Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 159 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent in by Monte and he asks about organ Sight-reading Master Course.
Toward the end of days 5, 6 and 7 of week 1 in Organ Sight-Reading Master Course a second voice sneaks in. Is this meant to be added to the right hand playing up to that point, or does the left hand participate ?
(this course should culminate in something like the award of a Master's Degree in Counting!)
V: This course should culminate in something like the award of a Masters Degree in counting. Ausra this is the course based on the Art of the Fugue by Bach. I remember creating this course a number of years ago with the hope to help people to enhance their sight-reading skills. Especially in early sight-reading skills. So, or course this is a very simple solution, right? The course is structured that you have all the fugues or counterpoints specifically for one hand and then for another hand. I think Monte should play with just the right hand in that case, right?
A: Fantastic also.
V: Because just adding one additional note just for the left hand doesn’t make sense at this point.
A: That’s true.
V: Because later, in a few weeks when two-voice structure will come in. Maybe then he will need to use both hands.
A: Yes, that’s true but you know with the Art of the Fugue I have thoughts. Quite a few performances you know actually on organ and harpsichord as well. So in terms of which hand needs to play what it is questionable. It’s a good question for discussion. Because you would do it one way if you are playing it on the organ and another way if you are playing on the harpsichord. What do you think about it?
V: You are right because with the organ you could add the pedal line.
A: Sure and I think those who perform that fugue on the organ definitely play it with the pedal.
V: But not every fugue is done with the pedal. It’s not possible to play those canons for two voices with the pedal.
A: Yes, because I don’t think you would have enough space in the pedal part.
V: It goes too high. In general, Ausra, is it a good exercise to try to sight-read one line at a time of such polyphonic pieces from the Art of the Fugue?
A: Yes, I think it is a good way.
V: I made this course a little bit easier than I practiced myself because originally I practiced Art of Fugue with the intent of mastering clef reading, not only sight-reading because originally it is written in four different clefs. Soprano clef for the soprano voice, alto clef for the alto voice, tenor clef for the tenor voice and bass clef for the bass voice. The bass clef is the most familiar for everybody, right? And there is no treble clef here right?
V: So, instead of playing with the treble clef, originally it was written for the soprano clef. We have remind how does it read, right?
A: Yes, soprano clef is on the first bottom line of the staff.
V: Which note?
A: In the treble clef it would be E on that line. But the soprano clef always marks the C note.
V: On the first line.
A: Yes, on the bottom line.
V: And the second voice, alto clef has also C clef but on the middle line, on the third line.
V: What about the tenor line?
A: Tenor line is on the fourth line.
V: C note is on the fourth.
A: Yes. Because in general all these clefs they always mark the note C of the first octave.
V: Do you think people would have practiced these scores more eagerly using original C clefs or with simple today’s treble and bass clefs?
A: Well you know, knowing how my students at school don’t like to sing solfege exercises for the C clef and those have only two voices I believe only a few would love to practice using those clefs.
V: Too few.
A: Yes, too few.
V: Too few people are like me.
A: Well you know it is hard for your brain. Not everybody could comprehend it.
V: Not too many people are as crazy as myself.
A: That’s true.
V: So, with our blog of Secrets of Organ training and these podcasts do we try to help people become as crazy as we are or not?
A: I don’t know what you mean by it, but…
V: A little bit more similar to us or not?
A: Probably yes. But you know it’s good sometimes to sight-read from the clefs, not too much probably but because we still have editions and use them such as eastern German edition of Peeters which has published lots of work by J. S. Bach and Buxtehude and other German masters and it has some spots that you have treble clef and bass clef but sometimes the C clefs appear. Not for a long time, maybe for like 2 lines or 4 lines and it means that if you want to play from that edition you have to read C clef because it wouldn’t just make sense for you and the note to write down those spots, to transpose them to like treble and bass clef.
V: It’s like driving the car with stick shift and automatic shift. Automatic shift is easier, you have just the gas pedal and the brake pedal. But stick shift you have to think about the clutch and about manipulating with your right hand the gear. You see, not everyone prefers to do that extra work today, right?
A: Yes, especially in the US.
V: But guess what kind of cars do racers drive in marathon drive, you know car races. Of course, not automatic but manual shift.
A: Yes, you can do more in that car especially in extreme situations.
V: So guys, if you are satisfied with your current level of sight-reading ability then reading treble clef and bass clef only is surely enough. Right, Ausra?
V: But if you want to go beyond that and advance to the unknown world of something that was done in the past or some things that people with lots of experience do today, it doesn’t hurt trying practicing other clefs. Maybe take one, just one clef and do sight-reading for one month in that one clef.
A: Yes, that’s true. Trying some music written for alto for example because alto instrument plays from the alto clef.
V: Or you could transpose because reading clefs is an exercise in transposition.
A: That’s true, yes.
V: If you take any kind of melody which is written in the treble clef and pretend it is in the bass clef, right? You could play it with your left hand and play two octaves and a sixth below so basically it transposes up a third interval, right?
V: So you know two clefs very well now. Treble clef and the bass clef. If you pretend it’s not a treble clef but let’s say soprano clef you can do the same with your right hand. You just simply transpose to another key. So that’s what I did also. And you could do that too. That’s why it is beneficial. It also helps for improvisation because then in your mind you transpose the themes in various keys simply by changing the clef.
A: Yes, and some actually solfege systems use that movable do, so called. And I think it’s right from the beginning from early age learn how to transpose, how to change keys very quickly.
V: Yes, so, our Organ Sight-Reading Master Course is not the only way to improve your sight-reading, of course. You could just as well take any collection of music that you like and simply open it and practice one piece a day and in nine months you will improve a lot, right Ausra?
V: But what I did which you will not find anywhere else is that I transposed those fugues for the Art of the Fugue to various keys. Not only from the original key of D Minor but to various keys with ascending numbers of accidentals so you could sight-read in all the keys, in minor keys, not in major keys. Then as a supplement of this course, as bonus material, I think we have seven additional weeks of legato, romantic organ settings based on the chorale preludes by Max Reger. So it’s also beneficial to expand your sight-reading into romantic legato style.
Thank you guys, this is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And 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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