In this video, I'm playing Morning from Peer Gynt by Edvard Grieg. I'm using Rotterdam Sint Laurenskerk the main organ sample set by Sonus Paradisi and Hauptwerk VPO software. Hope you will enjoy it!
In this video I will show you how to master Largo from Concert in Bb Major, "La Stravaganza", Op. 4, No. 1 by Antonio Vivaldi in 8 steps. I'm using Velesovo sample set by Sonus Paradisi and Hauptwerk VPO software. Hope you will enjoy it!
For a long time this thought has been haunting me:
What would happen if I transcribed some of my organ improvisations into music scores?
Of course, not all of the improvisations are worth preserving in a written form but some definitely are because other people might want to play them.
The problem is of course that transcription software is still rather inadequate these days. If I had a piano recording, then audio transcription might be more accurate but with pipe organ it's much different because software can't yet deal precisely with reverberation, tempo fluctuations and organ colors. The time might well come when I can just upload an audio file with my organ performance and after several minutes my music notation software can produce a close to perfect-looking score. But this time is some years away, I think.
Nevertheless, today I decided to try out transcribing my recent organ improvisation called "Sarbievijus Rhapsody" which I improvised a couple of days ago at St Casimir's church here in Vilnius. The idea was to improvise a piece of music based on the poem of the 17th century Jesuit poet, one of the most famous alumnus of Vilnius University, Motiejus Kazimieras Sarbievijus.
I've transcribed my own improvisations before, but only on small-scale works, lasting 2-3 minutes, such as this Meditation in D:
Here's how the score looks like:
The score is available in my Secrets of Organ Playing Store.
By the way, it was arranged and performed by the chamber orchestra yearly this year:
Since this piece only lasts around 3 minutes, I transcribed it in several sittings. It still was a challenge but my end result was always close at hand so I didn't quit. If I had quit, this orchestral arrangement might never have seen the light of day.
But this time my Sarbievijus Rhapsody improvisation lasted 13 minutes! I know it cannot be transcribed in a two or three sittings. If I can do up to 1 minute every day, it will still be a two-week project. The opening texture is rather simple and it takes less time to transcribe than the intricate textural fabric with pedals in the middle or culmination so it may take more time than a couple of weeks. I might have to miss some days too. So the entire project might take even up to a month. We'll see.
But a month is not a year. I think it could be done.
If I persevered with my 0 to 10 pull-ups challenge last year (this morning I did 18!), working on a single project such as this transcription might be successful too. I just really want to start creating archives of my improvisations available in written form. Improvisation is one of the most important things I'm best known for so it seems just natural to concentrate on it more.
Besides, I really miss composing on the organ.
So anyway, this morning, after writing some entries in my diary after breakfast, I did Salutation of the Sun, fired up my computer and downloaded a MP3 file of "Sarbievijus Rhapsody". I will use it just like in writing a musical dictation in ear training where a teacher plays a short musical idea and the class has to notate it on paper. Even though it takes some years of dedicated training to be able to do this, now I don't need to see my hands and feet from a video to notate what is sounding at the moment.
I then opened my Sibelius music notation software and created a new file for my transcription. I set up C meter with a sixteenth note pick up bar, wrote Ad libitum tempo and character indication and my name.
Upon playing the file from the beginning in a slow speed, I discovered that I'm using Flute 8' stop on the Choir division of this Neo-Baroque organ. I wrote this in the score too.
Then the actual transcription work began. I played back many times short segments repeatedly over and over until I could figure out what notes and rhythms to write. The most difficult part was when chords appeared. Without seeing my hands I had to decide which notes should go where.
All in all today I wrote 14 measures (this is 45 seconds of music) and it took me about an hour. Next time might go a little faster because all the preliminary work has been done and I won't have to decide on the concept of this project anymore.
I will just need to keep going. Here's this opening fragment which I completed:
Compare it with the real sound in this video:
What do you think?
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 212, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. This question was sent by April. And she writes:
Hello Vidas Pinkevicius,
I am answering your survey.
1. What is your dream for your organ playing?
I would like to know more about how to convert piano sheet music to organ sheet music. Our hymn book for church is written for piano and I struggle with creating a reasonable, but fairly easy, pedal line and deciding which stops to use.
2. What are 3 most important things that are holding you back from realizing your dream? Access to organ sheet music. Practice time. Using the pedals because I am only 5 feet tall.
I am enjoying your organ coaching and it helps. Thank you.
V: So, Ausra, this is probably the question about making organ arrangements.
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: Don’t you think?
A: But it, but because it’s more related, as I understand to hymn playing, hymn accompanying on the organ. So I guess it’s not more question about making an organ transcription but about adjusting hymns written for piano to the organ.
V: Uh, those hymns might be written on two staves.
V: Have you ever seen a hymnal, where hymn harmonizations are written on three staves?
A: Mmmm, not a full hymnal, maybe I saw, like
V: Organist addition.
A: Supplements or additional hymns, but not full hymnal. And I haven’t seen an organist version that would be three staves.
V: Uh-huh. Yeah, you’re right because organist usually have to adjust themselves.
A: Yes. But I wish, you know she would send us at least one page of example of that hymnal. Because if how it’s written, if it has like melody and then sort arpeggio piano accompaniment, yes. Then she would need to work out to, you know, to, to fit the organ. But if it’s four part harmonization and you just can play it on the organ. And play the bass line with the pedal.
V: And the tenor would be played with the left hand.
A: Yes, that’s right. So you would have two voices in your right hand, one voice in the left hand, and one voice in the pedal.
V: Important thing is not to double the tenor with your, um, not to double the bass with your left hand.
A: Yes, that’s right. Some organists does it for like a hundred years and he cannot learn it. And it really sounds bad if you you know, double pedal and left hand—bass lines.
V: Mmm, hmm. They can’t develop hand and feet coordination this way.
A: That’s right. And you know another thing if you know you have some hymns written for piano you can just take a melody and you can harmonize it yourself as you like and play it on the organ.
A: And that way if it’s more comfortable you could use the three stave notation. That’s a possible too although I think it’s a bit harder for people. With less experience, to read from three staves.
V: If you are a beginner then, then playing just two outer voices, soprano and the bass, with your hands only, would be fine for starters.
V: I don’t know if she’s a beginner or not, but for some people this might be an answer.
A: And, you know, she also asked about which stops to use. So, it depends on what kind of organ, you know, you play and how large your congregation is.
V: Always include 8’ stops.
A: Yes, definitely! You need to do. And I would say 8, 4, yes.
V: Eight and four, yes, because otherwise 8’ alone will be too soft for congregation and accompaniment.
A: Yes. And if congregation is big then you can add, you know, 2’ stops and even a mixture sometimes.
V: What about 16’ stop in the manual if you have it?
A: Well, I would use it because I like it. But again it depends on the complete organ and complete room.
V: You mean specific room.
A: Yes, specific room.
V: Some organs have mixtures that are based on 4’ pitch level. Then you actually need 16’ to use in the manuals together with. Otherwise the mixture would be too, too, too low and without foundation.
A: That’s true. So I guess it, it not would be like too low but it would be too, it would stand too much out of, you know, other stops. It would not blend in well.
V: Yeah, yeah. You’re right. Okay, and um, um, April writes that she doesn’t have an access to organ sheet music, which is only very easy to solve, right? If she went to Petrucci music library which is at IMSLP.org, and type in any composers name that she likes or even a title of the piece, she might find it there, especially if it’s public domain music.
A: Yes, because you know, Petrucci’s music library has so many organ music sheets that I don’t think that you would have enough time in your life to play them all. So I think now-a-days it’s not so much you know a problem to get music sheet.
V: Exactly. Practice time! She probably lacks practice time, like we all do, right? If we’re busy.
A: That’s true.
V: But for most people being busy is not the problem. I think for most people prioritizing their time is the problem.
A: Yes. That’s true and we have talked about it so many times,
A: You know, about finding the practice time.
V: If, if organ playing is important for you enough, you will find time.
A: Yes, that’s, that’s right. That’s right.
V: If it’s not important enough for you, you will not find time.
A: You know, we are not the kids anymore, you know, that our moms would make our daily schedule, and tell us, you know, now you will eat, now you will wash your hands and brush your teeth, and now you will play the organ, and now you go to sleep.
V: And some kids even resist that, and they still don’t follow the schedule, right? Because it’s not important for them. It’s not their schedule, it’s mom’s schedule, right? And they want to play with their friends or their cell phone.
A: That’s right.
V: Um, so, I think we all need to reevaluate our vision, right? Why do we need organ in our life? Why? Why do we need? Is it just like another hobby, or if one more burden on us? Then it’s not worth bothering, right, because it sucks out energy out of you and also doesn’t give you enough enjoyment. But if you feel that the pain you feel while not playing the organ is bigger than the pain you have to go through in finding the time, right? Then you know that are called to play the organ and it’s no, no brainer. It’s non negotiable, right?
A: Yes! Very well said, Vidas.
V: Thank you!
A: And now let’s talk about, you know, that pedal playing, because she writes that she is only five feet tall. Well, many people who have very long legs also complain that it’s hard to play with feet. And, and vice versa. (Laughs). So, it seems like nobody is happy when we are talking about pedal playing, but you know, as long as you have feet and you can move them, I think you can play the pedals. It’s just a matter of adjustment. Just adjust your organ bench. Maybe it’s too high for you. Maybe you need to lower it.
V: Maybe too far away, the bench is.
A: Yes. Maybe you sit too far away from the keyboard. And you know, another thing that for, you know, short people is hard to reach the upper manual if the organ has more than three of them. But as, as long as you are using only first and second keyboard, two manuals, I think it’s okay. It should be okay.
V: Ausra, there is a situation sometimes when people with short legs cannot reach their heels, right? But they could reach with toes, right?
A: Yes, that’s true. Then you know, play more Baroque music.
V: And for Aprils’ situation, because she was writing about hymns, right, hymnals. Do you think that playing hymns could be done without heels, at all?
A: Yes, definitely. I think you can only use your toes for hymn accompanying.
V: Uh, huh. It’s not chromatic.
V: Too much, right
V: And you could even pretend to be playing legato or almost legato.
A: That’s right.
V: Uh, with toes only. Slide if you need, use alternate toes whenever possible. And then your bench height or length would not be too much of a problem.
A: Yes, and I don’t think it should be such a problem. You really can adjust. I know it from my experience. I’m also don’t have a long legs. But I have played however many great and difficult composers.
V: Mmm, hmm. How tall are you, Ausra?
A: I don’t know how much it would be in feet.
V: In centimeters?
A: In centimeters it’s 1 meter 62.
V: 162 centimeters to feet; let’s convert it right away. 5.3 feet Google says.
V: So it, your are little bit,,,
A: So I’m a little bit higher, taller.
V: Mmm, hmm.
A: But still it doesn’t make such a you know, significant difference. Of course there are also proportion of the body, because even with the same height then people have longer legs, and some, some, some not so.
V: Let’s see what kind of a giant I am. I’m 180 centimeters, which is 5’9. Ummm! Not bad.
A: So know I need to feel bad that, you know, I’m
V: No, no no,
A: short, and you’re tall.
V: I’m just thinking about myself. Do you think Ausra, that I could grow a little, to reach six feet?
A: (Laughs). I don’t know.
V: Maybe sideways, right?
A: Yes, sideways, yes.
A: I think that’s what you are doing (???-12:50). But you I, once I taught one piano doctrinal student at (???-12-55), you know he was having some organ lessons and he was really tall guy. And he would keep complaining each time, because he has such a long legs. And I just thought, you know, would you like to change, you know, switch places with me?
V: Umm, mmm.
A: Probably not.
A: But you know, I, I notice that some of the really excellent virtuosos, they’re not tall, at all. And they just play extremely well.
V: And this question about adjusting because of your body length, for example, body height maybe, correct word would be, is more or less suitable for people who haven’t played for many years regularly. If you have played for a few years in a row, by that time I think your body will have adjusted.
A: I think that’s true.
V: You just need to spend a lot time on the bench, not, I mean not a lot of time during one sitting, but across many months, right, let’s say. A year or two and after those two years let’s say, write back to us, right, and see if you still feel that you are too short.
A: That’s right.
V: I don’t think so. Do you still feel, Ausra, that you are too short, after twenty-five plus years of playing?
A: No! I’m perfectly fine.
V: Okay. Would you like to play with high heels?
A: Well, high heels helps if you need to play legato and use a lot of, you know, of the heel.
V: Mmm, hmmm. So that’s another recommendation for April.
A: That’s true. So if you know, your shoes will not have heels, then it will be uncomfortable to play legato, especially. So,,,
V: Good! Thank you guys for listening to this conversation. We hope this was useful to you. Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: And remember; when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
David, one of the people who helps us with transcribing fingering and pedaling for us from slow motion videos feels that he's too slow and that this process takes up too much of his time and he can type faster instead. Therefore we decided to put him on a team of people who help us with podcast transcriptions.
So now there is one opening for fingering and pedaling transcription from slow motion video in exchange of access to Total Organist program.
Here's a sample video from which one would have to add fingering and pedaling into the PDF score provided (we use DocHub app for editing PDF's which is connected to Google Drive). Remember to slow down the video to 0.5 speed in YouTube video settings.
If you feel this is something you would be interested in doing rather efficiently without spending day and night in exchange to access to Total Organist program, let me know by the end of this week.
Kae who transcribes our podcasts into text format is having a hard time keeping up with the heavy load of the material I send her because her work duties keep her extremely busy. She currently can do 2 transcriptions per week without being exhausted.
If you can type fast, understand organ related terminology, have a good command of English, are familiar with our podcast format and would like to share the load of transcriptions with her (in exchange for financial compensation or for subscription to Total Organist), please send me an email by Friday, January 26 and we will discuss the details.
Ausra and I are preparing for our new organ duet recital on November 18 and are on the look out for the delightful pieces to play together.
What can be more delightful than arias from J.S. Bach's cantatas? They are so beautiful and rather seldom heard. So the plan is to arrange for the organ duet a few of the arias from such beloved cantatas as "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott", BWV 80, Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben", BWV 147, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme", BWV 140 and others.
Arranging the arias from cantatas is nothing new. Bach himself created the collection of 6 Schubler chorales out of some of his cantatas.
While I was doing this (and enjoying playing with Ausra what I have arranged so far), I thought that some of our students would love to play them too. But not every organist has a partner organist around.
So what can you do? Luckily a lot of people are still making music together but not as organ duet. Maybe with a friend or a spouse who plays a solo instrument.
This is a duet "Alles was von Gott geboren", BWV 80/2 by J.S. Bach from Cantata "Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott" arranged for organ and solo treble instrument (oboe, flute, trumpet, violin, etc.) (full score - 6 pages, solo part - 2 pages). Let me know if you need a solo part for a transposing instrument.
The organ part has a real trio texture. In the original scoring, the pedal part is played by the cello, violone, maybe bassoon, harpsichord or continuo organ. The left hand is sung by the bass soloist. The right hand part is played by the violin and the solo part - by the soprano solo and embellished by the oboe. Here's a nice recording of this music.
When you play it, try to imitate the sounds that these performers make on the organ and let me know, how your experience with this delightful duet goes.
You can check out the score here.
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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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