People often get discouraged when they make mistakes. They feel that there is something wrong with their practice. While it may be truth sometimes, very often it is a natural part of how we learn.
For example, it can often happen that you play correctly the 1st time, the 2nd time and you make a mistake on the 3rd time. Is that what happened to you in your organ practice?
That's OK. Failing and making mistakes is an integral part of our learning process. So please don't get frustrated when you make mistakes. In fact, if you don't make a mistake at the beginning stages of your organist training, then something is likely wrong with your organ practice.
If you don't fail enough times, you will not know what success is. If you feel you are not making any mistake at all, it probably means you are not looking hard enough and not concentrating on details (such as notes, rhythms, fingering, pedaling, articulation, ornaments, hand and feet position etc.). It probably means your mistakes get unnoticed.
If this is the case, record yourself and listen to your recording. Ask yourself, "would I pay money to get to this concert if someone played like that?".
Practice until the answer is yes. As they say, Practice Makes Perfect. Let's add to it Wise Practice Makes Perfect. Make sure you take a really slow controlled tempo in which you can think of the next note before you play it.
Practice in fragments of 4 measures as I always recommend (do 10 times each fragment) in separate voices and all combinations of 2 and 3 voices before putting everything together.
If you struggled with making mistakes up until now, apply these tips and in just 7 days, you will feel the breakthrough. If not, then it may mean that the piece is too difficult for you at the moment and that you need to work on your organ technique.
Force yourself not to look at your fingers and feet while you are playing. Look at the music. If you play from memory, just close your eyes. This is tough, I know. But trust me on this, it will get easier with time and the benefits of doing so are enormous.
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.
Is your organ playing overdramatic? It is important keep it natural because often overdramatic performance sounds simply too distracting and comical to the listener. In addition, such playing style is not good for the player. Because of this, the instrument may also suffer some serious damage. In this article, you will discover 5 most common signs of organ playing offenses.
1) Tension in the body. When your body is all rigid, shoulders raised, fingers and upper thighs tensed, you cannot play in a natural way. You music becomes also tense and rigid. If you feel some tension in your body, it even gets difficult to breath. We can't relax without breathing and we can't breath without relaxing. So naturally deep breathing is the key for relaxing the entire body.
2) Hitting the keyboard with excess force. I often see organists make this mistake which comes from their pianistic background. They imagine that the louder they want the organ to sound, the harder they have to hit those keys which is absolutely incorrect and may even result in some serious damage to the organ key action. The ideal way would be to play with a gentle mezzo piano touch. The technique which helps to achieve that is keeping the fingers in contact with the keys at all times.
3) Playing the pedals too loud. Organists who hit the keys too hard, often make this mistake as well. They bounce and kick the pedals with excess force which also makes it difficult to control the releases and articulation and may damage the pedal action.
4) Doing unnecessary movements with your body. From time to time many musicians make this mistake - they lean forward or backwards too much. I am not suggesting that the body should be stiff. A little of body movements is fine but too much swinging back and forth may throw your playing off balance.
5) Making agogical accents in the piece too often. This mistake is especially obvious if one plays a short composition imagining that it is a grand symphony. If the piece is short, it is illogical to make those ritardandos and accelerandos very often. Besides, certain type of musical style (early music) does not allow unnatural alterations of tempo.
Remember these signs of overdramatic playing when you practice or perform your organ pieces today. Be careful to use your body in a natural way without tension and without unnecessary movements. Do not use excess force when hitting the keys or the pedals. Instead keep your fingers and feet in contact with the keys at all times. This technique will allow to minimize your efforts and your performance will become natural.
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 FREE Organ Practice Guide.
Or if you really want to learn to play any organ composition at sight fluently and without mistakes while working only 15 minutes a day, check out my systematic master course in Organ Sight-Reading.
This is Part 3 of the series of articles about common mistakes in pedal playing. In order to have a full picture, read the Part 1 and Part 2 as well.
Not changing the position. In order to play passages in the outer edges of the pedal board fluently, we need to shift the position. This technique also allows us to feel comfortable and avoid unnecessary tension of the body. However, not every organist knows how to use this technique properly.
Actually, it is quite simple. When you need to make a large leap in your pedal part, push off the pedals with the left foot if the leap is upwards. Likewise push off with the right foot when there is a large leap downwards. As you push off with your foot, make sure you shift the entire lower part of your body, too. The upper body has to stay stable facing the music. This technique makes playing pedal scales very easy and comfortable. Just shift the position a few times over the course of the scale. By the way, the great resource of playing pedal scales and other exercises is Organ Technique: Modern and Early by George Ritchie and George Stauffer.
Playing hands and feet together from the beginning in polyphonic music. Because polyphonic organ music, such as four voice fugues can be very exciting yet quite challenging to learn, I don’t recommend learning the fugue by playing hands and feet together right away. Of course, you may sight-read the fugue a couple of times in order to get familiar with the music, but real practice should be done in a different way for best results.
Unless you are very experienced in sight-reading and organ playing in general, learn separate voices of the fugue first. Later practice two-voice and three-voice combinations. Only then you will be ready to play the full four-part texture. Practicing otherwise makes learning the correct articulation quite difficult. In addition, because of complex polyphony you may not be able to pay attention to details in your pedal playing technique.
Note that you can subdivide the piece into smaller fragments and learn them in this way first. Then combine the fragments into larger episodes. It may seem time consuming and you may think that playing all voices together from the beginning would be faster. However, if you want some serious progress in your organ playing, have patience, take your time to learn the piece really well and don’t rush. Then you will be able to master any organ composition.
Not using pedal preparation. If you know what pedal preparation is all about, chances are that you are practicing correctly. The easiest way to explain how pedal preparation works is this: after playing one note in the pedal part, immediately move your foot to the next position and wait for its turn to play. In other words, as you release one pedal, move the foot to the next note in one fluent motion. This technique helps to achieve precision in the pedal playing.
However, even though we may know the right way to play, we don’t necessarily take the steps which lead to success. For some reasons, sometimes we are just happy if we press the right notes on the pedal board. Of course, using pedal preparation takes some serious mindset and patience but I can guarantee that it’s worth it.
You see, if we insist on preparing for the next note in the pedal part and practice that specific fragment repeatedly, after a while it will become automatic and the foot will just know were to go next. At first you may even use the pencil to mark note heads in advance in parentheses. Later, it will all become natural because you will develop the habit of pedal preparation.
The list about these common mistakes in pedal playing continues in Part 4 of this article series.
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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