Every organist knows the importance of left hand technique when playing organ. However, perfecting your left hand usually is much more difficult than the right hand. This is partly because many organ compositions have more developed and melodically more advanced right hand part. Therefore, we must find and create various exercises specifically designed to develop the left hand technique on the organ. Today I will share with you the exact system of using the notorious six trio sonatas by Bach for this purpose.
First of all, let me remind you that Bach created these sonatas as a final touch in perfecting his eldest son‘s (W.F.Bach) organ technique. This simply means that these pieces can be used as a way to develop perfect hand and feet coordination because of three completely independent melodic lines. Obviously these charming compositions can be used to perfect just one part, for example, the left hand.
The way we will construct our system is this. Since every sonata has three movements, there are total of 18 movements in this collection. Because every movement has three parts, there are total of 54 parts which gives us 54 different exercises. If we would practice just one exercise each day then the entire collection would be completed in about eight weeks (10 weeks would be needed if you practice 6 times a week).
However, this course should be arranged very systematically progressing in a step by step fashion. This means that exercises have to have increasing numbers of accidentals. For example, the first exercise would be with no accidentals, that is in C major, the second – with 1 sharp, that is in G major, the third – with 1 flat, that is in F major and etc. The same would be valid for the movements in minor keys.
Increase the number accidentals as you are going through these exercises to reach 7 sharps and flats. Once you come to C flat major or A flat minor with 7 flats, you can go back and start from C major or A minor again.
I recommend first practicing the pedal part with your left hand because it is usually easier both melodically and rhythmically than the hand parts. It is best to choose the tempo in which you can avoid making mistakes and play flutently. This usually means playing very slowly. You don‘t have to play these exercises many times repeatedly. Sight-reading them one time through is sufficient. Normally it will not take more than 15 minutes of your time a day.
If you don‘t want to spend hours and hours constructing such a course, I have created a program called Left Hand Training which is designed to help you perfect your left hand technique. It is an eight week course which is based on the system outlined above.
By the way, congratulations to people who already signed up for this course directly or through Total Organist membership program. You will have an awesome time, I'm sure.
A Final Note: before starting practicing such exercises, remember to take the initial test and play a left hand part of a very difficult composition of your choice which is technically currently out of reach for you. After these 8 or 10 weeks when you complete this course, you can come back to this challenging piece and test your progress. If you honestly complete each and every exercise in my course, I can guarantee that you will be amazed by your results.
However, reading about it won‘t produce the results you want. Taking action daily and implementing my tips and exercise system will. So I only recommend this course for people who seriously want to use it and can commit to at least 15 minutes a day (max 30 minutes) of practice for the next 8-10 weeks.
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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.