Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 449, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Patricia, and she writes:
Dear Vidas and Ausra, Thank you for contacting me regarding your program of Organ tuition and assistance. I studied organ at Trinity College in London and also at the same time I studied the French music from Jean Dattas at Notre Dame in Leicester Square. I was working in London at the time teaching English to students at Morden Girls Secondary in Surrey. When I returned to Kingston, Ontario in Canada, I worked as an organist in a Lutheran Church called St. Marks for 5 years. My mother got an illness which the doctor's said was incurable. They said it would be better to take my mother to Australia to help her but that was not a good idea as she died soon after arriving. I live in Melbourne and have a Johannes organ in my house. I am very bad at practicing and need some help to get started again. I need to master some on my favorites such as the Bach toccatas and other organ preludes and fugues which I played before. I am trying to teach myself the Widor Toccata.
V: Can we help Patricia with those goals, Ausra?
A: Well, I hope so, but as I talked in a previous podcast, inner motivation is the most important thing. So if Patricia has it, I think everything will be just fine.
A: Since she was quite advanced organist, because she now is not learning to play the organ from scratch, but she just has to refresh her skills, and to renew her ability to play the organ. What would you suggest for her to do? What would be the best choice and the first step?
V: Well sometimes when you repeat previously mastered material from the past with the gap of many years in between, sometimes your old habits come back and those old habits might not be the best habits, you see. And that’s something to keep in mind. Sometimes it’s better to learn the same piece but in a new way. Like completely from scratch, with a new articulation, with a new fingering and pedaling, from a new score, let’s say. I think that would be more productive. What do you say?
A: Yes. I couldn’t agree more. Because when I’m trying to refresh some of the old pieces that I played, let’s say many years ago, and I remember the spots that were hard for me in that time, they are still hard for me, today. It means that I wasn’t working in a right way...
A: At such time.
V: But is it true from your early days, you got a decent foundation, and even if you refresh those pieces, those old habits are not the worst habits, I mean, for you.
A: Yes, they are not the worst habits.
V: At least some of them you can keep.
A: But still nowadays when I’m starting to repeat an old piece, at least I won’t be playing it from the beginning to the end. I start to work on the harder spots right away.
A: Because I’m already sort of respecting myself and my time. I don’t know that I don’t have much of it, so I want to use it as productively as I can.
V: And Patricia writes that she’s very bad at practicing. Can you interpret that in some way for us Ausra? What to you suppose she means?
A: Well, it’s hard to tell what exactly she means but I could say what in general I consider is a bad practice. Probably the worst practice is not practicing at all, or not practicing enough.
A: Or practicing unproductively. Because sometimes you can sit on your organ bench and play for four hours straight, and it will be still bad practicing.
V: I suppose that’s true Ausra. I always said that the hardest part of practicing the organ is sitting down on the organ bench. Which means, if you practice enough you will get better. But, sometimes, I can observe my Unda Maris students practicing and practicing and over and over again and not getting…
A: Any better.
V: Any better, sooner than they wanted. They are getting better, but really slowly. And I know why. I know how I would practice differently. And I tell them to slow down. And I tell them, let’s say to practice separate parts multiple times, and they don’t do that, you see. And that’s how they get the same result every time. Maybe a little bit better, because with time, even stone can be furnished with drops of water, enough drops of water. But it really, it takes ages and we don’t have that time.
A: But I would think that Patricia has organ in her house. It means that she can easier find time to practice because she doesn’t need to go anywhere to the organ loft.
V: Mmm-hmm. True. So those are general ideas to get started. I suggest she would take a look at my organ practice course. And we are talking about also in some courses about organ practice. Maybe she could just take a look at the category of courses in the Organ Practice category in our Secrets Of Organ Playing store. And she will find useful materials there.
A: Do you think it’s wise to work on several old pieces at the same time, or not? How would you do it?
V: Several pieces, yes, but not too many, maybe three, for starters.
A: But do you think it’s important only to repeat the old repertoire or to learn something new as well?
V: Definitely something new to keep her going forward. And definitely something from different stylistic periods. Let’s say she likes Bach’s Preludes and Fugues, and also she tries to learn Widor Toccata. That would be different choices. But maybe something slower than Widor Toccata would be nice too, like a chorale prelude, or a romantic piece in Adagio tempo, or slow movement from the same Widor symphony.
A: Well actually, I always thought that all French people just love French composers.
A: But as we performed at Alpe d'Huez in French Alps last March, actually the man who actually is one of the main organizers of that organ festival, he told that ‘very good’ that we are not playing Widor and we are not doing the famous Toccata. Because actually what happens when organist playing Widor on the program, people start leaving.
A: And it was actually a big surprise. I was slightly shocked when I heard it—that French don’t like Widor, especially this toccata.
V: Maybe the listeners have heard it enough times.
A: Could be, that it’s already, it’s up to...
A: Up to your throat. So but it was a surprise because the audience is like 99% French in that church.
V: Mmm-hmm. And older age, I would say.
A: Well, yes, I would say. So maybe you could do not only like Widor Toccata but practice some pieces by Louis Vierne.
V: Yes, and softer pieces, not necessarily loud.
A: Yes, not only fast and, because I think this toccata is one of the most mechanical organ pieces…
A: that are written. But it’s good for wedding. Usually people quite like it, and order to play it during wedding time quite a lot.
V: She says she likes toccatas and organ preludes and fugues by Bach. What is your favorite toccata, Ausra, by Bach, today?
A: Probably C Major Toccata, Adagio and Fugue.
A: I think it always was my favorite, and it still is. What about you?
V: I like very much E Major Toccata…
A: I like it too.
V: but transposed to C Major.
A: It’s sort of Buxtehude style.
A: Reminds, it would be my second choice.
V: Good! And what about organ prelude and fugue, by Bach? What would you take with you to the island without any people around?
A: I think you know which one. It would be E Flat Major from the first part of Clavier-Übung. (????)
V: E Flat Major?
V: BWV 552.
A: That’s right. But I also like C minor Prelude and Fugue.
V: I like A Major.
A: I like C Major.
V: Which one? There are a few.
A: The one you played in America.
A: Yes. I’m no good with numbers. I really need to learn to memorize Bach’s catalogue that I could tell these numbers as well as you.
V: You know what’s the best way to memorize the catalogue? Is to sight-read each piece and then you will know the numbers by heart.
A: Yes. But also what I would suggest for Patricia to do, to play some of Bach’s chorale works because I think they are great too.
V: Yes. That was our first suggestion.
A: And with age I even start preferring Bach chorale based works.
V: So guys, we hope this was useful to you. Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
V: Miracles happen!
By the way, today is the best time to join our Total Organist community because of Total Organist Midsummer discount which is valid until the end of June. The 1st month is free and you will get 50 % discount for as long as you choose to subscribe.
Before we go to the podcast of today, I'd like to thank people who gave feedback about my 6 compositions which were last weekend performed by an orchestra.
Thanks for sharing these. I love the lush harmonies in these compositions. I listened to all of them. Congratulations – your organ pieces translated well to the orchestral format.
Saw and heard your FB post. Very nice piece of music, and use of the flute. Thanks for these additional details!
Hello back there, maestro.
Thank you so,much for these videos.
No. 1 = sweet/tender/interesting (splendid arrangement as well).
No. 2 = soft/discrete.
No. 3 = serene/laid back.
No. 4 = odd/uncommon/for the mind (instead of the heart).
No. 5 = ethereal.
Noe. 6 = dynamic/fleeting/playful/interesting contrasts (very nice as well).
Keep at it, maestro
If you missed this post or want to watch the videos again, here it is.
And now let's go to the podcast for today.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 404, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Sally. And she writes an answer to the question, ‘What did you work on today?’ At the end of each day, students from the Total Organist program, they all get this question, and some of them choose to reply on BaseCamp. So Sally wrote:
Unfortunately, nothing. I work during the day as a Software Engineer, and when I got home I was cold and tired. Instead of practicing I ate and slept on the couch all evening. Let's hope I feel more motivated tonight. I need to work on my prelude for this week, and continued work on the pedal studies I started.
V: You know what I wrote to her? I wrote...
A: No, I don’t know.
V: I wrote, I will quote, “rest is good”. Three words only! Would you agree, Ausra?
V: Shorter answer, right?
A: I think this winter I also rest more than I practice.
V: Yeah. If you return home from work really exhausted and tired, I think it’s best to take a rest or take a walk or do something, not too strenuous, physically and mentally too. And plus, since working as a Software Engineer is presumably mental work a lot, in most cases, right? Then organ playing is also mental work. It’s also similar so maybe physical, doing some physical activity is better than continuing mental activity without interruption. Ausra?
A: Yes, I think you need to find balance in things because if you do only mental work, only physical work, it won’t be good.
V: What would happen if you only did mental work, without any physical activity?
A: Well, you muscles would…
A: Yes. Plus I think you might develop some serious mental problems, too.
V: Mental or physical?
A: Mental because if you’re doing to much mental work, it might damage your mental health.
V: Oh, I thought maybe if I only did mental work then my brain would expand and I would very wise.
A: Because I think that physical activity helps to clear your mind.
V: Mmmm. I see.
A: And to pump blood into your brain too, which is crucial if you do mental work.
V: What if I did only physical activity during the day, and no mental work? What would happen then?
A: Well, I think it’s healthier than otherwise.
A: But, well, if you would do only physical work I think you would forget how to count, how to read, and then you would be in trouble too.
V: Right. I would be like hunter-gatherer. Ausra and I, we are listening to audio book called ‘Sapiens’. And it’s like a commentary on the history of civilizations. And yesterday evening we listened to the chapter about the life of, in the day of Adam and Eve, basically, prehistoric times. And those people moved a lot. But they say that they didn’t work too hard, like sometimes people work today—ten or twelve hours a day, in some countries, in the factory for example. In those days, like maybe thirty thousand years ago, they would just work for several hours until they gathered mushrooms and berries and edible roots.
A: Snails and frogs...
V: Uh-huh. Maybe hunting would require more time, I guess. So, of course, it’s safe to say that I will never become a true hunter or a gatherer in the 21st Century.
A: Well, you never know.
V: Why? Why?
A: Things might change.
V: Like internet would disappear?
A: Sure, and then you will have to go to the forest to pick up berries and mushrooms.
V: And how will we record our podcast conversations then?
A: Well, then there will be no podcast conversations.
V: The end of SecretsOfOrganPlaying.
V: So, I hope this time will never come, when electricity and internet will disappear, Ausra.
A: Well you never know. We might get some strong magnetic storms and internet will be down.
A: And everything will be down. But anyway, we are just making fun. I think that it’s very important for everybody to find the right balance in their lives, because I think it’s time to work and it’s time to relax. It’s time to practice and it’s time to lay down on sofa.
V: You[’re] like citing the bible now.
A: Yes. It’s very good actually, story, from Ecclesiastes, yes?
V: Mmm-hmm. Cohélet, I think. It’s the same thing but…
A: Well, anyway I think, everybody who go to church, knows this story and knows what I’m talking about.
V: So, I hope Sally can practice whenever she feels rested and after sleeping and eating, maybe she will get more energy and feel more motivated to practice, right? And maybe tomorrow will be easier day, even at work. You never know how you will feel. Maybe she will have a better rest at night.
V: And then next day will be easier to practice organ as well. Thank you guys for listening and sending your wonderful questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice...
A: Miracles happen!
SOPP368: There is at least one level of my lumbar spine (at L-4) where the nerve into my right leg is compressed by severe arthritis
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 368 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Nancy, and she writes:
Thank you for the information, Vidas. I have followed the suggestions on the link, and I think all is well with my Total Organist subscription.
You asked about my playing now. There are two issues that I am dealing with:
(1) The first, and most important, issue is my physical limitations. I have been muddling along as best I can, playing almost exclusively on manuals--not how I like it to be, at all, and certainly not how I learned to play the organ fifty years ago. Unfortunately, there is at least one level of my lumbar spine (at L-4) where the nerve into my right leg is compressed by severe arthritis. Until I have major surgery to release the compressed nerve, I simply can't cope with the pain in my right leg and lower back long enough to return to pedal-playing. The medical testing to locate exactly where the anomalies are, has been ongoing since early this past spring; the neurosurgeon to whom I have entrusted my care is in no hurry to operate. This is a long-standing problem that affects not only my organ-playing, but also my ability to carry on the ordinary activities of daily life.
(2) The second issue is that this coming Sunday is the last day the congregation of my church will worship in the sanctuary for several months. To save money on heating, for the past ten years we have vacated the sanctuary after the last Sunday in December and moved into a much smaller space in our Vestry, where we have worshiped through Epiphany and most of Lent. Return to the sanctuary is on Palm Sunday. For that period of time, music is provided on the piano (and sometimes via the pastor's MP3 player). Although I have a small portable heater that sits on the organ bench, the sanctuary is simply too cold to allow for realistic practice time. Having the heat in the sanctuary turned on up for practice time is an extravagance the church cannot afford. I effectively cease being an organist during this hiatus.
My hope is that both issues might be resolved in the ensuing months, but that may be asking too much. I intend to keep up with my keyboard practice and to do as much with Total Organist as I can, short of actually having a pipe organ to play. As I am expected to provide the music for our winter worship services, the keyboard part can continue to improve. Just not with any registration. Or pedals.
I hope this gives you at least a partial picture of the environment in which I work. It has been over thirty years since I have had any instruction, and it is time for me to get serious again--my love for the organ in our sanctuary is a powerful motivator.
Thank you for all that you do to encourage those of us who try to be faithful organists while living and working in less-than-ideal circumstances.
All the best for the New Year,
V: That’s a long story, but quite a colorful description of Nancy’s situation, right, Ausra?
A: Yes, it’s fascinating, and I can only guess how many organists would share the same experience, or similar experience, because if we are talking about a back problem, about a spine problem, I think it’s very common nowadays, not only for organists, but in general for people who are working with their computer every day. I think they have a lot of trouble with their spines. But that’s a serious thing! And all those surgeries, they are quite a risky thing for the back, because it might help, but it might also hurt.
V: Do you think that swimming is an activity that might be beneficial in this situation?
A: Well, in general, it is thought that swimming is easier and less dangerous for people who have joint problems and back problems.
V: So you would say yes, probably?
A: I would say yes, but I’m not a physician, so…
V: So anything we say here has to be taken just as our understanding, not necessarily an advice, because we are not clinicians. We are not physicians. We are not medical doctors. And therefore, if we advise, for example, to go to the swimming pool from time to time, first of all, Nancy should discuss this with her doctor.
A: Anyway, I think some kind of physical exercise is necessary for everybody, and you need to find something that works for you, of course, in consulting your physician. But anyway, if you have to do that back surgery, I would say do it now, and not later, because my mom was struggling with her spine all the time. She had various problems with it. And now, when she almost can’t walk because the damaged nerves will not allow her to use her right leg at all normally. It’s already too late to have a surgery, because her back is so problematic that no surgeon wants to operate on her and to take a risk.
V: And this back, spine situation is because of her overworked joints. Not joints, but…
A: Not joints…
V: But joints too, probably.
A: Well, that’s not her main problem.
V: Are there any risks while doing operations like that?
A: Of course! She might not be able to walk after surgery at all!
V: I mean Nancy.
A: Well, I’m talking about my mom! But yes, definitely, there is a risk, depending on which part of the spine is operated on. Because, if it’s near your neck, you might get paralyzed completely, full body. And the lower you go, the lower the paralysis might go. Like, let’s say lower than your neck, your spine parts will affect your arms, and then the lower you go, it will affect your legs.
V: Yes, it’s a complicated issue, and all we can do is to say how, for example, Ausra’s mom is feeling. But it doesn’t mean that this applies to anybody, or everybody, it’s just her situation. And everybody should consult their own physician and neurosurgeon.
A: But still, my mom does exercises every morning, so…
V: What kind of exercises?
A: Specific exercises that she was taught at the hospital.
V: So it’s not like a regular yoga.
A: Oh, no, she could not do yoga!
V: But, some exercises might be similar to Pilates, right?
A: Yes, definitely.
V: But with variations, adjusted to her condition.
V: So, Pilates might be another set of exercises…
A: But anyway, we are talking about what we are talking about, but you need to consult your physician.
V: Yes, of course. But we could direct….
A: Don’t pretend that you are a doctor, Vidas, you are a musical doctor, not a physician.
V: I know! I know. But we are giving ideas about what to talk about with the doctor.
A: That’s right.
V: Swimming pool, and, for example, Pilates!
A: Now, let’s go back to the organ, shall we?
V: The organ! Which is a problem, because it’s cold in the winter, and the vestry is not heated for Nancy, so what would you do in this situation? Would you wear gloves and thick winter coats?
A: Well, I don’t think it’s worth doing this, because I think the health is the most important issue for everybody.
V: I see.
A: And, you don’t need to sacrifice your body just to be able to practice the organ. I wouldn’t do it. Maybe 20 years ago, yes, but not now. And I would not suggest anybody to sacrifice themselves and just be able to play the pipe organ. What I would do is that I would check in the neighborhood to see if there is the possibility to get access to an organ which is in a heated room.
V: In another church, maybe?
V: With pedals! What about practicing on the keyboard that she’s already doing, but taking advantage of what a keyboard can offer? For example, she’s already our Total Organist student, and we have courses on music theory and harmony! Would that be a good activity during winter months?
A: Of course, it will never hurt, knowing more music theory and harmony.
V: And especially now, because she is kind of not limited to learning music for church. It’s like a short break from church for several months, and imagine in the warmer times, she would have to prepare hymns and church music for services every week, probably. And then, she wouldn’t have much time to do theory and harmony. But now, there is an isolated period of time where she has access to a keyboard, but not necessarily a deadline to work on hymns or music for church. I mean, that could be a great time to develop her theory and harmony skills.
A: Yes, I think so, plus if you have access to the piano, it means you can keep in good shape with your manual technique, and this is also very important.
V: Exactly. So, everybody who is with physical limitations or a situation where pedals are not available could find some creative ways to practice, and I think the most important thing is the will to improve. “Where there is a will, there is a way,” they say.
A: That’s right. Sometimes even people with great disabilities do great things and create art.
V: And maybe there is hope is that those problems and challenges might be temporary. Maybe she will transfer to the warmer environment later on. Maybe that operation will be successful on her back, and she won’t have those physical limitations. This is hope for the future, but in the meantime, she and others could do what they can, and consult their physicians, of course. Thank you guys, this was Vidas!
A: And Ausra!
V: Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen!
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 250 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast This question was sent by Reggie, and he writes:
Thank you for your question.
In answer to #1, I want to play the pipe organ at my church.
In answer to number 2, I bought my first keyboard a month ago so I am still learning my first piece: Bach Preludio 1.
I practice everyday but I am still internalizing the note and finger positioning. I had some musical training as a child and currently sing in the church choir.
Thanks for asking!
V: So, it seems, Ausra, that Reggie is playing the C Major Prelude, BWV 846 from the Well Tempered Clavier, Part Iago . Could be?
A: Could be, yes.
V: This is a wonderful piece, of course, it has a lot of arpeggio figuration, and even 5-part texture.
A: True, but it’s not that hard.
V: Much easier than the fugue that comes afterward.
A: That’s true. That fugue is one of the hardest, in my opinion.
V: Do you know why Bach chose to write the opening prelude as such an easy piece, and then right away the following fugue very very hard? What’s your hypothesis?
A: Well, do you want to scare people for his new collection? I don’t know. That’s just a joke, but actually if you look at the Well Tempered Clavier, you can find, actually, various preludes. This one is not as hard, but for example, C minor, which is the second one, has a very fast tempo and a toccata like motion, so…
V: But also, that C minor has one figuration extended throughout the prelude, like C major, too.
A: Well, that’s usually the case with most of the preludes.
V: And the fugue here in C major has four parts, and is very complex, because it’s a scholastic fugue.
A: It is! It has that stretto at the end of it, which makes things even harder.
V: Basically, in every measure, you will find the subject of the fugue.
A: True. That’s, true.
V: Maybe Bach wrote such a difficult fugue at the beginning because he was proud of it and he wanted it to be as a model for an entire cycle.
A: Could be, and if you will think about the role of the prelude, prelude was sort of an introduction to the fugue. He had to warm up to set up the key.
V: And, it wouldn’t make sense if the prelude would be even harder than the fugue.
A: True. This usually doesn’t use the polyphonic texture.
V: With some exceptions, of course.
A: Yes, true. There are always exceptions to everything.
V: So, Reggie is struggling with internalizing the note and finger positioning. Which means, that basically, he wants to play without mistakes.
A: True. And I thought about if picking up a repertoire as a beginner is a good way to learn. And, I realized that, of course, you have to play some repertoire, but definitely, you have to work on the technical exercises.
V: Such as?
A: For example, Hannon.
A: Hannon, yes. And scales, arpeggios, chords…
V: Maybe two-part inventions by Bach...
V: ...if Reggie likes Bach’s music.
A: True. I think that the two-part inventions are probably the best way to get acquainted with Bach. Well Tempered Clavier is too hard.
V: Sometimes, I like to sight read music, and whenever I don’t have much time, I open two-part inventions and play a piece or two. It just takes a couple of minutes. What’s a favorite way of sight reading, Ausra?
A: I never thought about it. What do you mean, a particular collection, or a particular composer, or what?
V: Maybe, let’s start with collection.
A: Well, I like to sightread Bach, of course, inventions, but also his suites, French, English, his Partitas.
V: I bet they would sound wonderful on our piano at home.
V: A half step lowered.
V: I see. Do you have some suggestion for Reggie, how to increase finger positioning, which is probably the way of playing an entire passage in one position? Can he transpose a passage and go up and down as an exercise?
A: Yes, well, it could be an exercise, but for this particular prelude, I would suggest for him to play it in chords, first. Don’t do that arpeggiated motion, but to play the full chords to find out what the harmony is about it.
V: And how many parts there are!
A: True, and later on this will help him to play in the right fingering and to play everything smoothly.
V: Recently, I asked my kids at school to find out how many voices there are in this prelude, and nobody could guess that it’s a 5-part texture. Somebody said 4, somebody said 3, because there are 2 voices clearly in the left hand part, and a passage arpeggiated passage in the right hand part, right? But they didn’t think that those three notes in the right hand part are like three separate voices.
V: So 3 + 2 would be a 5-part texture. Excellent. And Reggie wrote that he had some musical training as a child, and also sings now in the church choir. Do you think that helps?
A: Yes, of course. Any kind of musicianship helps. Singing in the choir, too, it develops your pitch!
V: And you get to know what the music director is doing, and sometimes you can observe how they conduct, and even if he becomes better at playing from sheet music and sight reading he can sometimes accompany the choir and play in the church service.
A: Yes, and it’s too bad Reggie didn’t tell how old he is now, because we don’t know how many years he hasn’t practiced since his childhood. So, it’s very hard to say what to do next.
A: What would you suggest if he would be a senior person?
V: Like over 65?
V: That’s a nice age to take up some hobby like organ playing and start practicing more seriously, because when people have more time after the working years, sometimes they have less motivation to do that, right? Because it seems like they are old and everything is behind them, and they cannot improve—which is, of course a total myth, and we have so many senior people to prove otherwise—that they are constantly improving every day. So, if he is over 65, I recommend, of course, to schedule some regular organ practices, or at home on piano, or keyboard, or go to church, if he sings in the choir, ask the musical director to let him do this once in a while… In exchange, he can volunteer sometimes to pay for church services….a hymn or two once in a while, if he feels comfortable. Right? Of course, don’t forget improvising, maybe. It’s a good way to warm up, to get to know your keyboard….things like that I do all the time. It works for me, and I hope it will work for other senior people.
A: Those are very good suggestions.
V: What about if he is just…. You know, he is obviously not a teenager, but let’s say if he is like our age, what would you suggest for him?
A: Well, he could still apply to a music school, maybe.
A: To take a couple of courses.
V: Or, he could prepare for the AGO Service Playing Certificate Test. That would be a great motivation to improve over the course of six months or one year.
A: That’s true. That’s a very good suggestion.
V: Ok, thank you guys. This was Vidas,
A: And Ausra,
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: miracles happen!
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I really appreciate your attention to detail, especially the thoroughness in approach to practice. My original organ teacher of 40 years ago emphasized the need to work in short sections, with much repetition - your approach is the same. Fingering is excellent and incredibly helpful. You explain things very well. I am reviving my long-dormant organ playing skills, and your method is exactly what I need.
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Watch this video with insights from me and Ausra.
How do you find time for practice to stay on track with your goals? Share your ideas in the comments.
Imagine a situation when you currently can practice organ for several hours a day but in the future you might have a change in your life either because of the birth of the baby or an illness of the family member or some other reason. Will this change mean the end of your organ practice?
The baby will change everything for the parents. That's normal. It would be selfish to let the spouse raise the child while you play the organ for long hours. However, in the long run it's crucial for both of the parents (and for the baby) to keep up personal interests and hobbies alive even for 10-20 minutes a day. You can of course take turns attending the baby.
If organ playing is your hobby, this well might mean you keep continue playing the organ. This activity will help re-charge both of you when you feel exhausted, when your energy level is down, when your spirits are low.
To help you see why it's important to continue your organ playing journey (if it's important to you in the first place), let's take an example of another sphere in live - piloting the plane.
When the plane flies from place A to place B and there is a high turbulence and a storm coming in front of the plane, the pilot normally wouldn't turn around the plane and stop the flight. No, the pilot would re-adjust the course, maybe turning left or right which would eventually allow the plane to reach it's destination by another route.
Sometimes the plane has to land to place C and wait there for better weather conditions. Then the trip will last longer but the plane will arrive to its destination nonetheless.
Here it's important to point out that sometimes the pilot doesn't fly at all. The pilot waits on the ground for better conditions to fly.
The same is in live. When life gives us expected or not expected challenges, we can re-adjust our efforts, re-adjust our schedule, re-adjust our priorities. But if your goal is eventually master some aspect of organ playing, you can do little things that matter most in the long run - short daily practices of 10-20 minutes of duration.
If you take a table spoon and try to dig a tunnel for 10-20 minutes a day - in 5-10 years you will move a small mountain this way.
Having goals and the purpose are very important here. Without them it is impossible keep going in baby steps and eventually to reach your destination.
Besides, keeping up the hobbies of both of the parents will be very beneficial to their baby, too (in the long run). This is because he/she can follow in the parent's footsteps. Also seeing that one of the parents is practicing something, this will teach the baby something about the value of waiting, the value of effort, the value of commitment, the value of delayed gratification.
People who grow up as selfish human beings sometimes saw the unconditional attention of their parents in the past, acting as servants. They expect that others will be servants to their needs and wants later in life, too. That's why it's important you also have your own time, too. By the way, this will only make your family bonds stronger.
Yes, this would probably mean you should practice at home more than at church.
This could also mean, you might practice more away from the instrument - on the table or even while lying in bed with your body still and your eyes shut (I once prepared for an entire recital this way). This could also mean you will value your available time so much more than before and accomplish things faster.
Don't turn around your plane. Adjust the course.
[Thanks to John for inspiration]
When you fall into the trap of practicing without the discipline and you see that your organ playing skills move to nowhere, there are a few preliminary things that have to happen before actually practicing correctly.
Necessity. Ask yourself, do I absolutely must practice organ playing? Would I miss organ playing, if I wasn't allowed to practice? If the answer is yes, go on to the next point.
Choice. Understand that changing your attitude towards organ is a choice. You can keep playing the way you are used to and get the same results or you can make change happen.
Goals. If you really want to change and get out of the circle, you need to set short-term and long term goals. Where exactly you want to be as an organist in 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 3 years, 5 years or 10 years from now?
Obstacles. What are the challenges you must overcome on your way of achieving these goals? Pick at least 3 for starters.
Action. Stop wishing, dreaming and take action. Today. And tomorrow. And the day after that.
All of the above happens in your mind. Change your mind and you win.
Imagine a situation when you had a fairly good organ technique in the past, you could sight-read rather well, learned new pieces quite quickly to the best of your satisfaction and hymn-playing was a relatively easy task.
However, the years went by and for some reason you had fallen into bad habits of practicing and as a result you started to play organ music quite poorly - with lots of mistakes, with accidental fingerings and pedalings. Also you seem to have forgotten everything about articulation.
Does this sound familiar? If so, I have a few tips which might get you on track right away:
1. Pay attention do every detail. Things to keep in mind obviously are the correct notes, rhythms, articulation, fingering, pedaling, ornaments and posture.
2. Because the above point is easier said than done, work in small fragments of about 4 measures repeatedly. Playing the entire piece too often does no good.
3. Reduce the texture for practice purpose to a single voice. If you can play a soprano line of that fragment effortlessly, practice the alto in the same way and so on. In this manner you can later do all combinations of two and tree voices before putting everything together.
4. Resist the tempation to speed up. Play at 50 % the concert speed at first. Only when you can effortlessly play at this tempo your entire piece, you can start playing a little faster.
I know the above points sound like a lot of focused work. But it does make a difference and it is well worth the effort. The joy of playing organ music beautifully will transform your life and the life of those around you for the better.
Have you redeveloped your bad practice habits into the efficient ones? If so, please share your experience of how you did it in the comments below.
Some of the people ask me this question because it's frustrating for them to notice that they have developed this habit of trying really hard on some days but just going through the motions in other practice sessions.
I think this situation has to do with the lack of vision or a goal. They feel the inner need to practice but it's difficult for them to get excited enough about some pieces and so they practice but don't see a lot of progress in return.
Obviously, the choice of the music can be wrong for their current technical abilities, or practicing habits have been incorrect. At any rate they really don't see themselves going anywhere in organ playing as time goes. That's why their efforts are inconsistent, too.
In some cases, this kind of practice can lead to quitting organ playing altogether. Because what's the point of playing the organ, if you don't have a vision or a dream of what you want to accomplish in the future? So at some point the efforts of pushing ourselves during practice and playing with determination and focus disappear and an organist might give up playing this instrument in the long run.
If you struggle with inconsistent efforts, my advice would be to get really focused about what you want to achieve in playing the organ. Set exciting yet realistic goals.
A goal is not a goal if it doesn't have a definite date on it. So write down your goals on a separate sheet of paper and set a date of when you want to meet your goal. Then you have to think about the plan of how to achieve it. And don't forget the importance of writing down the daily steps, too.
My final advice would be to surround yourself with positive people you can trust who can support your efforts. It can be a fellow organist or a few friends who might appreciate what you are doing or a mentor/coach. Sometimes your family members can't provide such support and leadership.
This way if you can talk regularly about the progress of your practice, you will not feel alone on this mission and you will be more likely to stay on track with your plan of action and daily steps which will prevent inconsistent efforts to appear in your practice.
I have met many organists who wish they could practice more efficiently, more effectively and achieve higher results in organ playing. However, their organ practice habits are sloppy enough so it is difficult for them to achieve these goals. In order to help them overcome these challenges and change their practice habits I would like to share some tips in this article.
One of the first things to remember is to practice regularly. That means you really cannot achieve higher level if you practice once or twice a week. So you should practice every day even if it means only 30 minutes a day. If on some days you only have 15 minutes available, repeat previously mastered material. That counts.
Also in each practice session you have to have a clearly defined goal. This means that whenever you sit down on the organ bench you should have a clear vision of what you are about to accomplish in this practice session. This goal can be very small, for example, learning these difficult four measures of your piece, memorizing a section of music or repeating previously mastered musical material.
Your organ practice also has to be wise and you should aim to correct your own mistakes. Too often I see organists make mistakes while playing organ and they don't stop and don't correct them. They would just keep going until the piece is over. This is an incorrect approach to practice.
What happens is that if you don't correct the mistakes, they just keep coming back the next time you will be playing this piece. Therefore, you have to correct your mistakes right away. But you should not stop here. You should aim for at least 3 correct repetitions in a row.
There is one more thing which helps to improve sloppy organ practice habits which is practice in fragments, separate voices and voice combinations in a very slow tempo. If you practice in this manner, you can control your movements and playing much better. Therefore, if you make any mistakes, you will easily correct them right away.
Try to apply my tips in your organ practice. Keep in mind your goals, practice regularly and be persistent in correcting your mistakes. This will help you advance in organ playing and achieve the results that you want.
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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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