By Vidas Pinkevicius
Oh, how great it would be to wake up one morning and discover you are a master in playing the organ, wouldn't it? Just like Latry, Dupre, Straube, or Bach.
No need to practice over and over for tenths of thousands of hours. No more struggle. No more fear.
Actually, that's never going to happen overnight. Instead drip by drip each deliberate practice makes you just a tiny bit better.
You may not notice it but it does.
So don't torture yourself over the results too much. Think what a kingly privilege you have when you sit down and find time to play each day. When you're frustrated. When you're in pain.
Enjoy the ride.
As an organist, what are you actually required to do?
Playing the organ in church or in recitals is only a part of our duties as organists. I say - a smaller part.
Another, more important part which may not be immediately apparent is communication.
Communication with our listeners. Communication with our employer.
I think that real practicing and performing is only 30 percent of our responsibilities. Another 70 percent is communication.
Very often an organist goes to church, turns on the organ, plays the hymns, preludes, and postludes or accompanies the choir, turns off the organ, and goes home. But then wonders why no one is listening to the prelude and postlude or why the priest/pastor complains that either the organ was too loud or the hymn was too fast or whatever.
Or an organist shows up for recital, performs the pieces on the program, bows, leaves, and then wonders why so few people have come to the event and from those who came, not a single one came up to the organ balcony to share their experience of the recital.
I'm not saying that you have to put less work into practice and performance. But I certainly think that communication about our practice and performance needs to be improved.
It's an investment. The more effort you extend into communicating the right kind of stories and your behind-the-scene work - the better your work will be appreciated by the right kind of people.
But never approach communication as human spam. It's not a one-way blast of information. It's a two-way conversation where one of the most important tasks is listening and empathy - understanding the people before you actually meet them.
Playing the organ can be a very exciting activity and many organists dream to become competent and proficient in their playing. However, achieving this level when you can be fluent in your playing and free of mistakes is not easy because you have to know the exact and specific steps to achieve this goal. So in this article I will give you my tips on how to become a competent organist.
First, you have to develop your manual and pedal technique. What this means is that your fingers have to be able to play anything you command to them. The best way to develop your finger technique is to play manual scales, arpeggios, chords, and special exercises regularly.
For developing a pedal technique playing pedal scales and arpeggios in all 24 keys works wonderfully. Take a pair of one major and minor key with the same number of accidentals and play a scale and arpeggio over one or two octaves. Do this every day for 15 minutes.
In order to become a competent organist you also have to develop your hand and feet independence. You see, even if all your fingers might be able to play anything you want and your feet can play even the most incredibly difficult passage of pedal lines, you still have to be able to play hands and feet together.
As you know, most of the time in organ music hands and pedals play different melodies. Therefore, your hand and feet independence has to be developed to a level when you could play anything with your hands and feet together.
The next thing you have to do is to develop a wide variety of repertoire. Try to learn new pieces every month. Your organ repertoire should be varied enough and should include organ compositions from many different national organ schools and historical periods.
For example, you should not limit yourself to the well-known organ works of Bach, Buxtehude, Couperin, Franck, Widor or Vierne but also try to learn and master pieces from lesser known organ schools like Spanish or German Renaissance, Italian Baroque or even compositions from the Middle Ages.
Also remember that you have to learn the foundations of music theory which will allow you to better understand your organ pieces you are playing. Learning basics of harmony, counterpoint, and fugue would be also beneficial. Finally, try your hand at organ improvisation - this will give you much joy from your increased creativity.
Apply my tips in your practice and with time you will become a competent organist. But remember you have to be consistent and systematic with your practice, persistent with your efforts, and never give up on achieving your goal.
Do you want to achieve success as an organist? I have 8 tips for your practice, recital playing and marketing in this article.
1. Quality in practice. Try to practice better than your competitors do. Do not allow yourself to make a mistake. If you make a mistake, go back and correct it until you can't make the same mistake again.
2. Quantity in practice. The more time you put in your practice the better. If you want to be the best in what you do, you cannot hope to achieve this level practicing only a few minutes a day.
3. Unique practicing approach. Try to be unique in your organ practice. Compare your practice to other areas of life and see if you can use similar techniques in your practice.
4. Unique recital programming. When you choose the program for your organ recital, always think of your listeners first. Ask yourself, what makes my program different from many others and worth listening?
5. Quality in playing recitals. Both in preparation and in performance you should strive for minimum mistakes. Stay focused in every measure and don't allow yourself to relax until your recital is over.
6. Quantity in playing recitals. Although playing 10 recitals is a good start, you need many more to gain experience and become an expert. Try to play as many recitals with the same program in different venues in the same year as possible. Then learn a new program and do the same.
7. Unique marketing approach. Use social media marketing and content marketing to achieve a wider web present.
8. Consistency in marketing. Think of marketing as growing a plant. You wouldn't water your tree just once and forget it, would you? Instead you would give your tree all your attention regularly and consistently. The same applies in marketing yourself as an organist.
Use the above tips in your organ practice, in playing recitals and marketing yourself as an organist today. In time, they will empower you to become a respected expert and a leader whom others will want to follow.
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.
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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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