Vidas: Let’s start Episode 104 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by David, and he writes:
“To answer your question, the most important thing for me, in playing organ, is to learn how to read music well. I handle up to 4 flats, and up to 3 sharps with little effort. Beyond that I have never learned to read music well at all.
The second most important thing for me is to learn how to count well and consistently.
I know what you will say: when you practice, miracles happen.
And here is what I say: You are right!
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for this wonderful online resource for those of us who are learning -- or in my case, re=learning -- to play the organ. I am about to settle a lawsuit and with my money award, I intend to purchase the Total Organist training.”
Vidas: To win a lawsuit, and then to invest this money into organ training!
Ausra: Yes, that’s a nice idea. I would never have thought about it!
Vidas: Excellent, guys. So maybe first of all, our advice would be to sue somebody, and then get more money out of this lawsuit, and then invest in your organ training!
Ausra: Well, I would not suggest you to do that.
Ausra: Anyway, it would cost you a lot of trouble.
Vidas: Excellent! But if we’re serious, let’s talk a little bit about how to help David and other people who want to learn how to read music well. And the second part is, of course, related--how to count well and consistently. Because if you’re reading well but not counting, you’re still not playing well; and the other way around is also true: if you’re counting well, but you don’t read music well in treble clef and bass clef, what’s the use of that?
Ausra: Yes, that’s right. So basically you have to do a lot of sight-reading, I would say. That’s the key to learn how to read music well.
Vidas: It’s so difficult to stick to the good regimen of regular sight-reading every day...
Vidas: Like 1 piece a day for 30 days. For 60 days. For 6 months. For 1 year. Without interruption, you see? It’s so difficult. Whenever we advise our students in the school to do that, when we explain the benefits that they will reap very very soon, they sort of nod in agreement; but after 2 or 3 days, they quit. So what we’re proposing here is, of course, very difficult. First of all, you have to have a lot of passion for this: if you’re just mildly interested in getting better, it will not work. Right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes. Yes, and because David said that he has trouble while playing music with many accidentals; so what I could suggest for him to do is try to play some of the sequences that I put on YouTube. Because playing sequences will help you to get familiar and get more comfortable with various keys.
Vidas: And you here touched upon a very important subject which also relates to organ playing and helps to enhance your organ playing and sight-reading abilities, which is: theoretical knowledge of harmony.
Vidas: Without that, if you just sight-read, and you don’t think about what you are sight-reading--what this note or another note or this measure means, in terms of theoretical concepts--you are doing something incompletely. It’s like learning to read a difficult language like Japanese--to read, right, without understanding the words.
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: It’s possible to learn how to pronounce those characters, right? And you can even learn to memorize a poem or two in Japanese, and surprise your friend you meet from Japan, and they will be very very pleased, right? When you say things in Japanese for them. But what’s the use of that, if you don’t understand the meaning of your saying, of your poem? It’s the same with sight-reading, right, Ausra?
Vidas: You have to understand what you are playing. If you don’t understand what each measure means--how the composer created this measure--you’re not connecting your brain with your fingers.
Ausra: That’s right. And actually, it’s the same with counting and keeping a consistent tempo.
Ausra: Why? Well, it means...if you cannot count well, it means that you’re still having some technical difficulties, issues with the piece that you’re working on; and you know, those technical difficulties (maybe looking at the accidentals) keeps you from counting, from feeling comfortable with the right tempo. So all these problems, they’re interconnected among themselves.
Vidas: What you’re saying, Ausra, is probably to choose pieces that are not too difficult.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right. You know, I looked at the hymnal a few days ago, because I wanted to prepare for my harmonization seminars for Lithuanian organists; and I realized that there are very few different keys that are used in, for example, the Lutheran hymnal. And basically, the key that would win the competition for popularity in that hymnal was probably F Major.
Ausra: So you could not learn well other keys from just playing hymns. So what I would suggest for organists to do, if they, for example, would like to sight-read hymns--you can do that, but maybe you can transpose it.
Vidas: Excellent, excellent idea.
Ausra: Play in the home key, and then transpose it to a different key.
Vidas: Major and minor second, up and down.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right.
Vidas: For starters. And then, when you get better at this, a major and minor third, up and down.
Ausra: Because for example, as David wrote, that he has trouble playing from many--more than 3 or 4 flats and sharps. Let’s imagine you’re playing a hymn in F Major, and then you are transposing a half-step up--so it would be F♯ Major, or G♭ Major, with 6 sharps or 6 flats. That’s a very good training.
Vidas: Right away, after 1 accidental, you have 6 accidentals.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: Yeah. That’s a great idea. Not too many people bother with transposing hymns, I think.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right.
Vidas: Because it’s a complicated process; and that’s why we have created a course on transposition.
Ausra: Yes, it’s a very important skill. It will really help you to be more comfortable with every key.
Vidas: And it will help you with sight-reading, too.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: Definitely. Thanks, guys! We hope that you will apply our tips in your practice--right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, we hope so.
Vidas: And please send us more of your questions by replying to our messages that you are getting as a subscriber to our blog at www.organduo.lt. 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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