SOPP682: Since organ playing is my hobby, I can only devote maybe an hour a day to practice (sometimes even less)
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 682 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Martin, and he writes
I really enjoy receiving your emails and watching your Youtube channel. From early childhood, I always admired organ music and organists. In church, I would always go up to watch how the organ was played. I grew up in Bratislava, Slovakia, and listening to the organ in the big Lutheran church was quite an experience (4 manual, 62 stops). It was always my dream to play it. Alas, my life took a different path and I now live in Canada. Last year, being stuck at home due to the COVID pandemic, I discovered the Hauptwerk virtual pipe organ. I built myself a 3-manual console + 25 pedal and started to learn. Your Youtube channel and those of other expert organists are an enormous help and inspiration, and I try to follow your tutorial steps as much as possible. One thing I might like your advice on is the following: since organ playing is my hobby, I can only devote maybe an hour a day to practice (sometimes even less). What would be the best way to use this time? Practice a little bit of everything every day (scales + compositions)? Or do scales (mainly pedals) one day, and composition(s) another?
Many thanks and best wishes
V: That’s a nice question, right, Ausra?
A: Yes, and very nice letter from Martin. I listened as you read through his message and thought, Lucky, lucky, lucky man. He escaped from Europe to Canada. Because right now, Canada for me is like a dream country.
V: Why is that?
A: Well, because actually of that war in Ukraine. I’m afraid that soon there won’t be half of Europe left.
V: Mm hm. Europe is very very small compared to…
A: Yes, and now we heard that people, tourists - foreign tourists actually are canceling their summer reservations. They had to come for example to get vacation on our coast.
A: So we, I’m really worried that we soon might end up as Ukraine.
V: Yes. There is a peninsula called Curonian Spit. It’s a beautiful resort place with sand dunes and Baltic Sea on one shore and - what is this sea, not sea water called…
A: Kuršių marios in Lithuanian, but I don’t know…
V: Marios, marios, wait a second. Kuršių marios, let me look it up. Kuršių marios, marios English, English… Curonian Lagoon?
A: Yes, that would be lagoon probably.
V: Curonian Lagoon, yeah, lagoon. That’s a wonderful place for summer attractions and vacations.
A: Yes, but now people are canceling their plans to come to Lithuania because they are afraid of, that the war will start in the Baltics, too. And since this wonderful resort has a border with Kaliningrad, which is basically crammed with the Russian army, nobody wants to come here anymore.
V: Yeah, and Canada seems far, far away, right?
A: Yes, although if Russians would warn, they could attack Canada too, from the north. Through Siberia.
V: Mm hm.
A: Well, anyway - so now let’s talk about Martin’s question, how it would be best for him to practice on a daily basis, since he has only one hour a day to spare for organ practice.
V: But three manuals and pedals at home.
A: That’s wonderful.
V: That’s all that is needed. We also have three manuals and pedals. More than 25 pedals, 30 pedals, but 25 pedals is quite enough to start with.
A: Yeah, sure. But you know, in terms of practicing one day only scales, I wouldn’t do that if I would be him. Unless he loves practicing scales and exercises, which is good. But if he does not, I would spend maybe 10 minutes per day practicing on the scales and other technicalities, and then I would practice the repertoire.
V: If he likes scales and pedal exercises on the pedals, he could check out my Pedal Virtuoso Master Course. That’s a long course, several months, but will teach you everything about pedal technique, and he will develop pedal flexibility. If you like exercises. If you don’t, that would be too artificial for you.
A: Yes, and then about practicing the repertoire, of course you don’t have to play and practice many pieces at one time. Because let’s say if you will pick up three pieces and you will practice them every day, if they are short pieces then it’s okay. But if you are working on longer pieces, then probably it’s best if you would work at two pieces at one time, not more. Because if you will just play them through, you will not progress very quickly. Because in order to see the progress and to learn the text easier, we need to repeat what you have just played a few times.
V: Half an hour for one piece?
A: Probably yes.
V: At least 20 minutes probably.
V: Or 25 minutes. You will see for yourself what is the average time that you can spend for one piece. But as Ausra says, repeating a few times the same fragment would be more beneficial than just sight reading it once, right?
A: Yes, that would be my suggestion.
V: In one hour a day, you can do many things over time, you know - not in one sitting, but in several months.
A: Yes, the most important thing is that you would spend the same or approximately the same amount of time every day, that you wouldn’t skip your practice. Of course if you will just take one day, for example, Sunday out, it still works, but if you will just practice every other day it won’t be good. You won’t see progress as good as it could get if you woul practice every day for an hour.
V: Talk about practice and progress, I find that practicing alone is quite lonely and sometimes boring. People end up quitting a lot of times, don’t you think?
A: Well, not for me. I guess it depends on the character.
V: Why haven’t you quit organ playing, Ausra?
A: Well why should I quit it? I love it. I love the organ. I love organ repertoire. Actually, I feel privileged that I can practice, because I know many people might want to practice but they can’t. So why should I give up this opportunity and this privilege of practicing? I can still move my legs and my hands, so why don’t do that?
V: I was going for another answer, but sort of around - would you still be practicing, Ausra, if you hadn't let’s say, planned our future recitals, or let’s say if you didn’t have YouTube channel?
A: Yes, of course I would still practice. Maybe not as much, but...
V: Not as much. External motivation helps, don’t you think?
A: Yes, it helps. It pushes you to move forward. But it’s not the main thing. The process gives me pleasure, being in the music, making music.
V: I see. Maybe Martin is like you, too? Or like me?
A: I don’t know.
V: For me, external motivation is also important. When people write comments and I share my music and they play my music, then it is very rewarding experience.
A: Yes, you like to show off much more than I do. But anyway.
V: There are various situations for people, and you can choose whatever you like. Ausra is different from me in that she is more introverted than me, right?
V: But she’s sharing her music as well, sort of out of necessity, right?
V: Out of necessity from living with an extrovert.
A: Yes, you are pushing me to exhibit so I have no choice.
V: Am I pushing you too much, or not?
V: Tell me on, for the record.
A: Well actually, now I am thinking about death much more often than I usually did before all this horrible situation in Ukraine, and actually now I’m glad that I recorded some things and I wrote some things, because death might be standing right next to me, next to us. Who knows how long we are going to live? And it’s nice to leave something after.
V: I agree. Agree. And sometimes music changes people, changes people’s lives. Right there! Martin writes the first sentence, “I really enjoy receiving your emails and watching your YouTube channel.” Probably my music in some way touched him. So imagine I wasn’t sharing, right?
A: Mm, yes.
V: Just practicing or just playing recitals and never recording, right? That would be probably a pity.
A: And what I liked about Martin’s letter, that he got his inspiration, his love, his curiosity for the organ music from his childhood when he lived back in Bratislava. I think it’s so important for children to get experience, early experience with an organ.
V: Yes. I hope he can go to some church in Canada as well, and look up some nice instruments there, too.
V: But now when he has Hauptwerk at his home, then he can play many many different sample sets which sound quite similar to real pipe organs. Not the same, but rather similar. And at home to have this kind of set up is a very very big privilege, I would say.
A: Yes, I think it helped us through pandemics and through other hard times, you know.
V: Okay guys. Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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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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