Vidas: Let’s start Episode 52 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by David, and he writes, “Hello Vidas and Ausra. In the podcast with Paulius Grigonis, the book by George Ritchie was discussed. Would you recommend this book for a beginner? If you do, how about I use this book as part of my daily practice? My daily practice now consists entirely of learning a single piece. Thank you for your help.” So, Ausra, do you like this method book that George Ritchie and George Stauffer wrote a number of years ago (it’s called, “Organ Technique: Modern and Early”)?
Ausra: Yes, actually, I think this is a great book and a great help for a beginner student.
Vidas: When did you first discover this book?
Ausra: Well, when I started my doctoral program, actually.
Vidas: You were not a beginner!
Ausra: Yes, I was not a beginner, but George Ritchie had that sort of thing--and I don’t know if Quentin Faulkner had it too--but at the beginning you had to do like, all the exercises of that book!
Vidas: Not too many, with Quentin.
Ausra: But yes, and I did not do all of them with George Ritchie, but he made sure that I had already managed those techniques described in that book. And it took for us, probably, like a couple weeks to go through all that book, and then I just could play my repertoire.
Vidas: You mentioned that you were not a beginner organ student anymore, but you were a beginner teacher, perhaps?
Ausra: Sure, and that’s a great book for beginner teachers as well, because as the title says of that book, it has both modern and early techniques; and that’s kind of a rare thing in organ pedagogy.
Vidas: Plus, this method book has sections devoted to organ registration--
Vidas: And construction...
Ausra: And history of organs of each country, a little bit--
Vidas: Hymn playing...
Vidas: And even avant garde organ techniques.
Ausra: Yes. So it’s actually very useful, and in this case, you could actually combine, as David said, he practiced like, he learns one piece a day, yes? That’s right, of repertoire. So he could do more combinations, to play a little bit of exercises and playing repertoire, learning one single piece. And this book also consists of having a number of different repertoire, modern and early. Very nicely done, with fingering, pedaling, with a description of the piece--so it’s a great resource.
Vidas: It’s probably the best organ technique book that we know of on the market today.
Ausra: Yes, I would say so. At least this book is what I can suggest to everybody, and I feel comfortable about it, trying it myself; and knowing, actually, you know, George Ritchie, who was one of the co-authors of this book.
Vidas: It would not be enough to practice from this book entirely, right?
Ausra: Sure, sure.
Vidas: You have to supplement with something. Well, for example, if you are interested in a particular historical period or country, you could use books from Wayne Leupold editions--it has many books in this series of historical schools of organ composition, and you can pick and choose whichever you like the most.
Ausra: Yes, they are very nice books, except they are very costly, I would say.
Vidas: That’s the case with most of his books, yes.
Ausra: But yes, if you want to have scholarly editions, that costs you extra. But they are good. Maybe you don’t have to get them all, but if you are interested in a particular style and period, that’s a good way, good source.
Vidas: Definitely. Or, as David writes, he chooses to practice organ pieces--just from organ repertory; he maybe finds the scores or YouTube videos online, likes the music, and then either finds the score for free online, or purchases from publishers. That’s possible, and I think it’s one of the best ways to do this, because you supplement the method book (let’s say George Ritchie), and then you look at your needs. Maybe you are preparing for a recital, or church service, right? And you will finish organ book technique by Ritchie-Stauffer pretty soon, if you’re very serious and practicing regularly. But then you need to look what’s next-- maybe more hymns, maybe more pieces like this.
Ausra: And of course, this book might help you to discover your favorite author, composer, or a country, because it has various types of musical examples.
Vidas: David also remembers Paulius Grigonis, our friend and colleague--he started entirely from Ritchie-Stauffer organ book, and he never regretted it, right? He went online, he bought the book and studied--I think he even bought a couple of copies of this book to have, one clean copy and one working practice copy--and it really benefited him a lot, because he now has solid organ technique.
Ausra: Yes, and you can hear it when he’s playing.
Vidas: Even though he’s an amateur organist, really, and never finished formal organ training in conservatory, or university; never got a degree, but you can do many things in private or online today.
Ausra: Sure, I wish everybody in Lithuania who actually has a degree from the academy of music would play as good as Paulius does!
Vidas: That’s true. So, we wish that Paulius would not stop practicing and continue to get better. And for David, yes, we do recommend wholeheartedly the Ritchie-Stauffer organ method book. And for everyone else who’s listening, please send us more of your questions. We will be very glad to help you out and help you grow as an organist, and the best way to do this is through our blog at www.organduo.lt. If you subscribe (if you haven’t done so already), then you simply reply to any of our blog posts that you receive.
And by the way, you can specify how often you would like to receive our messages: daily or weekly, right? If you don’t like to receive too many messages per week, you could choose one week in email, and it will go out on, I think, Wednesdays. And you will still get everything from us, but just once a week. If you are already a subscriber and want to switch from daily to weekly or vice versa, open any of our messages, scroll to the bottom and click “Update your preferences”. Then you can change your email address or sending frequency very easily.
Okay guys, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: We’re starting Episode 50 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Anna, and she writes that she tries to sit correctly on the organ bench, but she doesn’t seem to be able to find her position--her convenient position. Ausra, is it a common problem for beginner organists?
Ausra: Well, that’s a very common problem; and, knowing that you have to play on different organs, that also might be a problem; because when you’re playing at your home or a church, you’re used to the instrument. But when you go to another instrument, you have to adjust. So the problem depends on how tall you are you, the high person, or not, and how long your legs are, and what kind of instruments you are playing--can you adjust the organ bench easily or not?--and all that kind of stuff; so basically, you have to experiment. Because you must sit not too far from the organ and not too close to it. You have to be able to reach the upper manual, and to play comfortably on the lowest manual; and of course, be able to reach the pedal board.
Vidas: Mhmm. So let’s subdivide this question into some parts, some elements that we could discuss in greater detail. For example, height of the organ bench, this is number 1; the distance of the organ bench from the keyboards, this is number 2; and perhaps even number 3 would be, how you sit on the organ bench--further, or deeper, or not so deep on the bench compared to the keyboards. So how would you position the bench in terms of height, for yourself?
Ausra: Well, I make the height of the bench depending on the pedal board, because I must be able to play the pedals comfortably. And because I don’t have very long legs, so I need to adjust the organ bench according to that. And the important thing is that the weight of my body, when I’m sitting on the organ bench, I must feel it basically on the middle of my hip; so you don’t press your tush hard, but you press your hips hard to the organ bench...I don’t know if it makes any sense. That way, I’m able to move easily on the organ bench when I have to turn, for example.
Vidas: Do your abdominal muscles have to be tense or not, when you play the pedals?
Ausra: Well, actually, yes, they have to be.
Vidas: And the lower you sit the more you tense, right?
Vidas:That’s why we don’t use a normal chair, it would be too low, right?
Vidas: And we would really need to tense our legs and the abdominal muscles--too much, probably, in this way. So for me, I tend to sit on the bench, and position the bench so that my feet, when fully extended, they would be touching the pedals, gently--touching but not depressing.
Ausra: And your toes should be touching the black keys.
Vidas: So that’s another thing: if you position the bench so that your feet are touching when relaxed, when fully extended and relaxed--but not depressing, right? That’s good. And then--now you can investigate if the bench is close enough, or not close enough, in relation to the keyboards. So the thing is, your toes should be touching the sharps.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: When relaxed.
Ausra: Yes, sure. And of course, everything depends on what kind of instrument you’re playing, too, because sometimes you have to make exceptions. For example, if I’m playing on a Baroque instrument, sometimes I have to sit a little bit higher than I’m used to, because I use only my toes in Baroque pieces. So I don’t have to use my heels, so I can sit a little bit higher on the bench; and then it is more comfortable for me to reach, let’s say, the third manual or the upper keyboard.
Vidas: Exactly. And then, going forward with the last section of this question, is how deep, or how on-the-edge you can sit, right? So the lower the bench, the deeper you can sit...
Vidas: ...And vice versa. The higher the bench, actually, the closer to the edge you must sit. But then there is a danger of slipping.
Ausra: Well, yes, that’s very often the case with organists, especially when you’re wearing something very slippery! But I don’t think that’s often the case with the male organists, but quite often the case with the women, because sometimes we like to dress nice and fancy and...slippery sort of clothes, and that might cause a problem, that you might end up on the pedal--falling down on the pedal board! Have you experienced something similar to this?
Vidas: Yeah, when I have this suit, my organ clothes on special festive occasions, then sometimes it’s slippery to sit on the bench. It’s not really comfortable. But when I use jeans, for example, my regular, everyday jeans, also sometimes the sweat might be another issue. The jeans might stick to the bench; it’s also not very nice.
Ausra: Well, I haven’t experienced this kind of stuff that you’re talking about jeans, but I definitely have slipped from the organ bench. Luckily, that happened not during a performance! And this usually happens when I have to play on the upper keyboard.
Vidas: Well, talking about the upper keyboard--people might have seen my pictures from my concert trip to Liepaja in Latvia in recent years. This organ has four manuals; and this fourth manual is so deep and so high--it’s so uncomfortable to reach and to play the pedals at the same time. The bench is kind of low, and positioned so that you could not really move it. So when you play the two lower manuals, it’s kind of okay; you can adjust, even though it’s not the best feeling. But the top manual is extremely strenuous work for you; and then, if you play, for example, with the pedals at the same time, then you begin to slip very soon.
Ausra: Well, I would suggest that in that case, you might want to do your registration differently, and maybe not use that upper manual.
Vidas: That’s exactly what the Latvian organ builder and our friend Janis Kalnins said. He knows this organ inside out.
Ausra: Yes, because sometimes also when I tried to reach the upper manual in some kinds of instruments, and I would put the organ bench very high up, and the lowest manual then would be next to my stomach; and I would feel that I’m playing not with my fingers but with my stomach on that lowest manual.
Ausra: So it’s always a challenge to adjust to a new instrument.
Vidas: So, when the bench is too low, you can put some wooden blocks underneath the bench, and it raises the height; it’s kind of easier. Or you put thick hymnals--
Ausra: Sure, like old hymnals. Many churches have hymnals that they don’t use any longer, so you can use those.
Vidas: Or old tax books.
Ausra: Hahaha yes, that would be nice.
Vidas: But when the bench is too high, and you cannot really adjust, then it’s a problem.
Ausra: Oh yes, that’s true.
Vidas: What can you do then?
Ausra: Well, if you know that in advance, then maybe adjust your repertoire. I would suggest for you then, just to play Baroque music. Then you will not have to use your heels. That’s probably the best suggestion. Because if you would play big Romantic pieces on an instrument like this, then you would not be able to reach the pedals very well--it will not be good. You cannot play legato.
Vidas: Or...If you have organ shoes with high heels, it helps, then.
Ausra: Well, yes, it helps, to some extent. And usually if the bench is too high for me, then I try to sit closer to the manuals; then usually it helps a little bit.
Vidas: To find this right balance--
Vidas: --between not slipping, but also reaching the pedals.
Vidas: What about a situation when the organ console is movable, and you could actually put some wooden blocks or planks or something underneath the entire organ console to elevate it? Is it possible?
Ausra: Well, I think it’s possible, nowadays. I have never done it myself; I have never had the need to do it. But I think that’s possible.
Vida: So, when you can’t adjust the bench height, you can maybe adjust the organ console height.
Ausra: I’m just thinking how to lift it. It might be hard. Very heavy.
Vidas: Anyways, the organist profession requires us to adjust to hundreds of thousands of different instruments. And that’s the beauty of it, right?
Ausra: Yes, it is. It’s very exciting. Each time it’s like a little adventure.
Vidas: And never boring.
Vidas: You never know what will happen. Even though you sort of know the situation--you are prepared in advance, and you have seen the pictures, and you practiced the right way--when you sit down on that organ…
Vidas: ...your plan goes out the window!
Ausra: That’s true.
Vidas: Wonderful, guys. Please practice more on unfamiliar organs; this is the only way you’ll get more comfortable with tricky situations.
Ausra: And then you’ll go back to your home, and your organ will be so easy to adjust to!
Vidas: And please send us more of your questions; and the best way to contact us is through email; and you can do this by subscribing to our blog at www.organduo.lt (if you haven't done so already), and simply replying to any of our messages that you will get with our tips and advice about the art of playing the organ. Okay, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: We’re starting Episode 47 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Pat, and he writes that he has a challenge that’s holding him back, which is: in general, he has forgotten the basics of organ playing through all those years of not touching the instrument (I think 15 years of not touching the instrument). And not only the basics, but both hands facilitating technique, and also the theoretical knowledge of flats and sharps and other things about music theory. Do you think, Ausra, that people often come to organ practice after a long period of time of not touching the instrument?
Ausra: Yes, that could be the case, of course, but I think he should not lose his hope, because I think refreshing memory and regaining all those skills is probably easier than to build those skills at the beginning.
Vidas: Mhmm. Now that he is really taking advantage of the situation, and really thinks that, “Oh, I must regain those skills and must start to practice the efficient way,” it will come to him, slowly but definitely.
Ausra: Yes, if he will be, you know, regular at his work, and will practice regularly.
Vidas: It’s like our friend John from Australia. He learned some music in school when he was little, but he was not very serious about that; and then later in life, he did many other things, and forgot, of course, a lot of musical training that he had in his youth. And only now after decades of not touching an instrument, he started to develop this organ playing habit. And we see over time how he progresses, and it’s fascinating.
Ausra: Yes, he is definitely fascinating. He’s such a hardworking man, and also good to his family, and still finds time to practice. It amazes me every time, when I think about him.
Vidas: He has so many responsibilities, of course. His job is 8 to 5 probably, and--
Ausra: Two small kids at home...
Vidas: Two small kids!
Ausra: ...And just moved to another location in Australia. So all these domestic problems--And it works…
Vidas: But what motivates him is probably those internal and external deadlines he sets up, because he sometimes plays hymns and organ music for his church; and he knows that people depend on him, week by week, so he better get ready!
Ausra: So maybe Pat could find like, a small position, maybe--you know, just to play once a month, let’s see--
Vidas: Volunteer, or…?
Ausra: Volunteer, yes.
Vidas: In exchange for an instrument?
Vidas: Or getting access to an instrument.
Ausra: And it will keep him going, refreshing his memory faster. To regain his skills.
Vidas: It would be like a practicum, like a practice. It’s not a job, but it’s something like getting experience of public playing. At first it will be terrifying, of course; but you have to know that taking those risky, uncontrollable situations at first very small--when the risk is small; but raising the stakes a little bit...That you know somebody else is listening in the room is very healthy, actually, in the long run.
Ausra: I think so, too.
Vidas: And little by little, Pat will regain those skills that he lost over 15 years of not touching the instrument. Ausra, how long does it take, do you think, for a person who didn’t play the organ over this time, to get back to this previous level?
Ausra: I would say probably about a year.
Vidas: A year?
Vidas: That’s not a very long time.
Ausra: Yes, that’s not a very long time. Of course, if you practice more, maybe you’ll regain your shape faster, maybe in half a year.
Vidas: Yeah, if you’re a professional at this, and you dedicate 2, 3, or more hours a day, that’s possible to do this in a few months… But slowly, I think; don’t overextend yourself, because it’s a long-term activity, and you have to first of all enjoy it.
Ausra: Yes, definitely. It will be your motivation, if you will enjoy what you are doing. Because if you are only struggling, that might give you a big disappointment, and you will drop practicing at all.
Vidas: And Ausra, when you say that a person like Pat might regain his skills in one year, right--
Ausra: I hope so.
Vidas: More or less. It doesn’t mean that in a month, or two, or three months from now, he will be in the same situation as he is now. He definitely will start seeing progress down the road.
Vidas: Soon enough.
Ausra: That’s true, yeah. And seeing that development, that improvement, it will give him extra motivation to improve even further.
Vidas: Yes. Basically, keep working on this challenging episode, and sooner or later you will overcome this challenge - and you will move on to the next challenge, of course!
Vidas: Thanks, guys, for listening to this. We sincerely hope we can help you grow as an organist. And of course, the best way is to send more of your questions. Maybe you have different questions than Pat; so please send us your questions, and remember to subscribe to our blog and then reply to our messages at www.organduo.lt.
And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Let's start the episode 39 of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. Today's question was sent by Parvoe, and he writes that movement of his left hand fingers always become a problem. Basically, he wants to improve his left hand technique, right, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, I think so. Yes.
Vidas: I think for people who are right-handed, left hand technique is always a problem.
Ausra: Yes, it was, especially when you have to add to the pedals.
Vidas: Are you right-handed or left-handed?
Ausra: Yes, I am right-handed.
Vidas: Me too, so basically for both of us, this left hand thing is tricky, and needs extra attention.
Vidas: All right. How do we improve this? How do you personally improve left hand technique, Ausra?
Ausra: Actually, no. If I'm learning a tricky piece, a new piece, I not starting to play all the voice together. First of all I work on my left hand and pedals. This helps a lot, because right hand and pedal never give so much trouble as left hand and pedal.
Vidas: Exactly. For example, let's take it apart. When you practice an episode of music and you have a tricky left hand part, you want to repeat this fragment with the left hand maybe twice as many times, right?
Vidas: To speed up this progress of left hand.
Ausra: First of all, if you will play all this both hands together, so your left hand will still be weak, or weaker than the right hand.
Vidas: That makes sense because let's say you practice 10 times right hand, 10 times left hand, and 10 times pedals, right? Everything really becomes better and better every time you practice, but since left hand is your weakness, it's still a little bit weaker, right? It's not as strong as right hand.
What about, Ausra, right hand and pedal combination and left hand combination with the pedals? Do you need to practice left hand and pedals more?
Ausra: Yes, sure. Definitely.
Vidas: Also twice as many times?
Ausra: Actually more times than the right hand. I never count and know exactly how many times I practice with it, but definitely more.
Vidas: How do you know when to stop to practice this combination?
Ausra: Well, when it all goes smoothly.
Vidas: Until it goes smoothly?
Ausra: Yeah, sure.
Vidas: There is a difference between being able to play without mistakes, this combination, and getting it right every time.
Vidas: Which one would you prefer?
Ausra: Of course, getting right every time.
Vidas: Right. That's actually what professionals do. They practice until they cannot make mistakes in a given episode, and amateurs tend to stop when they play correctly.
Ausra: Sure. You know, of course, you can play exercise, a special exercise for a left hand. It helps also.
Vidas: What's your favorite type of left hand exercise?
Ausra: I would have to say that it's Hanon, but actually, personally, I like to play more like etudes on the left hand, something like Czerny etudes. Not always that technique which is suitable for piano technique is working for organ as well, but some of them actually work.
Vidas: Exactly, because Hanon is usually constructed in octaves, right? Parallel octaves moving fingers the same direction, you playing the same things. At the same time, right hand improves with the left hand together. You can play Hanon exercise five times or 10 times, or even once, both hands improve equally, but you need to improve your left hand more than right hand.
Ausra: Sure. Definitely.
Vidas: Yes, extra attention is really needed. In specific pieces, as you mentioned, Czerny etudes and other etudes.
Ausra: Of course, you have to play them on the piano, and in general for people who play electrionic organ, or electro-pneumatic organ work more on the piano, because it will improve your technique on regular piano if you have an access to it.
Vidas: Just recently, we met our friend and colleague, Paulius Grigonis, and he practiced on the mechanical organ at Vilnius Cathedral preparing for his upcoming recital, and one of his first comments was how different and difficult it is to practice on a mechanical organ because he was used to playing this electronic organ in his church without pipes. Right?
Vidas: People sometimes forget the sense of real resistance when it comes to the mechanical action organ. Ausra, do you think that sometimes builders of electronic organs make a special keyboard which is similar to mechanical action?
Ausra: Yes. Now everything happens. Yes.
Vidas: They improve with time, right?
Ausra: Yes, technology improves. Still, if you have another chance, choose a mechanical instrument.
Vidas: Play with piano.
Vidas: So guys, we hope that this advice was useful to you, and please apply this in your practice, and to please send us more questions. Subscribing to our blog at www.organduo.lt, and when you send us your questions, also please indicate your feedback about what is number one things you will apply from this or any other podcasts that you listen in your practice this week, right? This number one advice, which is the most crucial to you? Take action and apply it in your practice and let us know. We'll appreciate it a lot.
Okay, this was Vidas ...
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Remember when you practice ...
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Why is it so hard to learn a correct organ technique for some people? It's not rocket science. It's not like you have to measure your finger movements to a hundredth part of a millimeter and if you're off just a little bit, the sound of your piece will blow off the windows of the church.
And then your priest has to call the team of window repair men and he would apologize to them saying, "I'm so sorry guys to call you on such a short notice again. It's the third time my organist miscalculated his finger movements."
And the window repair man would reply, "Oh, no problem, there's a new model of windows on the market now. It's organist-proof. It's easier to replace some windows than an organist!"
Today's question was sent by Mouton, our Total Organist student, in response of AskVidasAndAusra 5 - Is It Possible To Learn To Play The Organ When You Are 56 Years Old?
Here's what he writes:
Hi Guys - This made me think. I am 54 years old and only had some basic piano lessons for about 1 year when I was 10. I always had a great passion for pipe organ music but never had chance to do anything about it due to availability/access and above all - focusing on my work as an engineer. In 2012 I discovered Hauptwerk and experimented a bit with the technical side. I managed to build up a workable setup with a four manual console and pedals I built myself in 2013 (the engineering side took over). I started playing completely by ear and watching youtube videos of dutch organists. (I am South African, and we have a Dutch Reformed culture) I also stumbled across your material 2 years ago and subscribed/taking down a lot of your courses - but time was always the issue.
I have now decided that I need to focus on this passion of mine in earnest, having created a personal instrument (with 12 different organs loaded) available to me at any time of day or night. So am starting this week with the basics - I can play by ear, have the basic knowledge of chords and the like..but am concerned that this is taking me on the wrong path.
I also started singing in the cantory as well as a 400 strong mass choir performing quarterly here in Pretoria to help me get into the swing of things..
My personal challenge is to sight-read and learn the correct technique.
So by the age of 60 - I want to be able to lead congregations - a whole new world for me in the next 30 years!!! Here is a pic of my setup… [see above] Keep up the great work of motivation.
Listen to our full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
Please send us your questions. We love helping you grow.
Vidas: Hello, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And today is episode 14 of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. Today's question was sent by Mouton, our total organist student in response of the 5h episode of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. Is it possible to learn to play the organ when you are 56 years old? Remember this episode that we talked about, basically, approaching senior age and we gave advice. Of course, we were enthusiastic about it, and we think that age is not the limit. Motivation is the limit. Your belief is the limit.
Ausra what do you think? Should people be afraid to learn the organ when you are at an older age?
Ausra: I don't think so. I don't think you have to be afraid.
Vidas: It comes slower but still, you can make progress. So here is this question by Mouton. “Hi, guys this made me think. I am 54 years old and only had some basic piano lessons for about one year and when I was 10.” A big gap. “I always had a great passion for pipe organ music but never had the chance to do anything about it due to availability and access and above all focusing on my work as an engineer. In 2012, I discovered Hauptwerk, and experimented a bit with the technical side. I managed to build up a workable set up a four manual console and pedals I built myself in 2013. Because the engineering side took over.
I started playing completely by ear and watching YouTube videos of Dutch organists because I'm South African and we have a Dutch reformed culture there. I also stumbled across your materials two years ago and subscribed and downloaded a lot of your courses but time was always the issue. I have now decided that I need to focus on this passion of mine in earnest in having created a person instrument with 12 different organs loaded available to me at any time of day or night. So I'm starting this week with the basics. I can play by air, I have the basic knowledge, of course, and alike.
But I am concerned that this is taking me on the wrong path. I also started singing in the cantory as well as a 400 strong mass choir performing quarterly here in Pretoria to help me get into the swing of things. My personal challenge is to sight-read and learn the correct technique. So by the age of 60, I want to be able to lead congregations. A whole new world for me in the next 30 years. Here is a picture of my setup, and keep up with the great work of motivation.”
Look, he has four manuals built into it.
Ausra: Yeah, that's amazing.
Vidas: In his home Hauptwerk on his laptop system. Wonderful and pedalboard; a lot of switches, a lot of pedals. It looks very comprehensive, right?
Ausra: Yes, that's amazing.
Vidas: Make sure you look at the photo which is a illustration of this post as well. This is really extremely impressive if he built this himself as an engineer. Wonderful. So Mouton’s question is, of course, how to learn the correct technique, right? It's a broad question.
Ausra: Yeah, it is. It's a very broad question but-
Vidas: What would you suggest for him for starting?
Ausra: What I understood from what he is doing that he is playing a lot from his ear. And well I
don't think this is the best way to do it. If you want to become a professional organist, you have to read music. You have to do it. At the beginning, maybe result will not be as fast as it would be with playing by air. But after a while definitely, you will start to make much faster progress because like in our Unda Maris studio we have actually on student who actually mostly improvises and for two years now and he refuses to learn music and he is not making a progress at all in my opinion.
Vidas: In my view, to improvise is wonderful. Improvisation frees you up and it extremely valuable. But we should never neglect reading the notes and the earlier we do this, the earlier we learn to at least treble clefs and the bass clef, the easier it will get later on.
Ausra: Yes, and here’s another thing about correct technique. When I started to play organ, I started to play organ after playing for like piano from the age of five. So that's a pretty early age to play and I started to learn organ when I was 17. So I had pretty good piano technique, and for me, for example, the early music technique was very hard to comprehend and to learn. But when I found out later that for people who haven't played much and did not have good piano technique actually that early technique of early repertoire is actually easier to manage. For Mouton, I will suggest maybe to work on the early technique first and then to go to the modern technique.
Vidas: Because it's a lot of difference. You have to learn legato for later technique and articulate legato for early music, right?
Ausra: Yes, because for the Baroque music basically, you don't have to play legato so you don't use like finger substitution which is much easier for a beginner, and for pedaling, you don't use your heel, only toes.
Vidas: Mostly mostly.
Ausra: Mostly toes so it's also easier for a beginner. I would think so.
Vidas: Alternate toes is very simple basically.
Ausra: And you know for a beginner, we have to choose pieces to know that we have so much pedaling maybe not pedal at all for a while and then add music where only few pedals like pedal points like some Italian music like Zipoli. So that should be a good way to start, and I would suggest that you would do like practicing schedule, what would you want to do every day? How much time, for example, you will be sight-reading and how time you will spend on like exercises; manual exercises, pedal exercises and then how much time you will spend on learning repertoire?
Vidas: And maybe playing hymns too.
Ausra: Yeah sure definitely. Hymns are very good way to learn to play organ.
Vidas: Maybe playing some cadences and chord progressions, sequences, later on modulations. because it will maybe set you on the path to improvisation as well. Good advice Ausra, I think people can benefit from this. Not only people like Mouton but a lot of subscribers are basically wondering the same thing, the same question, what is the correct technique? And they can do things by ear, and this gives them the most pleasure right now. But they cannot really challenge themselves too much because it's difficult and start learning the notes from sheet music because it's like foreign language, for example, right?
Vidas: But you have to persevere, I think. It's a must. If you're serious enough. If you want to do this at least for five years or 10 years or 15 years or 20. Basically, it's a lifetime pursuit of perfection, so why not start right way the correct way? Because later on you will have to correct things, and it's always easier to learn the right way at the beginning.
Ausra: It's like when you learn a new piece of music if you learned it in wrong way, it's much easier to learn the new piece when you know how to correct that old one.
Vidas: So, guys, I hope you will start practicing the right way starting today, and if you want more advice and inspiration, of course, subscribe to our blog at www.organduo.lt where you will you also get our free 10-day mini-course on learning to play and mastering any organ composition. So we teach you the basics there in 10 days at www.organduo.lt. And, of course, send your questions to us. That's fun, right?
Ausra: Yes. It is.
Vidas: Answering questions.
Ausra: It is.
Vidas: Good questions.
Ausra: It's very interesting because it makes you to think about things.
Vidas: It's very practical. People are struggling. And this advice might really set them on the right efficient practice schedule perhaps and hopefully, help them solve their problems.
Ausra: Yes, and it gives actually a lot to us as well. I think we benefit from this too very much.
Vidas: Yeah, because we have to think about it and whenever we give somebody advice, we have to keep this advice to yourself as well to apply in our practice.
Ausra: Just to be honest with ourselves.
Vidas: Well, sometimes advice might be understood in several levels. In beginners level maybe is different and in advance level is another story how you practice. So keep in mind this because of your own current situation too. Wonderful. So send guys your questions to us we will be glad to try to answer. We won't promise we know everything but we'll try. Okay, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember when you practice...
Ausra: Miracles happen.
By Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene (get free updates of new posts here)
Have you noticed that some organists make their staccato sound too short, almost comical?
I'm not sure they're even aware of this but the pipes don't have enough time to speak, especially in the bass.
I guess this habit comes from playing the piano for years: it sounds good to shorten the notes on the piano quite a bit and it doesn't seem to hurt.
But on the organ, the rule is to shorten the staccato notes by exactly half value. So if you see a staccato sign on the eighth note, make it a sixteenth note and add a sixteenth note rest, but not more.
This habit and keeping the fingers on the keys at all times will make your playing more organistic.
Of course, this implies you are very conscious not only of the attack but also the precise releases, but that's part of the fun of playing the organ anyway.
By Vidas Pinkevicius (get free updates of new posts here)
Why do you make some strange mistakes in some pieces of your program in places that usually go fine during practice?
Nerves might be one of the reasons. If you can't stop thinking about a mistake which you made a moment ago, you are bound to make some new ones pretty soon.
If you find yourself in this situation, force yourself to focus by staying in the current measure and keep breathing slowly and deeply.
Also, for your next recital, make sure you can play your program at least 30 days before the deadline.
I bet this was the reason for you this time too.
When in doubt, go back to basics.
By Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene (get free updates of new posts here)
During our last Unda Maris studio practice session at Vilnius University, I observed a student play Brahms's chorale prelude "Herzlich tut mich verlangen" (this is a video played by Thibaut Duret, organ by Michel-Merklin-Kuhn de St Louis de la Guillotière, Lyon, France).
What struck me the most was that his fingers often were holding several keys at a time (especially the top notes of the arpeggio). The result was quite messy.
I told him about this but it wasn't an easy fix.
Apparently his fingers aren't strong and independent enough to play clearly their own melodic line.
If you are in a similar situation, I recommend you strengthen your finger independence by practicing special exercises, such as from Vidas' Left Hand Training regularly. Play it with your right hand too in alternation. Then the technique of both hands will become stronger.
By Vidas Pinkevicius
It happens quite often that I see organists play with their fingers extended. They can't seem to hold the rounded palm.
That's because they depress the keys with a wrong place of the finger.
You see, the right way to touch the keys is with the tip of the finger, just below the nail. Except for the thumb which plays with the side of the finger to the outer side of the nail.
So when you extend the fingers, the last joint sort of breaks making the shape of the finger not rounded but flat.
This is good for wind instrument players, by the way. But for keyboardists, we need to make sure of the correct position of the palm.
Here's the key: imagine you have a tennis ball or an apple in your hand. All fingers are held together and make up a cup.
That's the correct position.
PS And don't forget to clip your fingernails.
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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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