We all have heard that piano technique is the basis of the modern legato organ technique. Having strong piano skills might be a great advantage. But did you know that not all of the things you do on the piano are equally transferable to the organ?
In particular, when you play piano, one of the key elements is making dynamics with your touch. If you want the piano to sound louder, you play with more force. If you want to play softer, you use less force. It’s as simple as that.
But on the organ, the dynamics are not achieved through the same techniques that pianists use. On the organ, in order to increase or decrease the volume, you can change the registration or manipulate the swell box.
Sure, you can make subtle accents with some clever use of articulation and touch (on the mechanical action organs) but what I want to stress here, is that you should not use that excess force.
There is simply no need to pound on the keys harder if you are playing a loud piece. On the contrary, the softer you depress the keys, the better you will be able to control the releases which are equally or more important than the depression of the keys.
So you have to be relaxed enough and play mezzo piano on the organ. Use only as much power as is needed to depress the keys.
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.
Many organists who come to the organ from having played piano for some years find it difficult to get rid of the piano touch. This is important because piano and organ actions are inherently different so they require different approaches on how to play each instrument. If you struggle with avoiding piano touch when playing the organ, I recommend you apply these 4 tips.
1. Keep the fingers in contact with the keys at all times. Try to force yourself to remember this tip constantly because it is very important not only for getting rid of piano touch but also for accuracy in playing.
You see, when you play piano, you lift the fingers high to prepare for crisp motion downwards. On the organ you have to use completely different approach - you must not allow yourself to lift the fingers off the keyboard.
2. Play mezzo piano. How many times I see organists play the organ like they would play the piano. When they want to increase dynamics, they use more force. When they want the organ sound loud, they play it as piano with lots of force.
This is an incorrect approach which not only makes your playing look like pianist's but also you will find it extremely difficult to coordinate the releases this way. So use only as much force as is needed to press the key and not more. Dynamics on the organ are made by changing stops and/or opening and closing the swell box and not through the touch.
3. Keep the upper body straight. When you play piano, it is quite common to move your upper body when you feel the rising tension in the music. On the organ it is quite the opposite. The calmer you sit on the bench, the better you will be in control of your hand and feet movements.
You have to feel like conductor who is only giving directions to his/her orchestra. You see, the best conductors make their body movements very minimal because it is not them but the members of the orchestra who have to do the job of playing.
The same is with organ playing - you have to let your fingers and feet do the job. You just give them directions what to do. Therefore, there is no need to move your upper body like you would in playing the piano.
4. Coordinate the releases. One of the major differences between piano and organ playing is that pianists usually only pay attention to how the key is depressed but not how it is released. This is because piano sound fades very quickly and organ sound can last indefinitely.
So people who come to the organ with some piano experience also forget to focus on the releases. However, this is a vital point to remember. Since much of the organ music is polyphonic, you have to be precise at how you release the keys.
When the note values indicate that the notes should be of the same length, release all of the keys exactly together. But when some notes should sound longer while others - shorter, be very precise in holding these notes.
Use these tips in your organ practice today. If you are conscious about them every time you sit down to play, with time you will notice how your organ technique improves and your touch becomes organistic.
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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