Margaret writes that her dream for playing organ is to play faster and without mistakes. For her the main obstacles which prevent her reaching this dream are the difficulty in reaching a faster tempo, eliminating mistakes and memorization of the score.
The dream that Margaret has is common to many organists. But it's not so easy to make it a reality. So often people can only play rather slow music and when they try to play faster, lots of mistakes appear. This is frustrating.
If you experience such challenges as Margaret, you have to understand that it's better to play slower than with many mistakes. Therefore, choose the tempo according to your level of ability.
By repeatedly practicing very slowly and reducing the texture to single voice and various voice combinations, you will be able to eliminate mistakes and reach the level when you can play rather slowly but fluently.
If you want to play faster, perhaps you need a) to work on your technique and b) to practice your pieces at the concert tempo but stopping and waiting at the smallest fragment imaginable - a quarter note.
Once you can play this way until the end of the piece at least 3 times without mistakes, stop every two beats, then one measure, two measures and so on always expanding your fragments and playing the music inside the fragment at the concert tempo but stopping, waiting and preparing for the next fragment.
If you want to memorize music easier, you have to develop a systematic procedure of practicing short fragments 5 times while looking at the score and 5 times from memory. Usually the longest fragment you can remember this way is one measure. As you might have already guessed, after memorizing one measure fragments, start expanding them little by little from memory.
If you haven't done so, try to learn something about keys, chords, chord progressions, cadences, and modulations. This will help you understand how your piece is put together and consequently facilitate the process of memorization.
3. Begib mich nit myn höchster hort (p. 26) from Buxheimer Orgelbuch (ca. 1450), a German Renaissance collection of organ music.
Hark, the Voice of Jesus Calling
David Milller: I purchased a Johannus Opus 7 practice organ for my house in Hagerstown MD. I play a 15 rank Mollar at Zion Episcopal church in Charles Town, West Virginia. I enjoy practicing along with you using your YouTube videos and my home instrument tuned to your demonstration organ's pitch and temperament. My goal is to master the Articulate-Legato touch. Thank you for all the encouraging work you do and on the frequent updates to your web site.
There are two sides of the issue when organists make mistakes during service playing or recitals - the way they impact us and the way they impact the listeners.
Some people don't seem to be too disturbed by mistakes they make - they continue playing as usual. Other organists feel so awkward and off-balance that the very act of being aware of their mistakes produces even more mistakes. This attitude requires tremendous focus of mind on the current measure with the exclusion of everything else. This isn't easy at first but it can be exercised and learned like anything we do. Focus is a skill. We are not born with it but we acquire it through conscious effort over time. Forgive yourself, forget the mistake by fixing your gaze on the next spot, and move on. You'll do better next time.
Our listeners can also have different feelings about our mistakes, too. Some might not even notice them because they came to enjoy the music and the event, to participate actively at church service. Others can be quite critical and even cynical about the mistakes we make. They might scold you, they might even record you and post the video online just to share their frustration or make fun of you. In a way it belongs to the culture of bullying.
It's so sad that people behave this way. What can you do about it?
Haters gonna hate, non believers will not believe. And that's OK.
Maybe your music and your playing is not for them. Maybe it's for this woman sitting on the edge of her seat and crying afterwards...
[Thanks to John for inspiration]
PS Some of my readers seem to miss the sight-reading selections I've been including with these posts so here is the piece to play for today:
Arrogamer (p. 24) from Buxheimer Orgelbuch (ca. 1460), a landmark early German source of organ music. Although it's written for 3 staves, it's best played without the pedals with the left hand taking the two lower staves.
I've written earlier about what you can do when you make a mistake in improvisation. The answer is simple - repeat it several times and it will become intentional.
Once you realize this, you can take this idea one step further and use the same principle in places where you feel stuck, in places where your imagination doesn't work on the spot, in places where you don't know what to do next.
Repeating one musical idea several times (even if it's not a mistake) on the same or different manuals when you don't know what to play in the middle of the piece will give you time to think, react and it will lead you some place else eventually.
This suite from 6 pieces was improvised for the group of French tourists. Take a look at how you can draw inspiration to go from one music idea to another when you seem to be stuck in one place.
One more thing: even if you feel stuck, always be conscious of the form of the piece, where you are in it in any given moment (otherwise the playing will become like rambling without a direction). The pieces in this suite all have a ternary ABA form so even when I didn't know what's waiting for me around the corner, I knew I had a compass to follow.
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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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