Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 296 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Victoria and she writes:
“Hi Vidas. I try my best on the church electric Organ as much as I can, but 30 hrs a week no way... Most I work on are hymns since we are a small church. It seems a long way to go for me, even the two part. But your advice is helpful! But I enjoy playing hymns on the Organ at church for practice, can’t do service yet. Hope one day I will be ready...Thanks again for your great work! You and Ausra are blessings!
V: Remember Victoria, Ausra?
A: Yes, I remember.
V: She loves to play hymns but she is not ready for service playing yet, right? So it’s probably just early stages of becoming an organist and she just pointing probably to one of our conversations when I was calculating how many repetitions does a beginner need to learn a hymn and few hymns, to be ready for a church service. And I think we came up with thirty hours number.
A: I think you came up, because I don’t calculate my practice and I never suggest for other people a certain number of hours they should practice.
V: So I did and Victoria said she can’t do thirty hours per week which is a lot.
A: I think the thing is and I strongly believe in it that it doesn’t matter how many times you will play throughout the piece. The most important thing is how well you will be concentrated when you will play throughout the piece. If you will have goal for each repetition or not. If it’s just repetition for the sake of repetition then it’s nothing. Stop practicing like this. Your mind must lead you when you are practicing and it you are really tired and you cannot focus and something is bothering you then it will not be a good practice. Sometimes it’s better to practice for fifteen minutes or half an hour but knowing what you are doing, having a goal and reaching this goal, achieving this goal than just practice one hundred times and not knowing what you are doing.
V: Well Ausra you are so strict, like a professor.
A: Well, even when you are practicing Hanon exercises you still need to have some concentration and some idea of what you are doing. Maybe not so much comparing to practicing repertoire, but still.
V: I’m trying to imagine what you would say to me if I was your beginning student.
A: Luckily you are not my beginning student.
V: (laughs) Lucky for you or for me? For whom?
A: I don’t know. You think really that I am strict.
V: You are strict, yeah. If you are saying that one hundred times you have to play with one hundred focused mind.
A: Well, no, you misunderstood me because what I’m suggesting is that maybe you don’t have to practice one hundred times in a row.
V: But I want to practice one hundred times in a row.
A: Well, that’s your problem. I’m suggesting that at that moment when you catch up yourself not thinking about what you are doing you need to stop your practicing and maybe take a brake and clear your mind
V: I like brake.
A: Because the mind needs to lead you on the organ bench, not the fingers, not the feet.
V: I like to take frequent brakes.
A: Well don’t exaggerate.
V: And to take a rest before I’m tired.
A: I’m glad you’re not my student.
V: (laughs) What if you were my student? Would you like that?
A: (laughs) No. No thank you.
V: Imagine that. So guys, it’s a funny situation, right? We both would probably run away from the idea of being a student of each other. (laughs) But if we teaching you guys.
A: Well you have many great ideas. But maybe not all of them would work on me.
V: Would they work on other people?
A: Yes, they’d work on other people. As I clearly heard when John played the recital at St. Johns Church but your ideas worked.
V: And your ideas also would work on some other people.
V: Good. You get to choose which method you prefer.
A: Let’s say for example I think it depends on which sort of stage of life you are in terms of your organ playing because I think at the beginning of organ playing you really need to have good instruction of technique, basic technique. Technique modern and early and this what is the most important at the beginning but later on maybe you need to have a teacher that wouldn’t push you so much in the technical stuff and would let your fantasy develop and you will get more freedom.
V: Umm-hmm. And you know what, I think every person needs different things too.
A: That’s right.
V: We had some of the same professors, right?
A: That’s right, yes.
V: And we both didn’t feel the same about each other, not each other, about each professor, right?
V: For me it was better to study with one professor and for you with another professor although they both taught us together from time to time.
A: But you know the interesting thing is after looking back to your past studies you realize that maybe not that you didn’t like but maybe you just didn’t understand at the time. Now you realize that his or her suggestions were the most helpful.
V: Who are you talking about.
A: Well I better don’t tell names. I think it’s too personal.
V: OK. But you’ll tell me later after we stop recording.
A: (laughs) I’ll think about it. I’ll think about if I can trust you and you will not be talking about that to all the world.
V: OK. This will be our little secret. Everybody is different and everybody needs to find their own way probably and Victoria needs to find what works best for her, how can she advance in hymn playing.
A: Yes and so if somebody like Vidas tells you that you need to practice thirty hours a week on that hymn don’t trust it, don’t take his words directly. When anybody tells you anything you still have to put it through your own mind.
V: In a way you have to ignore everybody.
A: That’s right. You have to take what really works for you, what is helpful for you.
V: Only when you ignore everybody you can become yourself. You are yourself always but you can let that out. If you trust too much, some kind of master, we’re not saying that about our self, but if we take great admiration of masters from the past, let’s say Johann Sebastian Bach, and we admire his works, and we almost pray to Bach, right? Then what happens is that we never become our true version of our self because we always try to copy Bach. And remember there was already one Bach. But there needs to be Vidas and Ausra and Victoria and any other person who is listening to this. I think this is important to understand too.
A: True. So be always thoughtful about what you are doing.
V: Right. And choose maybe a lesser number of hymns to practice per week. You don’t have to go over your head with hymn playing if you are just beginning your organist journey. I think what’s important is sit down on the organ bench every day, as Ausra says practice mindfully and tomorrow be a little bit better, one percent better than today.
A: Yes, don’t put yourself into an organ prison. Because if you play too many hours you will probably start hating this instrument after a while and that’s not good.
A: So your practice needs to give you some joy.
V: Yes and I think don’t limit yourself with hymn playing at this age. You have to look broadly. Music theory probably too. That will help you learn faster too. 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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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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