Why are people progressing so slowly with their organ playing skills? Why can't they learn it overnight? No, wait! Overnight would be too slow! How about in 25 minutes or less?
The way it would work is you would set your Pomodoro timer for 25 minutes and when it beeps you're done, you have mastered organ playing!
Organ repertoire would take you 8 minutes, technique - 6 minutes, sight-reading 4.5 minutes, registration - 2 minutes, harmony - 1 minute and 45 seconds, improvisation - 90 seconds, hymn playing - 60 seconds and Widor Toccata - 15 seconds!
Today's question was sent by Joanna, our Total Organist student. This is what she wrote:
Dear Vidas, thank you for your email!
Yes, the idea of taking breaks is a good one and something I never used to do. I am always so anxious to do my organ practice that I try not to waste a minute but that is a mistake! I tried taking breaks today like you said and it really helped! ?
I suppose the thing that is most frustrating to me is that my progress is so, so, so slow! But I have started practicing in fragments as you suggested and I have found that helpful…so perhaps I will see more progress. Perhaps I am a bit impatient too! ?
Yes, I look forward to your podcast on #AskVidasAndAusra. Thank you!
Listen to our full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
Vidas: Hello, guys. This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And we're starting Episode 15 of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. Today's question was sent by Joanna, a Total Organist student. This is what she wrote:
"Dear Vidas, thank you for your email. Yes, the idea of taking breaks is a good one and something I never used to do." She's writing in response of Podcast 5, when we talked about is it possible to learn the organ when you are 56 years old. She writes further, "I am always so anxious to do my organ practice that I try not to waste a minute, but that is a mistake. I tried taking breaks today like you said, and it really helped. I suppose the thing that is most frustrating to me is that my progress is so, so, so slow, but I have started practicing in fragments as you suggested, and I have found that helpful, so perhaps I will see more progress. Perhaps I am a bit impatient, too. Yes, I look forward to your podcast on #AskVidasAndAusra. Thank you."
This is wonderful, Ausra, right, that our advice is helpful to somebody in another country. She is 56 years old, taking breaks now, and really getting, I think, a healthy habit in organ practice. But she is progressing so slow. This is most frustrating thing. What would you suggest for her?
Ausra: As she wrote herself, maybe she's a bit impatient. That might be it, in effect. We all want to make fast progress, but things like playing the organ takes a really long time. I think why the progress is so, so, so slow might be that you are either not practicing enough or you're practicing in a wrong manner. What do you think is the case?
Vidas: I think she should learn the correct practicing, efficient practicing technique, which might be practicing in fragments, taking frequent breaks, repeating those fragments over and over, until at least you get three times over that mistakes, doing it very, very slowly, of course.
What else would we suggest? Keeping the movements of the body and hands and feet to the minimum basically. Do not lift the fingers and the feet of the pedalboard of the keyboard. Movements should be economical.
Yeah, I think, when we play also sometimes difficult, advanced pieces, it might take months to master. We know the deadline for our recital, for example, is coming up, and this frustrating and sometimes challenging to free the joy of practicing. But somehow you overcome this, right, Ausra?
Vidas: What helps you to overcome this fear of not progressing fast enough?
Ausra: Usually I have a due date, and I know I have to be ready by that date.
Vidas: Ready or not, you will perform, right?
Ausra: Yes. So I better be ready, because it's not a good feeling when you show up to your recital and you aren't prepared. When you are well-prepared, it gives you a sort of comfort. If I'm not making progress fast enough, I'm thinking what I have to do differently in order to reach my final goal, because I want to be that comfortable with my recital. This is my probably biggest motivation.
Vidas: The external motivation?
Vidas: You set up a goal, and you know that people will come to listen to you, and if you are not well-prepared, you might feel ashamed or embarrassed, right?
Vidas: So you figure out a way to progress fast enough to meet the schedule. Maybe Joanna might also benefit from this approach. Set a deadline. Well, internal deadline. We won't suggest she should perform in public just yet, but maybe for herself set a deadline and maybe choose how many fragments a day she should learn in order to reach this goal in time. That would help to stick to a schedule.
Vidas: For example, if she can master four measures at a time and take a rest, because our body needs that, take a walk, stretch, drink a glass of water, and then you might come back to practice some more. If you learn four measures at a time, count those measures and count the fragments in the entire piece, and tell to yourself how many days would you need to have in order to master this piece on time. So maybe you would need to practice a little bit more in order to learn two fragments for one day sometimes, or maybe you need longer periods of time. Maybe not 30 days but 60 days for that piece. That's acceptable.
Ausra: I think if you are thinking that you are not making enough progress, you have to record yourself and your practicing, not all the time but, for example, when you sight-read a new piece of music just record yourself. After a few days, maybe after a week, record yourself again, and compare those two recordings, and you will see that you actually made a progress.
Vidas: I think I suggested once the same approach to John, our student from Australia. He also was feeling a little bit impatient, but I suggested to take maybe three months between those recordings.
You sight-read a piece, record it, maybe just one page, and you make maybe 50, 100 mistakes, it doesn't matter, this is your original level. Then in three months, you come back to the same piece. In this period, you never look at this piece, of course, but after that three months, you come back and sight-read it again, recording yourself.
Joanna, if you do this, you will find out just how really fast and far you have progressed with this. Three months. Okay, if you are impatient, do this in 30 days, a 30 days challenge. That will be enough. It's a compromise. What do you think about this, Ausra? Would that work?
Ausra: I hope so.
Vidas: But Joanna has to take this seriously and practice everyday just to keep moving, right?
Ausra: Yes, definitely.
Vidas: Good, guys. Go ahead and practice today some beautiful organ music, and send us more questions. It's fun, and we like 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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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.