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Today's question was sent by Ugochukwu. He wants to know about how to practice finger substitution and glissandos.
Listen to our full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
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Vidas: Let's start Episode 22 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today's question was sent by Ugochukwu, and he wants to know how to master finger substitution and finger glissando and other nuances of problems in finger technique. This is a very technical question, right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, it is.
Vidas: Is it simple to demonstrate it in words, this type of technicalities?
Ausra: I don't think so. It would be much easier to show it how to do it. It would be much easier to talk about it, if you would have the concrete piece of music.
Vidas: Would you recommend people playing exercises with finger substitution, glissandos, and other technical things, or would you isolate measures in a real musical piece and master them as separate exercises?
Ausra: Actually, you could do both ways, I would say.
Vidas: Do both ways. Because some people really hate exercises, right? Never practice and they simply jump straight to the original organ music compositions, or hymns, or improvisations. Because dry exercises are sometimes not for them. But other people love them.
Vidas: They like those eight measures of repeated fragments going up and down sequentially, and isolated technique, like finger substitution. You go from C to D, from one to two finger, you substitute again to one; and from D to E, you substitute again from two to one; from E to F, substitute two to one, and so forth. They love this. What about you, Ausra? Imagine, if you started from the beginning today, which method would you choose?
Ausra: Well, probably it all depends on concrete technique and exercises, because when I grew up as an organist, we didn't have such books in Lithuania, and nobody taught me that way. So I just had to learn everything from the repertoire. And I remember, my first lesson with George Ritchie when he asked on which technique I was educated in organ practice.
Vidas: Which method, right?
Ausra: Yes, and I told none of it, you know. He just was amazed.
Vidas: You didn't know which methods were available.
Ausra: Yes, at that time, yes. I know already about now, because I had to learn to study it with Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra, so I knew already a lot about early technique while playing on the historical instruments and so on. But yes, modern technique was actually a new thing for me. So what about you, Vidas?
Vidas: Like yourself, I started practicing pieces. From the beginning, my first organ piece was chorale prelude from Bach’s Orgelbuchlein. I think it might have been “Jesu, meine Freude”, I think. But that was a very long time ago. And the first exercise I encountered was in America from Ritchie/Stauffer technique book. Or was it Soderlund?
Ausra: Yes, with Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra we studied from Sandra Sunderland's book.
Ausra: But that includes, I think, included early technique only. And then in Ritchie/Stauffer's book we found the modern technique.
Vidas: So yeah, if I personally started today, I think, it's helpful to have this controlled environment when you have those exercises alone. Let's say, finger substitution involving many fingers. Not only one to two, but two to three, three to four, four to five.
Vidas: And thumb glissandos, going from black key to the white key or from white key to white key, right? Both hands and separate hands. That is helpful for the beginning, but when you see it done very regularly throughout months, probably it's going to be a little bit boring if you not mix it with real musical pieces.
Ausra: Sure. I think it's best, in a way, to mix it with real music.
Vidas: That's why George Ritchie and George Stauffer always include real musical examples at the end of each chapter.
Ausra: That's a very good book.
Vidas: So that's why, I think, we also recommend, whenever people start to study our Total Organist program, they could take some of the trainings where we offer exercises. But in addition to that, they could supplement them with real music and our scores with complete fingering and pedaling.
Vidas: For manuals and pedals, as well.
Okay guys, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: We hope this was helpful to you, and please send us your questions. The best way to send your question is probably through email. And the best way to connect with us is, of course, by subscribing to our newsletter by going to www.organduo.lt (if you haven’t done so already) and then entering your email there and you will get our posts as they appear to your inbox. Then you can reply and send us your questions. This would be probably the easiest way for us to find them.
And remember, when you practice ...
Ausra: ... miracles happen.
For many church organists, service playing involves not only performing hymns but also accompanying choir in anthems. One of the main difficulties in playing choral accompaniments on the organ is the legato touch. Although many different kinds of articulation are used in accompanying the choir on the organ, the legato is the most common. Without the proper legato the music might sound too choppy. In this article, I would like to give you some advice on how to achieve legato in playing anthems and choral accompaniments on the organ.
Write in Fingering
Very often people do not play with a good legato because they do not know the best fingering. Because it is harder to use the proper fingering if it is not written in the score, I suggest that you write in your fingering. It is especially important that places which are the most difficult in achieving legato would be fully fingered. Do not hesitate to change the fingering if you find a better solution. However, erase the old markings and write in the new ones as you practice for best results. The same applies for the pedal part, of course.
Finger substitution is generally accepted as the most common means to achieve a perfect legato on the organ. However, it should be used wisely. For example, most often there is no need to apply finger substitution in a one voice passage because the legato can be achieved by using position, scale and arpeggio fingering in such a case. However, for episodes which require playing more than one voice in one hand, you can use finger substitution technique. Basically how it works is like this. While holding the same key with one finger, you substitute it with another finger. In chromatic music, this technique can work on chords where you substitute more than one finger at a time (double or even triple substitution).
If finger substitution cannot be achieved and all your fingers are busy, another option would be to use finger glissando. With this technique, you slide from one key to another using only one finger. In some cases, double glissando is also a possibility (sliding from two sharp keys to two natural keys). However, make sure that there is no other way to achieve the legato besides glissando. Quite often you can take the burden of one hand by playing a few notes with another hand. Whatever you choose, always write in your solution in the score.
Like finger glissando, finger crossing is not a very popular technique but sometimes it is necessary to use it. In finger crossing, you place the longer finger over the shorter one and vice versa. This technique is useful in playing wider intervals, like sixths, sevenths, and octaves legato. Usually finger crossing works best with fingers 3, 4, and 5.
If you take my advice, write in fingering and use finger substitution, glissando, or crossing in your choral accompaniments, you can achieve a perfect legato even with small hands. More often than not the legato playing depends not on the size of the hands but on the choice of the fingering.
The practical techniques of accompanying the choir with or without a conductor are discussed in Organ Technique: Modern and Early by George Ritchie and George Stauffer which I highly recommend.
By the way, do you want to learn to play the King of Instruments - the pipe organ? If so, download my FREE video guide: "How to Master Any Organ Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music.
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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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