By Vidas Pinkevicius
Do you sometimes find yourself trying to juggle the feeling of frustration of sitting on the organ bench without knowing what to improvise?
Some people use alcohol and drugs to enhance their creative faculties which is of course nothing but a big lie our inner dragons tell us in order to keep us from doing our work.
The problem with these artificial enhancements is that you get addicted pretty soon which gets you into downward spiral of unstoppable race to the bottom.
How about unstoppable race to the top instead?
If you want to free your imagination, do this:
Sit down, begin to play and don't stop for 10 minutes no matter what.
Start anywhere. Sooner or later the inspiration will strike.
Why one performance of an organ piece seems lively and full of passion while another is simply boring? Why when one organist plays, you don't seem to notice the passing of time while in another case, you keep asking: "When it's going to end?"
It takes of course imagination to give the music that you play life. It takes something more that playing melodies, rhythms, and harmonies of the piece.
What can you do to play more than the written notes on the page? To evoke emotions, to transport your listeners some place else?
First of all, let me say this: no organist who is busy trying to create meaning in music that he or she plays is going to ever achieve it.
All you need to worry about is that you yourself be transported by the music. This is done of course by feeling immense gratitude.
For every moment that you play.
When you truly do this, the listeners who are worthy of your impact will be taken care of by themselves.
Ausra's Harmony Exercise:
Practice ascending transposing sequence in D major in major 2nds. Chords: V-V7-I (see example below).
Do you have a question about harmony for Ausra? You can reach her by email.
Yesterday I received this message from John:
Thanks for this article, my favorite dialogue piece is the Grand Choeur Dialogue by Eugene Gigout! It is a wonderful piece, with a contrasting musical conversation between the solo tuba (or trumpet) and the full great organ. I heard Thomas Heywood play this piece live at St Peter’s Cathedral in Adelaide South Australia in 2013, and it was a stunning performance! He plays it so energetically and skilfully! Many of the organists on YouTube tend to play it quite slowly and it almost sounds like humongous monster dragging itself along, whereas Thomas played it more like two playful lambs frolicking around in the green grass.
The sound of the tuba (I think its on 12 inches pressure) was just an incredible experience, it was a sound you could feel, and the reverberation of the cathedral just added to the drama.
It was also very impressive to see Thomas playing the double octave pedal line (as you wrote about yesterday), as Thomas has cameras set up so you can see live footage of his feet and hands on a projector screen down the front of the church. It is almost impossible for me to imagine how someone can play this so fast, so precise, so fluently! He truly is a master.
Here are my thoughts on this subject:
I can feel that many of my subscribers would have similar thoughts when it comes to watching and listening to master organists play. Their skills almost seem supernatural to people who haven't progressed that far yet. Whenever I watch Sietze de Vries improvise, I feel the same thing.
However, it's crucial that we watch these videos and listen to recitals in order not to be intimidated by them but to be inspired (I've gotten better at this over the years too). Sure, everyone understands that it takes years to become this level organist and many people choose to believe they don't have that kind of patience to study for so long before they can see the results they want. And yet, organ practice is a journey and every day of this journey brings something exciting, something new, something we can be proud of.
To any of my subscriber's who feel intimidated by the performances of master organists: do your skills have increased within the past 6 months? And if the answer is yes, then you know you are on the right track. And what's even more fascinating to me is the understanding that what you will do in the NEXT 6 months from now will dramatically impact your playing level as well.
I congratulate John! He's is an amazing action taker. I have no doubt that his upcoming 6 months will show incredible results.
Ann wrote to me yesterday:
I was delighted to open the sight reading music yesterday and find Bach’s Trio Sonata I. It is fun to read through and will be my next to work with in depth. I am presently working with my coach on the BWV 529 and should finish it in 2-3 weeks. Have you thought of developing a course for the Trio Sonatas? Also, have you thought of courses on the concertos? I am having fun, challenges, and delightful times with your courses. Thank you!
While Ann is delighted to find a familiar and interesting piece from my sight-reading menu, I'm even more delighted to know that people ARE taking action and practicing what I share. No matter what your current skill level is, no matter if you can only play one voice at a time - this is great! You can use this material to progress at YOUR pace.
For people like Ann who are interested in Trio Sonatas: my Left Hand Training and Two-Part Training from Total Organist program are exclusively based on these gems. Trio Training might come in the future as well.
It's amazing to see what kind of difference you can make when you practice a single melodic line at a time. Your fingers will get stronger and stronger, your pedal technique - more precise. And the speed - the speed is a very relative thing - fast tempo is achieved by slow practice.
Today's sight-reading piece is the 1st movement (p. 2) of Organ Sonata No.7, Op.25 by Hans Fährmann (1860–1940) - a German composer of Romantic music and organist.
Let's be inspired and not intimidated by advanced music. Imagine yourself being a virtuoso! Curiosity and wise practice will do the rest.
What do you think?
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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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