Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Let start episode 157 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent in by Marco and he writes:
I'm an organ student. I'm trying your method of subdividing a piece in fragments and voices and it's very helpful. My problem is that I find the practice quite stressful mainly for the following reasons:
1. There are sometime fragments that I cannot play correctly no matter how many times I repeat it.
2. I easily become anxious when I repeat a fragment, especially for the third time, because if I make a mistake I have to start again and repeat it at least three more times.
Do you have any suggestion to make the process less tiresome?
V: Do you think Ausra that people should be so severe when they practice a piece of music?
A: I don’t think so you can hurt your nerve system if you will be always anxious and be so stressful about your practice.
V: Almost you can feel that a person feels a guilt right, about making a mistake and feeling bad about himself or theirself that this mistake was made. Actually there is a saying that the person who makes the most mistakes will win actually in the long run. The person who fails the most will win. Do you know why Ausra?
V: Because they will try it many more times than the other person.
A: That’s true. And to know I just thought about, you know, him saying that sometimes he makes mistakes and you know he cannot not sort of correct them and then he gets frustrated because he knows that has to repeat that part at least three more times and I’m thinking you know if there is certain spots that are possible for you to play correctly it means that you are doing something wrong in that spot and I would suggest for you to revise those fragments. Maybe, you know, you are playing them too fast.
V: Or, you are making the texture too thick.
A: Sure, maybe you are using a wrong finger because something is probably not right in those spots. Or, maybe you are just too anxious to get a good result. Things like this take time and it’s normal.
V: Remember in our school there are a lot of students banging the piano as fast as they can in short fragments repeatedly over and over again like ten or twenty or fifty times.
A: And it’s funny but they are repeating the same mistakes all over. Over and over again.
V: Do you know what insanity is? The definition of insanity?
A: No, I don’t know.
V: Alfred Einstein said that “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” The definition of insanity.
V: So, simply you have to change something in order to expect different result. And I’m not meaning Marco or any of our students in this way. I’m just illustrating how extreme this approach can become, right, if you play too fast or the the texture is too thick. For example, if you’re not ready to play without mistakes that fragment, maybe you could play just one line, one voice.
A: Sure, but you have to know to do something about it.
A: About that, yes.
V: You make a mistake and you are not satisfied with that mistake. That’s OK even though you are feeling angry or frustrated with yourself is not the best feeling but OK for now let’s say that you are angry. You accept that. You admit that you are angry and then you think “What can I change about the situation or about my feeling of the situation.” Right. If I cannot change the situation why should I become angry. Right. If I can’t change the situation then maybe I become less angry about that.
A: Yes and no, if some particular spot give you so much trouble maybe just let it to rest for a while. Maybe you know, stop practicing that piece for a day and come back to it later, you know next day. Or, do a break of two days, because sometimes you know, you need to give for things time to rest and then you will go back to them and things will work well. I’ve had this experience many times, have you had it too?
V: Obviously, yes. Of course what happens at the time when you rest, your mind is bombarded with another set of information and your old influences and inputs, informational inputs are no longer the current ones and you maybe tend to forget what happened bad in your past, right? And when you come back to the old spot when you made mistakes your fingers might feel like their at a fresh spot and forget that this was a difficult spot.
V: So, maybe a week or so of playing something else would be beneficial and then coming back to the old spot. Ausra, do you make a lot of mistakes yourself when you practice? Do you allow yourself to make mistakes when you practice?
A: Actually, no because the more mistakes I will make during my practice, the harder it will get to correct them.
V: Exactly. So, you are doing something different that a lot of people, right? You are not allowing yourself to make those frequent mistakes.
A: That’s right, so you just have to be really focused when you are practicing.
V: Even at this level, right, very far advanced level we could play a piece, a familiar organ piece and make many mistakes if we are not careful, if we are playing too fast, if were playing it with the wrong fingering. You could do that, but we don’t allow ourselves. For example this morning I recorded my sight reading of BWV 552, the E-flat Major Prelude and Fugue by Bach which will later be used for transcription purposes of fingering and pedaling from the new score. So, I had to play almost cleanly and without mistakes so that people who will help to transcribe this score will understand what I’m doing, right, and the choices that I’m making with fingering would be more or less correct. Of course, I can edit them later in the first draft of the transcription. But, I tend to use more or less logical fingering, right?
V: So how do you do that, Ausra, at the early stages of development, if a person doesn’t have advanced skill of playing difficult and advanced organ music.
A: I think the most important thing at least for me is to know to practice with my actually mind first. That no if I have no sort of fresh head when I can practice. If I feel tired that I cannot understand what I am doing I stop practicing because I just don’t like that purely mechanical playing.
V: So it’s a complex phenomenon. You have to understand how the pieces put together. In order to do that you have to have a good grasp of music theory and harmony and musical analysis and form. Right? So you think what the composer thought when he or she created this piece. Moreover, you have to have your own experience at creating music in the moment like improvisation or in a written form like composition or in the perfect scenario, both. Right? That would be the ideal situation. Of course, so my advice for all the people who are listening to this would be to have a complex education and expanding your entire musical horizons not only organ playing from score but many supplemental things.
A: Yes, and always listen to what you are doing. That’s important too. Because so many people are just playing whatever, fast and loud.
V: Do not worry about how fast or how slow you will achieve that results. Do not worry how much there is still to learn, right? And how many years it will take to perfect your art. It doesn’t matter at all. What matters is that you perfect your art just one percent a day. One percent. And every seventy-two days this percentage will double and at the end of a year you will perfect your art, your complex organ art. Not only organ playing or sight-reading skill, but everything together put together. You’ll perfect it thirty-eight hundred percent if you do that every day. That’s all. That’s enough. OK. So I think that this is the best we can hope to inspire you today. Go ahead and practice and don’t be frustrated with your mistakes. Or, even better, play as slowly or as transparently that you will not make those mistakes at all.
V: Thank you. We hope this was useful. Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. An remember, when you practice…
A: 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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