Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 247, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by Ron. He wrote:
Hi Vidas and Ausra,
Thank you for the nice comments on the post.
The improvement I’m feeling may not be apparent, but I have pushed through several things in my contest attempts. I’m starting to learn and mentally catalogue groups of note fingerings. Speed is still a problem, but I know that comes with time. Keeping to the correct notes is becoming second nature, and I’m starting to get a kind of grip on forms I can re-use. The recent lessons you posted, like the 9 day Bach style improv is one of those things, and helps to make sense out of a sort of chaos—when you first start out you think you have to do everything, when in fact.. it seems that just to get one or two things down well is an actual accomplishment. I’m also learning how to record the entries better, so’s not to make people have to listen with difficulty, while not making my early attempts too long, either (in hopes I don’t drive people away!)
I do hope the others continue to send in contest recordings. This is too good of an idea, and I know that there are a lot more people out there far more advanced than I who could really add to this and make it a great teaching tool, where we learn from others.
You two put in a lot of hard, careful, and considerate work.
V: So, Ron, Ausra, writes about our series of organ playing improvisation contest. And he participated in several weeks in a row.
A: Yes, I remember his performance.
V: Do you think that he made progress each week?
A: Sure! I found it remarkable how much he improved actually, even the first week. How carefully he responded to our comments and changed his performance.
V: Mmm-hmm. We thought that people are traveling and having vacations during the summer so we kind of postponed the next entries until the fall comes, right?
V: But it’s a great opportunity for people to learn together, improvise on the same theme together, and upload those entries and listen to those and receive support too. So during the summer when we don’t have improvisation contests, what would your first recommendation to Ron be?
A: Just keep working. Keep improvising. Because it’s bad to have too long breaks of anything that you do.
A: Well, because you might need to start from the beginning.
V: And you lose motivation too.
V: When you don’t practice one day, you just yourself notice that, right? When you skip practice for two days, your friends and family notice. And when you skip practice for three days, everybody.,,
A: Everybody will notice.
V: Mmm-hmm. So that’s why I’m improvising too, regardless whether I continue to create those improvisations contests or not. Every day I try to sit down on the organ bench and play something interesting. Maybe on those four notes. Maybe based on a hymn tune or choral melody. It doesn’t matter which one you choose. But I found really motivating is to record myself and actually live-stream it when people on Facebook can join in and listen to my playing. Then this act of live-streaming prevents me from stopping in the middle of unfinished improvisation. I have to finish because I know that people are listening. And it doesn’t matter if it’s good or bad but you have finish what you started.
A: But it’s good that you can handle the pressure. Not everybody could do it probably.
V: I know what you mean, but,,,
A: Do you feel nervous?
V: No. It’s so relaxing. I kind of, if I have only four notes to worry about, just four notes, C, D, E and F, let’s say. Then I know that I can handle this texture well, and the only think I’m worrying about when improvising like that, is to keep things interesting all the time. So I kind of, try to listen how my listeners are hearing at the same time, sort of from the side, and not to be too immersed in improvisation so that I won’t be able to get out of it in time.
A: Yes, and it’s amazing how much you can achieve actually, when working with four notes. I listen to Ron’s recordings and to Mindaugas’ recordings and to your improvisations, and it’s quite remarkable.
V: Mmm-hmm. Yes, and especially if you have an organ with a decent acoustical environment. Then those four notes become like four colors, and they work together very well. Any type of color, any type of notes, group of four notes will work well if combined together. It doesn’t matter which ones you choose, it’s just a matter of using them often enough. And then they sort of blend.
V: So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m also trying, I think today I’m going to improvise based on the Genevan Psalter. I recorded those improvisations maybe six months ago or more. But then got distracted from that practice so I think I’m going to come back to those delightful Genevan Psalter tones and keep improvising too. That’s very interesting, especially with the manuals.
A: Yes, that’s a good source for hymns.
V: And if you don’t have Genevan Psalter, of course, your hymn book is ideal way too.
V: So, guys, let’s keep this day creative, okay? Because when you just play from the score, you are developing one sort of ability. It’s very good, it’s very handy. It’s actually indispensable, right? We need to sight read and play from the sheet music. But, also, if you only play from the score, you are missing something very, very important, something that you have to let out of yourself. And for a second, if you haven’t done this before, for a second, forget that you don’t know how to do this. Forget your fears. Forget your insecurities. It doesn’t matter, right? But, can you trust me when I say that you need to let it out, and of course there plenty of people who are doing this and you would say, ‘Oh, I am not good at this. I’m not Bach, and I’m not a virtuoso performer and improviser’. But it doesn’t matter at all because your improvisations will be unique and they will be yours, and that’s all that matters. Would you agree, Ausra?
A: Yes, I agree with that.
V: Okay guys. Thank you for sending these questions and for taking action on our advice. 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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