Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 469 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by William, and he writes:
“I worked on Meditation by Vierne. And the first page of Vierne Carillon. Very discouraging. Just can’t seem to bring tempos up after practicing. When you practice over and over slowly it is difficult to get pulse of to sound musical. Any thing I can do. Do I just keep going slow? At what point do you move tempo?”
V: Well Ausra, what do you think?
A: Well, it’s a tricky question, but it seems for me that maybe these pieces are too hard yet for William to play.
V: Either this, or I would add this special trick in reaching faster tempo by stopping, let’s say at each beat, holding the chord, preparing for the next chord, and playing notes in between the beats at a concert tempo—very fast. But in very short segments. And then, after one week maybe, I would double the segment when I stop, and stop after two quarter notes, maybe—a half note. Or later, I would do it stopping after each measure, and so double the fragment every week or so. Would that work?
A: Well, if you have patience. But it seems to me, from this message that maybe William wants to have a fast result, and to learn everything very quickly.
V: These are very difficult pieces—well, except Meditation, perhaps.
A: Yes, but Carillon, I’m talking about Carillon.
V: Yes, Carillon is difficult. So yeah. You have to arm yourself with patience and perhaps also at the same time work on several easier pieces, so that your technique will progress, and you would get faster results from other pieces, and more enjoyment.
A: I find myself, sometimes, that it is much harder for me to learn pieces that I know. I have listened so many times as, for example, this particular piece by Vierne I’m currently on, because you know it so well! But you haven’t played it, and you want to sit down on the organ bench and know how to play right away as you have heard on the recording.
V: Plus, the Carillon of Vierne really requires very good finger technique, because they have many parallel intervals, like double sixth, and that’s difficult.
A: I think this is a good piece to practice on the piano. Don’t you think so? ...the manual part.
V: True, yeah, I would do that. Absolutely. I would spend much of my practice on the piano, because the pedal part is not very complex.
A: Especially if you are playing not on the tracker organ. It doesn’t give your finger enough work to develop your muscles.
V: You mean workout.
A: Yes, workout. That way, piano could help.
V: Good advice, I think.
A: And I think, also, when working on achieving fast tempo, I think working on the piano would help, too.
V: Right. When we’re working on French symphonic music, we have to realize those people were excellent piano virtuosos, too, most of them, and had tremendous power in their fingers. Plus, French cathedral organs have very light touch, and it’s easier to play, of course, if you have great finger technique and a light touch on the keyboard.
A: But then there’s sort of also this danger, that when you are playing on a light keyboard all the time, you might lose control, and things might get muddy if you are playing fast all the time and are on a light keyboard. At least, that’s my experience with such kinds of pieces and…
V: I’ve read many times that the French school recommends also practicing piano works regularly, like etudes by Chopin and Liszt to improve your technique, and maintain your technique as well!
A: Yes, true. But I guess, you know, even playing etudes by Czerny wouldn’t hurt.
V: Yeah, also Hanon excercises. So, lots of ideas to apply for William and anybody else who is struggling with virtuoso music by Louis Vierne. Please, guys, send us more questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
SOPP462: I want to learn Carillon of Westminster by Vierne, which I purchased score from you
Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 462 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by William, and he writes:
I want to learn Carillon of Westminster by Vierne, which I purchased score from you. I can play pieces like the Te Deum of Langlais. Dupre Cortège and Litany. Do you think I would be capable of learning this piece if I practice one page for a week or two very slowly? I am working now on relearning 8 little preludes and fugues. I don’t want to take on that much. Do you have any suggestions? Does it help to practice Vierne on piano? I have to start very slow practice to learn a piece. If I know it well, I can play any speed. I am 79 years old and still have full time cathedral job. Thank for any advice. ~Bill
V: Bill is our long-time customer, and he recently purchased Carillon of Westminster by Vierne and now he is a member of our Total Organist community as well.
A: That’s a wonderful piece to have in your repertoire list.
V: I didn’t imagine he was 79 years old, actually, and still has a full-time cathedral job, which is really wonderful.
V: Mm hm.
A: But you know, well, I just talked recently with my neurologist, and she told me there is strong evidence nowadays that people who started to play musical instruments when we were children don’t have so much chance of developing dementia or Alzheimer’s, or other neurological diseases, or if we have them, we sort of have a milder version of them.
V: Mm hm.
A: Because obvious, neurons in your brain, the coordination that requires musical instrument, and probably music itself, too, has a very good effect on your brain.
V: Well, you’re right, Ausra.
A: So we probably shouldn’t be surprised that Bill is 79 years old and still holds full-time organist position. It’s wonderful. I think he should be an inspiration for others.
V: Definitely. You’re never too old to practice organ playing, I think.
V: And set yourself a goal, maybe a lofty goal, maybe unreachable a little bit goal, but definitely goal like that, to learn Carillon of Westminster by Vierne is something that Bill could certainly have in his short-term plan, I think.
A: Well, and I think answering his question, I think it would be very helpful to play this piece on the piano. I think it’s helpful to play any piece by Louis Vierne on the piano. It’s very helpful. When I was working on his First Symphony, I played it on the piano a lot.
V: Mm hm. Definitely. Piano sort of is tricky to play because the sound fades and you have to be really precise at your depression of the keys. With the organ you have to be also precise with releases of the keys, right? And the resistance of the mechanical piano action is sometimes even more difficult than mechanical organ, I would say. And obviously…
A: It depends on what kind of organ you play.
V: Mm hm. And obviously almost always more difficult than electronic organs.
A: So if you know, you play on the piano, you give work for the muscles, which I think is a good thing.
V: It’s a bigger workout for your fingers and palm muscles.
A: But usually people have more easier access to the piano than to the organ, so if you can practice on the piano, too, you can spend more time practicing. Maybe you have piano at home, so you don’t have to work every time at the church to practice, you can work or do at least some work at home.
V: Mm hm. If I’m learning a piece like that, I would probably aim for one page a day. But at the age of Bill, I think it’s normal to take it one page for a week, or two weeks, even. To slow down and take it at a comfortable pace.
V: Right? Then this piece, I mean, you will still learn it. Maybe not in a month or so, but you will still learn this year.
A: But of course, when you’re learning a new page every week, let’s say, you need to repeat the previous pages too.
A: Because otherwise, maybe when you will practice your last page and you want to be repeating, you know, other pages, you might start all over from the beginning to learn it. Of course, it will be easier than learning it completely from scratch, but still.
V: Exactly. And I think it’s really great to sometimes practice from the last page. Take the last page, then 2 last pages, 3 last pages, starting from the ending, don’t you think?
A: Yes, that’s good too.
V: Especially if the beginning is easy.
V: In this particular piece, I think beginning is not so easy, because you have those double sixths right away, double intervals, and your right hand still needs to work pretty hard.
A: But you know, since you have learned it, I think this sort of formula will keep going throughout the piece.
V. Mm hm.
V: Yes, definitely Bill can put this piece on his list of things to learn this year, I think.
A: Sometimes, learning music like this and playing on the piano, I love to sing the pedal part while playing on piano the manual part.
V: Mm hm. And if he has a full-time cathedral job, then imagine how will his congregation appreciate one day to be able to hear this piece as a postlude, for example.
A: Yes, I think it’s a wonderful postlude.
V: It might not come, you know, soon, but after a number of months, it’s possible I think.
V: Mini-recital, maybe a couple more pieces. That would be great. Like we have in our cathedral of Vilnius, every Thursday during summertime, we have series of lunchtime recitals of 20-25 minutes long, and tourists and visitors of the cathedral will love this place and it’s always full, attended very well. And you only have to play like something like three pieces all together.
A: Yes, I think such recitals are very good, especially for tourists. Because usually, if you would play an hour long recital, probably not many tourists would stay throughout it. And it would be very distractive if people would start to leave, or to change between themselves in the middle of your playing.
V: All right, guys, we hope this was useful to you. Please send your wonderful questions in the future. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
Would you like to learn to play the famous Carillon of Westminster by Louis Vierne?
You can do it much faster with my fingering and pedaling.
Thanks to Alan Peterson for his meticulous transcription from my slow-motion video.
Free for Total Organist students. PDF score (11 pages). Advanced Level.
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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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