AVA223: I have a good grasp of the pedals, but with some of what I've noticed you do, I'm now applying those techniques and it's starting to catch on with the basic hymn playing I do
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 223 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent by David, who is helping us transcribe my slow motion videos into scores with fingering and pedaling. And he writes:
I'm getting better at this, yes. I'm quite enjoying this. I have an organ transcription for BWV 35, the aria Gott Hat Alles Wohlgemacht. I've been adding the fingering as I go, but with the work I'm doing here, I've been noticing things in the fingering that has got me going back and analyzing the entire aria and I've revamped the fingering in certain areas and I'm actually writing it in for every note while testing it at the same time to make sure it makes the most sense. I have a good grasp of the pedals, but with some of what I've noticed you do, I'm now applying those techniques and it's starting to catch on with the basic hymn playing I do. Sections that I used to find a bit challenging to figure out the proper pedaling before are now becoming a breeze!
What can you say, Ausra, about this feedback?
A: Well, I appreciate David’s letter! It’s so good to know that things that we are doing, that you are doing, are actually working. But it just proves what I believed starting from, I don’t know, 20 years ago, that right pedaling and right fingering may solve a lot of problems---technical issues,
A: and will make playing much easier.
V: And you see, I am reading actually in between the lines, now, what David wrote, because he’s watching the videos and transcribing the fingering and pedaling into the score. He learns my technique, too! Not only does he help me, but he helps himself.
V: Right? And later, he can apply my own system, or our own system, because it’s similar, in his own performance, which takes him, basically, to another level.
A: Because it’s often the case, if you are working on a new piece, and there are some spots or one spot where you cannot play correctly---you always make mistakes, you always mess something up---then probably, your problem is incorrect fingering or pedaling.
V: Either incorrect fingering and pedaling, or inconsistent pedaling or fingering.
A: Yes, True.
V: Sometimes people don’t bother writing them down, and play with whatever accidental fingering and pedaling they want. And that’s not consistent. And imagine, in one rehearsal you play one way, in the second rehearsal you play the second way, in the tenth rehearsal you play the tenth way, and in the public performance, you mess it all up, because you are in a very confused state. Especially with public performance, it’s dangerous; you’re stressed, and you don’t have motor skills this way.
A: That’s true! And, this just reminded me, I almost started to laugh. When I had an open lesson of music theory with my ninth-graders a few years ago. And there were like three people watching that lesson.
A: It was for me to receive a certain certificate. And, one of my students was playing just a basic sequence. And he suddenly said “Oh, I don’t have enough fingers!” And then another guy who always makes jokes said, “Oh, take my finger, then you will have six in one hand!” And everybody was just laughing. And the problem was related to this, because he chose the incorrect fingering, and then he could not play the chord appropriately.
V: And sometimes you can use both hands...
A: True, true.
V: ...to facilitate playing of sequences like that. So even kids sometimes, in a way, understand the need of fingering the hard way, basically while making mistakes like that in front of the public. It’s sometimes humiliating, right?
V: Because he wasn’t joking, right?
A: I know!
V: Others were joking!
A: True. So yes. Do you feel sometimes that you would need to have a sixth finger?
V: If I do, then I need to add my foot, you know, like a third hand. And in a way, our feet are sometimes designed as a third hand. We use them, both feet together, as one additional hand, sometimes. While keeping heels and knees together, they move together as a unit, right? And not two separate limbs, but just one. Except, in cases where there is a double pedal passage, which is rather rare.
V: Do you recommend, Ausra, writing down fingering themselves for people who don’t know how to do it?
A: Well, I would say you’d better learn how to do it and then write them down. Otherwise, you might need to rewrite them a few times.
V: Can’t you learn by doing? By writing and making mistakes, failing, erasing, and adjusting?
A: Yes, that’s one way, but that’s a longer way. That will take a lot of time. So having correct fingering at the beginning, I think would save you time. Unless you like writing and rewriting fingering all the time.
V: Another person who is on our team of fingering and pedaling transcriptions, he asked me to provide a score, you know, from which I’m playing, with fingering and pedaling. He hoped I had a score with fingering and pedaling written in with pencil. But I said, “No, I’m just sight reading those pieces with correct early fingering and pedaling right away!” And he asked me how is it even possible, right? Well,
A: After many years of, you know…
V: The first 20 years are difficult.
A: Yes. Daily training and then it’s easy!
V: Once you learn the system, you can do many, many things right away without preparation. And actually, one of my goals with sight reading those fingerings and recording those videos is not only to provide material for our team to transcribe, but also to improve my own sight reading, because it’s a process, right? It always improves or degrades depending on if you miss practices or not. So I hope to improve to the level that I can learn my pieces faster and faster. And sometimes, it’s even sight read unfamiliar pieces, easy pieces, during public performances in a fast tempo, concert tempo, if you reach that level.
A: Yes. I think it’s always important when you are trying to teach other people, to help other people, don’t forget that you have all these to be improving yourself as well. Because otherwise you will not be able to teach others.
V: Oh! Isn’t that a nice circle? While teaching others, you are teaching yourself as well.
A: Yes, it is.
V: And while teaching yourself…. Actually, you are not always teaching others, right? People who are hiding their talent from others, they are not helping others. But that’s another side of the story. We prefer to be open about it, right? We learn something new and we share with the world.
V: Ok, thank you guys for sending us questions. We love helping you grow. And we hope that you apply our tips in your practice, and continue to develop your own skills in whatever area you choose. 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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