#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.
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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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