SOPP470: Playing an Eminent digital organ in a local church last night, I discovered that by pressing a couple of buttons I could bring up Netherlands tonality and Kirnberger III tuning!
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 470, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by James. And he writes:
Playing an Eminent digital organ in a local church last night, I discovered that by pressing a couple of buttons I could bring up Netherlands tonality and Kirnberger III tuning!
V: This is James Spanner, an English organist, who visited Vilnius and played his recital in our church, number of years ago. And from time to time he writes updates about his like and work. So we keep in touch. And I thought of including his feedback here in the podcast as well. Do you like, Ausra, Dutch organs?
A: Yes. I like them. It amazes me actually, most of them, because they are so big and have a very narrow keys, but very high pipes. And sometimes, it’s hard to imagine how could we fit all those pipes in such a narrow organ case.
V: It’s been a while since we visited the Netherlands, but last time I heard Dutch organ sound, it was not long ago. It was recently submitted a video for our Secrets Of Organ Playing Contest by Partitura And he has several samplers on his digital organ, and he uses Dutch Deventer organ sound.
A: And it’s very nice.
V: Absolutely gorgeous.
A: Yes. But I think that if you wouldn’t see the side of it you might not, that you wouldn’t recognize it’s a real organ, though it’s a digital organ. So I guess nowadays technique makes miracles. Although of course, if you could choose the real thing, you would probably choose the real thing. But nowadays the Netherlands are selling the instruments to Africa and South America. It makes me sort of sad, because those great historical instruments might diminish.
V: Mmm-hmm. We’ve been just talking about that the other day—how European churches tend to be emptier and emptier.
A: Shrinking, basically.
V: Yes. Attendance in liturgy, liturgies of various denominations are shrinking. I’m not sure about organ concerts but the most direct usage of the organ for church services is on decline because of people going to the church less and less.
A: And of course government cannot support each single church’s historical monument. So it’s a big dilemma what to do.
V: And in many countries, they don’t pay taxes—people don’t pay taxes for churches, like in Germany. In Germany you have to choose either you are a Catholic or Lutheran, and then…
A: That’s right.
V: your portion of the tax goes to the church. But in other countries it’s divided. The state doesn’t support the church.
A: Actually we were surprised so much when we were in London last summer, and gave a recital in St. Pauls Cathedral. Basically it’s really one of the best known Cathedrals in the world. And they also said that it is difficult for them to make a living and they have to take donations.
V: Yeah. Government support for keeping the building as a historical monument is not enough for their activities.
A: That’s right.
V: Obviously they have to get additional funding. And they usually get it from donations, from visitors, and from members of their congregation, probably, who are proud to support such a church, such a cathedral. But we’ve been talking about the Dutch organ quality, right, and to me, I kind of marvel at their pedal towers. And that is very significant for German organ building as well.
A: I think they have many similarities…
A: Netherlands organs and German organs. Basically, it’s still, you could call it the same region.
V: Mmm-hmm. And Kirnberger III tuning, is in our church too.
A: Yes, at St. Johns. It’s a nice temperament because you can change so many keys. Basically everything up to three flats or sharps sound well on this temperament.
V: Much more, I would say.
A: Hmm, well, yes.
V: Much more, but what is still present is individuality of the keys. Like C Major is a little bit different than D Major—sounds a little bit different. And D Major is a little bit different than F Major, let’s say.
A: So that’s a nice temperament.
V: Yes. I guess those digital organs which have samples of various important historical instruments from around the world, make people easy, allow people to have easy introductions to historical sounds, and let people to have those sounds at home.
A: That’s very often, when you start to talk about tuning, and temperaments, people cannot comprehend it.
A: Because if you are only talking about it and you cannot play examples, it doesn’t make sense, most of the case. I think mainly string performers can understand what you are talking about, but others not so much.
V: It only saddens me a little bit that James heard this organ, or played this organ at the local church. Not at somebody’s home or his house, but at the church, because usually churches invest in pipe organs.
A: Well, not so much anymore.
V: Or should.
A: Not so much anymore.
V: I would say ought to invest in pipe organs—quality pipe organs. And digital organs could be best used for private use.
A: But I think it’s all about money.
V: Of course. Thanks guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
Some of you have let me know that you are started receiving materials for courses you didn't sign up for, for instance Two Part Training. But others have written that they have not received some weekly training from this course either.
I'm in the process of migrating all my emails from Mailchimp to ConvertKit and I suspect this is the reason why Mailchimp is acting strange these days.
Just let me know if you are getting too much of some course or not enough. We will sort it out.
I have to manually create literally hundreds of emails on ConvertKit and it takes some time. But when finished this system will be more reliable, simpler and more convenient for all.
I appreciate your patience.
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SOPP385: I constructed a mini-keyboard with two buttons, mounted under the manual, next to the thumb pistons and connected to the USB port of the laptop
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 385 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Damian and he writes:
” Thanks for today's podcast, I have to admit that everything you talk about works in my case.
As far as memory is concerned, usually, I know the words of the first few verses of hymn, and thanks to that I have a little easier in most hymns.
Your comments about the divisibility of attention and "disturbances" from other people are very accurate, exactly how I feel.
I will try to switch tenor with alto and "free" my left hand sometimes ;)
I think we have to try to make it easier to do many things at once. I've made it easier for myself to switch verses on the display. In my church the screen is operated by a laptop, and the verses are switched with the mouse. Right button forward, left back, you can also use the arrows on the laptop keyboard, but it is very uncomfortable. You also have to reach the mouse quite far, and doing it quickly you can confuse the left button with the right, etc. So I constructed a mini-keyboard with two buttons, mounted under the manual, next to the thumb pistons and connected to the USB port of the laptop. Thanks to this, I can switch the verses with my thumb without taking my hands off the keyboard, left or even right hand if it's more comfortable. It definitely made my life easier.
V: Don’t you think Ausra that Damian should patent it and make it available for sale.
A: Yes, I think that’s a very good idea.
V: Similar tools might be already on the market but there is still room for this tool too I think.
A: Sure. Don’t you think it’s so impressive that there are no technologists like this who could have thought about it thirty years ago let’s say.
V: Umm-hmm. Thirty years ago probably churches didn’t even have those screens with text.
A: Well, we don’t have them in Lithuania yet. It’s not common.
V: Right. This is advancement. People are already living in the future and sometimes the future is not as friendly as it seems. For example, a few days ago I was playing a funeral mass for one famous business man who was also a supporter for the arts in Lithuania and at the end of the mass there came a pianist who was preparing to play an accompaniment on our organ tomorrow when the real funeral would take place and I showed her the organ and how to use it a little bit. She isn’t an organist so she needed to write down the stop names, what to choose, and actually curiously she didn’t write down numbers of the stops but exact precise names. That was impressive to me to see. She wrote “Principal 8”, “Salicional 8”, you know like that.
A: Not like most of the organists do in Lithuania. They just write numbers and then you don’t know what stops you are actually using.
V: So this lady told me that I think in the summer she visited Austria and in Vienna they have this famous St. Stephens cathedral and she went inside and it was a Sunday mass and guess what she heard. She heard not organ music but recorded organ music from recording.
A: Well things like this happen in the Stephansdom as it’s called. You know I always thought that Austria is sort of a heart for classic music.
V: Exactly. We know that orchestral masses by Haydn and Mozart are performed regularly there, at least on Sundays, but it was sort of disturbing to know that situation with recordings could be done in public.
A: Well I have known things like this have happened in Lithuania but maybe not during mass but during for example wedding ceremonies and many years ago I heard about one of our acquaintances went to perform I think to small town called Kretinga and that’s what she saw when she went upstairs to the organ balcony and there was the wedding ceremony and the local organist was not playing but when she had to play she would just push the button and the recording would play.
V: Umm-hmm. People make their lives easier this way.
A: I think it’s ridiculous.
V: It is, absolutely.
A: Although you know in some cases for example when we were back studying in Michigan and I was playing in Christian Scientist Church in Ypsilanti which after that bankrupted. But we would have two services, one on Sunday which I was playing and one I think on Thursday nights, evening service, and they wouldn’t hire organist to accompany for that service so they just bought CDs with all Christian Scientist hymnal recorded and they would play hymn recordings.
V: Because they couldn’t afford to hire you on every occasion they needed it.
A: Sure. Because the congregation was so small I don’t know if they would get 20 people on Sundays.
A: And then they were already bankrupted and they were selling the church and I think they waited another month or two until I graduated and I think that was extremely nice that they did it for me.
V: And only after that they went bankrupt.
A: Sure and shut the church down. It was really nice.
V: Do you know what became of the organ?
A: I’m not sure but it was quite a nice electromechanical organ. It had some really nice string stops but it was funny because the console was put in a tiny room but pipes were upstairs and were covered so you could actually not see them at all.
V: It was hidden.
V: Umm-hmm. I guess Damian’s idea about technology inspired us to talk about what technology dark side is sometimes. What kind of replacement to the real organ music can be when they have not enough funds. I have a suggestion but you were almost making a comment, right?
A: Yes, I just wanted to comment that now some of world famous orchestras will not buy new scores but will just play from a tablet so I don’t know if it is good or not but that’s the thing that now a new tendency to do it. It saves trees, of course.
V: Umm-hmm. But it eats up electricity.
A: Sure and they think it is not so good for your eyes, your vision.
V: You know there is this digital ink which is OK for your eyes. It doesn’t have this constant refreshment of data on your screen therefore your eyes won’t be tired too much. There is not glare like on the phones or on the laptops. I’m talking about Kindle for example. But tablets sometimes have this defensive shield against glare too which is good for your eyes. I guess technology can solve many problems too. So I had just one final advice for churches that don’t have budget enough to hire good organist to play hymns or organ music. I have suggestion for them to choose a volunteer from their own part and this volunteer might teach himself or herself how to play the organ and play for them at minimum a few hymns, maybe not all 4 parts for starters but maybe the soprano and the bass just like we are teaching beginners who are starting to play in churches and maybe better music will attract more people to the church and they will be able to afford later to pay. What do you think about that Ausra?
A: Yes, I think that’s a good idea.
V: It’s at least doing something other than pushing the button and playing the recording.
A: That’s right.
V: Trying to improve the situation. OK guys, thanks for listening, we hope this was useful to you and please keep sending your wonderful questions. We love helping you grow. And remember when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let's start Episode 261 of Secrets of Organ Playing podcast. This question was sent by Neil. He writes:
Hello Vidas. Thank you for all the wonderful fingered compositions you publish on your store for which I have purchased a number of. I’ve decided to purchase an iPad with a hope to play a number of the pdf files via Forscore. I wonder if you have had the experience of playing music from a tablet?
Actually, I did. Just before our concert trip to St. Paul's Cathedral in London, I got this Huawei tablet--not a large one, but just 10 or 11 inches of screen. And I tried it out: I downloaded some music to sightread, and put it on the music rack as PDF files, and played it through.
A: So, how did it go? Did you like it?
V: Well, at first, I think, you have to get some experience with this. At first it's kind of tricky. Apart from being tiresome for your eyes, it's tricky to manipulate the score, because you have to slide your fingers up and down...I just used a simple PDF program to read those files, because it's not an iPad--forScore doesn't work for it. I've heard they have special bluetooth pedals for pressing and changing the pages; it helps a lot.
A: So, would you prefer to play from the tablet or from the actual score?
V: Well, it has some nice features. I like the fact that I don't have to print out the music, right? For example, that I can just download from the internet, and sightread if I want publicly available scores, like Bach for example. And I think it has some negative effects, too, not to mention the thing that you have to constantly use your eyes and look at the screen. Maybe it works for iPad--maybe the screen on an iPad is better. But after a few or 15 minutes of looking at the screen intensely, right, when you sightread--
V: You cannot look away. When you use a computer, you can type and look away, because nobody is disturbing you; you're working on your own speed. But when you sightread or play from the music on the tablet, you constantly have to look at the screen; and that is not healthy for you eyes, I think.
A: That's true.
V: But then, you have to calculate what is more important: your eyes, or printing out scores of music constantly.
A: But I know that now, even some orchestras are actually not playing from published scores, and are playing from tablets.
V: True. Maybe they use iPads. Maybe they're better for your eyes, I guess. I guess there is some device which shields you from this blue light, some special goggles...But I'm not sure if orchestra members use special goggles for that...
A: I don't know! Hahahaha!
V: It would look funny! Hahahaha!
A: It would look funny, yes!
V: But yes, I tried it out. Would you like, Ausra, to try it, and maybe get your own experience?
A: Maybe not yet. Because I still have trouble with my right eye, even looking at the regular score.
V: Mhmm. I guess those technologies develop and advance with time; so later on, maybe it will be easier to play and look at the screen than now. So yes, it has some advantages over paper. Of course, we have plenty of normal scores to choose from and open a real collection of Bach's music and sightread. But I feel that carrying a tablet to the church, let's say, and playing it from this machine is easier than carrying an entire collection in a thick volume of organ compositions.
A: I think it's nice when you travel, too.
A: To have your music in one tablet.
V: I had this idea of copying our concert repertoire before going to London--those 4 pieces. And having it on the tablet just in case.
A: Well but you know, playing organ there is really tricky; we'd have to have 2 tablets, because otherwise...how do you imagine it?
V: Yeah, because on one tablet the music sheet that is readable is only... even smaller than 1-page format, right? Layout. And when you have organ duet texture you need at least 2 pages, one for the left and one for the right. So if you want to have a 2-page layout, you have to put it horizontally. But then, the music is twice as long.
A: Yes, and you would have to turn pages a lot, actually, on the tablet.
A: Because, like if you are playing from a real score, you could place even 4 pages at the same time on the music rack.
V: Right. But I guess people who have iPads and other tablets should try it, for themselves, right?
A: Sure, why not?
V: It doesn't hurt too much if you just play for a few minutes, right, and you get a feeling of what/how much you can do; and maybe you will find your own way of using it. Maybe not every day, but for some special occasions. That might help, for other people. And I might use it myself, at church, when I sightread. I don't sightread, for example, for hours and hours, right? I change things: I play from my regular repertoire; I sightread; I improvise. So then, I only have to use my tablet for a number of minutes. Not hours. So, guys...This was Vidas!
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice...
A: Miracles happen.
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Vidas: Let’s start Episode 79 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by Rose. And she writes:
“Dear Vidas, I love your products and have a monthly subscription. The problem I am encountering is that suddenly this week I cannot log in with my email. The system says there is no account with that address. I also tried my personal address, in case it was the one linked to the subscription, but it didn't work either. I receive my monthly bills at that address for some reason. I may have just created a new account with my new address as a way to try to get the system to remember me, but it is not linked to the monthly subscription, so I still cannot download scores through it. Can you help me so that I can log in to my monthly subscription account? Many thanks. Rose.”
Ausra: So, because I’m sort of technically challenged, maybe you, Vidas, could explain about this question and answer it?
Vidas: Rose is having a problem that from time to time, some of Total Organist students also face. And I’m very happy to help, and it’s not a big deal, we always find a solution through email communication. So first of all, if you cannot login into your account, don’t panic, just send me an email and we will work together. The issues might be not necessarily just one, but several…
Ausra: Could you explain just the most common issues? What you have encountered, from your experience?
Vidas: For example, Paypal--this subscription works with Paypal accounts, and people sometimes pay with their money directly taken from Paypal accounts, and sometimes from cards that are linked to their Paypal accounts; that’s not the same thing. And sometimes, they update their accounts--like maybe one card expires, and another card is linked again. So if you do that, sometimes Paypal doesn’t recognize your card, and your payment doesn’t go through, and then your subscription gets suspended. So at this point, you cannot really login into your account.
Ausra: So what should you do?
Vidas: Well, simply...There are 2 solutions. If you’re not suspended, but just simply, temporarily, Paypal is trying to deduct some money from your account, but unsuccessfully, and you have maybe 5 days period for that, and Paypal notifies me also, that they’re trying to transfer funds from somebody’s account, but unsuccessfully, and they will try again in 5 days.
So it’s not cancellation, not suspension yet, it’s like period of trials for Paypal. And during that period, I may write an email to you if you have this problem, and you can update your card. Maybe you have insufficient funds, for example; maybe add some funds to your card, and then this payment will go through, and you will get easily accepted to Total Organist website account.
Or just add another card, validate through Paypal, and Paypal will accept it and the payment will go through. You see how it works? It seems like technical work, but it’s really not. Paypal is trying various ways to find payment solutions from your account; and if either the payment method doesn’t work for them, or the money is insufficient in your account, then they get worried, and sometimes suspend.
If your subscription to Total Organist gets suspended--from that moment, you cannot log into Total Organist account. You write to me, if that’s the case, and if you still want to continue your training, then the best way would be to subscribe from the beginning, like a new student. What do you think about it, Ausra? Because Paypal already has suspended this account, you cannot really reactivate.
Ausra: Yes, I think the best solution is to start from the beginning.
Vidas: The best solution is to purchase your subscription from the beginning.
Ausra: But the best thing, first of all, I think--what to do--would be to send you an email directly.
Vidas: Email! Always email, and communications. And by the way you can try out membership for Total Organist for free for 30 days. And after that, if you like it, you continue with the full amount, monthly or yearly, if you want. Thanks, guys, we hope this was useful to you, to think about your payment options and subscription to Total Organist. And if you have more questions, please send us through email, and we will be happy to help you. This was Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
There are times when an organist working in a church feels the need to make a special choir arrangement of an anthem, create a hymn or compose an organ verset. Long gone are the days when one would take a sheet of paper and a pencil, write the music and photocopy the music sheet and hand it to the choir members. Handwriting might work for private use easily but if you work with other people, you have to use music notation software, online or offline.
Although I personally work with Sibelius, if you are looking for a program, you can try Finale. Both Finale and Sibelius are considered leaders in the industry today. They constantly upgrade their software and you could be sure you will get a newest version. A great thing about most music notation programs is that you can save the files in MIDI or MusicXML formats which lets you transfer them to any other notation program that you want.
Besides Sibelius or Finale, other programs available are MagicScore Maestro, Forte Home, QuickScore, QuickScore Elite, Notation Composer, NoteWorthy Composer, Music MasterWorks, and Play Music. There are some free programs, too - MuseScore, Lylipond, Finale Notepad, and Musink.
While you have to install one of these programs on your computer, wouldn't it be great, if you could do the same things these programs do but only online without the need of installation of software which can be expensive at times? Well, there are a number of online music notation services. The one that I'm happiest with is Noteflight. It's pretty new and the service is quite basic but they will certainly improve in the future.
Armed with an online or offline music notation program, a church organist can be quite productive in his music output and these technologies are without a doubt a must for anyone who wants to be successful today.
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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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