Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 431 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And before we go to the podcast question for today, we’d just like to express our feelings about what happened at Notre Dame a little bit. Right, Ausra?
A: True. Such a tragedy.
V: How do you feel about it?
A: Well, I feel very sad, as I think many people feel right now. And now, reading all those expressions that Macron promises to rebuild it, to rebuild it even more beautiful, already seems for me like somebody’s making for himself political dividends! Because right now, I’m sort of worried that because of the water and of all that damage, it could collapse.
V: The first, most important present task would be to secure the structure of the cathedral, what is left, and preserve it from collapsing, so that the remaining artifacts and instrument, the Grand Organ, I think, has survived in some shape, we don’t know yet what kind of condition it is in, but if this structure wouldn’t hold, for example, because there is lots of water on the vault above the church, and it would be tragic to see it collapse. Another idea is to take the organ apart and preserve it in some workshop, and then later assemble it when it’s completely rebuilt, and when the cathedral is rebuilt.
A: I guess you cannot do that right now, because you cannot even enter the cathedral. It has to stay like this until Friday, until the water will dry and it will be possible to enter.
V: So, imagine if it’s soaked up with water, everything is flooded with water, when it’s dried up, I’m not an engineer, but it seems to me that everything will shrink a little bit, and there might be cracks in the walls and structures, and how that will affect the resistance of the walls and vault, I don’t know.
A: In general, I think that it’s a horrible thing that in the 21st century, all the world could watch on the TV how really one of the most beautiful and important cathedrals in the world just goes in fire like that, and couldn’t do anything, because at the beginning, it seemed that nothing happens at all, that nobody even tries to put the fire down, which is horrible. I don’t know who did that reconstruction and how all of this began, but it’s unforgivable, I think.
V: I think we have to just wait for the investigation to reveal some details, if it will reveal the real causes—I don’t know—but, I’m hopeful. So, as sad as it is, I think the life still must go on, and we still have to practice the organ the best we can, and we have to try to answer Sally’s question today. So Sally wrote:
“I struggle with finding time to work on expanding my organ skills and techniques. It seems I spend most of my time at the organ prepping for choir rehearsal and weekend Mass. I also work full time, so there not a lot of hours available for practice.”
So this is a very common situation, when people work full time and they don’t have, seemingly, time to practice the organ.
A: Well, then just try to improve your skills during your preparation for choir! I guess I assume she’s talking about accompaniments, yes? You could also expand your skills on playing accompaniment, if you will do it mindfully.
V: And she needs to prepare for weekend Mass, which probably involves playing organ.
A: True! So she spends quite a lot of time playing, maybe she’s not practicing what she would wish for, but it’s still a practice.
V: At this stage of your life, Ausra, if you had to play in church, would you spend a lot of time playing hymns?
A: Definitely not.
V: Right? So, what it means, is that you can kind of gradually mix them together—hymns and techniques—and maybe even repertoire, and once your techniques and repertoire are much more developed, you will have an easier time to prepare for weekend Masses, I think.
A: I guess it’s the same as teaching for school, for example. For the first few years, I really had to struggle, and I really had to prepare for every class that I would teach, but you know, after having experience teaching for 13 years, I don’t need to do it anymore, because I have enough experience just to keep me going, basic like, and do many things really mechanically. It’s all there, and I guess it’s the same with playing organ service. Of course, sometimes you need to do something special, and maybe add something special and learn new things and add new things, but in general, it may be quite automatic.
V: And for me, too, I’m working with technology for many years now, since I first started Secrets of Organ Playing back in 2011. I was doing this alone at first, and later Ausra joined in, but she’s always responsible with content, with ideas. Technology is left to me. Which means, at first, I had to figure out how to do it, and it was a slow process. But I didn’t give up, and taught myself some things, and at first it was simple things, then gradually advanced things, but now what I do doesn’t take much time for me to maintain the things that I need to do on a daily basis, because the experience is there, and my skills are quite fast, I think, with computers. I’m not a coder, not a programmer, but what I’m doing—publishing, editing—those things come to me very naturally, now. But, of course, there are always new things on the horizon to learn, so I’m kind of looking out for some innovations that I could apply, also. So, it kind of relates to Sally’s situation, also. At first, she has to spend some time developing the skills, and then later there will be less time required to maintain it, but mixing some time to add some more new skills, because this current level never is satisfying. Right? We always move on and move up, hopefully forward, hopefully improving ourselves.
A: Yes, there’s always something new, totally new.
V: Okay guys, we hope this was useful to you, so keep your minds and hearts focused on Notre Dame, maybe donate something to the funds of restoration, if there are some options. I haven’t seen some accounts or some foundations set up yet, because it’s too early. It has just happened two days ago as we are recording. We are recording Wednesday morning, and it just happened Monday night. So, by the time you guys hear this conversation, there might be more details about what has been preserved, what has not, and we are also looking forward to finding out everything we can, and we will keep you up to date, as well. So, stay tuned. We hope you will keep sending us more of your questions, because we love helping you grow, guys. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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SOPP381: I have just started a new job and I find it extremely challenging to focus on anything else
Just a quick reminder that there is still time to submit your entries to our Secrets of Organ Playing Contest Week 5. Ausra and I are looking forward to listening to your organ playing. Here are the details.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 381 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Ariane, who is our Total Organist student, and she writes:
I have just started a new job and I find it extremely challenging to focus on anything else.
And Erika jumped into the conversation on Basecamp too:
I struggle with the same thing and there are times when I don’t get any practice in for a while. But I find that if I force myself to practice for 5 minutes a day, then I will be more likely to practice 10-15 minutes the next day and pretty soon my love for practicing returns. Until the next crisis ?
Keep it up- I’m cheering for you ☺️☺️
Thanks a lot for your words. I think I will start straight away with what you suggested. I am glad I am not alone out there!!!
V: What’s your first impression, Ausra?
A: Well, that it’s very nice that we have this Basecamp platform where people can share their experience and support each other! I think it’s very important.
V: Exactly. If you are alone on this organ-playing journey, then it takes a very high motivation to persevere in lows and difficult times, but when you have other people struggling in the same way or similar way as you are struggling on the same journey, basically, then you really feel not alone, like Ariane said, and, you keep pushing through the bad times and hope for the best.
A: Yes, because you always will have some bad times, like having a new job, or being sick, for example, now I haven’t touch any keyboard for eleven days already, I believe, because I have a sinus infection, and I have a fever, so, what good would practice do for me? Nothing, probably. So, I just have to go through all this stuff and then resume my practice. And, it’s okay. Things happen.
V: Yeah. We try to take our minds and bodies seriously, and take care of them, so that they would take care of us! We don’t recommend overexerting ourselves, especially when people have illnesses.
A: But also, the one thing that I understood about being sick, and it’s not the first time that I understood it, but as time goes by, I used to forget about it. And it’s not a good thing, because as Ariane wrote, that her job takes everything out of her, and she cannot practice, I think that none of us would need to focus on our job so hard, because a job is a job, but it will not make you feel better, and sometimes I thought that in my work I’m irreplaceable at school, but it’s so not true!
V: You think that you are irreplaceable, right? Or replaceable?
A: I thought that I was irreplaceable, but now I don’t think so!
V: Because somebody else is working for you while you are sick.
A: Sure. And plus, we had such a case in our school, actually, that one colleague of ours died just recently, and nobody at school knew about it. And, we have a sort of an institution which pays….
V: Social care….
A: Yes, social, like social care institution, and they called to school to inquire why they are still paying this person, because she’s dead already!
V: But the school did not know.
A: And that’s how the school found out about it! So that’s what your job does for you, that you might pass away and nobody will even notice that you disappeared. I think this is horrible.
V: It is a little bit disturbing, how little…
A: I think it is very disturbing, and it teaches us to take better care of ourselves, and don’t be so much tied to any job.
V: You are not your job title. You’re much more. You are free to be whatever you want to be.
A: I’m not saying that jobs are not important, and you don’t have to do it. Of course! It pays the bills! But even if it does that, you need to have some time for yourself and for your hobbies, and for your friends and your family.
V: Exactly. And even if we are not talking about death, but what happens if you are no longer needed at the job, and they try to replace you with somebody else, somebody more personally appealing, perhaps, then you get kicked out, and what you do then if you spend decades immersing in this job and fully giving yourself to this position and work, then there is a sort of emptiness, and you don’t know what to do next.
A: True. They have such an old saying in Lithuanian, that what people do with old horses that are not suited for work is they just shoot them. That’s not a nice saying, but it’s so true.
V: Yeah, or make them into sausages. That’s even worse!
A: That’s gross! Vidas, you shouldn’t talk like this.
V: Alright, so, advice for Ariane and Erika, who are focusing extremely on their jobs and struggle with playing the organ at the same time: If organ is important to you, important enough that you will want to practice it from time to time regularly, then as Erika says, just do it for 10-15 minutes a day at first. Try not to skip any day. Even if you don’t have an access to the instrument itself, just take out the music in front of you, put it on the table, and play it in your head while moving your fingers on the table and your feet on the floor, pretending that you’re on the organ bench. Would that be considered as organ practice, Ausra?
A: Sure. It could be considered. In general, I think that practicing organ is to give you some sort of satisfaction, pleasure. You need to find pleasure in your practice. Maybe it’s not very easy every time, when you are drilling, for example, hard spots, but I think if you find joy in practicing, you will find time for doing it.
V: Exactly. Ausra, do you miss your practice now when you’re sick?
A: Sure, but I didn’t miss it at the beginning, because I was really feeling very bad at the beginning of this infection. But now that I am getting better, yes, I feel the need for practicing.
V: Okay, if you continue to recover, when do you think you presume to get on the organ bench again?
A: In a few days, probably.
V: Later this week?
A: Yes. When we're reading this it's Monday, so probably on Saturday.
V: Nice. Thank you guys, we hope this was useful to you. Please keep sending us your wonderful questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 357 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent sent by Jeremy, and he writes:
Finding time to do the work I want to do. As we approach the end of the semester, my own interests begin to move into the background and I become swamped with work for other people.
V: That’s a common struggle, Ausra, right?
A: It’s very common.
V: Probably one of the most frequently sent in of people’s questions about finding time to do what they love to do.
A: True! I still struggle with finding time, especially for practicing the organ, but I remember my study days, and it was a really had time, because usually when we would have academic breaks on Christmas, or on this break at Easter, we would have to work doubly as hard at church, because we always would work at church at that time, so it was really hard. It was, as Jeremy says, that he has to do work for other people, so I guess my advice would be to learn to say, “no!” to others, and it doesn’t sound nice. Yes? I sound like an egoistic, selfish person, but that’s a way to survive!
V: It doesn’t sound nice, because he is on our team who transcribes fingering and pedaling!
A: Well, yes, but sometimes you have to think what is more important for you right at that moment. And if the work is absolutely overwhelming, you just have to say, “no!”
A: Well, and it’s not true if you get paid, or if you get something for doing something. That’s a normal thing. But, I’m talking about people who are using other people and giving you nothing back.
V: What if they are giving you something, but not enough?
A: Well, then negotiate. And if you will not succeed, then just quit!
V: I wonder if there was ever a time when we had more things to do than right now, and less time, or vice versa. Which time in your life, Ausra, was the busiest?
A: Well, I think that my studies in the US. Yes. And, I remember that the closer to the end I would go with my studies, and sometimes I would get a free half hour, and honestly, I would be so surprised, I would be shocked, actually! I wouldn’t know what to do with that free half hour.
V: I think if you are always doing something during your day, this 30 minutes that’s just for you to relax, sit down, or take a break, or take your walk, that would be ideal. Not do something, not do anything, actually!
A: And I remember those times, doctoral studies time, when I would go to the gym, usually I would go to swim or to run, or to do both, but not because I wanted it, but I knew that after that I would get more energy, and I could work even more for my studies, or practice, or do something else—write some paper.
V: Right. Physical activity obviously gives more energy.
A: Well, but yes. It doesn’t mean that you need to exercise in order after that to just exhaust yourself.
V: To me, with finding time, there is another problem. I have too many wishes. I have too many interests and curiosities. In a sense, it’s very good, really, but when you have too many things you want to do, then you cannot really focus on several or a few that really matter, and then I have to limit myself, and this is hard.
A: Well, yes.
V: I could probably list 30 things I’m interested in. And the list is growing!
A: Well, you know, I could easily cure this kind of problem of yours!
V: In which way?
A: Switch jobs with me, and I’m sure after teaching for so many hours, you will have no energy left whatsoever, and you will limit yourself to maybe, I don’t know, 2 or 3 things!
V: That’s right.
A: Work. Sleep. Eat.
V: “Eat, Pray Love.” Do you know this book?
A: I heard about it, but I haven’t read it.
V: There is a movie, also, and a wonderful book. Three things are really important in life. So talking about Jeremy and others who are struggling with finding time, especially for organ playing, what we can say is just, probably not give advice, but share our experiences, how we are dealing with this. Right Ausra?
A: Yes, and like this first semester I was teaching for church organists, teaching harmony class, and also giving some organ lessons. And I just found it overwhelming, because I started to have health issues, and I just said, “that’s it. that’s enough.” And what I really didn’t like about it, I like teaching itself, but what I didn’t like at all was that I could not find time to practice myself, because I was teaching on Saturdays and on Wednesdays, and these are two days when I’m not teaching at the school of art, where I usually teach on Mondays and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. And then on Wednesdays and Saturdays, I practice myself. So I just had to quit that. And I’m not doing that since the second semester.
V: And nothing happens!
A: Nothing happens, yes! In stead of that, I will resume my own practicing, because I have recitals coming up. So, I really need to do it. Plus, I enjoy much more playing organ myself.
V: Doing things that you love is, in this case, much more beneficial to your long term health and success than doing things that they love from you.
A: That’s right.
V: They can still find another teacher, I think.
A: Good luck with that! It’s not an easy task, knowing what they want!
V: And what do they want?
A: They want quality!
V: In teaching harmony?
V: And what do they give you in return for that quality.
A: Well, almost nothing.
V: Mhm! That’s why they will struggle to find someone with quality.
A: True. It’s a very interesting approach, because right now, I’ve been teaching for three months, already, and I haven’t received any money yet!
V: Maybe you will see double money! Dividends!
A: Ha, yeah, I wish that would be true.
V: Well, for me, I also agree with you that I have to say, “no” to many things, and I limit my interests to just a selection of activities that I really enjoy, and I feel myself doing for a long time to come, not for a month or so. For example, creativity is important to me, so that’s why I write, and that’s why I draw. That’s why I improvise. And there are other things that I would like to do, like learning a foreign language, right? But that’s something extra. If I had more free time, yes, that would be nice. But, you have to sacrifice something.
A: Well, you already know some foreign languages, so…..
V: For example, there are instances that they have to say, “no” even for professional activities. If somebody asks me to accompany a soloist... A soprano just recently from the Internet, they saw me sharing my organ improvisation on line, and said, “very nice,” and this improvisation reminded her of the days when she was a soprano, and she asked me if I wanted to collaborate. So, of course, I said, “no” because I don’t have the time. You know?
A: Yes, I think on one hand it’s maybe nice to make music with somebody else, but if you are a keyboardist you will always be just a workhorse for a soloist.
V: Exactly. And you have to think, “where does it lead?” If you continue doing this… if it’s just a one time activity, then you don’t even need to bother one time. But if you continue 3, 5, or 10 years, where does it lead if you collaborate with this former soprano…. Former soprano…
A: That’s an interesting story.
V: It doesn’t lead anywhere.
A: Is she now Mezzo-soprano?
V: I think she is not a musician today.
A: I see.
V: So that’s the the trouble with Internet. You post something, and people respond, and you have to be open for their responses, all kinds of responses, and sometimes you have to ignore them.
A: True. So I guess the best advice would be to choose wisely what you do with your time.
V: Because, otherwise others will choose for you.
A: That’s right.
V: Thank you guys, this was Vidas,
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions, we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 354 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And this question was sent sent by Marion, and Marion writes that the goal is mainly learning to play hymns, and the time for practice is the hardest thing.
V: Ausra, when you see that people are writing about finding time, what do you think they really mean?
V: Because it’s a deeper, I think, question than…
A: I think it might mean two things. One that they are very busy and it’s hard for them to squeeze organ practice into their schedule, but I think it also might mean, well, laziness, a little bit.
V: Why do you say laziness, specifically? Because, I have another theory.
A: Well, because I think it’s in the human nature that sometimes we don’t want to do something, and then we find ourselves excuses for not doing that, and usually, the best answer to it is, “I don’t have enough time.”
V: Oh, so you mean like running is easier than flying, walking is easier than running, standing is easier than walking, and then sitting is easier than standing, and lying down is easier than sitting! And, we would be lying all day long.
A: True! And what is your theory?
V: My theory is that when a person says that they can’t find time to do something is that they don’t want it badly enough. As you say, you need to sacrifice something, right? And this sacrifice is not worth the trouble—not worth the result, maybe, for them. For example, why do you keep practicing organ after those 25 plus years? You’re busy, right? You’re teaching etc., but why do you keep finding the time?
A: Well, I wish just to say that I have that need in my blood to keep practicing,
V: Your DNA
A: but it’s not always true! Sometimes I’m just having a recital coming up, and that’s what pushes me to practice.
A: Yes, deadlines, although I really hate them. I hate this forced motivation, deadline, duty… ooh!
V: Your favorite words from American college education!
A: Yes. I remember that! It was horrible! Horrible!
V: Would you be motivated to keep finding the time without those external deadlines?
A: It would be much, much harder, and I don’t know how long I would be able to keep practicing. But anyway, since Marion wrote that she needs to learn to play hymns, obviously she works at church, so she has a goal, and she needs to practice, because if she plays at church, probably she gets paid, and so…
V: She didn’t write that she works at church, and maybe we are just speculating.
A: Well, but maybe she wants to become a church organist.
V: Aha, that could be her priority, then. To become better at playing the organ, and you can’t become better unless you practice everyday.
A: Well, and I think everybody in their schedule might find time to do that. You just have to sacrifice something. Maybe you don’t have to watch TV, maybe you don’t have to surf your Internet in your smart phone…
V: Like you did when I was posting a blog post, right?
A: True! Yes!
V: Nice. I do that also, sometimes.
A: I think that’s a bad habit that everybody has—almost everybody.
V: Except when you did this on your phone, you were not looking on Facebook, you were at least doing something productive—helping people on the Steam blockchain.
V: So, I think it comes don’t to managing your priorities, not managing your time, actually. We all have 24 hours, not more and not less. How we spend our time is up to us. At least, I think so. Sometimes people think that it’s not up to them, that they don’t have the choice. Other people force them to do something. What do you have to say about that?
A: That’s true! You might find somebody who will push you real hard to play.
V: I mean no, no, no….not play, but exactly the opposite, that your day is filled with activity that other people want from you. And then you don’t have time for yourself.
A: Well, but that’s so true for so many people, because you have real responsibilities that you must do. If you have, let’s say, a family, have kids, so you probably have to take care of your kids.
V: What about….
A: If you have a job, you have to go to a job and do it!
V: What about doing this totally, with neglecting your own needs. Is this, okay?
A: Well, it’s not okay, but that’s what happens in so many cases, especially for women.
V: And, are there any hacks or shortcuts to this, to go around and maybe not do everything at 100%, top notch quality, but maybe 95%. Would this work?
A: Maybe, I don’t know. I think it would be really nice if people who are around us would think about our needs, too, and maybe they could do some things for themselves, and that would save us some free time, and we could practice more.
V: That’s a lot to think about, right?
A: Let’s say you have a dog, and you have to take a dog for a walk twice a day. So maybe if you do that twice, maybe you could do that once, and somebody in your household could do it another time. So for that time you could practice.
V: But what if….
A: It’s just one example. It could be doing dishes, doing laundry, doing whatever domestic…
V: I would prefer doing dishes and other errands, because walking the dog is healthy! Movement!
A: That’s true.
V: I think even twice a day is really good, and it depends on how active a person is. If he or she is already active, then maybe, as you say, once a day would be enough. But for a person who would work in a sitting position all day long, then it’s healthy. And if you sit down on the organ bench, during that time, it’s even more stressful for your body, right? So, it’s a constant struggle, right Ausra, finding courage and motivation to find time—to make time.
A: True! And I think that through life, always what suffers first is practice time when you have other needs.
V: Do you think, Ausra, that playing organ is a creative activity?
A: Of course it is!
V: And then, if it is a creative activity, would it make sense to do it first thing in the morning?
A: Of course, if you can do that, I think this would be the best thing, to practice in the morning. But…
V: And then you can do everything else, right?
A: Well, but since, let’s say myself, for example, I start teaching at 8 A.M., I get up at 6 A.M. I cannot imagine myself getting up at 5:00 or even earlier, just in order to practice before my school day….I think I would be dead in half a year after living like that.
V: But if you could play the organ from 8 A.M. to 10 A.M. and start teaching at 11…
A: It would be ideal, but not in this life time, probably.
V: So, we leave our listeners to figure out for themselves what’s the ideal time for them to practice, and how to find motivation, actually, to do this more often. What works for us obviously is to find some external motivation like playing in public once in a while at least, regularly. Then you’re forced to get on the organ bench, because you know that other people will depend on you. And actually, you will be ashamed to play in public without preparation. Right Ausra?
A: I hope so!
V: But not everybody, right?
A: I know!
V: There are people who schedule public performances without practicing!
A: I have heard so many sloppy performances, and it seems like people have no shame!
V: And we have friends like that, actually!
V: I hope they are listening.
A: I hope not.
V: Okay guys, this was Vidas,
V: And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 293 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Jeremy, and he writes that he struggles with finding practice time.
V: Ausra, do you struggle finding practice time this week when you started teaching?
A: Of course! But sometimes, I feel sort of strange, because people might think that we are magicians. And they write to us asking about having more time to practice and we will make more time for them to practice. What do you think? Don’t you feel the same way?
V: Well, sometimes just a few words of encouragement can go a long way. But, obviously, deep inside people know that real steps have to be taken by themselves if playing is important to them—important enough. Right? A person, not necessarily Jeremy, but anybody could say that organ playing is important on the surface, and they might have a lot of CDs in their collection, even listen to a lot of YouTube videos of their favorite organ music, they could read a lot of organ related books, they could go to organ related concerts, they could buy even an instrument—used instrument or some kind of electronic organ at home to practice. They would invest everything. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean that that person will sit down on the bench.
A: But maybe they need all that other activity just to get inspiration! Don’t you think so? Because sometimes listening to a good recording or going to a concert is worth very much.
V: Yes, for example, last week we went to a few concerts of an early music festival, which we also played in last week, too, which is called Banchetto Musicale. We know the organizers, and we absolutely love the kind of music they promote, but it would be, I think, counterproductive to just go that week to all the concerts but never touch the organ ourselves. Don’t you think?
A: I know, but it’s funny you are talking about last week when we both played that recital in that festival of the early music, and then you went to Liepāja and performed a solo recital—improvised recital—and basically killed that Liepājas organ!
V: Yes, shall I talk a little bit about that?
A: Yes, you need to tell everybody about it.
V: Ok. Liepāja—the city about 70,000 people living there on the Baltic coast, in the southwestern corner of Latvia, about 100 kilometers from the city I grew up in Klaipėda. So basically, it’s a very nice city on the coast, and it has a wonderful Lutheran Cathedral—Holy Trinity Cathedral—which houses sort of the largest mechanical organ in the world, with 131 stops. Even larger than Sydney town hall organ, because Sydney town hall organ has 127 stops and tubular pneumatic action, not mechanical. So, it’s completely in original condition, and it has all those mechanical devices which you would have in mechanical action organs at the time, from 1885. And, this is such a mammoth, magnificent and gigantic organ, that sometimes you are at a loss, where are your stops! It’s a sea of stops—a sea of handles. Various colors notate various divisions, and you have to get used to that. In my case, I’ve been playing there already the third time there last weekend, so it wasn’t a new experience for me, and in order to prepare for that recital, I simply watched my own videos. On that organ, I made a few demonstrations a few years ago, and I refreshed my memory where the divisions are located. But since I improvised everything, and my theme was David and Goliath, the biblical story, I didn’t need to be very strict with my music, because I was improvising on the spot, and choosing the stops on the spot as well. So, what I did is I practiced on the organ one hour, only one hour before the concert in the morning of Saturday, and in the evening, I played this recital.
A: But you’d better tell us about your grand finale!
V: Grand finale… yes! I thought that my grand finale should be very joyful and solemn, that David must have killed that giant, Goliath, and I planned to finish on Fortissimo sounds, but, to my surprise, the electricity of the motor or the blower went off, and at that time, luckily, I was playing rather softly, with soft registration, and after a few seconds, the organ sounds stopped. So, it might might mean that I killed the Goliath! David killed Goliath!
A: So the organ was like Goliath, yes? And you were like David yourself.
V: Yes, one of the interpretations could be that way. And, at first, I was so shocked, I didn’t know what to do! I kept pushing and pulling that organ blower stop with hopes that it will come to life again, and I did this while sitting on the bench for several minutes, and this recital was broadcast down to the pews on the big large screen! Two cameras were filming me from both sides, and people obviously were seeing me work with my hands but didn’t know what I’m doing, because there was no sound at the time. So, when I finally gave up, I stood up, and took a bow, and then they finally started clapping. And then I went downstairs to take a bow again, and that was the end. So, then I asked the local organist what happened, and he said that this happens from time to time with this organ, and he needs to call an organ builder. I was relieved to know that I wasn’t the first one to break this organ! It’s basically, maybe, some contacts. Some wiring was not in the right place, in the right order.
A: That’s a fascinating story! I hope it will encourage people to practice, and maybe Jeremy might listen to your talk, will squeeze some practice time in his schedule.
V: Do you know why I think people could squeeze some practice into their day, at least 15 minutes? In my case, it’s because for the last two weeks, every day of the week before this Liepāja recital, I went to the church to practice my improvisations, and I even broadcast my improvisations on Facebook Live, that I don’t usually do, and this gave me motivation. Like, I knew my concert is coming up, and if I don’t sit down today, I missed one day, and tomorrow my fingers will be weaker, my creative muscle will atrophy a little bit, and in the long run it will affect my playing. So, I kept motivating myself through this public accountability, through deadline approaching to my recital, and also through broadcasting my live organ videos. I’m not saying, Ausra, that Jeremy should necessarily broadcast himself. He can if he wants to, but having a deadline, that really helps.
A: Yes. Pushing yourself forward.
V: Do you like deadlines, Ausra?
A: No, I don’t like them. But sometimes, they are necessary, as taking your medicine.
V: Would you practice less or more if you didn’t have public recitals lined up 5 years from now?
A: Probably less.
V: Me, too. I remember, there was a time after we returned from the United States studies, and in one half year, six months, I didn’t have planned recitals, and I didn’t practice everyday. I even didn’t touch organ keys for weeks or even months, I think. But now it’s obviously different, because I make those public performances to happen, and I make the time to prepare for them.
A: Good for you.
V: So you will practice a little today Ausra?
V: Even though you’re starting to prepare for your Notre Dame recital, right?
A: Which will come in 2 years!
V: Will you be inviting myself to come along to help you out with packing and carrying your stuff?
A: That’s usually actually I help you with YOUR packing! So...
V: So, I’ll stay at home, and you go to Paris!
A: No! You can carry my bag!
V: Bag, yes! Excellent. But that will happen only in the summer of 2020.
V: And you will have to play what kind of pieces?
A: Well, Bach, Alain, and Franck…
V: Bach E♭ major, right?
V: Prelude and Fugue. Alain Second Fantasie?
V: And what about Franck?
A: The second Chorale B minor.
V: Wonderful piece. Not too easy. Thank you guys, this was Vidas,
A: And Ausra.
V: And please remember to practice today. We also will go to the organ bench and play something. Maybe not too much, after those exhausting days last week, but still, we need to sit down at least for a few moments to play something. This is really helpful, because when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Vidas: Let’s start now Episode 68 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Peter, and he says that his main challenge is old age and lack of practice. To be more specific, he writes:
“I would be interested in any techniques to promote a more flexible heel - the kind of thing you need when playing trills (even slow ones) with one foot.
Also can you explain why, after 40 years or more, I can still hit the wrong pedal note? (This must mean that, after all this time, I am still not sure of where each pedal is on the pedalboard. I don't have this trouble with fingers on keys. If I make mistakes there, it is nearly always because I mis-read the note, or failed to read the note at all, because I was looking somewhere else on the score.)”
Old age and lack of practice--but also, Peter struggles with playing wrong notes in the pedals, right, Ausra?
Ausra: That’s probably because he does not use the pedal preparation technique. That’s my guess.
Vidas: Obviously. We can guarantee. We can guarantee it, because otherwise he would write about this. If he would apply pedal preparation technique himself, he would say, “I’m using pedal preparation, but still making mistakes in the pedals.” So that would be a different sort of question, different angle.
Ausra: I know. And about playing trills in the pedal with one foot, using heel and toe?
Vidas: Do you know this specific example? I know just from my memory, “B. A. C. H.” by Liszt: at the end of that piece, there is a passage with one foot--or even octaves, heels with octaves, both feet should be playing trills, I think, there.
Ausra: Well, yes, but there are very few pieces that require you to do it; but if you have a piece like this, I would say the only suggestion would be to get different shoes, because your heel must be higher, for places like this. Then you won’t have so much trouble moving your ankle.
Vidas: Flexibility of the ankle. How do you develop flexibility of the ankle? It’s very simple: you play pedal scales and arpeggios.
Ausra: That’s true.
Vidas: That’s how Marcel Dupré in the early 20th century developed his perfect pedal technique over, I think one summer when he was a boy; and he had injured his wrist, so he couldn’t play with his hands for some time. But he didn’t stop practicing! He himself wrote: he “played the pedals with vengeance!” So that’s how he became a virtuoso on the pedals.
So guys, we have exactly such a training, right? Organ Pedal Virtuoso Master Course. And people who finish it--it’s exactly, I think, twelve weeks long--people who finish it say that after that, their technique advances not to the next level, but to the level after the next! Like a jump--it’s just like jump starting your pedal technique, and making a huge leap over time.
Vidas: It’s not easy, right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, it takes time.
Vidas: It’s not easy to play pedal scales.
Ausra: No, it’s not easy.
Vidas: Do you like those scales and arpeggio yourself?
Ausra: No. I don’t like them!
Vidas: I don’t, too. But I know that they’re like your...healthy food, like carrots or BROCCOLI. Do you like broccoli?
Ausra: I like, actually, broccoli.
Vidas: Oh, so you are different than me...But people who don’t like broccoli, but still understand the benefit of eating broccoli, they have to force themselves, a little bit, over a number of weeks, to get used to the taste of broccoli.
So, the same with pedal scales. And if Peter would practice pedal scales and arpeggios--especially from our course, because they’re all with complete pedaling, with exact pedaling that would allow a perfect legato technique to develop.
And that’s absolutely different than if you would play Baroque pieces, with alternate toes. We use this course specifically for Romantic and modern pedal technique, not for early pedal technique. And especially it would be helpful to develop ankle flexibility. That’s the key and secret to perfect pedal technique, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, that’s true.
Vidas: How else could we help Peter? He says old age…
Ausra: Well, he cannot, definitely, become younger, but he could make himself feel younger by exercising regularly.
Vidas: Um, let’s start with walking, right? A lot of people who haven’t exercised up until now, I think, would be hesitant to start it, right? To develop a new habit is very difficult, especially at this age, when you are over 60, right? But...everybody walks. For some time, for some minutes during the day, they walk. So the easiest form of exercise we’ve found--and very enjoyable--you could take a walk! In the park, in the woods, or along the river, right?
Ausra: Yes, and if you are too lazy to do that, so just get a dog. And then you will have to walk with your dog every day at least twice.
Vidas: Exactly. That’s required. How many steps do you need to take in one day, to stay in good shape?
Ausra: Ten thousand.
Vidas: Ten thousand steps daily. And how long does it take for you to do that, Ausra? Have you measured?
Ausra: Well, I haven’t, but I think you had…
Vidas: They have apps like that on the smartphone now, so you can measure your steps and be calculating time. And to me, it’s like 100 minutes. Of simply walking.
Ausra: So, almost and hour and a half.
Vidas: That’s one side. How can you stay active and in good shape besides walking? Can you do some form of stretching?
Ausra: Yes, you can do yoga, Pilates...and other kinds of exercises.
Vidas: We found that Pilates is especially good for organists because it develops your inner muscles--your core, basically, right?
Vidas: Especially helpful for when you have to sit for many hours at the bench. And for people who are struggling with back problems--there are a lot of them, among organists--the system that Joseph Pilates developed in the early 20th century is especially beneficial to them. And then Peter will not feel so old, right?
Ausra: Yes. You can sort of stop your age.
Vidas: Exactly. And drink plenty of water, guys, this could be extremely important. You have to drink maybe 8 cups of water a day....But not in one sitting, right?
Ausra: Haha, yes, definitely not! Now we sound like medical doctors, not like musicians...hahaha!
Vidas: No! You always have to consult your physician, right, when we talk about those physical things! Maybe there is a person who cannot really drink too much water--
Ausra: I know, yes.
Vidas: Who maybe has kidney problems...
Ausra: Or heart problems, too.
Vidas: Or with physical exercise. Maybe walking is not good for somebody who has, maybe, knee problems, right? Maybe swimming…
Ausra: Yes, swimming is excellent, if you have joint problems.
Vidas: But only you know your own condition, and your doctor would prescribe a specific form of exercise, an activity you could enjoy.
Ausra: We just simply suggest to you the things that we are doing ourselves, that work for us.
Vidas: Exactly. So please consult your physician--that’s imperative. But in general, being more active, taking frequent breaks between practice sessions, like every 25 minutes or so, is extremely helpful; and doing some kind of stretching never hurts, in my mind.
Vidas: Good, guys. Please send us more of your questions. This is fun, and we should do it more often! So, you could subscribe to our blog at www.organduo.lt if you haven’t done so already, and simply reply to our messages that you will get to your email inbox with advice and tips about organ playing, and send us more questions this way. And we would love helping you grow as an organist. Okay, this was Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
No time to practice
For swallow his loops but he
Does it anyway.
Today's question was sent by Robert. He's struggling to find time for practice.
Listen to our full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
Please send us your questions. We love helping you grow.
Vidas: Today is Part 29 of #Ask#VidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by Robert. His challenge in organ practice is really finding time. Like a lot of people, once you sit down on the organ bench, you can do a lot of things. But sitting down at the organ bench is the most difficult thing and the most challenging part is probably finding the time.
Ausra how did you find time recently for practice? Is it easy for you or do you have to really dig deep into your schedule?
Ausra: Well right now it's actually easy because I'm on vacation. I'm not teaching at school right now but in general yes it's very hard, while teaching full time and working at the university as an organist, leading Unda Maris organ studio and doing just the domestic stuff. So it's always very hard to find time but I think it's a common problem for many people.
Vidas: You cannot really escape this.
Ausra: Sure. We just know that that's how important for you it is.
Vidas: How badly do you want to learn?
Ausra: Yes. How bad you want to learn to play or to practice or to learn new stuff. I think if it's important for you, you will be able to find some time to practice. Maybe not a lot time every day but still you’ll sit down and play.
Vidas: Ausra, when you schedule and you decide on a public performance of some sort, solo or together with me, is it easier for you then to force yourself to find time?
Ausra: Sure, of course, because I have a deadline waiting. It's like a sword hanging over my head and know then I have to practice anyway.
Vidas: It's a public accountability, right?
Vidas: People depend on you. Even just one person you don't want to let him down, right?
Vidas: And your listeners, your fans also will be waiting and probably planning already to come to your recital. If you're not practicing, you're letting them down too.
Ausra: Sure. Of course, when you practice and then you find time to practice, make your practices as efficient as you can. That's another thing that can save you time and compensate the lack of practice time.
Vidas: Do you think most people could find at least 15 to 30 minutes a day to practice?
Ausra: I'm sure they could.
Vidas: Because we waste time with our phone, with social media, right?
Vidas: Sometimes people don't even watch TV they just look at the screen nowadays. YouTube, right?
Vidas: That's a big thing. During those idle moments you could really practice. Even if you're not at the instrument itself, you can practice at the table, right?
Vidas: It still counts. It still is organ practice if you are getting closer to your goals.
Ausra: Yes, and if you are thinking about music which you will be performing, singing in your head adds a lot too. I remember when studying at The Academy of Music I would have to go by public transportation for at least half an hour to 40 minutes so I would just keep singing in my mind, going through my organ music.
Vidas: When commuting.
Ausra: Yes, it would help actually.
Vidas: Yeah. What we do with our time when we sit and wait in line, for example, at the supermarket. Or what we do in our mind when we sit on the bus or the train when we commute. When we don't have to do something really with our hands or mental activity, then we can really jump in and start mental practice.
Vidas: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That's sometimes all it takes, right? But probably the most important takeaway is probably finding this public accountability, right?
Vidas: If you're just practicing for yourself, chances are that you will not stick with it. You have to stick with organ playing at least for 67 days in order to form a habit. That's a scientifically proven number of days. After that it becomes a little bit easier each day if you stick with it for 67 days. But it's a still long period of time, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes it is.
Vidas: Some people can prepare for recital in 67 days, right?
Ausra: Yeah definitely.
Vidas: Right. That's the most critical part of your plan to stick for 67 days. The best way is to really announce that you are going to play in public. I'm not saying you have to play entire recital, right? Maybe just one piece for church service.
Vidas: That would be great for starters. Even if you are not a church organist, maybe you have friends who are, right? And announce to them, "Hey I want to come to your church in a couple of months and play this piece for communion or postlude."
Vidas: If they are your friends, they will definitely let you and you will have, of course, public accountability this way. And you will force yourself to find time.
Vidas: Okay do we have some trainings that we could offer to people that would be helpful about finding time?
Ausra: I think so. I think we did that course about finding time to practice.
Vidas: Right. It's really very comprehensive. We sat down and recorded and brainstormed all the ideas. Not like in 7 or 10 minutes like today but for a long time we sat down and gave examples from our life and other things how we really manage to find time and more ideas than today. So if you are struggling with this I think this course, Finding Practice Time, would be-
Vidas: Yeah people say that. Right now, of course, you can take advantage of 30 day free trial of Total Organist and of course you would be free of to take Finding Practice Time together with any other courses that you would like during that time. So go ahead and check this out at www.organduo.lt/total-organist.
Okay this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice -
Ausra: Miracles happen.
By Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene (get free updates of new posts here)
We can only find the time when the pain which goes into our day spent without organ playing is greater than the pain inflicted by the sacrifices we make to find time for organ practice.
It's sad but it's true.
It's the only way I know of.
Nobody has enough time to practice organ playing.
That's right. Even if you have all the time in the world (which most people don't), it seems like you would still enjoy some more time at your favorite instrument.
It's a wrong question to ask, I think. Far more productive would be to figure out the way how to stop doing meaningless stuff and focusing on what really matters.
The famous 80/20 rule - do the 20% of the activities that produce 80% of results that go towards your goals.
And remember, you don't have to do everything every day. Just figure out what's the easiest next step and do it. Sometimes when you're brave enough, you can leap through several steps at once.
And these constrains that you face every day - your family responsibilities, your work responsibilities, your health problems, they become your allies because they help you become much more focused on your organ playing goals and think about not what's not possible but about what's possible within the time frame you have.
The thing is we often freeze when we face these constrains and fall into a victim's mindset "I wish I could do that but I don't have time", "I wish I could do that but I'm to old to change" - and so we even refuse to do the things we could that could potentially also lead us closer to our goals.
Adam Morgan and Mark Barden in their book "A Beautiful Constraint" suggest that the way we find the way out of our constraints is this: we could start asking propelling questions like these (I adapted them to organ playing situation):
How can I find more time to practice organ playing without sacrificing my family and work responsibilities?
How can I make progress in playing the organ, if my illness prevents it?
How can I double my progress in organ playing while halving the time I put into practice?
How can I improve my organ technique without playing boring technical exercises?
How can I learn to improvise without feeling stupid and embarrassed because of mistakes I would make in public?
How can I push through the challenges that I'm facing without feeling overwhelmed by them?
And the way you figure out the answer to these kinds of questions is by giving an answer which starts with Can-If approach:
I can find more time to practice organ playing without sacrificing my family and work responsibilities, if I reduce the time during the day I check my email and surf the internet and the social media sites.
I can make progress in organ playing even with my illness, if I just practice for very short periods of time which will not feel exhausting (and if I start to think about how my skills can help other people which would take my mind from thinking too much about my own health condition).
I can double my progress in playing the organ while halving the time I put into practice, if I practice the right kind of musical materials.
I can improve my organ technique without playing boring technical exercises, if I make these exercises not boring and very creative.
I can learn to improvise without feeling stupid and embarrassed because of mistakes I would make in public, if I start playing just for myself and then for the small group of friends who trust me and want me to succeed.
I can push through the challenges that I'm facing without feeling overwhelmed by them, if I can focus on just one step at a time.
By asking the right kind of propelling question (and thinking up the new, even more challenging ones), you can figure out the answer with the Can-If approach in almost any constraint, in almost any situation. That's when constraints become beautiful and you graduate from a victim's mindset to the one of transformer's.
That's when people around you will start being jealous of you, laugh at you, or even fight you. That's also when others will start to look up to you and follow your lead.
That's how you begin to change (your) world.
Start today because you'll never have enough preparation for this anyway.
If you live a truly busy life and have many responsibilities throughout the day, then often your organ practice can be seen as a selfish act from the perspective of your family. Then you tend to skip more than one practice session in a row. Little by little your motivation to practice might diminish because of that. You may think, that it's not for you, that it's only for professionals.
Here are two things worth remembering:
1. Busy doesn't necessarily mean meaningful.
2. Not all practice is selfish.
Busyness sometimes can be avoided: cut back on your use of social media, TV consumption, and meetings. Some people can save hours of time here.
2. Organ practice will be seen as selfish only when you don't help others. When you practice only for the benefit of yourself, then of course, your spouse might be disappointed. But if you practice for the benefit of others, if you share your art, and make the world around you a better place, then this is meaningful indeed.
Even then we often have other things to do and to take care of during the day which cannot be avoided. Then think of this:
What is the smallest possible time interval that you can fit into your day no matter what? I know, we all can practice longer during weekends, early in the morning or late at night when our family is asleep, but aside of that, can you find at least some amount of time on any day to practice?
For most people I talked with about this it's 15 minutes. It seems that everybody can fit 15 minutes into their schedules no matter what happens. Do you think it's too little time to do something important? On the contrary, think about 80/20 rule.
What's the 20 percent of your practice that gives you 80 percent of results? If you can determine this, simply do it first in your practice.
15 minutes a day amounts to 100 minutes a week. 100 minutes a week gives 400 minutes a month. 400 minutes a month gives 4800 minutes a year of practice. That's 80 hours! I think you can do quite a bit in 80 hours. In fact, 80 hours of focused practice is all it takes for some people to prepare a public organ recital.
Think about it before you are tempted to skip one practice session of those 15 minutes.
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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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