising music? What do you think?
Ausra: Actually, I’m not sure I understood this question right.
Vidas: In my mind, I think Paul means that he wants to make a version of a piece that was originally composed not for organ. Like arranging for organ.
Vidas: Like transcription, yeah.
Ausra: Could be.
Vidas: So, let’s talk about the best way to make organ transcriptions. We have made a few, right, like the famous Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring by Bach?
Vidas: And we’ve played together, and alone. I think we have to understand that the organ, with two hands and one pedal line, cannot really play everything that, let’s say, orchestra can play, or even pianist with large leaps and octaves can achieve. Even choir or double choirs or certain instrumental ensembles...Do you think that there are certain voices that we could omit, and certain voices that we could keep?
Ausra: Definitely you have to keep, of course, the melody, because it’s the most well-known; but with other voices, I think you have to omit something.
Vidas: What is the second most-important voice?
Ausra: The bass.
Vidas: So you have to have at least two voices in your arrangements: one for RH, one for LH. What if you have pedals, and you can play the bass with the pedals?
Ausra: Yes, that’s right, that would be the best, I think
Vidas: What could your LH play, then?
Ausra: Some sort of accompaniment, to fill in the harmony.
Vidas: One or two voices?
Vidas: To keep the chords complete?
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: So what I mean is, if you take a vertical line (not a horizontal line, but a vertical line--one beat, right?), and you play RH and pedals together at the same time, and you see what is sounding, let’s say in the RH there is for example C, and (in the pedals) is also a C. So you have to fill in some harmony. So think, if it’s a C Major chord, what could be filled in? E and G, probably.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right.
Vidas: What is more important, E or G, in C Major?
Ausra: Of course E.
Ausra: Because it gives you the understanding that it’s a major chord. If you would omit E and add G, then what’s that? You wouldn’t be able to hear that it’s a major chord.
Vidas: So from G to E, what is this interval? Major third, right?
Vidas: And from C to G, what is that?
Ausra: That’s a fifth.
Vidas: A perfect fifth. And can you discover that it’s a major chord from the third alone?
Ausra: Of course.
Vidas: And not from the fifth?
Ausra: Definitely. Study the cadences. Most of them at the end have incomplete tonic with a third but without a fifth.
Vidas: So guys, if you want to limit yourself to three voices, always have a third in your chord, right?
Ausra: That’s right. And the same with like, four-voice chords, like seventhchords. You always omit the fifth, if you have to omit something.
Vidas: Excellent. Can your melody, by the way, be in the LH, in the tenor range?
Ausra: Could be, but that way I think it would be much harder to play.
Vidas: And then you would need an extra solo stop, right?
Vidas: On a separate manual.
Ausra: And because I think it was Paul who asked about a coordination problem in the last question--the question that we answered before--so I would not suggest him to put the melody in the LH. It might add extra problems.
Vidas: Could be. But for other people--or for Paul in the future, when he is advanced enough--that’s another way to arrange: in the tenor.
Ausra: And of course, the melody can be in the bass, too.
Vidas: But then you have another problem: about harmonization, right? Because then, if you transfer your melody from soprano to bass, your soprano becomes the foundation of the harmony; and then the chords that would have fitted earlier will not necessarily work, right?
Ausra: But I think you always have to see what kind of piece you are arranging for organ, and to look what it is in the original.
Vidas: Well, exactly, because maybe the original has another bass line.
Ausra: That’s true.
Vidas: Right. Good, guys. Please experiment with your arrangements, and send more of your questions to us. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
#AskVidasAndAusra 75: I don’t have enough free time to become good enough to play difficult passages
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 75 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by Paul, and he writes that his challenge is that he doesn’t have enough free time to become good enough to play difficult passages. He writes, “However, on thinking about it a little more, it is the problem of coordination between two hands and feet, with all three playing something different. Yes! It is this problem of coordination between separate rhythms. Unfortunately, I only have one brain, probably with only one core, while an organist probably needs at least three cores.”
So, Ausra, that’s an analogy with computers, right?
Vidas: The more cores you have, the faster you can process information. But yes, we as humans have just limited amount of possibilities to process information at the same time. We cannot really multitask. We can focus on one single task at hand. What do you think about it?
Ausra: Yes, that’s true, but you know what? I think that people nowadays want to have immediate gratification. They want to put in very little effort, or no effort at all, and to be able to play as J. S. Bach did. Everything takes time, and there are no ways how you can escape that, if you want to play really well, and you want to have well-coordinated voices; and to coordinate your hands and feet, you just have to practice more and to work on combinations.
And I think we already have talked about it so many times.
Vidas: And I think we will talk so many times in the future, because it’s so important, and we have to reinforce this concept.
Ausra: Because there is no magic pill, no magic trick, that you would just do it like that, in a second. It’s a step-by-step approach; it’s diligent practice every day.
Vidas: I think people in general have to lower their expectations of what they can achieve overnight, right?
Ausra: Yes. If you cannot play the hard passages, don’t pick pieces that have such difficult passages. And if you chose one, then work on it: not playing from the beginning to the end, but take those hard passages and work on them. Work on different combinations--learn left hand first, then right hand second, and then pedal, and then work in different combinations.
Vidas: And another thing to be careful about is, you have to (obviously) never underestimate what you can achieve over time, long-term. Keep lower expectations for your short-term progress; but if you calculate those countless hours you spent on the organ bench overcoming months, years (and even decades, for some people)--it will add up, right?
Ausra: Yes. You just have to be patient.
Vidas: Yeah, that’s the bane of the modern age--we’re not patient enough. We are constantly bombarded with new information, with temptation for instant gratification; and we have to resist that, right? If we want to achieve something worthwhile, there is pain involved. “No pain, no gain,” that is a famous saying. And people don’t want to suffer, actually, right, Ausra?
Vidas: We are built, we’re wired to avoid suffering. We flee from pain and seek pleasure, that’s our nature. And actually, learning something is against our nature, in this case. So we have to be absolutely, very firm in our beliefs, in what we want to achieve--and just simply stick with it no matter what.
Ausra: Yes, and be honest and don’t try to cheat. Because maybe you can cheat other people, but you cannot cheat yourself.
Vidas: Maybe you can cheat yourself once…
Vidas: But you will start to notice, if you cut corners too often, if you spend not quality time on the organ but just fooling around, so to say, it doesn’t lead you anywhere where you want to go in the future. And sooner or later, you are going to regret this time you spent on the organ. Not quality time, not focused time, not with intent. That’s what we can suggest to everybody, right?
Vidas: Excellent, Ausra. Is it easy for you to delay gratification for yourself, when you sit down on the organ bench? Do you have those urges yourself--do you want to achieve something very quickly, too?
Ausra: Well, I think it’s in everybody’s nature; but you know, I’m not a chimp. I’m a human being, and I have reason, I have control of myself; so that’s what I’m trying to do.
Vidas: What you’re saying is probably, your motivation is stronger than your pain, right?
Vidas: Your will to succeed is stronger than the fear of pain, which is involved in this process for everyone, right? If you want to achieve something, you have to persevere, and a certain amount of pain will definitely be there. And you have to be conscious of that fear, and don’t flee from that fear, because you have that inner motivation to succeed--in this case, on the organ.
Ausra: Yes. That’s right.
Vidas: Excellent, guys. I, too, have constant urges to be successful, let’s say, in fugal improvisation (it's an advanced stage for improvisation based on chorale tunes). It’s a very difficult sphere of creating music in the moment. And I want to do this like the masters did in the past (or some of them can do today, like my friend Sietze de Vries); and I want to play fantasies and fugues with triple counterpoint right away! It’s funny because that doesn’t happen! I have to stick with my schedule--with the method, with the system that I apply to myself, to my practice. Otherwise, it’s foolish to hope, right? Miracles happen only when I practice!
Ausra: That’s true.
Vidas: We keep saying that, but there is no other way around pain. Just go through it. Okay, guys, thank you so much for listening; thank you so much for sending us your questions. Please send us more of your questions, we love helping you grow. And apply our tips to practice; there are no shortcuts in this art. This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
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PS If you haven't practiced today, go do so right now, even for 15 minutes. Because when you practice, miracles happen. I'm going to do exactly that with Genevan Psalms when I click "Publish" on this post and Ausra is playing an organ demonstration at our church for the group of bankers later this afternoon. I had my demonstration yesterday for the members of the community of Vilnius University.
#AskVidasAndAusra 74: When I master Handel's Largo, should I continue with another early music piece or change to modern music and start at the beginning of the Ritchie/Stauffer book?”
Vidas: Let’s start now Episode 74 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by David, and he writes, “Thank you very much for answering my question. I have the Ritchie/Stauffer book and started with Chapter 3 Early Organ Technique since I am working on Handel's Largo. I have a follow up question. When I master Handel's Largo, should I continue with another early music piece or change to modern music and start at the beginning of the Ritchie/Stauffer book?”
Ausra, do you think that people should practice simultaneously a few pieces of different stylistic periods?
Ausra: You know, if you’re just a beginner, maybe do a few pieces of the early style first, and then go the modern style, and do a few pieces of the modern style; and then you can practice them simultaneously. Because if you will begin to practice simultaneously right away, it might be too difficult for you to differentiate these two such different techniques. And what do you think about it?
Vidas: Absolutely true. And that’s the reason why Ritchie and Stauffer chose to do their book this way. They don’t mix their techniques this way, but they have one part of the book on modern technique and the second part on early technique. And actually, they start with the modern first. Do you know why, Ausra?
Ausra: I think because most organists, when they begin to play organ, they come after playing piano for many years, or at least a few years; so the modern technique is easier for those who have practiced piano before.
Vidas: True. So, for David, I think he could start working on Ritchie-Stauffer’s exercises from the Early Technique section right away; and at the end of that section he will find a few of the early music pieces suitable for that technique that he just learned, right?
Ausra: Yes. So just do the mixture of exercises and real music pieces, but learn more of early music pieces, and then go on to modern technique.
Vidas: And after that--after you have mastered a few pieces from early repertoire, a few from the modern, legato repertoire--can you learn a few of them simultaneously?
Ausra: Sure, yes; after some time you can do that. But not right at the beginning. It probably would be too hard.
Vidas: You wouldn’t recommend, like, on Mondays you do early technique, on Tuesdays…
Ausra: Well, I wouldn’t do that at the beginning. It’s not so easy to master each of them, so you might experience too much trouble.
Vidas: True. When did you first discover that you need to play several stylistically different pieces simultaneously? While at the Lithuanian Academy of Music, probably?
Vidas: When you had to play recitals…
Vidas: And people appreciate variety in recitals.
Vidas: So that’s why you need a lot of stylistic differences right away.
Ausra: But when I started to practice organ for the first two months, and it was intensive practice, I played early Baroque music--so, early technique; and that was a good thing. And then later on, I started to practice Romantic and later music.
Vidas: Me too. I remember this well. What to do for people who don’t have the Ritchie-Stauffer book? Can they still practice in a similar order?
Ausra: Sure, why not?
Vidas: Basically, early music first, probably? And then, like, modern or Romantic music later. Or vice versa, you could reverse that, if you are a better pianist.
Ausra: Yes, that’s true.
Vidas: How many pieces do you think they would need to feel comfortable with one technique at first, and ready to switch to another technique? 3, 4, 5?
Ausra: Well, it depends. For some, yes, that might be 3-4, but for some, it might be like ten pieces.
Ausra: I think it might be very different for each person.
Vidas: With every new piece in that stylistic repertoire, you will discover something new about yourself, and your instrument, and your music; it will be like a small experiment, exploration; you will feel like a scientist, exploring new, unfamiliar lands. And every tenth piece, you will probably have a small breakthrough--don’t you think, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, I think so.
Vidas: Excellent, guys. We hope this has been helpful to you in your practice. And please send us more of your questions; we really love helping you grow as organists. This was Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 73 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Don, and he writes, “Dear Vidas, while I respect your work as an organ teacher, I wonder if "selling" your ideas of fingerings is the best for students. My present teacher would never force me to copy or use other person's fingerings. Dupre, in my opinion, wasted a lot of his time with his "fingered" editions of the Bach works. My instructor at the time told me to "throw them in the garbage can!"....so who, as a student, do we believe? Let us guide students with some basic principles...but to finger every note for them??? Don”
That’s an interesting question, right, Ausra?
Ausra: Well, you know, I’ll just say this for Don, if his teacher did not explain why he should throw away the best fingering and pedaling for Bach: in that time, the historical approach of historical performance of Bach’s music wasn’t discovered. Actually, it was discovered fairly late, in the 20th century. So that’s probably why his teacher suggested him to throw those scores away: because they are inappropriate for playing Bach. That’s my opinion. What do you say about it, Vidas?
Vidas: Absolutely. I think Don replied with this question to our post about Bach’s Piece d’Orgue’s (BWV 572) fingering, the day we offered it to the world; and every finger in this five-part texture in the Gravement section is written out, and it’s a very thick texture to figure out the fingering yourself.
On the other hand, you could use all your fingers, and it should look fine; but the way we do it is similar to what organists in the 18th century would do, back in the day when the piece was written. So of course we teach you principles how to do it: we don’t use thumb glissandos; we don’t even use the thumb too often, right? We don’t use finger glissandos or finger substitutions a lot, because we don’t need legato touch for this.
We never keep it a secret. You can do this yourself. But for people who are struggling with this, and especially for those who want to save time--how much time?--maybe tenths, even hundreds of hours if they don’t know what they’re doing! If they finger it the wrong way, and their entire articulation is legato--so this type of fingering doesn’t help them play with the right stylistic approach.
And we try to help people solve this problem while providing this fingering. Of course, some of them have other teachers, like Don; and those teachers have their own ideas, right? And as Ausra says, the Dupré collection is not suitable anymore; it was just for those times, when everybody played Bach legato.
Ausra: Yes, and that’s not a good idea to do nowadays. Nobody will understand you, if you will play Bach legato nowadays.
Vidas: Yeah. While we won’t, probably, personally throw Dupré’s edition in the garbage literally, we would definitely not use them in our practices, today.
Vidas: So we are not disagreeing with Don on this.
Ausra: And I just know one thing, if you will not be writing fingering down in the score, you will just be wasting your time, especially if you are a beginner organist. Because it means that every time when you will sit down to that particular piece, you probably will play it with a different fingering. And it will slow down your learning process by maybe 5 times. Or even more.
Ausra: So, it’s up to you. I would try playing with fingering. Of course, you could just write down the fingering for the hardest spots; that’s up to you, but I would suggest doing at least some fingering.
Vidas: Until you learn the principles. Ausra, when you play a Baroque piece like that today, do you need those fingerings?
Ausra: No, I don’t need them.
Vidas: Do you need pedaling?
Ausra: No, I don’t need them, but, you know, I have a long experience.
Vidas: How many years?
Ausra: I have more than twenty years of very intense practicing experience.
Vidas: When did you discover first that you don’t need fingerings and pedalings anymore?
Ausra: Probably at UNL during my doctoral studies; but because I got my bachelor’s and two master’s first, so I had, already, a lot of experience before my doctorate program.
Vidas: Exactly. So probably ten years, at least?
Vidas: Intense, daily practice?
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: So guys, if you practice at least a couple of hours a day, or probably more…
Ausra: And of course, because I went to the organ while having excellent piano technique because I was playing piano before playing organ for twelve years. So that also added to my fingering experience.
Vidas: So, could you say that you already practiced your ten thousand hours?
Ausra: I haven’t counted, but probably yes.
Vidas: Yeah, that’s the general number that they say, in order to master some difficult skill or form of art, you need to practice for ten thousand hours with intent. Not just fooling around, right? But you have to be very intentional about each of your daily practices. And we did that.
Vidas: That’s why it’s so easy for us; that’s why we can do this on the spot. That’s how you should also aim to practice. But don’t expect to be a master at this overnight; that’s a mistake. You should just enjoy the process.
Vidas: The process is very, very long. But at the same time, every time you sit down on the organ bench, you learn something about the music, you learn something about the instrument, and you learn something new about yourself. So that’s an enjoyable way of exploration.
Vidas: Always stay curious about what you can learn, and those new experiences will come to you over time.
Ausra: Yes. And I think if someday you will have the chance, do this experiment: Take the same piece by J. S. Bach, that Dupré fingered and pedaled, and the same piece, for example, that Vidas or I fingered. And take it to a historical organ of that time, to a real Baroque organ. And try to play it in Dupré’s fingering and pedaling, and then in our fingering and pedaling. And the instrument will do justice to one of these approaches.
Vidas: Mhmm. I’ve discovered this the hard way, myself, when I was preparing to play a recital in Sweden, in Gothenburg. In one of the churches, the Haga church, they have a Renaissance-style organ built by John Brombaugh. And the second manual is so light, and so easy to play with wrong notes; and the keys are so short, so that you really can’t use your thumb, and there’s no way you can use finger substitution, if you want to play with articulation--articulate legato; and of course they have split semitones--for example, G-sharp is not the same as A-flat; they have separate keys for that. Or D-sharp is not the same as E-flat.
Ausra: Well, were you able to use heels on such an instrument, on the pedalboard?
Vidas: Definitely not! And I prepared for that very well in my mind; and even on my modern organ, I practiced with early fingerings and pedalings. And guess what? Maybe ten years ago when we visited that organ as students at the Gothenburg International Organ Academy
Ausra: It was more than ten years ago…
Vidas: At that time--it was maybe back in 2000--it was very difficult to play such an instrument. I made a lot of mistakes. And keeping this in mind, for my second visit, I practiced with studies in the correct fingerings, and when I went back to Gothenburg to play at the Haga church, I was amazed how easy it was for me to adjust, and to perform almost without any rehearsal. I would have needed just twenty minutes to check my registrations (because I made everything in advance, on a table in my head), just to check; and most of them were right. And then to play the simple passages, to adjust to the keyboard just a little bit, and I would have performed quite easily in public, that way. So it saves time for you to practice with stylistically appropriate fingerings, even on a modern instrument, don’t you think, Ausra?
Ausra: That’s true, because, you don’t want to use different fingering for the same piece on a different instrument. That would just kill your time!
Vidas: A lot of organists say, “Oh, but we don’t play early instruments!”
Ausra: Well, you never know! If you’re living in the States, that wonderful land has so many beautiful replicas built by all these excellent organ builders…
Vidas: And more and more are being built every year. So you might visit a few newly built Baroque organs, even while living in a land which historically wouldn’t have too many old instruments. Or you might go to Europe on a tour. You never know! And you might visit a local organist, and contact them in advance for an opportunity to try out their instrument. That’s completely possible, and absolutely doable in today’s global world. And we recommend doing this, because it’s so much fun, and you can make a lot of new friends this way.
Ausra: Yes, I strongly believe that you have to do everything in a correct manner right from the beginning.
Vidas: And Don also has a little bit of truth in his saying, too. Because yes, try your own hand in writing in fingering.
Ausra: Yes, that’s a good way to do it; but you have to know the principles, how to do that.
Vidas: Apply our advice, and try to experiment with fingerings and see what you come up with. And if you do this often enough, your experience will grow, actually.
Vidas: And you won’t need anybody’s help after that. Thanks, guys, for listening! Please send us more of your questions. And we love helping you grow as an organist. 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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