#AskVidasAndAusra 136: I Would Really Like To Review Your Recommended Fingerings While I'm On The Road
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 136 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Listen to the audio version here. This question was sent by Bruce. He writes:
“Hi Vidas, I'm trying to download BWV 578 (little fugue in g minor), but I don't see it in the list of directly downloadable items on the Total Organist web page. Is this piece available to me with my total organist subscription? If so, I would like to take it with me on my travels. How can I get a copy of it? I would really like to review and understand your recommended fingerings while I'm on the road.”
So, Bruce is a traveler, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes. That’s what I understood from his question.
Vidas: And he doesn’t always have access to a real organ.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: Is it okay to study your music on the road?
Ausra: Yes, I think so. That’s a very good thing to do, because this keeps you sort of still connected with the music that you are playing.
Vidas: Somehow, I sometimes see people miss their practice because they don’t have access to an instrument--somehow either their church is far away, or they travel too much, right?
Ausra: Yes, that’s right.
Vidas: So...but it’s okay, probably, to simply take your music with you, and practice...let’s say, on the table. Or not?
Ausra: Yes, you know, I still remember while studying at the Lithuanian Academy of Music, with Professor Leopoldas Digrys, I remember him talking about practice time, and he would strongly recommend to divide your practice in three stages--
Ausra: Three periods. And he would suggest to do one part of your practicing on the organ, another on the piano, and the third one--to do mental practice just looking at the score.
Vidas: Of the same piece?
Ausra: Yes, of the same piece.
Vidas: How interesting. So, Bruce should then divide his practice time in three ways, right?
Ausra: Yes, I don’t do it so much nowadays, but I did a lot of practice this way when I was still a student.
Vidas: Let’s talk a little bit about each stage. While talking about organ practice, we all know it’s very beneficial, right?
Vidas: Because it’s organ music, and you adjust to your instrument. What about the second stage, basically piano practice of organ music?
Ausra: Well, you know, it sort of helps you to develop technique, especially in Romantic and late music. It’s very beneficial; I remember when Bruce Neswick at Eastern Michigan University--he came to visit our school at the improvisation symposium that Dr. Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra hosted--
Ausra: And was initial leader of it; and he came to teach, to give some master classes on improvisation, and he also had to perform a recital at Pease Auditorium. And I remember he was playing the symphony by Louis Vierne...
Ausra: And I remember that he did some of his practice on the piano.
Vidas: Do you remember which symphony it was, by Vierne?
Ausra: I think it was the first symphony.
Vidas: The first symphony, and the famous Finale?
Ausra: Yes, yes. I love that Finale, it’s so nice. And so, he found it very beneficial to practice that music on the piano. So, it will never hurt, you know; it’s a good way. Plus, most of us have access to piano much more often than organ.
Ausra: Than access to the organ. So I think it might be beneficial, too. It might sort of give you more time to practice in general. And you know, let’s say if you have access, you don’t have a home organ, and you really need to work on your fingering and on technical stuff, you really don’t want to do that at church. I just can’t imagine doing that at church. Especially like in our church, at St. Johns, where there are tourists coming all day round...I would not want...it would be sort of like washing your underwear in front of all people! That’s the same, when you are working on those details, and working on the text.
Vidas: Except I would think that a lot of people wouldn’t even understand that you’re washing your underwear.
Ausra: I know, but I would understand that. I would not want to show that, you know, my sort of kitchen, in front of everybody.
Vidas: Just in case Bruce Neswick comes along, right?
Ausra: I...you know, I remember once when I was working on Vater Unser from Clavierubung Part III at Cornerstone, and I thought I was perfectly alone, and nobody was listening to me; and then I just heard that somebody actually is in the chapel, and was listening to my playing! And it was Olivier Latry. And I just felt so embarrassed.
Vidas: And why?
Ausra: Well...I wasn’t at the concert stage at that time, with my playing. I was just simply practicing.
Vidas: But that’s okay, isn’t it?
Ausra: Yes, that’s okay, but...you know...that’s not the best feeling.
Vidas: You wanted to appear superhuman, in front of Olivier Latry?
Ausra: Yes, yes, yes!
Vidas: And what did he say to you?
Ausra: Well, nothing, you know...but then he played himself, too, and I sort of had a private recital, played by him.
Vidas: On the old, ancient organ?
Vidas: Mmm, how interesting.
Ausra: It was wonderful.
Vidas: A lot of people think that Olivier Latry is a master of French symphonic music, but that’s not really the case.
Ausra: Well, he’s master of all French music, too, but not only all French music. I think he played Sweelinck, too--“Mein junges Leben hat ein End” from memory and it was wonderful.
Vidas: Yeah. These people are masters of everything. So yes, guys, remember that sometimes the master himself, or herself, might be appear to be listening when are alone in your practice room. And don’t neglect your piano practice.
Ausra: Yes, it’s very important. And also, you know, if you travel a lot, then just look at your score; you may play on the table, or you may just sing the lines in your head, or out loud if you can.
Vidas: From my perspective, I can remember that whenever I have trouble with my technique of the manual parts, whenever I play them repeatedly on the piano--especially in a slower tempo--my technique really improves on the organ, too, of the same piece. It really helps. I remember practicing this of the concerto of Handel--one of the concertos, I think it was...this it was in...
Ausra: G minor?
Vidas: F Major. In Nebraska.
Vidas: So yes, this helps. And whenever I travel, sometimes there is not enough time on the real organ, to practice for you. I remember practicing in my hotel room on the table, putting those thick pillows underneath me so that it would be like the organ bench height, and practicing my recital pieces. This was in Paris, in Le Madeleine Church, and the recital was quite, I think, normal...It wasn’t a scary feeling at all, even though I had like maybe 45 minutes or so to prepare.
Ausra: Yes, because that mental preparation is very important.
Vidas: Mhm. You can even prepare for a recital at home, while looking at the specifications, and prepare those registration changes in advance; and when you get to the real organ, you will be almost ready.
Ausra: That’s true. Because it’s the most important thing how much time you will spend with the actual piece. Either way, playing on any instrument, or singing it, or just looking at the score.
Vidas: So, mental practice is one of the ways, right?
Vidas: I wouldn’t even say it’s less important than instrumental practice. Because, remember that experiment with basketball players? Have I told you about this before?
Ausra: I think you mentioned it, but you can tell it to our listeners, too.
Vidas: Some of our subscribers know this story, but I think I will remind you, because it’s appropriate right now. There was an experiment with a control group of basketball players--it was in America, I think. Some of them were divided into parts, and one part was directed to play basketball, and shoot the basketball from one position for one hour every day for 30 days. So basically, for one month, they shot the basketball from one position for 1 hour. And the second group did this only by imagining: imagining the ball, imagining picking up the ball, and targeting the basket, and releasing the ball and imaging, visualizing, the path of the ball, and imagining the ball hitting the target--and so forth, basically, for one hour every day. And the third group, they were directed not to practice basketball at all--just forget about it for one month. And do you know what happened, Ausra? They afterwards compared the results…
Ausra: So, how were the results?
Vidas: Okay...This group which practiced with the real basketball, right, physically--they developed their technique, results, by...I would say like, something like 28%. I might be wrong, but somewhere around there.
Ausra: What about the other groups?
Vidas: The group which didn’t practice basketball at all--they sort of, after one month, stayed more or less the same. It’s interesting, right? Imagine not playing the organ at all for a month, and your level will stay almost the same, approximately, according to this basketball study. But the most surprising result was for people who only visualized playing basketball. They developed their technique...by 25%!
Vidas: Almost the same as those who practiced real basketball, physically.
Ausra: But I hope you’re not suggesting to our listeners to just, you know...practice mentally!
Vidas: No, but you could do the same experiment, if you don’t believe me. For example pick three pieces of approximately equal length, and equal importance and equal level of difficulty, and do this experiment for yourself for one month, right? One piece you play physically; the second piece, you do it mentally while looking at the score; and the third piece you simply...heh, forget it for an entire month! Right? Don’t look at the score, don’t practice it on the organ at all. So...And then report to us after one month--we’ll be eager to find out. It will be very interesting to report the results, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: Wonderful. And please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And we might be right about this experiment on the organ, and we might be wrong--right? So if anyone is brave enough to try, please send us the results.
Ausra: But I think the combination of these three things--practice on the organ, practice on the piano, and mental practice--this is a good combination, so I strongly recommend you try it.
Vidas: Excellent. And of course, BWV 578 Little Fugue in g minor is now available on the Total Organist dashboard, when you sign in as a member; and you can easily download it and start practicing, whether physically or mentally! 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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