Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 173, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. Today’s question was sent by Tony. And he writes:
Hello Vidas - in answer to your quarry regarding my advancement in organ playing, I am a person who is 'legally blind' and thus can not site read music. I have a very modest ability to 'play by ear' and would like to discover a better way to play than using automated functions for single finger or simple chord methods; I find these limited at best. I am self taught as far as my abilities go. What I want to accomplish is to develop my ability to tease apart the music so I can reproduce hymns, and popular music and be able to play the music so I at least sound like I have a reasonable degree of ability to play music. Any suggestions you might make on how to accomplish these goals would be greatly appreciated. Thank-You for asking, I look forward to your suggestions. Tony U.S.A.
V: So, Ausra, Tony is struggling with reading music, right? Definitely. He probably can play a little bit by ear.
V: and playing simple chords, right?
V: Probably it means that he is using a synthesizer to play with one finger, the left hand chords, but with one finger only, which is sort of a short cut. And he writes he is legally blind, which is in quotation marks. So what does it mean, Ausra? We don’t know. We just can guess that he probably means that he doesn’t know how to do this. He just guesses some methods as he writes. As he writes, he is self taught, right?
V: All right. So, imagine we have a student coming to us and asking for help to start reading music. I believe he, if we put a score in front of him, right, and ask him to play just one voice, he couldn’t do this, I think. Either in treble clef or bass clef. What do you think?
A: Probably not, if he cannot read music, but it’s crucial that he would learn to do it if he wants to, you know, to achieve his goal.
V: Alright, Ausra. Of course you learned to read music a long time ago. And, huh, we almost forgot how we did it, right? Because at that time, we were what, six years old? And uh, teachers just forced us to do this and we did it without any thought.
A: Well I was five when I learned how to read music. And actually treble clef first of all, then later on bass clef and my teacher told me that I was, and she was an elderly lady, that she had a lot of experience, teaching experience. She told, you know that I was a fastest learner of the bass clef, so, and I don’t remember that I had struggled with it. I just remember my mom at that time, she’s not musician and she cannot read music, although she sings well from her ear, but she would help me learning, and simply she would just ask, ‘lets see, bass clef, third line, what note it is’, you know, and that’s D, and what is this on upper line that’s, A and so forth and so on, and I learned pretty fast.
V: And this was mom who tested you?
V: Wow! My mother-in-law. Wonderful. She’s so courageous. I don’t remember my mom teaching these things, to me.
V: But, I remember struggling with sharps and flats. I think it took me half of the year to learn seven sharps and seven flats.
A: Well, that’s very easy because we have sort of, you know, to learning in art school, we had sort of, like, poem about
V: Uh, huh.
A: sharps and flats: fis-cis-gis-dis-ais-eis-his, b-es-as-des-ges-ces-fes. Once you learn them you never forget them.
V: What you said just a second ago, it’s still confusing to me but, but, I had to figure out another system without using those poetry elements. But it was really hard.
A: It’s different I think, for everybody.
V: For adults it’s much easier I think.
A: Although, look now, I think you read from C clef better than I do.
V: You don’t know, we never,,,
A: Although, I’m better than the average musician in reading C clef, but still I think you are better than me.
V: You don’t know; we never did an olympic competition on that.
A: (Laughs). Maybe we should do.
V: We could do, but music is not competition, right? It’s not a sport.
A: Yes. And now if you go back to Tony’s question; I think, you know, you could do it in two ways; you could do whatever you are doing right now, and then your progress will be almost non-existing, or you can you know, force yourself to learn how to read music. And maybe this won’t be an easiest way, but I think finally it will be the most gratifying, and most satisfying. What do you think with this about it?
V: I have probably two suggestions for him. One would be to try my organ playing, master course. I think it’s level one, just for beginners, where right hand plays a single melody in very long note values, then the left hand in the bass clef. Here I didn’t put the note names. I assumed that people could figure out themselves, where C is, where G is, because it’s so slow and so, basically easy. So that’s one thing. Whenever a person is just a beginner, but especially adult, right, who can force themselves to figure out some note names, this course would be very beneficial because at first it’s in whole notes, then in half notes, then in quarter notes and this level ends in, I think sixteenth note runs, so, but with single melodic line. Level two would be for two voices in two hands.
A: How did you write something about how to read music? How to learn to read music? I think you had some material about it.
V: In Lithuanian, yes. I had a four week course about that, but just in Lithuanian.
A: Maybe you need to do it in English.
V: I could.
A: And then, you know, people like Tony could benefit from it.
V: Yeah. You're right, probably. Yeah, that’s preliminary step, right? Before learning any note names, basically before taking this course, which I’m talking about now, Organ Playing Master Course Level 1, you need to be familiar with note names and where they’re positioned on the stave and the system of the clefs, treble and the bass clef. But if you know it, you could proceed exactly to this course already. So that’s suggestion number one. And the second suggestion, how about, Ausra, if Tony could try to improvise based on just four notes. Remember my favorite exercise; you pick four notes, any type of notes, C, D, E, F, or C, E flat, G and B flat; any sort of strings of four notes, and improvise something interesting, in let’s say, ten minutes, without talking.
A: Well you could to that. It’s a good exercise but it’s not final. I mean you cannot just stick with those four notes and improvise for the rest of your life.
V: No, you could do this with five notes, and six notes, and seven notes,,,
A: Well you know what I mean, you know what I mean.
V: And then later twelve notes.
A: Because if you will just do that it will be a dead end after while.
A: That’s my opinion.
V: Dead end. Well of course you need a lot of theory and other technical things to do and to know and study in order to be a complete musician. But that’s a good staring point if you want to develop your creativity a little bit at first.
A: That’s true.
V: So, guys, apply our tips in your practice, whatever suits you, right? It’s just our ideas, how we would do, at least how I would do. Ausra is not necessarily agreeing with me in this, but she is very opinionated and has her own advice for you. That’s okay. We’re different. Because you are different too. This was 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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