#AskVidasAndAusra 3: How realistic is it to master a lot of organ and piano repertoire in a short time?
Welcome to Episode 3 of #AskVidasAndAusra!
Today we are broadcasting from our car while going to the birthday party of our friend.
Today's question was posted by Ana Marija who is our Total Organist student.
Here's what she asks:
"When you have really a lot of repertoire to be done, how would you organize your practice? The situation is like this:
Beethoven piano sonata, Brahms Fantasy's, a Chopin Etude, Rachmaninov etude and for the organ Brahms Prelude and Fugue in g-minor, Bach Fantasy and Fugue in c-minor, Prelude and fugue in f-minor, Toccata and fuge in dorian mode... I want to play a few chorals too. And I simply must play the first keyboard concerto! Maybe i can find a way to play it with the orchestra somehow. Would be awesome.
So, what would you do? Do you think it is manageable in about three months? Should I cut out some program (hopefully not)? I can not seriously practice all the pieces in one day... or do you think I should work on all of them at once? Does it happen to you, choosing much new program in a limited time? Any ideas?
Do you make a plan like this: today I will practice exactly these bars, I am going to use following methods (rhythm variations, memorizing, harmony...). Do you make a plan for some time beforehand (a week, a month)? Or you decide on which pieces to work? And just do with them what you think it is necessary in the moment?"
Listen to our answer.
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When you practice, miracles happen.
Vidas and Ausra
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Vidas: Okay, guys, this is Vidas Pinkevicius.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Wonderful, and we are now broadcasting live from our car, and this is episode number three of #AskVidasAndAusra. This question was sent by Ana Marija, and she wrote that she has a lot of pieces to practice, maybe ten pieces for piano and for organ at the same time to practice. It was Rachmaninoff, Chopin, Brahms, Bach, maybe a few chorale preludes, even a concerto for the orchestra, and she also wants to do this in three months because a public performance, as we understand, is in three months.
So she asked for our help to help organize her practice, make a schedule prep, basically. How to organize this practice when you have limited amount of time, but a lot of pieces, maybe ten pieces in your program. Of course, she didn't write how much time she can devote per day every day to practice. What do you think, Ausra? Is it realistic?
Ausra: Well, I wouldn't do it myself, personally. If it would be only on one instrument, then it's okay, but because you can't divide your attention between organ and piano, I wouldn't do it.
Vidas: Every instrument that requires its own attention, right? So if you are a professional on the organ and on the piano, you have to divide equal time, probably, right? Maybe a couple of hours per day on the organ and the same amount of time on the piano. That's minimal, probably.
Ausra: Well, with pieces like this, I would need to spend at least three hours on the organ and three hours on the piano every day.
Vidas: We have to properly ask Ana Marija, for example, if she can spend six hours a day practicing.
Ausra: Well, if these are new pieces, then yes, and if these are old pieces, if she performed them for them, then it should be okay, it should be fine, but if this is all new repertoire, then you have to practice a lot on the organ.
Vidas: Right. And you really can't learn everything in three months, right? If it's new.
Ausra: Yes, I would say so.
Vidas: If it's new, it's really, really tricky.
Ausra: Because, if you want to perform in public, you have to be able to play them fluently in public, again, for your recital.
Vidas: Exactly. So, Ana Marija and other people who are in this situation who have a lot of pieces to prepare, but only a few months, right?
Ausra: I don't know how she plays organ, from memory or from the score, but on the piano, I guess she will have to play from memory, and if these are new pieces, I don't know how fast will she memorize them.
Vidas: Exactly, it's really, really tricky to play from memory, and to feel this pressure, that you have a limited amount of time, not enough time, basically, then probably she can't really relax and enjoy the performance because she knows that she's running out of time all the time.
Ausra: But, I think it's when, if you really have to do it and devote it, then just do it, but you have to divide your practice. I mean, to be really prolific.
Vidas: Every day?
Ausra: Every day, yeah.
Vidas: Don't make any excuses, right? No matter what. Sick or not sick, hungry or not hungry, tired or not tired. You're a professional at this. If you decided to play that many pieces in three months. But it's risky, it might not work.
Ausra: Actually, what I would suggest, maybe it's possible to change the repertoire a little bit, like not to play only these new grand pieces, but to add, like, little pieces to the repertoire.
Vidas: Chorale preludes, right? Maybe not everything new, but maybe half the program new. I remember because I play constantly regular recitals at St. John's Church her in Vilnius. I have a similar problem. I have to prepare an hour of music every month, right? But I never play everything new. I would improvise, or to repeat a lot of pieces. I repeat, and then I can learn a few new pieces during that month. I can do this. Plus, I can sight-read very well.
Ausra: And, you know, I don't know how about her responsibilities, what else in life she does. If she only practices one, it should probably be okay, actually, be still on time.
Vidas: But can you spend six hours on the benches? It's insane. It's really, it's not good for your body.
Ausra: Yes, for your muscles, for your eyes, for your brain.
Vidas: Right. You can only play with rigor and focus for 25 minutes, then you have to stop and make a break for five minutes, and then you can come back, right?
Vidas: So it's really, really important to schedule and do a realistic, healthy practice. You know, what I suggest- I would recommend probably to reduce the number of pieces she wants to learn. We don't know. We don't even know if all this repertoire is required for her, or if she just practices for fun. She wants- she has a lot of wants and needs. That's maybe too much. Maybe she can do the same thing, but in three years, or in two years, right?
Ausra: Because it's also important to spend some time, some real time with each piece that you are learning, because for some repertoire, I believe it's not enough only to play the notes correctly.
Vidas: Right. You have to. The repertoire has to sink in into your body, basically, into your brain.
Ausra: Because otherwise sometimes the result can be disappointing.
Vidas: Right, if you do rushed practice all the time, you have to enjoy it and let it ripen, probably.
Ausra: Because when I heard the discussion, it sounded a little extreme.
Vidas: It seems like she wants to do everything at once. Right? But we have all the time we need in the world, why don't we play it in two years or in three years, and not in three months, right? That's completely realistic, I think.
So Ana Marija is our Total Organist student, fairly new one and I hope she can progress towards her dreams faster than on her own, because we have, right now, a lot of organ programs in coachings, and videos of thousands of exercises, and of course, right now, 30 days free trial is possible to take.
So, I hope she can benefit from that also. You know, she wrote that she has a lot of this repertoire to practice, but she's now Total Organist student, right? So she will be paying us for a number of months, but it's unrealistic to play our repertoire, our practices and coaching programs and study with us, plus to do this, all those recital things on her own, right? She has to choose, basically, or divide a healthy amount of time between piano, organ, and Total Organist.
Ausra: Yes, because I'm afraid of traumatizing her arms.
Vidas: Yeah, it's very, very dangerous.
Ausra: Because, if you have the problems with your muscles because of over-practicing, then all those problems, they just won't leave you for the rest of your life. It's very easy to damage your muscles, but it's very hard to recover.
Vidas: So, I hope people like Anna-Maria can take this advice very seriously, and don't push themselves too much, right? Take it one step at a time. Take things slowly enough and enjoy.
Ausra: And, you know, if you will be practicing for so many hours, just be more careful and take some time off between your practices.
Vidas: Every half an hour.
Ausra: Just plan everything very carefully and notice. Don't forget to take walks, to relax, to breathe, to eat and to sleep.
Vidas: Right. Okay, so, I think this advice is quite comprehensive now, and we are almost arriving at our destination. By the way, we're going to the birthday party of our friend, so we'll see you soon, and 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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