#AskVidasAndAusra 75: I don’t have enough free time to become good enough to play difficult passages
Vidas: Let’s start Episode 75 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by Paul, and he writes that his challenge is that he doesn’t have enough free time to become good enough to play difficult passages. He writes, “However, on thinking about it a little more, it is the problem of coordination between two hands and feet, with all three playing something different. Yes! It is this problem of coordination between separate rhythms. Unfortunately, I only have one brain, probably with only one core, while an organist probably needs at least three cores.”
So, Ausra, that’s an analogy with computers, right?
Vidas: The more cores you have, the faster you can process information. But yes, we as humans have just limited amount of possibilities to process information at the same time. We cannot really multitask. We can focus on one single task at hand. What do you think about it?
Ausra: Yes, that’s true, but you know what? I think that people nowadays want to have immediate gratification. They want to put in very little effort, or no effort at all, and to be able to play as J. S. Bach did. Everything takes time, and there are no ways how you can escape that, if you want to play really well, and you want to have well-coordinated voices; and to coordinate your hands and feet, you just have to practice more and to work on combinations.
And I think we already have talked about it so many times.
Vidas: And I think we will talk so many times in the future, because it’s so important, and we have to reinforce this concept.
Ausra: Because there is no magic pill, no magic trick, that you would just do it like that, in a second. It’s a step-by-step approach; it’s diligent practice every day.
Vidas: I think people in general have to lower their expectations of what they can achieve overnight, right?
Ausra: Yes. If you cannot play the hard passages, don’t pick pieces that have such difficult passages. And if you chose one, then work on it: not playing from the beginning to the end, but take those hard passages and work on them. Work on different combinations--learn left hand first, then right hand second, and then pedal, and then work in different combinations.
Vidas: And another thing to be careful about is, you have to (obviously) never underestimate what you can achieve over time, long-term. Keep lower expectations for your short-term progress; but if you calculate those countless hours you spent on the organ bench overcoming months, years (and even decades, for some people)--it will add up, right?
Ausra: Yes. You just have to be patient.
Vidas: Yeah, that’s the bane of the modern age--we’re not patient enough. We are constantly bombarded with new information, with temptation for instant gratification; and we have to resist that, right? If we want to achieve something worthwhile, there is pain involved. “No pain, no gain,” that is a famous saying. And people don’t want to suffer, actually, right, Ausra?
Vidas: We are built, we’re wired to avoid suffering. We flee from pain and seek pleasure, that’s our nature. And actually, learning something is against our nature, in this case. So we have to be absolutely, very firm in our beliefs, in what we want to achieve--and just simply stick with it no matter what.
Ausra: Yes, and be honest and don’t try to cheat. Because maybe you can cheat other people, but you cannot cheat yourself.
Vidas: Maybe you can cheat yourself once…
Vidas: But you will start to notice, if you cut corners too often, if you spend not quality time on the organ but just fooling around, so to say, it doesn’t lead you anywhere where you want to go in the future. And sooner or later, you are going to regret this time you spent on the organ. Not quality time, not focused time, not with intent. That’s what we can suggest to everybody, right?
Vidas: Excellent, Ausra. Is it easy for you to delay gratification for yourself, when you sit down on the organ bench? Do you have those urges yourself--do you want to achieve something very quickly, too?
Ausra: Well, I think it’s in everybody’s nature; but you know, I’m not a chimp. I’m a human being, and I have reason, I have control of myself; so that’s what I’m trying to do.
Vidas: What you’re saying is probably, your motivation is stronger than your pain, right?
Vidas: Your will to succeed is stronger than the fear of pain, which is involved in this process for everyone, right? If you want to achieve something, you have to persevere, and a certain amount of pain will definitely be there. And you have to be conscious of that fear, and don’t flee from that fear, because you have that inner motivation to succeed--in this case, on the organ.
Ausra: Yes. That’s right.
Vidas: Excellent, guys. I, too, have constant urges to be successful, let’s say, in fugal improvisation (it's an advanced stage for improvisation based on chorale tunes). It’s a very difficult sphere of creating music in the moment. And I want to do this like the masters did in the past (or some of them can do today, like my friend Sietze de Vries); and I want to play fantasies and fugues with triple counterpoint right away! It’s funny because that doesn’t happen! I have to stick with my schedule--with the method, with the system that I apply to myself, to my practice. Otherwise, it’s foolish to hope, right? Miracles happen only when I practice!
Ausra: That’s true.
Vidas: We keep saying that, but there is no other way around pain. Just go through it. Okay, guys, thank you so much for listening; thank you so much for sending us your questions. Please send us more of your questions, we love helping you grow. And apply our tips to practice; there are no shortcuts in this art. This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
When organists want to become internationally famous and have a good performance career, the old ways of advertisement don't work very well anymore. This is because of increased competition and reduced attention span. People generally don't like advertisements.
Back in the old days, all you needed was to have a regular ad in one of the popular organ magazines and the concert arrangements would come to you (provided you were a good organist with proper education, of course).
Now the times have changed and you need something more. You need to become remarkable. How to achieve this? I have 3 suggestions for you:
1. Be yourself. Don't try to become somebody else. Look deep into your likes and dislikes, into your character, and make use of what is unique about yourself. Remember the story how George Gershwin met Maurice Ravel and said he wanted to study with him. Ravel reportedly told him "Why do you want to become a second-rate Ravel when you are already a first-rate Gershwin?"
2. Specialize. Be the best in the world in as smaller niche as possible. Then you will become indispensible. This applies to organ playing as well. Organ playing is a broad niche and if you specialize and excell in some smaller sub-niche of organ playing, then you will become an expert in that field. So when people will want to find an expert in this small area, they will go to you instead of somebody else.
3. Help other people grow. Even though you might not be an expert in organ playing yet, you certainly have your own experiences to share and stories to tell which will be helpful to other people.
A good way to help people is to regularly write a blog with a newsletter where you could share these things with your audience. This will help you to gather a certain amount of people who trust you and want to hear more from you.
Think about these tips and apply them in your life. With time, they will help you to become remarkable and different from other organists and the word about you will spread far and wide.
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.
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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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