AVA231: It's hard to get Bach’s In dulci jubilo, BWV 608 from Orgelbuchlein up to speed with 3 sharps and some significant contrary motion
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 231 of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by Robert. He writes:
Hi Vidas, ... It's hard to get Bach’s In dulci jubilo, BWV 608 from Orgelbuchlein up to speed .... 3 sharps and some significant contrary motion.
Pedal no issue but the left, right hand ... some serious reading there. 😊
Also wondering what concert tempo should be on the beat,.... the half notes.
....... Maybe it helps to figure out the chords progressions in this key.
Anyway I would classify this piece ' intermediate to advanced level ..... for me anyway!
By the way it really helps as in one of your last videos .... when you play it 1/2 tempo and have the camera covering from the top .... sort of a bird's eye view.
As well you can sort of see the pedal motion too.
...... Keep up the great work to both of you.
Greeting and blessings from Vancouver/Canada!
V: So, Robert is our frequent reader of our blog and he writes these questions frequently, right Ausra?
V: Do you remember this video, when I play in a slow motion and then, people from our team can transcribe the fingering.
A: True. Yes, I remember it.
V: It’s helpful not only for them to see in a slow motion, but also for other people. So, they are now publicly available, and as Robert says, it helps to see my fingering choices, but also how I articulate. Sometimes even the feet motion are visible.
A: True. I think it’s very helpful, especially for beginners to observe more advanced organists playing this, to see how the organist’s body is moving. I think even that can help a lot.
V: Yeah. Remember you played Variations In D Major by Mendelssohn.
A: Yes, I remember that, yes.
V: Before the concert at Saint John’s Church.
A: Well, I do not recall that particular moment, but….
V: And I had you play this piece in a rather slow tempo. Not half speed, but slower than usual. And I held the camera above your head, sort of, so that also your hands would be visible. Did you like this, at the time?
A: Well, I actually don’t remember it now.
V: You don’t?
A: Are you sure you told me that you were…
V: No, I didn’t.
A: So that’s why I cannot remember it.
V: And when the time came to turn the page, I held the camera with one hand, and with another I turned the page, and sort of was in your way of playing. But you didn’t know that I was recording. So, you were not particularly happy about that.
V: Yes!. But people who will be able to look at your fingering, and maybe our team can transcribe it and write down fingering and pedaling from that video, of course, will find this video very helpful.
A: Well, I hope so!
V: So, that’s the same with Robert. At first, of course, he struggles to get Bach’s “In Dulci Jubilo” up to speed. Yes, three sharps make considerable difficulties for beginners. I’m not considering him a beginner, since he’s practicing this piece, but for basic level organists, let’s say.
A: Yes, and, you know, he says that those three sharps are making him some trouble, and he asks about progression—if knowing chord progressions would help. It would, if you sort of know theory quite well. If you are a beginner at theory level, then I don’t think it would help so much.
V: What I would recommend, probably, for him and other people who are sort of struggling in getting up to speed, is to take a look at my basic chord workshop. It’s not a harmony course, where I play with two hands, but with one hand, let’s say C major chord in C major key would be a tonic chord, and I would play three pitches only: C, E, and G. And that would be a tonic root position chord. And I teach those things from the easiest concept to the most difficult to, let’s say, five note chords. Little by little, they can understand, play themselves, internalize this material, and also, which is very interesting, later discover the same chords in their own pieces that they play.
A: True! That’s the point of learning theory. Not only knowing chords, but applying them to real pieces.
V: So, maybe before analyzing his piece, Robert could take a look at my basic chord workshop and go from there.
A: I think this might help for him to get better at his piece, “In Dulci Jubilo”.
V: And not only “In Dulci Jubilo.”
A: In all the other pieces as well. Because he asks if you learn chords once in your life, you can apply them to any other piece that you are working on.
V: It’s like riding a bicycle, right?
V: After decades of not doing it, the skill comes back after a couple weeks.
V: One more thing for him to get up to speed is, of course, to play and stop every beat. And then stop every two beats. And then every measure. Every two measures. Every line. Every two lines, right? Every page, always doubling the amount of musical material he has to play in the concert tempo.
V: What do you think about it?
A: Yes, I think that’s a very good method. And also, I’ve thought that since the contrary motion gives him the trouble, I think maybe he’s not leaning well enough on the strong beats. Because that’s what helps me, for example, when I have to do some contrary motion. You lean down on the strong beat more, and then you just know very well where you are going to.
V: There is one more problem here. If contrary motion is a problem for him, it means that he cannot hear, let’s say, two separate lines at the same time. They are different melodically and rhythmically sometimes. They’re two different parts. I think he has to play solo voices more, and then combinations of two parts.
A: Yes, definitely working in combinations always helps. And since he says that pedal is not a problem, I still don’t believe it, because if you are working in combinations you need to do
right and pedal, left and pedal, then maybe just right and left, and then all things together. Because when you are playing, it might seem for you that left hand, for example, is giving you trouble, but maybe pedals are giving trouble as well, too.
V: What he could do is to record himself on a phone, and listen later to an audio, and see if he is playing in time, rhythmically correct, melodically correct. Is he leaning on the downbeat? Is he articulating correctly? Sort of listening from the perspective like that as an outsider, as a listener will actually help him grow.
A: True. And don’t try to push to the right tempo right away. Because, if you are still struggling with contrary motion or some other stuff, it means that you are not ready to play in a concert tempo yet. So don’t do it too early.
V: Yesterday, I had a lesson with my piano student at school, and in one spot, he had to play an accompaniment called, I think, “Sarabande,” and then he struggled to play in a fast tempo the chords and the octaves in the left hand. He always played more than an octave in the left hand. He has a wide range. So I said, “Ok, slow down 50%,” and he slowed down 25% only. Just a quarter of what I was asking. “It’s not 50%,” I said, and he slowed down maybe 27%. Which means that a person really cannot judge himself or herself on which level they are playing.
A: So that’s why recording yourself is always a good idea. To listen to yourself from outside.
V: Yes. And, with time, maybe in a few weeks, he will see some serious improvement in “In Dulci Jubilo.” Thank you guys, this was Vidas!
A: And Ausra!
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow as an organist. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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