SOPP652: With all the performances and recitals I’ve been doing, it’s hard to set aside time to learn new things.
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A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
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Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Let’s start episode 652 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by James, and he writes that he is struggling with:
“Sitting down and learning a new repertoire. With all the performances and recitals I’ve been doing, it’s hard to set aside time to learn new things.”
Vidas: So, James is our friend on YouTube, and he plays very frequently, both recitals and new videos, records new videos. Do you know what I’m talking about, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, of course I know. He’s very prolific.
Vidas: Yes, and we’ve been chatting with him, and he wrote this question especially when he was playing a lot of live recitals both in his church and on YouTube as collaborations and solos. At that time, he was struggling to learn something new, because all the pieces on his programs, or most of the pieces on his programs were repeat things. Right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, I guess so.
Vidas: So, do you think a lot of prolific concert organists struggle with this?
Ausra: Probably yes, but I think you still have to find time to do it; maybe to perform publicly less and instead of that to learn something new. It depends what is more important for you, but you know, after a while if you will play only the old repertoire, probably you will not improve as much as you would if you would learn also a new repertoire.
Vidas: For me it was the opposite, actually. I would learn a lot of new things, but struggled to put all of them in a recital. I remember at the moment when he wrote this question, I was thinking it’s quite the opposite for me, because I wasn’t playing many recitals at the moment, but recording a lot.
Ausra: So basically, the truth lies somewhere in between these two extremes.
Vidas: Well, probably you are right, and it’s interesting. What is your take on this? Do you struggle more with gathering programs for recitals or learning new things?
Ausra: Basically I’m struggling most at finding time to sit at the organ bench and play something, especially now when the spring came.
Vidas: What’s so special about the Spring?
Ausra: Because I have extra work to do at school, as always, but I hope that when the June will start I will still have work, but I will have more time to practice and to learn something or to finish some pieces that I have started learning.
Vidas: Such as?
Ausra: Such as C Minor Bach’s Prelude and Fugue, which I have actually played more than twenty years ago, so it’s like a new piece for me.
Vidas: BWV 546.
Ausra: Yes. And then to learn six pieces of Jeanne Demessieux.
Vidas: Oh, Six “Chorale Preludes” from the cycle of 12.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: And who will play the rest of this?
Ausra: Of course, you will! But you know, I’ll give you advice, for you and for James, both of you! Because if you know you don’t have enough time for whatever reason like to learn new repertoire or to perform more, I would suggest you to chat less with each other! I think you would have plenty of time!
Vidas: You’re referring to our friendly chats in the morning?
Ausra: Yes, of course!
Vidas: But you see why it is important? He is my colleague, you know? Not only friend but colleague in the way that we both are doing similar things, and…
Ausra: Internet organists, you mean?
Vidas: Yes, virtual organists. And we could add to the bunch crypto-organists as well, because he is also very active in the crypto currency world. So, if I’m just sitting down and playing alone and preparing for my repertoire and recitals, it’s kind of lonely. You know? There are not so many people to talk to, because regular organists are different from us.
Ausra: Okay, Okay, you don’t have to defend yourself against me, I’m supporting you anyway. Actually I really like when you talk and chat with James.
Vidas: Why? I know why! Because then I leave you alone, right?
Ausra: No! It’s just good for me to know that you have a good friend.
Ausra: That way you talk less with me about crypto and all those other things.
Vidas: That’s what I meant! Well...
Ausra: I wish Australia were closer to Lithuania.
Vidas: I wish they would open their borders, first! There is no possibility to ever go to Australia if they keep their borders closed.
Ausra: Well, you know, with the pandemic developing like that, I don’t think it will be very soon when they will open their borders, what now is happening in India, for example.
Vidas: I hope all our subscribers and listeners are keeping themselves and their families safe!
Ausra: Yes, I hope so, too.
Vidas: Staying indoors and practicing. That’s why having an instrument at home is so important right now.
Ausra: Yes, this pandemic showed yes, it’s crucial.
Vidas: Imagine we didn’t have Hauptwerk, for example. Yes, we have a pipe organ, little two manual, two rank practice organ at home, but of course if we wanted to record on this, and I was recording previously, of course, but then everything sounds so similar with those two flutes…
Ausra: Yes, but at least you could simply practice, learn new repertoire to keep in good shape!
Ausra: I think it’s still much more than many people can afford to have at their homes.
Vidas: Oh, that’s totally true, because all of our organist friends from Lithuania, or most of them, they need to go to church to practice, and churches were closed for a long time. I guess now you could go to a church, but you still have to travel to church, and that’s a risk, too.
Vidas: I know only a few organists from Lithuania who have organs at home. Very few! I think it’s more popular abroad.
Ausra: Yes, for example in The United States.
Vidas: So, going back to James’s question about learning new things, also my advice is to keep a good balance. Maybe schedule your recitals with programs that you’re currently learning. Right? For example, you could learn a new piece every day, or a part of a piece every day, and this piece could be recorded, let’s say, every day or whenever you feel comfortable, but then your repertoire grows and in a few weeks, you will be ready to play a small recital.
Ausra: Well, you know, that recording every day I don’t think is such a great idea, because it doesn’t help you to learn major pieces, because what can you learn in one day. But I think that what I would suggest is that you always would be working on at least one major piece of organ composer.
Vidas: In addition to…
Ausra: Yes! And I think in the long run you will still learn it some day. Maybe not in a week or two or three, but maybe in a month or two.
Vidas: Right. This week I was struggling actually with “Trio Sonata No. 1” by Bach, and of course this is a major piece, and I would never dream to learn all three movements in one day and record it, but it’s part of my upcoming recital program with you! Right? Where you will be playing C Minor by Bach and Demessieux, and I will be playing this “Trio Sonata” and the rest of the Demessieux Preludes. So, I was struggling because even the first movement is a long one, and quite complex, virtuosic, three part writing, polyphonic style. And even though I made a video of mastering this piece in eight steps, obviously I was not able to master this piece in one sitting. I needed, I think, three days to record it. The first day, I did a video, and the second day I attempted to record it, but was not entirely successful, and the third day I was finally successful with the first movement. So it took only three tries—three sessions—long sessions for me. So every three days I would record, probably, a “Trio Sonata” movement. That’s good, right?
Ausra: Yes, very good. Too good, actually.
Vidas: But that’s, I don’t know if that’s sustainable, but there are only eighteen movements total, six Sonatas. So… but it’s a good project, but very very strenuous, like a marathon. So you have to find something that works for yourself, obviously. Right Ausra?
Vidas: With your life obligations, life and work balance… and if organ playing is not your main job, it’s a hobby! Right? Or for example if you are a full time church organist but learning new repertoire is not really required! You know, you could get by with a simple Prelude or Postlude or improvisation even, with very little preparation, and a bunch of hymns which you could actually sight-read, so then if you do this for a long time, you will not learn anything new.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: So, keep in perspective your long-term goals then. Thank you guys, we hope this was useful. This was Vidas,
Ausra: And Ausra!
Vidas: Please send us your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
Ausra: Miracles happen!
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Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 441 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Dan, And he writes:
Hi Vidas, I noticed that you’d uploaded to YouTube, a version of Carillon of Westminster by Louis Vierne, where you’re playing it slowly. I know you normally do this, so people can transcribe what you’re doing, and eventually produce a print score with fingering and pedaling. This as well, may help me, as I learn things by ear here, due to being totally blind, and finding Braille music to be tedious, and slow. So along with helping people to transcribe stuff, I’d say what you’re doing with that, is also helpful to me too. Take care.
And then I asked Dan this question: What is the easiest way for you to learn music by ear? When you hear entire texture or separate hands and feet? Or even separate voices? And Dan replied,
What I usually like is to have separate hands and feet, and then entire texture to work with. That has worked well over the years for me. I’ll then take that and work on its parts separately to start out, then manuals only, then right hand and pedal, left hand and pedal, and then put things together.
What do you think, Ausra? First of all, could our videos be helpful to people who cannot see?
A: I guess, yes, when you record the music really slowly. I guess this might help.
V: And even if it’s faster music, it’s possible to slow down twice, by reducing the speed on YouTube.
A: Well yes, but then the key will change.
V: By an octave, exactly. Lower an octave. But some players, obviously not on YouTube, but some audio players have the possibility to reduce the speed, but to keep the pitch constant. Like VLS player, I guess, can do that.
A: Excellent. I didn’t know about it.
V: So what people can do is just download the mp3 file from any of our video, and then play it on the VLC player on their computer, and reduce the speed by keeping the pitch constant, and that way will be possible. I remember playing in one international organ festival in our Curonian peninsula on the Baltic Sea, and this is a resort spot, very wonderful place to visit in the summer especially. And I once played there continuo part on the small chest organ, continuo part from Bach’s cantatas, two cantatas, I think. And I was using original notation for continuo, without any chords spelled out, just numbers above the bass. And I supplied the chords by myself, like improvisation. And it wasn’t easy, so I got this YouTube recording of Bach cantata, and played it through VLC media player, by reducing the speed by half, but the pitch was constant. And it worked for me, you know, to master my chords playing and continuo playing together with orchestra this way at home.
V: For awhile, I didn’t do this all the time. Just maybe a few days. So, technology can be helpful today, even for these sorts of things. And then, you know, Dan says he like to have both, entire texture and separate texture for hands and feet. It’s very natural, I think, it’s like a normal practice procedure for everybody. Right, Ausra?
A: True. At least it should be.
V: Mm hm. When the piece is difficult, we subdivide the texture into separate voices and play them separately, and then combinations of parts. And that’s what Dan needs, and people who probably cannot see also appreciate as well. And then, of course, when they know the texture well, they are ready to play four part texture, or entire texture, and then in a slow tempo, obviously, at first, but videos can be helpful as well. Because, you see, Braille music is slow and tedious for him. I always thought that, you know, it’s a special system to be used for blind people, but today probably, there are more options and people can choose, and it’s not the fastest way.
A: Well, you know, I’m not blind, you know, obviously, but I can understand Dan, why it’s easier for him to listen and then to reproduce, you know, music, than comparing to Braille. Because you know, in Braille, you have to touch things to know what is written.
V: Exactly. And you have to have a special printer for that.
A: Well, yes, but that’s all the technicalities. But since Dan is a musician, it means you know, he has good pitch. Well-developed pitch. And I think it’s easier for musicians, you know, to learn by ear than by touching things.
V: Helmut Walcha, remember Walcha?
A: Walcha, the blind German organist and composer, yes. I don’t remember him, but I remember our professor, George Ritchie, talking about him, because he was his teacher.
V: In Germany.
V: And what did he do?
A: Well, he would ask his students to play, you know, one voice of the piece really slowly, and then he would memorize it, and then another voice. And in such a manner, he would learn the entire piece.
V: It was before the time of videos, and recordings, probably. Recordings were possible, but not maybe cassette recordings, maybe LP recordings, and that was impossible to record at home by your own equipment, you had to have industrial equipment for that. Or, the help of other people, who would play back a melody to you. Mm hm. Excellent. I wish the technology would be advanced enough that they could grab an audio file and then take it apart into separate tracks or voices. And they could do this with MIDI files. And MIDI file can be created by playing it on the synthesizer connected with your computer. And then you could have entire score, entire texture, and then separate parts, or any combination of parts if you want.
A: I guess, you know, since every human being, you know, has a different understanding of the world, because some of us are very visual. Some of us, you know, understand words with our ears. And some understand words with entire body. So I guess, you know, everybody has to choose what is the easier way for them to comprehend, to learn music.
V: It would be a good business model for organists who would like to focus and specialize for blind people, blind organists, for resources like that. Who would produce audio files – you don’t need videos for that, just audio – for separate voices, combinations of voices, and entire texture. And there are quite a few blind organists in the world, so that could be a niche and very helpful for people.
A: Maybe French are doing that, since we have such a long-lasting tradition of, you know, blind organists.
V: If they’re doing some, maybe, they are not doing this on the internet. I haven’t seen this yet.
A: Could be.
V: Yes. But even if Dan or people who could not see, would just take this audio file or video, and play back in a slow tempo, the entire texture, it’s possible to pick up separate voices, right, and develop your own musicality this way much better. You know, you’re like your own teacher this way. It’s not easy at first, because you have to hear inner voices. But with practice, probably people can develop this. At least, Dan is suggesting, between the lines, that it’s helpful. Right?
V: Okay guys, lots to think about. Please keep sending us your wonderful questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 104 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by David, and he writes:
“To answer your question, the most important thing for me, in playing organ, is to learn how to read music well. I handle up to 4 flats, and up to 3 sharps with little effort. Beyond that I have never learned to read music well at all.
The second most important thing for me is to learn how to count well and consistently.
I know what you will say: when you practice, miracles happen.
And here is what I say: You are right!
I want to take this opportunity to thank you for this wonderful online resource for those of us who are learning -- or in my case, re=learning -- to play the organ. I am about to settle a lawsuit and with my money award, I intend to purchase the Total Organist training.”
Vidas: To win a lawsuit, and then to invest this money into organ training!
Ausra: Yes, that’s a nice idea. I would never have thought about it!
Vidas: Excellent, guys. So maybe first of all, our advice would be to sue somebody, and then get more money out of this lawsuit, and then invest in your organ training!
Ausra: Well, I would not suggest you to do that.
Ausra: Anyway, it would cost you a lot of trouble.
Vidas: Excellent! But if we’re serious, let’s talk a little bit about how to help David and other people who want to learn how to read music well. And the second part is, of course, related--how to count well and consistently. Because if you’re reading well but not counting, you’re still not playing well; and the other way around is also true: if you’re counting well, but you don’t read music well in treble clef and bass clef, what’s the use of that?
Ausra: Yes, that’s right. So basically you have to do a lot of sight-reading, I would say. That’s the key to learn how to read music well.
Vidas: It’s so difficult to stick to the good regimen of regular sight-reading every day...
Vidas: Like 1 piece a day for 30 days. For 60 days. For 6 months. For 1 year. Without interruption, you see? It’s so difficult. Whenever we advise our students in the school to do that, when we explain the benefits that they will reap very very soon, they sort of nod in agreement; but after 2 or 3 days, they quit. So what we’re proposing here is, of course, very difficult. First of all, you have to have a lot of passion for this: if you’re just mildly interested in getting better, it will not work. Right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes. Yes, and because David said that he has trouble while playing music with many accidentals; so what I could suggest for him to do is try to play some of the sequences that I put on YouTube. Because playing sequences will help you to get familiar and get more comfortable with various keys.
Vidas: And you here touched upon a very important subject which also relates to organ playing and helps to enhance your organ playing and sight-reading abilities, which is: theoretical knowledge of harmony.
Vidas: Without that, if you just sight-read, and you don’t think about what you are sight-reading--what this note or another note or this measure means, in terms of theoretical concepts--you are doing something incompletely. It’s like learning to read a difficult language like Japanese--to read, right, without understanding the words.
Ausra: Yes, yes.
Vidas: It’s possible to learn how to pronounce those characters, right? And you can even learn to memorize a poem or two in Japanese, and surprise your friend you meet from Japan, and they will be very very pleased, right? When you say things in Japanese for them. But what’s the use of that, if you don’t understand the meaning of your saying, of your poem? It’s the same with sight-reading, right, Ausra?
Vidas: You have to understand what you are playing. If you don’t understand what each measure means--how the composer created this measure--you’re not connecting your brain with your fingers.
Ausra: That’s right. And actually, it’s the same with counting and keeping a consistent tempo.
Ausra: Why? Well, it means...if you cannot count well, it means that you’re still having some technical difficulties, issues with the piece that you’re working on; and you know, those technical difficulties (maybe looking at the accidentals) keeps you from counting, from feeling comfortable with the right tempo. So all these problems, they’re interconnected among themselves.
Vidas: What you’re saying, Ausra, is probably to choose pieces that are not too difficult.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right. You know, I looked at the hymnal a few days ago, because I wanted to prepare for my harmonization seminars for Lithuanian organists; and I realized that there are very few different keys that are used in, for example, the Lutheran hymnal. And basically, the key that would win the competition for popularity in that hymnal was probably F Major.
Ausra: So you could not learn well other keys from just playing hymns. So what I would suggest for organists to do, if they, for example, would like to sight-read hymns--you can do that, but maybe you can transpose it.
Vidas: Excellent, excellent idea.
Ausra: Play in the home key, and then transpose it to a different key.
Vidas: Major and minor second, up and down.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right.
Vidas: For starters. And then, when you get better at this, a major and minor third, up and down.
Ausra: Because for example, as David wrote, that he has trouble playing from many--more than 3 or 4 flats and sharps. Let’s imagine you’re playing a hymn in F Major, and then you are transposing a half-step up--so it would be F♯ Major, or G♭ Major, with 6 sharps or 6 flats. That’s a very good training.
Vidas: Right away, after 1 accidental, you have 6 accidentals.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: Yeah. That’s a great idea. Not too many people bother with transposing hymns, I think.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right.
Vidas: Because it’s a complicated process; and that’s why we have created a course on transposition.
Ausra: Yes, it’s a very important skill. It will really help you to be more comfortable with every key.
Vidas: And it will help you with sight-reading, too.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: Definitely. Thanks, guys! We hope that you will apply our tips in your practice--right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, we hope so.
Vidas: And please send us more of your questions by replying to our messages that you are getting as a subscriber to our blog at www.organduo.lt. And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 100 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And this question was sent by Paul, and he writes that he is a slow learner. First of all, let’s celebrate, a little bit, our small achievement: 100 podcasts of simply helping people to grow in organ playing, answering their questions. Isn’t that great, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, it seems so incredible that it’s already 100 podcasts. I don’t know how much we have to talk about!
Vidas: When we first started, we didn’t realize we would go that far, right? It was supposed to be a limited number of episodes--maybe 10, maybe 20.
Ausra: Yes, maybe 30, but not 100!
Vidas: Yeah, people kept writing to us and kept asking these questions, and we were amazed, right?
Ausra: Yes; and it’s really nice to help people, and especially it’s nice to receive a response to our answers. It’s very nice.
Vidas: Yeah, and sometimes we put those nice letters we get into our folder called “Love Letters,” which is basically many thanks from people and encouragements for us to continue. So thank you so much, guys, this is really wonderful and we appreciate it a lot.
Ausra: Yes, thank you so much! So now, let’s go back to Paul’s question. And really...what do you think he means by being a slow learner? Does he compare himself with somebody else?
Vidas: Exactly. How do we know if we learn something “slowly” or “fast?”
Ausra: Yes, how do we set those boundaries?
Vidas: For example, let’s say a piece is 5 pages long, and we learn it in 1 month. Is it fast or slow?
Ausra: So, I think it’s always a question mark…
Ausra: Yes, a very relative thing.
Vidas: Do we advise people to compete with somebody else?
Ausra: Well...yes and no. Because for some people, having that competition is a good thing, because it makes you to work faster and to develop necessary skills faster. But for other people, that competition might just simply destroy all passion for organ. Or anything.
Vidas: I think the best competition is with ourselves, right?
Vidas: Because we have to compare ourselves to ourselves yesterday, or ourselves a week ago, or a month ago, or a year ago. Only then will we know our true advancement, true level of how we progress, if we are on the right path or not. If we compare ourselves with other organists, who we listen to on YouTube or in recitals...as Ausra says, sometimes it is inspiring, but more often than not, it is discouraging, I think.
Ausra: Yes. If, for example, we would have to compare our childhood experience in Lithuania and our experience while studying in the United States, what could you tell about all that--teacher and student relationship?
Vidas: In Lithuania, there were several organ professors at the Academy of Music, and each of them had their studio organ class--maybe 5, maybe 6 people total. And generally, they were closed among themselves, right? They felt sort of a competition between other students of other professors. There wasn’t any atmosphere of collaboration in this kind of setting. Whereas in America it was completely different, right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes; and in Lithuania, I always felt that all professors, no matter with whom you studied, would say negative things to you, like, “You did that, and that, and that, and that, badly!”
Vidas: So that’s European--we have presenting problems...
Ausra: Well, maybe not the European way, but Lithuanian, definitely, yes.
Vidas: Ex-Soviet way, basically; because in earlier times, talking about negative things was very common, and not so much of optimistic, inspiring things.
Ausra: So, how did you feel about it?
Vidas: To me, I always wanted more freedom; so whenever somebody tried to push me, I kind of resisted, because my mind wanted to be free from those boundaries, and I wanted to explore myself all those musical adventures. So in that case, we had one organ professor, Gediminas Kviklys, who was the best, because he let us do whatever we wanted. Of course, by that time we were developed enough--and could be responsible enough--for our own progress. In America it was a completely different story, because it was so supportive and collaborative between organ studios; right, Ausra?
Ausra: And that supportive atmosphere--telling good things, nice things to students--made you want to do even more, and to give yourself more, and to practice more, and to become the best. And it was very nice.
Vidas: But other colleges and conservatories have different environments, because some of them are very competitive.
Ausra: Yes, that’s true.
Vidas: And I’m not sure how students get along in those organ studios, but they must feel some kind of competition, because they constantly compete in international and national organ competitions among themselves, right Ausra?
Ausra: And that’s what I told you before: for some people it’s a very good thing, because they want to compete all the time. They want to feel that pressure.
Vidas: Because they don’t have enough pressure from themselves?
Vidas: They have external motivation.
Ausra: But actually, I don’t feel that I have to have that external pressure, because it makes me feel guilty all the time and just incompetent.
Vidas: That’s true for me, too. I want to be free, and I want to do the things that I want to do. So, I then compare myself...with myself!
Ausra: Yes, so like Paul said, be learning slowly--that’s your way to do it. And it’s ok. Maybe you will become a faster learner with time, maybe not. But don’t despair. Just keep doing what you are doing. And it’s much better to learn things slowly but correctly, than to learn them faster and incorrectly.
Vidas: Of course, our daily efforts compound; and if you just get better one percent a day, the next day you also get better one percent; but plus that fraction of the percent you got better yesterday; and a week from that day, you get better also one percent, but also plus all those seven percent combined. So it compounds; and after one year--I don’t know, I have to do the math, but--it’s more than one thousand percent!
Ausra: Definitely, yes.
Vidas: If you do this.
Ausra: What could accelerate your progress a little bit, maybe, is if you could find time to practice a day not once, but let’s say, twice; let’s say one time in the morning and one time in the afternoon/evening. That might do things faster. What do you think about it, Vidas?
Vidas: It’s an excellent strategy, because our minds can only focus for so long without breaks. So maybe in the morning, for some time before you get tired; and then, you see, your day will already be a good day, because you have already practiced in the morning. You already did the thing that matters to you the most. And then, if anything happens and you don’t have time to practice in the afternoon or in the evening, it’s still a day not wasted, in this case. So early morning practices are always the best; and then if you can do a second practice, that’s even better.
Ausra: Yes; so try that, and you’ll see if it works for you.
Vidas: Yeah, it doesn’t have to be a very long practice, right? Maybe for half an hour before you take a break and continue--that’s completely possible, right Ausra?
Vidas: Thank you so much, guys, for listening to us, for applying our tips in your practice. It’s really a small milestone we have achieved, with 100 podcasts of answering your questions. Without our listeners it wouldn’t be possible. And keep them rolling--keep sending your questions to us, because we want to reach maybe another hundred, right Ausra?
Ausra: I’m not thinking so far ahead, but...it would be nice!
Vidas: But most importantly, we hope you'll do something with this advice. It really makes a difference.
Excellent. This was Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Today's question was posted by Ana Marija, our Total Organist student:
"Do you listen to "other" genres of music too? Well, I have some pianist friends, and it seems typical that they generally listen to piano music. I do not know many organists personally, and I was wondering if you like choral music, orchestral music, piano music... Do you go for a walk and listen to Beethoven Symphony? What is your opinion on jazz, rock..." (Ana Marija)
Listen to our answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
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When you practice, miracles happen.
Vidas and Ausra
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Vidas: Hello guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And we are broadcasting now from our car, driving to our school. And today's question for #AskVidasAndAusra podcast, episode 6, was sent by Ana Marija. She is curious basically, "Is it okay to focus just on organ music for organist? "Or should you really be interested in other styles and genres, like symphonic music, chamber music, piano music, choir music?" Or even jazz? Other styles, basically. Because, she noticed that a lot of pianists are only interested in piano music. So, how about for organists? Interesting question.
Ausra: Well, it is an interesting question and I don't know, but there must be no one correct answer to it. Because it depends on what the interest of the person is, but in general I think that if you are professional, you must know other music as well, other music of a common period. Symphonic, piano music, chamber music, choir music, opera, and so on and so forth.
Vidas: The broader your musical horizon is, the more experience you will get, and it will also broaden your musical abilities too. Because with every new piece, new style, you discover something new about yourself also or ultimately about your music. Even if you just, for example, listen to organ music you'll become a little bit one-sided. I'm not sure if it's a bad thing. For some people it's great to be one-sided and very, very focused, like a specialist, but others like to be generalists. Right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, and especially, you know, if you teach other people you must have a broader perspective of music in general. Because for example, when I teach at school and I hear somebody next door are playing something, and my students ask, "Oh, teacher, what is this?" And if I will not be able to answer them, my authority will just go down.
Vidas: Yeah, I think they’re testing us.
Ausra: Yeah, sure. So, I would say you have to listen to other music as well, because even if you dig Bach: If you just know organ music it's okay, but there are so many beautiful pieces written to other instruments, and multiple instruments, and to listen to cantata or to his passions.
Vidas: Or even, do you know Widor, right? Widor is primarily known for his organ works, but there is one beautiful suite for piano and flute. Ausra has played, right?
Vidas: A long time ago. It's a wonderful piece. Why not study it? Not necessarily play it, but study, listen, and enjoy, too.
Ausra: Or, you know, what kind of musician can you be if you haven't listened to Beethoven's symphonies?
Vidas: Yes. It's a basic education, I think. For every cultured person, probably. And on top of that you would expand to organ. To add specialist repertoire from the main historical schools of organ composition and national styles, like Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Portugal, England, Netherlands, America. All of those things. But, it's good to have a broad cultural perspective. Then you can be engaged with other people who are not organists, and communicate their language about organ, too.
Ausra: And even music like jazz can be also very useful to listen to.
Vidas: And one of our best professors, George Ritchie...
Ausra: Yes, he is a big fan of jazz music.
Vidas: Yeah, he always listens to jazz in his free time.
Wonderful. So, feel free to watch and listen and play any kinds of music. Even sight-reading, for example orchestral scores is wonderful. If you have a friend, playing four-hand piano transcriptions by orchestral scores, and even operatic works, it's a wonderful way to really spend time with your friend. That's for sure. But also, to get better at sight-reading and also expand your musical horizons.
Wonderful. So, Ausra, I've noticed you had this wonderful collection of Alain and other pieces on your music rack. Did you have time to practice yesterday?
Ausra: Well, actually, yes, I practiced a little bit yesterday. I am preparing for that recital next week so I just played that Canzona in G Major by Scheidemann.
Vidas: And I actually played four graduation ceremonies yesterday at university. And today I'm also playing for an economics department. And I know you have an exam, right? What kind of exam?
Ausra: It's a musicology exam, the second to the last part of musicology for my students who graduate school this year. The exam itself lasts for a few hours, because we have to write a musical dictation down, and then we have the history test to do, and then to harmonize four-part exercise, and then to analyze a piece for musical analysis.
Vidas: It's a comprehensive test, right?
Vidas: All your music theory and even music history is part of it.
Vidas: Right? Of course, there is another part of the exam for music history. And you are the creator, right, of all this?
Vidas: You create the test. And, why do people need this test when they graduate?
Ausra: Well, because if you want to go to apply for academy of music, this exam is required, actually.
Vidas: It's like an entrance examination, right?
Ausra: Yes. If you want to get diploma from our school, you have to have this exam, too.
Vidas: So, I hope you will have a wonderful day, and not too stressful, because it's not your exam.
Ausra: Well, it's a long day. Actually it would be easier for me to do this exam myself, you know, than to see my students taking this ...
Vidas: Ah, you are basically worrying about them.
Vidas: Well, yeah, of course. You always want for them to be better than they are, maybe, sometimes.
Wonderful. So, remember, right now we have 30 days free trial of our organ membership program called Total Organist. And Ana Marija posted the question for today's podcast episode is also a student of this program, taking advantage of the free trial. So, if you decide that this program is not for you, just try it out. Download fingerings and pedalings, and coaching programs. Study them and you can cancel before the month ends and you will not be charged. But the majority of people actually stay, because we have no doubt of the quality. It's so helpful. It's so comprehensive. Actually the most comprehensive organ training program online. So, and right now it's for 30 days free.
Wonderful. I hope you will have all a great practice today. I hope I also practice in my short between the graduation ceremonies for those economy students. And we'll see you next time, right?
Vidas: This was Vidas ...
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice ...
Ausra: Miracles happen.
By Vidas Pinkevicius (get free updates of new posts here)
At the beginning of last September, our Vilnius University was going to hold a private organ concert for some private organization in which one of my colleagues here in town was supposed to play.
She asked me to turn the pages for her but I had to decline because of schedule conflict. However, I recommended one of my students from our Unda Maris studio, Mindaugas, who is studying chemistry at the university.
He gladly agreed because it was an opportunity for him to broaden his organ horizon, get to know more music, and get experience in real concert situation.
One of the pieces my colleague played was the Chaconne in F Minor by Johann Pachelbel. As I'm sure many of our subscribers did, Mindaugas fell in love right away upon hearing it live.
I suggested him to begin practicing it this year which he started doing right away. As you know, pedal part is not very complex and the beauty of the music is mesmerizing.
As weeks went by, Mindaugas brought this piece to our weekly practice sessions on Tuesdays. He was doing some progress but we both felt it was not enough.
The challenge was that whenever I or Ausra was present at the rehearsal, Mindaugas practiced the right way but when he was doing it on his own, his practice process somehow wasn't as efficient as he wanted.
In order to help him out and to make him feel like I or Ausra are always around when he practices on his own, I decided to create a practice guide on the Sibelius software for him in which all the practice steps would be outlined. Moreover, I would do it both in PDF and video so that he could actually hear the sounds or even practice together with the video, if he wanted.
Since the Chaconne is subdivided into the theme and 21 variations, it makes sense to practice each variation separately.
It's like having a teacher around all the time. The only thing he had to force himself was to stay on the track, never wander too far.
I know, it's very limiting for an artist to have the steps in front of them but some students actually want to learn in this way, they want to feel like the teacher is guiding them along the path.
They want to feel safe. They want to know if they complete all the steps, then in the result, they could play the piece in public.
How do you learn such pieces? Do you like to practice without the set of steps or rules or do you prefer to keep track of your progress in a quite strict way?
Either way, you have to face yourself honestly and keep pushing yourself as though a great master were present in your practice room.
By Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene (get free updates of new posts here)
I know of some organists who only play pieces that are familiar to them. Some of them don't learn anything new now. When you hear a name of such organist, you can count certain pieces will definitely be on the program.
I think there's more productive path:
We become better when we learn something new every day.
As difficult as it seems to accept for some people, it's absolutely necessary to keep striving.
Keep failing until you succeed. Until it becomes a habit.
A habit you will be glad you have built for yourself.
By Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene (get free updates of new posts here)
What's more difficult for you emotionally:
To play new music or pieces that you already love?
For most people, they would prefer playing organ music they're sure are going to like. That's not new music. Because with new music, you can't be sure. There are no guarantees.
But what's actually more satisfying:
To have played through the piece you have never played before or one of your favorites?
It turns out, when you think deeply about it, most people would get more satisfaction from the new thing. The one they were more afraid of trying out.
Only this way you can get out of your comfort zone and grow.
By Vidas Pinkevicius (get free updates of new posts here)
The other day one of my organ students played a piece for me. She claimed to have learned the piece.
And yes, she practiced it in small fragments, later put them together, stopping at 1 beat, 2 beats, 1 measure, 2 measures, 4 measures, 1 line, 2 lines, 4 lines, 1 page, 2 pages, 4 pages until she learned to play the piece without stopping.
But you see, she still made a lot of mistakes in front of me and her playing was, well, boring.
What happened? Is her practice method that I recommended not efficient?
I don't think so.
It's just she needs so much more to be able to convincingly play it in public.
She needs to have analyzed it (which not too many people like to do). She needs to notice while she plays what she has analyzed. And then she needs to be in the flow - keeping a steady focus while breathing deeply and fixing her and the listener's attention to what's going on right now.
All of it requires adequate time to prepare. All of it requires deliberate practice.
There's is so much more to music than playing the notes.
Are you frustrated at the enormous amount of time you have to put in while learning organ pieces? Or perhaps you want to learn your favorite works in a shorter period of time? In this article, I will show you some tips which will help you learn and master any organ piece faster.
One of the most important things if you want to learn pieces faster is to practice them in a slow tempo. Generally, you have to use the tempo that is about 50% slower than the concert tempo. This will give you accuracy and help avoid making mistakes.
Before learning the piece, try to write in fingering and pedaling. Remember that it is not required to indicate every finger and pedal in the entire piece right away. Instead, you can write in your pedaling and fingering only in the episode that you are working and practicing.
Another thing to remember is to practice in fragments. This will help you to correct any mistakes easily. When you practice your piece, play separate voices repeatedly so that you can master them individually. Only after that work on voice combinations such as two parts and three parts together. After this becomes easy, try to play all parts together over and over.
One more thing to remember when you practice these episodes is to aim for correct rhythms, notes, ornaments, articulation and hand and feet position with every repetition. Do not proceed to the next step unless you can play it fluently at least three times in a row.
Above all, try to practice every day. Not necessarilly for several hours, but at least for 20-30 minutes. Even if you have that little time, you can still make progress - you can repeat previously mastered material instead of learning something new (which you can do on days when you have more time to practice).
Organ practice can be compared to boiling water - the minute we take the pot off the fire - the water begins to cool down. So if you want your organ practice to be in a good shape - do it every day.
Also don't neglect the importance of having an exact measurable goal and a plan of action to achieve this goal. This will definitely speed up your learning process. Otherwise, your playing might be just wandering around in circles.
If you really want to learn organ pieces faster, then you should perfect your organ sight-reading and harmony skills very systematically in a step-by-step fashion. This is how I'm able to play 12 recitals a year with different repertoire.
Consider these recommendations when you take your organ pieces and apply these tips in your practice. Finally, you have to be very persistent in your practice and then you will succeed in learning organ pieces faster.
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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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