SOPP303: My dream for my organ playing is that I would like to apply for, and be admitted into, a doctoral program in Organ Performance
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 303 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Michael and he writes:
“Hi Vidas and Ausra,
Thank you for your recent email, to which I am now responding late (I apologize).
My dream for my organ playing is that I would like to apply for, and be admitted into, a doctoral program in Organ Performance. I am currently pursuing a master’s degree in Organ Performance.
At this time, I cannot think of three hindrances to my dream, but I can think of one in particular that is proving to be, and has always proved to be, a great problem for me: I am very shy about people hearing my practicing the organ - the repetitions, making mistakes, etc., that attend the process of learning a piece of music.
I am a very introverted person (which I have found is not a very common personality trait amongst organists; at least, not amongst the organists I know personally). I believe that my fear of people hearing my practicing may (at least partially) stem from the shyness and introversion, and perhaps lack of confidence in myself: worrying that people may think I am not a skilled organist if they hear how painstaking practicing can be, and sometimes how tedious the process of learning a piece of music can be (for me, at least). Even at the university, though, where I am surrounded by other graduate music students who understand exactly what I am experiencing with practicing – even there I cannot bring myself to practice on the practice organ, which makes things very difficult for me sometimes, since the practice organ is the organ on which I perform when I receive my weekly lessons, and I really need to play it regularly to continue to be accustomed to its feel and action. What I normally do is practice at the church in the late afternoon or evenings, when I know no one will be present to hear my practicing.
All of this causes me to waste time, and causes me to worry needlessly. I am aware of these things, yet the fear of people hearing me practice has been one with which I have struggled since childhood. Despite the fact that I have been successful enough to work as a church organist, pursue graduate-level Organ Performance studies, and compose, I worry that the shyness and introversion, which, I believe, is the basis, or part the of the basis, of my fear of others hearing my mistakes when I practice – I worry that this will directly harm my efforts to receive an admissions offer in the competitive world of doctoral studies because perhaps my skills will not be as good as they could be if I practiced more regularly. I also worry that my shy personality may indirectly harm my efforts to be admitted into a doctoral program since my non-extroverted, non-showmanship personality (and the music I prefer to play and compose as a result of this personality) may make me seem as though I would be less successful as a graduate of the program than would another more gregarious, “outgoing” applicant, and maybe the conservatory would prefer investing in a person like that rather than me, since my appearance alone may work against me. Sadly, I have found that a very skilled but introverted organist is often (and maybe even usually) unfavorably compared to an organist who is not as skilled, but who has a very extroverted and confident personality.
Thank you so much for your SoundCloud podcast and emails. I have found each podcast and email extremely helpful, informative, and enjoyable, and I am grateful for your work.
V: That’s a long story Ausra but has a very interesting feedback.
A: Yes and he asks some things that I have never thought about.
V: That organists are not usually introvert, right?
A: Well actually I think that it might be wrong for you because I think many organists are extremely introverts because if you choose such an instrument you are probably an introvert because organists spend so much time alone with his or her instrument.
V: Plus the instrument is hidden from the public.
A: Yes in most churches so I think there are probably more introvert organists than extrovert, don’t you think so?
V: Let’s think about our friends. Not all of them obviously, some of them are more outgoing than others just as in life probably.
A: Well but let’s see. Let’s talk about ourselves. Have you ever done any psychological tests to determine your personality?
V: Yeah, I did.
A: So what about the introvert/extrovert thing?
V: I don’t remember exactly those four letters about me but maybe you remember.
A: Well, I remember some of it but every test that I have done showed that I am extremely introvert person. Something like eighty and more percent introvert. I never thought about that problem that somebody would hear me practicing with mistakes. Actually I don’t care about it. The more I care is that I would play well during my actual performance because then it’s real important that I would play without mistakes. So I would like to ask Michael if he feels performance anxiety during his actual performance because this is the moment when most musicians start worrying and get performance anxiety but not afraid of being heard playing with mistakes during rehearsals and another thing is that usually, especially in America, you have pretty well isolated practice rooms so if you are alone in a room nobody can hear you from outside.
V: Umm-hmm. What he’s talking about is studio performance practice when he has to practice on the organ that his weekly lessons are held on, probably. Remember in Nebraska.
A: Yes, I remember we had studio but I wouldn’t call it practice time. It was held once a week and everybody would play what we learned during the week.
V: So maybe in his conservatory is different, maybe he doesn’t have too many isolated practice rooms.
A: But how can you practice organ if somebody else is practicing something else in the same room.
V: I don’t think that people are really sitting in the same room that he is playing there.
A: And you know Michael, what I could you tell is that every person is busy with its own life and nobody really cares about what you are playing and how many mistakes you are making especially during your rehearsal time.
V: Everyone is thinking about themselves, right. Everyone is egoist in a way.
A: And everybody is thinking about their own mistakes, not yours. So I think you need not to worry about it.
V: What I hear in between the lines that he’s not writing actually is that Michael might be a perfectionist who wants to do everything at the top level and if he cannot do it at the top level then he doesn’t do it at all.
A: But if he wants to become a doctoral student it means he needs to practice every day and it doesn’t matter if he will practice at the university or church he needs to do it every day.
V: Adapt this attitude, practice no matter what, right? It’s a professional attitude.
V: You don’t have to be paid actually to be a professional. It’s the mindset that matters, right? If you skip practice because of the weather or how you feel or if you’re tired or you simply not in the mood then you are not a pro and it’s OK not to be a pro actually, I’m not blaming anybody but anyone who wants to excel in this art or any other art form has to adapt an attitude of a pro.
A: Do you think it would matter much if a person who wants to become a doctoral student is extrovert or introvert. How much will this be a deciding point during your admission?
V: I know what you mean, right? There is no discrimination actually. I don’t believe anybody would ask him you are introvert, no, no, we don’t accept introverts, just extroverts. It’s not that way, but if because of his shyness he practices too little and is not advancing well enough and when the time comes to show his skills during the entrance examinations then he is not ready as well as his peers are and that might be a problem.
A: Yes, because if you are thinking about showing yourself bad during interview, if you are too shy to talk with people or professors, well, do all the other things good because you need to play wonderful during your audition, you need to get good recommendations and you need to have really top GPA because I remember when we were applying for doctoral studies our GPA was 4.0 so in U.S. standards that’s the highest so basically we were very competitive and then as I said excellent audition and good recommendations and then how much can the introvert harm yourself. Not too much probably.
V: Not too much. You also need to write essay about your motivation.
A: Not all schools require that but some do.
V: You know, in the end if we summarize our advice I think from my perspective is if you want it badly enough you will overcome your shyness. If you don’t want it badly enough, if it’s not that important, if your shyness is more important, if how others see you is more important to you than how you actually see yourself then you will not overcome your shyness.
A: I think this problem is more related and more applicable to teenagers. I think the teenager are at that age where it’s really important what others think. People get really worried that nobody would laugh at them and sort of not to show themselves too much to be in that crowd. But I think that at mature age and since Michael is in his Masters studies so he is already adult, we don’t have to worry so much about others and about what others think about us. Don’t you think so?
V: I read a good book called “Ignore Everybody” by Hugh MacLeod, cartoonist and blogger who started his career while drawing cartoons on the back of business cards. Basically he writes down 39 key points about creativity and the most important one is “Ignore everybody.” So maybe we could conclude on that our conversation too. Ignore our advice too Michael. Thank you guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
SOPP277: My dream of organ playing is to completely free, sit down at the organ console and play and improvise whatever I want
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 277 of Secrets of Organ Playing podcast. This question was sent by Rob. He writes:
In this mail I’ll provide the answers to you questions: (that is the least I can do for the wonderful work that you and your wife do)
1. What is your dream for your organ playing?
My dream of organ playing is to completely free, sit down at the organ console and play and improvise whatever I want. (my inspiration comes from people like Pierre Cochereau, Jean Langlais, Marcel Dupre, Ben van Oosten, Sophie-Veronique Cauchefer-Choplin and others).
2. What are 3 most important things that are holding you back from realizing your dream?
1) (Lack of) technique i.e. the idea that I am not “advanced enough” to take on any organ piece
2) the false notion that certain pieces are “too difficult”
3) finding enough time to develop my skills
In a separate email I’d like to share some feedback with you and tell you a little bit about myself if that is OK.
So, of course it is okay--please write us more detailed feedback, right Ausra?
V: What did you notice about his dream, Ausra, first of all?
A: Well, he mentioned so many wonderful French composers and organists, and I suddenly remembered that funny test that we did a few years ago, remember?
A: We took a test just for fun, to find out which French organist we resemble.
V: On Facebook.
A: On Facebook, yes. And it was funny because both of what Rob mentions here are on this list, on his list. And Vidas was--guess who!
V: Uhhh...Pierre Cochereau, maybe?
A: That’s right. And do you remember what I was?
V: Marcel Dupre?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: You were Marcel Dupre.
V: I don’t know why, but it was funny! Yeah, these people were great improvisers--and some of them still are. And they are like the sun behind the horizon--the goal or the dream can never be reached, right? Who can successfully say that “I’m like Pierre Cochereau” or “I’m like Marcel Dupre” today, right?
V: Right, because there was already one Pierre Cochereau and Marcel Dupre too. There is actually no point in being the second Marcel Dupre.
A: But each of us is unique.
A: And we need to be proud of it.
V: So Robert should be proud of being himself. Of course, he could take inspiration from these people…
A: That’s right.
V: In general ideas--general ideas like freedom of expression, of creativity that these masters did. But Rob’s path is different, and our path with Ausra is different, too--my path from Ausra’s is different, and Ausra’s is different, too. And we have to own it, own our differences. And actually, some of these differences can become our guiding points, right, like uniqueness, and we can differentiate ourselves in the world.
A: That’s right. And now, talking about his 3 things that he writes, that he needs to improve his technique--
A: And he wants to play whatever on the organ that he sits down easily, or improvise; and he needs to have more time. So I guess I would reverse all these problems in the other order; because I think the first thing is you need to find time to practice. Because only if you will practice on a regular basis, you can improve your technique; and only if you can improve your technique, you will be able to play whatever you want, and improvise.
V: Difficult pieces as well. Let me disagree politely with you, Ausra--
V: --when you say finding enough time. And Rob writes “finding enough time,” in these words, finding enough time. I would say making time--not finding but making. When you say I need to find more time, you say that it’s not in our control--like, you’re looking somewhere, and maybe you will find, maybe you will not find.
A: But when you are talking about making time, it seems like you know...each day and night lasts for 24 hours, and let’s make 2 more hours, yes? Per day? What do you mean by making time?
V: I mean that, let’s say...This is a serious dream. If Rob is serious about this dream, making time for that dream to gradually happen would be on the top of his--maybe not top-top-top on the very top, but top 5 things that he does in the day. Would you agree?
A: Yes, I would agree.
V: So everyone can do 5 things in a day, at least for 15min in a day. If we agree on that, then finding those 15min--it’s not an necessary word, actually. Making those 15min would be more appropriate.
A: But are you sure it would be enough to play--to practice 15min a day in order to be able to play any organ composition?
V: Let’s say you tell yourself, “I will sit down today on the organ bench for 15 minutes.” And you do: you sit down, and you can continue if you feel like playing for an hour, or for 45 minutes or whatever. You can. But the trick that our mind sometimes plays on us is: if we cannot find or make 60 minutes of quality time for organ playing, then we don’t bother to sit down at all, you know? And say our day is wasted. But if we sit down for 15 minutes, there is a chance we will continue for more.
A: So it’s like cheating yourself!
V: Obviously, yes. We have to cheat our tricky mind! Right? Because that’s what we do. We seek our dream. That’s what we try to do here. We take steps--baby steps. Anything else, Ausra?
A: Well...Well I would say, you know, if you really want to achieve something, you have to do it; and you have to find time, or to make time, as you say. Because if you are not doing it, maybe it’s not as important for you as you think it is.
V: I think it is important for him, because he wrote it to us.
A: Yes, that’s the first step, I think.
V: Mhm, to admit that it is important to you and write it down.
A: But you know, I think if you will practice, let’s say, for 60 days straight thorugh, you will develop a habit of practicing
V: Exactly, 66 days.
A: And then you will not be able to stop practicing.
V: You will feel not right--something will be missing from your creative day, if you don’t do that activity. At least for a bit, right? For 15 minutes. Would you agree, Ausra?
A: Yes, I agree with it.
V: Do you feel that you cannot function well if you don’t play every day?
A: Sure, sure.
V: What is it that you feel, if you skip practicing?
A: That something is missing.
V: And how do you react to it? Do you feel like a different person--
A: Well, I sort of start feeling guilty.
A: And this is not good, maybe--I don’t know, but that’s what I feel.
V: Very Catholic!
A: I know, it is!
V: Good. But you know, I feel that guilt, too. Haha! Yes, if I skip! So therefore, I try to do this first thing in the morning. Not necessarily organ playing, in the morning, because maybe you will be sleeping, right? If I rise earlier. But some creative activity I do first thing in the morning. Then, if something goes wrong with that day, if there is an emergency or something, or the electricity disappears, like it happened a couple of days ago--at least I know I did something creative in the morning. The day wasn’t wasted.
A: But still, you know, most of the time, I cannot practice in the morning. Only in summertime, for a couple months, in summertime I can practice in the morning. So I have to do it after making all other my works...
A: And it’s really hard. Like last school year, I allowed my only one day a week not practicing, and it was Tuesday--because I was working straight from 8 till 6.
V: Did you feel that something has to change--that either you are playing too much, or you’re working too much?
A: Definitely I’m working too much.
V: Did you have this feeling?
V: Mhm. What would you rather sacrifice? Playing or working?
V: A little bit--not necessarily you have to quit your job, I’m not communicating that, but--
A: Of course working--of course working.
V: --But instead of working 100% like you do now, maybe 90%.
A: Yes, that’s a good idea, but you are not always able to do what you want.
V: Right. And on days that you practice, Ausra, are you happier?
A: Sure, of course I’m happier.
V: Happier. Did you practice today?
A: Yes, I practiced today.
V: So you are happy now?
A: That’s right.
V: And I only played organ duets with you, so I’m not as happy as you are, so I better go now and practice. Okay.
A: Sure. Of course, when you practice...
V: Miracles happen!
This blog/podcast is supported by Total Organist - the most comprehensive organ training program online. It has hundreds of courses, coaching and practice materials for every area of organ playing, thousands of instructional videos and PDF's. You will NOT find more value anywhere else online...
Total Organist helps you to master any piece, perfect your technique, develop your sight-reading skills, and improvise or compose your own music and much much more... Sign up and begin your training today. And of course, you will get the 1st month free too. You can cancel anytime.
Join 80+ other Total Organist students here
Would you like to feel such a strong urge to practice every day that if you skip just one day, you will feel strange, kind of like something important is missing in your day.
And when you do practice, how about seeing amazing results from your efforts, be it pedal playing, sight-reading, transposition, repertoire, hymn playing, improvisation, music theory or harmony?
If so, you will love our daily accountability feature in our Total Organist communication channel at Basecamp.
You will not only know exactly what your goals are for each day, week or month, but you will also see what other Total Organist students are learning.
This feature alone will quadruple your motivation and results of your practice because you will feel accountable and supported by our little community.
Bellow are some things that some of our students last weekend:
I worked on BWV 639, Ich ruf zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ. As recommended by Vidas I split the piece in 7 segments. I can now play the first segment in the right tempo and the second segment is coming together as well. I am not an advanced player and getting this far has taken me 5 days. It is hard to resist the temptation to rush ahead and try to play the entire piece!
So far (EDT, still morning), I've researched music for small organ and french horn for an upcoming church service. Not much luck. Keyboard, pedal exercises, and sight reading this afternoon.
In Dir ist Freude, BWV 615 and More Palatino by Sweelinck
Revisiting “Jesu, Meine Freude” by Krebs - that last line is still a challenge. There’s so much going on note by note across the voices, and it all has to happen with precision and clarity.
Jesu, meine Freude (Krebs) - now going smoothly. [Notice the improvement from the day before]
I'm working on Day 3 of "10 Day Pedal Playing Challenge". Some of the thirds with one foot are difficult for me. For example E-G in the left foot, toe - heel (bar 3). I can do that if I start in the lowest octave of the pedalboard, but find it much more difficult if I begin an octave higher. If I do start at the lowest octave, then the E-C with right foot, toe-heel (also in bar 3) becomes a problem. I'll keep at it.
Here's what one of our students is saying about Total Organist:
"I am taking a lot away from it. Pedal virtuoso program has helped a lot with my pedal work, as has the transposition course. I began the prelude improvisation formula, but put it by the wayside for a little while. Will try to return to it in the fall. Thank you mostly for the fingering recommendations! "
Would you like to receive the same or even better results that Jeremy and other students are getting?
If so, join 74 other Total Organist students here.
By the way, this week we're running Total Organist Summer Special with 50% discount. And of course, you will get the 1st month free too. You can cancel anytime. This offer is valid until July 25.
Check it out here
AVA248: Wanted to let you know that I received word that I passed the CAGO from the American Guild of Organists today
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 248 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent by Jeremy, and Jeremy is on our team of people who transcribe our podcast conversations. So one day, he wrote that he received word that he passed the CAGO examination from the American Guild of Organists. And I asked him what the requirements were, and he writes:
I found out about three years ago that I need some type of long term goal to work towards in my life. The easiest thing was to become certificate in something. It began with my Masonic organization, which I received a Masonic Instructor in the state of Iowa.
I have been playing the organ for church for about ten years now and two years ago, I decided to take it more seriously by seeking out a teacher. Dr. Christiansen got me involved in the local AGO chapter, and encouraged me to work towards the Service Playing Certification and continued my education to get the Colleague certification. We now have a blood pact! If I take the Associate exam next year, he will take the Fellow exam.
That being said, the certification program up to this point has been very practical for me as a church musician--standard repertoire that I have used quite a bit in the service, hymn playing, transposing passages of music, sight reading, harmonization, and improvisation. All of these things I have used at some point in the last year. The most work for me came in the improvisation and transposition portions of the exam. I was introduced to this in the past, but it always remained theoretical and not practical. I have now incorporated these into my daily practice sessions. Your courses have helped out a lot with them, but I still have miles to go!
3 pieces of repertoire: Bach In dir ist freude; Parry Chorale prelude on Omnium Christe Redemptor, and Alain Variations on a theme of Clement Janequin.
2 anthems: Britton's Jubilate Deo and Dupre's Ave Maria.
Improvising an 8ish bar piece modulating between two keys.
Sight reading a short three staff piece.
Harmonizing a folk tune.
Short prelude and hymn playing on two hymns.
Transposing a hymn into two keys. A half step up and a step down.
The improvisation and transposition were the most difficult part. I am reviewing your transposition course and your prelude in Baroque style course. Also, the complaints for the most part were about tempi. Too slow.
V: So, let’s congratulate Jeremy about this great achievement. Right Ausra?
A: True. It takes courage, you know, to do something like this.
V: We have a Colleague, his name is Paulus, and he also wants to take the AGO Service Playing Certificate test. And he needs to practice; he needs to focus his efforts during the year, learn a lot of repertoire, and I know that it’s a challenge for him, too.
A: Yes, it seems like he’s postponing it all the time.
V: Yes, I haven’t heard about his decision lately to take this test. Maybe we should ask him. But Jeremy took the AGO colleague certification exam and passed, actually. So, that’s a big achievement. And next year, maybe if he has this motivation with Dr. Christianson to take the Associate exam, then that would also be a wonderful step—a big step forward.
A: True. I think it’s wonderful that America has this program, and that you can get a certificate without entering to the University or a college.
V: Plus, he has this “blood pact,” as he writes, with Dr. Christianson. And, when you have a mentor like this who is also involved in taking an exam, maybe, at the Fellow level, they both motivate each other, right?
V: And that’s probably invaluable to have a partner in crime, so to speak.
A: I think that way it’s easier to achieve something than to do it alone, by yourself.
V: Yes, that’s why we figured out we need to have those improvisation competitions for people to advance together—to learn to improvise together, too, on Steemit. And also, Jeremy writes that improvisation and transposition were the most difficult part. Why do you think this was the case, Ausra?
A: Well, because these are the hardest requirements, to transpose and to improvise.
V: And why do you people struggle with this? Why can’t people, let’s say, transpose as easily as they can sight read?
V: It’s a stupid question, I know.
A: That’s an interesting question. I guess it depends on how hard the piece is itself. Sometimes it might be harder to sight read, and sometimes it might be harder to transpose. But transposition—I think it’s something inside us that prevents us, because we sort of look at that assignment as a hard one, but it’s not that hard. Transposition is not that hard. You just need to do it regularly. Maybe take some exercises in the C clefs, that would help you to transpose easier. And of course, the skill of transposition will help you to improvise, too.
V: Would you think that improvisation would help to transpose, too.
A: Yes, I think these two assignments are related somehow.
V: Because, when you improvise, you need to transpose the theme a lot of times.
V: And when you transpose, you don’t need to improvise, but you need to read the music and to move it to either another either clef or key or position on the staff. So, this skill, of course, would develop with improvisation, moving the melody around. And that’s why it helps with improvisation.
A: True. And you know, with transposing, you need to know that there are three ways to transpose, and each time, you need to select which way is more comfortable in a given situation.
V: For example…
A: As Jeremy wrote, that he needs to, for example, transpose a half step. Usually, that’s the easiest way to transpose, when you only need to transpose a half step, because then, you just change, in your mind, the key signatures. Let’s say you need to transpose from D major to D flat major. You just change in your mind 2 sharps with 5 flats.
V: And 2 pus 5 is 7. So the sum of those two accidentals, when you do this half step, is always 7.
A: And most of the time you can do that. Of course, you will say that, “Ok, if I have G major and I have to transpose a half step higher, how would I do it?” You can still do it. In that case you will have to imagine, for the key signature, 6 sharps and 1 double sharp, because it would be the key of G# major. And it still works. I think some of the piano composers such as Chopin used this key occasionally in their compositions.
V: Yeah, you’re right. And would would be the last way to transpose?
A: Well, the second way...
V: The second way.
A: ...would be to change the clef. I don’t know how well you are acquainted with the C clefs, but basically using those 5 C clefs, you can transpose pieces in any way.
V: And F clefs. You need F clefs, too.
A: F clefs, too.
V: So, on the first line, we have Soprano clef. On the second line, we have Mezzo Soprano clef. On the third line, we have Alto clef. What else?
A: Then Tenor clef on the fourth line, and then above, you have the Baritone clef.
V: Aha, and what kind of C are we talking about?
A: C clef always marks the C of the middle octave. So, if you have the soprano clef, it means you have the C note on the lowest line of the staff.
V: And there are three F clefs, right?
A: Yes. The one that we know so well,
V: Bass clef.
A: Bass clef.
V: Which is F on the fourth line.
V: Then F on the middle line, which is called Baritone clef. Then the one on the fifth line, it’s called Basso Profundo clef, which is the lowest.
V: But all three clefs indicate the tenor F, either on the third line, fourth line, or the fifth line.
A: And there is also the old French treble clef, which is located on the first line.
V: So this is G clef then, on the first line.
A: Yes, is the G clef. So, basically two G clefs, then three F clefs then five C clefs.
V: Oh, so there are 10 clefs, right? You only need to know 10 clefs.
A: I know.
V: And, if you know 10 clefs, you know everything.
A: And, it seems hard at the beginning, but if you work with those clefs, the transposing will become very easy at the end of it. And, of course, you can always transpose on a given interval. And you use this system when you need to transpose probably to change by a major third, or a fourth…
V: Whatever interval you want.
A: Whatever interval you want.
V: Not more than a perfect fourth or a tritone, because a perfect fifth is an inversion of the fourth.
V: Excellent! Guys, please try it out at home. It’s not dangerous; you will not hurt yourself, unless you do it too much, and then what happens Ausra?
A: I don’t know, you will get sick, probably.
V: <laughing> I see, ok. This was Vidas,
A: and Ausra.
V: And remember; when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
If I learn to play
The organ well, will the frogs
Stop running from me?
Today's question was posted by Huu. He wants to play the organ well. It's such a broad question, isn't it? We all want that. And what does "well" mean exactly?
But we did offer some steps you can take.
Listen to our full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
Please send us your questions. We love helping you grow.
Vidas: We're starting 28th episode of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by Huu and he wants to know how to play the organ well. That's a very broad question, right Ausra?
Ausra: It is.
Vidas: It's like basically everything about the organ, right?
Ausra: Sure. We also want to play organ well, actually.
Vidas: Yeah. We can't really say that we have achieved this goal. We constantly need to practice and strive for perfection.
Ausra: It's a lifelong goal.
Vidas: Pursuit, right?
Ausra: Pursuit, yes.
Vidas: What, do you think, would be this first step in order to become better at playing the organ?
Ausra: Practice every day. And then to practice in the correct manner.
Vidas: What if you don't have a teacher? Let's say, imagine you're self taught. Can you become a better organist than yesterday?
Ausra: Sure. You can do that. Nowadays, you have all kind of new materials, but I think the main teacher is your ear, so always listen to what you are doing. Record yourself.
Vidas: And play it back.
Vidas: Right, because when you record yourself, it's so much different than what you hear, how you're playing. You might be thinking, your articulation is okay. Your rhythm is okay. Everything might be quite okay for you, but you don't know how other people hear you from the side when they listen. When you record and you become the listener of yourself when playing back, then probably that's, this recording will tell you the truth.
Vidas: Recordings never lie.
Ausra: Yes and you might not like your recording at that time but don't give up. Just keep practicing.
Vidas: Have you ever recorded yourself, Ausra?
Ausra: Sure. Of course. Many times.
Vidas: Did you like it, how it sounded?
Ausra: Most of the times, no, I did not like it.
Vidas: What did you do then? Did you break the recorder or throw away this recording or stop playing or start crying or what?
Ausra: No. I just kept practicing.
Vidas: You didn't say, "Oh, I will never play the organ again?"
Ausra: No, I did not.
Vidas: Good for you.
Ausra: What about you?
Vidas: I remember recording myself and I really thought that it sounds well. Like a performance suitable for CD, but then when I recorded myself, I think it might have been C Major Toccata, Adagio and Fugue by Bach. It was so much worse than I thought. The tempo was not equal. The articulation was sort of off. Everything was sloppy, I would say. I was preparing for a competition then, so I went back and practiced really slowly and the results were a little bit better each time.
Vidas: Ausra says the first step is practice every day.
Vidas: Try to be better than yesterday. Today try to be better than yesterday. Tomorrow try to be better than today, right?
Vidas: This is what's called deliberate practice, by the way. You are not just practicing, you are striving to become better. You have a goal, what to do with your time today.
Ausra: You've got to set your short-term goals and then long-term goals.
Vidas: That would be like step number two, probably.
Vidas: What an example of short term goal for you would be?
Ausra: For example, to learn a new piece.
Vidas: A completely new composition.
Vidas: Master it to be ready for a performance in front of public.
Ausra: Sure. Long-term goals could be like full-length recital.
Vidas: A short-term goal would be like what, a week from now or a month from now, probably?
Ausra: Sure, something like that.
Vidas: Long-term would be several months at least, right?
Ausra: Yes. Maybe half a year.
Vidas: Do you think, Ausra, that the people would need a third step, too?
Vidas: What be the step number three?
Ausra: What do you think yourself about the third step?
Vidas: Imagine just starting from the beginning. You you're practicing every day, right? In 67 days, you'll have a new habit of practicing. You’ll develop a new habit. You will not want to skip after 67 days. This is scientifically proven that you have to stick with your new skill for 66 or 67 days but then, afterwards, it will become easier and easier. Then, of course, you have goals, right?
Vidas: Like Ausra says, short-term and long-term goals and that's, obviously quite enough for starters, right?
Vidas: It will set you on the right path.
Ausra: In step number three, later on, try new instruments, new organs, because the organ can be a very good teacher and it can tell you how to play actually, how to improve your technique, how to adjust to a certain instrument. Actually, that's a very good way to learn. To try new instruments.
Vidas: Yeah. It's like driving a car. The more cars you have tried, the more advanced and more experienced you will become and the easier you will adjust to that car.
Vidas: The same is with organ playing. The more organs you have tried, different organs, right? Mechanical, pneumatical, electric, digital organs, anything you encounter, then the easier it will become in real life when you really have to play in public.
Vidas: Let's give, Ausra, people a bonus step, okay?
Vidas: I think the same applies to music. The more variety of organ repertoire can you learn and practice, the better you will be, right?
Vidas: The closer you will be to the ultimate total organist concept. The person who can play any type of organ piece well and can understand how it's constructed and even can recreate its model and improvise based on the model and basically spontaneously create its own music, is invincible. Try out all kinds of repertoires.
Ausra: Sure and listen to other people performing. This also will give you an idea of how to play.
Vidas: Right, because when you take a new piece, maybe sometimes it's good just to sight-read a new piece, but sometimes you want to be able to listen to the recording of other people's playing, right?
Vidas: Do you think that people could also sight-read every day? Is this helpful?
Ausra: Yes. This is very helpful.
Vidas: Right, like step number five.
Vidas: Without sight-reading, you sort of miss something very important. You see, you repeat, repeat, repeat the old material. Maybe learn something new each day, like four measures at a time. Maybe eight measures. Maybe one line depending on the time available, but if you sight-read every day, one piece a day, then it's like reading a new book, right? In one hundred books you will become a completely different person if you read that many.
Ausra: So guys, this was Ausra.
Vidas: And Vidas and remember ...
Ausra: When you practice ...
Vidas: ... miracles happen.
And send us more questions. Remember, that you can find us at www.organduo.lt. You can subscribe to our blog if you haven't done this already and then you can reply to any of our messages.
Okay. Have fun practicing and becoming a better organist.
By Vidas Pinkevicius (get free updates of new posts here)
If you're reading this on a phone, you may want to click "Show images".
By Vidas Pinkevicius
How much of success in organ playing is determined by being born in the right place at the right time? And how much it depends on grit (perseverance and hard work)?
I believe (and your experience might be different) that in earlier times being born in the right circumstances (musician's family, great professional education, the right teacher, famous college, win the right competitions, get picked for a great organist position in some important cathedral etc.) was a straight road to success.
But now in the age of connection, when you can find an organ mentor with a few clicks of a mouse, all it takes is an Internet connection.
If you're lucky enough to be able to read this, you have the same set of tools that everybody else have.
When everybody has the tools available, the question is what do we do with them? Who is the winner in this day and age?
The answer may not be the one many people want to hear:
The success in organist profession today depends on the choice of sharing your generous, persistent, and connected work.
Again and again.
By Vidas Pinkevicius
Oh, how great it would be to wake up one morning and discover you are a master in playing the organ, wouldn't it? Just like Latry, Dupre, Straube, or Bach.
No need to practice over and over for tenths of thousands of hours. No more struggle. No more fear.
Actually, that's never going to happen overnight. Instead drip by drip each deliberate practice makes you just a tiny bit better.
You may not notice it but it does.
So don't torture yourself over the results too much. Think what a kingly privilege you have when you sit down and find time to play each day. When you're frustrated. When you're in pain.
Enjoy the ride.
Welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast #37!
What does it take to achieve success as an organist in this ever changing hyper-connected world? Here's my take on this important topic.
Ausra's Harmony Exercise:
Modulation from A Minor to C Major: i-V43-i=vi-ii65+-I64-V-V7/6-I-IV64-I
DON'T MISS A THING! FREE UPDATES BY EMAIL.
You have successfully joined our subscriber list.
Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Our Hauptwerk Setup: