SOPP262: I am only able to practice for 1-1/2 hours, 3 days per week, so probably won't ever get all my skill level back
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 262 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by T. P. Johnston, Jr. He writes:
I'm age 66. Was a professional organist during my high school years. Had been away from the organ for about 40+ years until our church purchased a new Hauptwerk Virtual Pipe Organ, 4 manuals. Very nice instrument. So I've been working to rebuild my skills. They are coming back, but very slowly. Am only able to practice for 1 - 1/2 hours, 3 days per week, so probably won't ever get all my skill level back. But I'm making progress. Your materials are helping a great deal.
V: So Ausra, he seems to have spent a lot of time without an instrument, right?
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: That should be hard for people who practiced in their high school years, in their youth, a lot. Do you remember, we have Mindaugas in our studio, Unda Maris at Vilnius University, who spent with us, maybe, four years?
A: That’s right. All his undergrad studies.
V: But now, he is transferring to another city, and I think he found a job, and I think no longer will be able to play regularly with us.
V: It’s not clear to me, if he will continue to practice as hard or not, right?
A: Well, who knows.
V: Who knows. So, it could happen that Mindaugas, just like T. P. Johnston, Jr., will have to spend many years without the organ, and this calling perhaps comes back after a few decades. Because, I think it will come back, don’t you think?
A: Definitely, especially when he says he was a professional organist. I think it will be easier for him to get his shape back, compared to somebody who decided to learn to play the organ at an old age.
V: So even having the electronic or virtual organ at home is very practical. You can work on your terms, but you can disturb you; if you are working late at night or early in the mornings, you can even use headphones…
A: But actually, I understood that the church purchased that instrument, not T. P. Johnston, Jr. himself.
V: Right. But at any rate, he has access to it, right? It’s nice. So, I guess the main issue that he is having is that he is slowly rebuilding his skills. I think he wants to progress faster.
A: Well, you know with 40 years without playing, that’s a long time! A long period of time! You cannot expect that after practicing for, I don’t know how long he started to practice again, but well, you could not regain your previous skills in let’s say, half a year.
V: But it’s good that he’s using our materials, right, because with guidance, with correct practice methods, efficient practice methods, he can progress much faster.
V: What happens when people study on their own without any guidance? Can they intuitively learn from recordings and videos?
A: I think we can, but of course, the practice will not be as sufficient as it could be. Our progress will be much slower.
V: That person has to learn from their own mistakes, right?
V: And those mistakes sometimes will be so difficult to overcome, and some people will quit because of that.
A: That’s right.
V: Because they won’t believe they can overcome those difficulties. But luckily, T. P. Johnston, Jr. has advice from us, and can work through our material. That’s very beneficial. He doesn’t say what he wants to achieve, right? What kind of skills does he have to regain? Hymn playing, repertoire playing, pedal playing, or all of the above? What do you think, Ausra?
A: Well, probably all of the above. All those things that you mentioned, since he’s a church organist. He needs all those skills.
V: And he said that he was a professional organist during his high school years, so it probably meant that he could play the repertoire, too. So, his practice schedule, then, today, might look much different than from 40 years ago. Because, now, he has, perhaps, more time. He is 66. If that’s the case, Ausra, let’s talk a little bit how he could divide his practice time.
A: Well, first of all, I would suggest that he would practice every day. Maybe not for an hour and a half, but that way he could rebuild his skills faster.
V: If he practices three days a week, as he says, an hour and a half, could he practice like 30 minutes or even 15 minutes the rest of the week, but every day, would that be better than skipping practice altogether?
A: I think that would be much better.
V: Because on those days when he has only 15 minutes to practice, he can repeat previously mastered material easily. And the next day, progress could be faster.
A: Yes, but still, I don’t think it’s enough to practice 15 minutes a day.
V: When a person says that he’s only able to practice 3 days per week, he means, probably, that he is able to gt to church 3 days per week, right?
A: Could be.
V: The church won’t let him use the organ more often, probably.
A: Could be.
V: Are there any options for him to practice every day, not in the church?
A: Well, if you have an instrument at home, then yes, you can do it. If not, then it’s harder.
V: Let’s say he doesn’t have an organ at home. I would probably practice on the table on those days. Do you think it would work?
A: It might work for somebody like you, not for everybody, maybe.
V: Why not?
A: Not everybody has a good inner pitch and can hear what he’s playing on the table.
V: You’re right. When there is no sound, you have to imagine the sound in your head. But if you know the piece from recordings, maybe this helps to imagine what you’re playing on the table.
V: Is it good to practice with recordings, Ausra? On top of recordings?
A: I don’t think so… I think that’s a bad habit.
V: Why? Why do other people do it, then, and like to do it?
A: I don’t know, you tell me! You started this discussion, so maybe you have some thoughts about it.
V: Of course I do. I think people like to get a feeling that they can play an entire piece without stopping, just like in the concert, even though they couldn’t. Right? Remember, you played with a clarinetist.
A: Oh, I remember.
V: A long time ago.
A: I try to forget it.
V: So tell us a little bit, what happened.
A: Well, we were playing a sonata by Brahms, and that’s a tough part for pianists, not as tough for clarinetists. And, when we got together, we could not play together, because simply, she could not keep the right rhythm. And we tried to figure out what is happening, how she learned the piece, and she told us she simply played together with the recording. So, she simply hadn’t counted, and basically learned somebody’s interpretation. But the problem is that I learned the music as it’s written out, and not by that recording.
V: You’re right and you couldn’t fit together.
A: Yes, because she could not count. She could not play what it’s written out.
V: So, guys, if you do use recordings for playing, and sometimes I record those slow motion videos, right, then people people say they like to practice while looking at my hands, and do one more thing. You have to keep counting yourself, right? Don’t rely on that recording of my playing, let’s say, or anybody else’s playing. And the difference between my recordings in slow motion and the recordings that Ausra was talking about earlier is that probably this girl played in concert tempo all the time...
V: ...with concert recordings. And that’s not a good way to practice. If you want to practice with the recording, slow down the video to half speed at least. That helps you to concentrate and count, and it will not sound like a performance, it will be practice. Right? So, we hope this was useful for you and everybody, and 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.
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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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