Jaime Camps: This is me at the organ in Sacred Heart Church, Montevideo. Although it is an electronic organ, is quite good and enjoyable. The picture was taken by my jobmate and friend Nicolás Farinasso, who submitted it to a contest in Phlearn and won the prize. It is now my profile image in facebook. Not anyone has a first-prize-winner picture in his profile!!! :)
Thanks to Jacqui who wrote to me last night and I believe many organists around the world face the same problem:
"Thank you for all your meaningful articles and videos about organ playing. I just bought a product from you last week. I would like my son, who is 16 and has grade 7 piano, learn organ. I was struggling to find a church for him to practise as I don't have an organ at home. It is so difficult to find a church for him to practise. I heard midi can help, but if there are no foot pedals, you are not practising organ. Hope you can kindly help me with this mystery."
Not having an instrument with pedals to practice at home can be very upsetting. In fact, this might well be the reason stopping a lot of people from beginning their organ playing journey in the first place.
So what can you do? Here are some possibilities that people usually explore:
1. Find a church in your area with an organ. Approach an organist and/or the priest/pastor and ask for the chance to practice in exchange for a small fee, donation or occasional service playing. Some churches will even let you practice without expecting anything in return.
2. Build a midi organ yourself;
3. Buy an electronic organ;
4. Buy a new or a second hand practice pipe organ with 1-2 stops;
5. Enter the virtual world and consider the virtual organ possibilities;
6. If you have a keyboard instrument, such as piano, acquire a pedalboard and attach it to the piano strings;
7. If you have a synthesizer, get a midi pedalboard or midify a regular pedalboard;
8. If you love early music, buy a pedal clavichord or harpsichord;
All of these options are valid, of course. It will depend not only on your preferences but on your financial situation as well because some of the solutions are more expensive while others might be more affordable.
Today I'd like to offer a solution (perhaps a temporary one) but which will allow you to practice organ playing right away without any expense: print out regular size organ manuals and pedalboard.
Tape the sheets together, glue the pedalboard sheets on the cardboard (optional), place the manuals on the table and the pedalboard on the floor, put a few thick hymnals on the chair so that your feet would be gently touching the "keys" and you are ready to practice!
If you want to "hear" what you are playing, you can play along with the recording or the video in the slow practice tempo. However, use this option wisely - only for practice purposes, because you might get too attached to the interpretation of others and copy their rhythms without the need to count the beats yourself.
Paper manuals and pedalboard is not an ideal solution, but a temporary one. The idea here is to eliminate the excuse not to practice because you don't have an access to an organ at least until you are ready to find a better option.
Some of my students in our organ studio "Unda Maris" here in Vilnius have paper manuals and pedalboards and say that it works. Have you tried this yourself? I would love to hear about your experience.
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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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Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.