Gaining the true left hand and pedal independence is very important for organists. This is because the majority of organ of repertoire involves playing different melodic lines for your left hand or tenor voice and pedals.
For most people playing with their right hand is much easier than with their left hand so this combination requires much more diligence and practice. So whenever you take a new organ piece, try to spend at least twice as much time on playing the tenor than other voices. Obviously the same applies for your pedal part.
When you can play the tenor and pedal parts separately, practice them together and play this combination over and over. The best way to play this combination is not to attempt to play the entire piece from the beginning to the end but subdivide the piece into shorter fragments of about four measures. This will help you to avoid mistakes and if you do make mistakes you will be able to correct them right away easily.
The next thing to remember about gaining tenor and pedal independence applies for church organists. Many organists who play the hymns are used to play the bass line with their pedals but at the same time play their bass line with their left hand as well. It means they double the bass line with their left hand.
In other words, they simply are playing the hymns with manuals only and adding the pedal part on top of them. This is not correct and it will slow down your left hand and pedal independence. You see, your left hand has to play different music than the pedals. My best recommendation for playing hymns is to play just the tenor part with your left hand and the bass line with your feet.
This way you will be able to achieve much better tenor and pedal independence. Obviously this independence will not happen right away - this will take many weeks and months to achieve the total freedom and flexibility. Therefore, you have to stay focused and think of your long term goal and to never give up practicing this combination.
This will help you to progress much further one step at a time every day. Most importantly, before playing tenor and pedal combination make sure you can play these parts separately without mistakes at least three times in a row.
Every organist knows the importance of left hand technique when playing organ. However, perfecting your left hand usually is much more difficult than the right hand. This is partly because many organ compositions have more developed and melodically more advanced right hand part. Therefore, we must find and create various exercises specifically designed to develop the left hand technique on the organ. Today I will share with you the exact system of using the notorious six trio sonatas by Bach for this purpose.
First of all, let me remind you that Bach created these sonatas as a final touch in perfecting his eldest son‘s (W.F.Bach) organ technique. This simply means that these pieces can be used as a way to develop perfect hand and feet coordination because of three completely independent melodic lines. Obviously these charming compositions can be used to perfect just one part, for example, the left hand.
The way we will construct our system is this. Since every sonata has three movements, there are total of 18 movements in this collection. Because every movement has three parts, there are total of 54 parts which gives us 54 different exercises. If we would practice just one exercise each day then the entire collection would be completed in about eight weeks (10 weeks would be needed if you practice 6 times a week).
However, this course should be arranged very systematically progressing in a step by step fashion. This means that exercises have to have increasing numbers of accidentals. For example, the first exercise would be with no accidentals, that is in C major, the second – with 1 sharp, that is in G major, the third – with 1 flat, that is in F major and etc. The same would be valid for the movements in minor keys.
Increase the number accidentals as you are going through these exercises to reach 7 sharps and flats. Once you come to C flat major or A flat minor with 7 flats, you can go back and start from C major or A minor again.
I recommend first practicing the pedal part with your left hand because it is usually easier both melodically and rhythmically than the hand parts. It is best to choose the tempo in which you can avoid making mistakes and play flutently. This usually means playing very slowly. You don‘t have to play these exercises many times repeatedly. Sight-reading them one time through is sufficient. Normally it will not take more than 15 minutes of your time a day.
If you don‘t want to spend hours and hours constructing such a course, I have created a program called Left Hand Training which is designed to help you perfect your left hand technique. It is an eight week course which is based on the system outlined above.
By the way, congratulations to people who already signed up for this course directly or through Total Organist membership program. You will have an awesome time, I'm sure.
A Final Note: before starting practicing such exercises, remember to take the initial test and play a left hand part of a very difficult composition of your choice which is technically currently out of reach for you. After these 8 or 10 weeks when you complete this course, you can come back to this challenging piece and test your progress. If you honestly complete each and every exercise in my course, I can guarantee that you will be amazed by your results.
However, reading about it won‘t produce the results you want. Taking action daily and implementing my tips and exercise system will. So I only recommend this course for people who seriously want to use it and can commit to at least 15 minutes a day (max 30 minutes) of practice for the next 8-10 weeks.
Have you noticed that playing left hand part on the organ in many cases is much more difficult than the right hand part? Or when you try to play a two-part combination of left hand and pedals, usually you make many more mistakes than in playing right-hand and pedals?
There are a couple of reasons why you find these problems:
1) Many people are right-handed and naturally they use their right hand more frequently than the left which in turn just makes the left hand under-developed.
2) A lot of people start playing the organ after having some experience with the piano. On the piano, the left hand takes the bottom stave while on the organ you have to train your left hand (and the brain) to play the middle stave.
So how do you strengthen your left hand technique? There are a couple of useful things to remember here:
1) You can practice special left hand exercises, scales, and arpeggios regularly. Over time this will help to make your left hand technique more developed. The goal here is to reach the same level of dexterity and independence with the left hand as with your right.
2) As you practice your organ compositions, remember to play the left hand part (and left hand and pedals combination) many more times than with the right hand. For example, if you normally play an episode with right hand 10 times, than play it 20 times with the left hand. The same is for left and pedals combination.
3) I have noticed that some organists play hymns this way: soprano and alto is played by the right hand, tenor and bass is played by the left hand. At the same time, the pedals double the bass.
I hope you are not playing this way because it greatly slows down the development of left hand and pedal independence - left hand has to learn to play different melodic lines than the feet.
Do you want to make your left hand as strong as the right hand? Then start applying these tips in your practice today. It will not be long before you start seeing some tremendous changes in your technique.
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my video Organ Practice Guide.
A couple of weeks ago when I asked my readers what it is they struggle the most in achieving their goals in organ playing, I was surprised how many of them answered "Organ Technique".
I wasn't expecting this answer to show up so frequently in their emails because I constantly write about these technical issues of organ playing, among other things.
When I think about it now, of course it makes sense - lots of people find their left hand technique too weak in comparison with the right hand. Techniques like pedal preparation are so powerful in making ones pedal playing automatic, yet so few people really take advantage of it in their daily practice.
In particular, I found that left hand and pedal coordination is a real pain for the majority of organists. This is so true because when people come to the organ after having studied piano for some time, one of the first things they need to overcome is this notion of reading music from 3 staves (and the bottom stave is not suited for the left hand part, as in the piano, but for the pedals).
So in order to help overcome the struggles many people are having with their technique, today I have finally completed my new audio Organ Technique Training. If technical aspects of organ playing are holding you back from achieving your dreams, I suggest you check it out.
When it comes to building your organ technique, very often you will notice how weak your left hand is. Moreover, when you continue playing the organ, your right hand might improve but your left hand still might be underdeveloped. This realization causes a lot of frustration among organists. In this article, I will explain why it is much more difficult to develop the left hand technique than that of a right hand and how to overcome this problem.
You see, for all of us who are right-handed, playing with the left hand precisely is much more difficult than with the right hand. This is because not only we do everything with our right hand much more often but also because in the music you can find many more places when the melody is in the right hand.
That's why we like to practice the right hand first and more often that the other hand. It is like a closed circle: we have a weak left hand, practice more the right hand, and consequently, our right hand develops faster but the left hand not. To break this circle you need to work on the left hand more. That's why you realize that playing with your weak hand is more difficult and you may have to practice this part more times in your organ pieces.
Obviously, if you do like every good organ instructor would teach (practicing parts alone, combinations of 2 voices, combinations of 3 voices, and finally, all parts together) all of this will come naturally to you. You will start developing your left hand technique the same way as the right hand.
Another great help in overcoming this problem is to practice piano exercises either on the piano or on the organ. Good piano exercises will develop both of your hands equally well.
In addition to exercises, you can practice scales, chords, and arpeggios in various keys. Especially valuable are scales in double thirds and double sixths. This type of practice is of course a little more advanced so it is best to master simple scales in parallel and contrary motion first.
If you don't like the dry nature of exercises and scales, you can practice piano etudes on the organ. Great piano composers like Czerny, Berens, Lemoine, many others have left invaluable collections of etudes you can use for your daily practice. If you are an advanced player, try etudes by Chopin and Liszt.
Whatever you choose, play slowly, practice repeatedly, and don't worry about the concert tempo. You will reach this tempo when you are ready. Remember that this kind of playing will help you develop your left hand technique at the same level as the right hand.
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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