Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 328, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by David. And he writes:
Hello Vidas and Ausra,
This past Sunday I completed the 40-week course. I really liked the course and thank you for it. As requested here are my comments.
Yes I can sight read better but still need more work. I tried several new pieces I had tried before the course and I was better.
I was away for 2 weeks in the summer and caught up by doing 2 days in 1. Not a good idea so I am repeating from week 29 on.
Best regards, David
V: Oh this is nice that somebody has completed our Organ Sight Reading Master Course.
A: Yes. That’s very nice.
V: And, this feedback tells me also some things that are working and some things that could be improved. And, obviously, we need more feedback from other people.
V: For example, David writes that for a number of weeks he’s trying to do two weeks in a row, in one week, which is probably too much material.
A: Yes it is, because you always need time to get through things, to, sort of to grasp them, to observe them.
A: And if you will do too much at once, it will not work.
V: It’s like with eating fish oil pills in the morning, right? It’s very healthy if you have just one.
A: True. Because you cannot skip the next day and take two pills in one.
V: You gave me one pill today.
A: Yes. I gave you one pill.
V: And what would happen if I had two pills?
A: I think that your body would not absorb all the things from it, if you take too much, at once.
V: I see.
A: Or you would get poisoned. Maybe not from fish oil but from other pills.
V: Will I become more like a fish?
A: I don’t know. We will see.
V: With quills and things like that.
V: Yeah, scales. Can I breathe under water then?
A: I don’t know.
V: Maybe I can swim faster. So guys the same is with organ related activities. If you skip two days, just I think it’s better to continue in a normal pace, afterwards.
A: True. That’s true.
V: If you skip more than a week or two, and you feel that your fingers and feet are weaker, and the skill is decreasing, it’s another story Ausra, right?
A: True. Because aside practice for example, I see that it’s beneficial early if I’m practicing, let’s say in the morning, and then later in the evening, when I do very big breaks. Then maybe this, my practicing counts for two days. But otherwise, no. If, let’s say I sit Sunday on the organ bench and do all my practice at once, for two days, it doesn’t work.
V: Mmm-hmm. You still need to have regular breaks.
V: And if a person skips a few weeks in a row, and then comes back to the organ bench, obviously, the skill is not there anymore. And I think it would be wiser to pick up with a slower pace first, to adjust maybe a week or two, to get used to the new routine and take it easy at first.
A: Yes. That’s right.
V: It’s like, I was doing those pull-ups in the summer. I was progressing day after day, week after week. And then I got, I think, some sort of stomach flu or something, and I didn’t do my pull-ups for a week or more, even. And it would be stupid for me to try to attempt to do the total number of pull-ups I was able to do before break. Right?
A: That’s right, yes.
V: Alright. David, Ausra, also writes, that it was probably too easy for him until week 29. So that’s the thing that is so individual for each person, right?
A: Yes, it is.
V: We have various skill levels students here in our courses. And for somebody is really difficult to play, too difficult to attempt even.
A: That’s right. And in general, people are quite poor sight-readers.
A: I notice that on my students. And I thought that after we harmonize an exercise, usually it’s eight measures long, like a hymn…
A: And I invite them to play what we harmonized. And it’s very hard for some of them to do it.
A: And sometimes we get so sloppy that after a while I simply stop doing this experiment with them and start asking them to play it.
A: And it really surprised me because usually when we start harmony we are at the tenth grade, or eleventh or twelfth grade. That’s when we teach them harmony, basically in the high school. And we start to study music at the age of six or seven. Some even at the age of five. So let’s say, at that age, after ten years of studying music, they are still not able to sight read easily what we already harmonized on the paper.
V: They don’t have any musical intuition.
A: I know.
A: That’s just too bad. Not all of them, but actually most, most of them.
V: Most of them shouldn’t even study music, I think.
A: Could be.
V: Do you think, what’s the percentage of them that will become musicians, professional musicians?
A: Well, I think many of them will become professional musicians, but that’s a question if they will be good or not, and what they will achieve.
A: I think ten percent of them will achieve what we want and they will be really great. And I think that ten percentage that also will become musicians that will be either mediocre or always will struggle for bread and butter.
V: Right. If a person applies to the orchestra, let’s say, spot, and the one who can sight-read better will always win the spot, over the next person who cannot.
V: Of course sight-reading on the violin is a different thing than sight-reading on the piano.
A: Yes because you have only one line, so. But still I believe that every musician has to read on the keyboard.
A: Because they all study keyboards, since very early age.
V: And it does give you some perspective about the harmonies, about musical composition, about how the piece is put together. If you know this harmony structure, if you are feeling with both of your hands, the key changes, and even for solo instrument players, is useful.
A: True. Otherwise if you will be thinking all about your melodies and nothing will work.
V: Mmm-hmm. What happens sometimes most of the semester they would practice alone, and at the end of the semester, accompanist would come in to the practice room and they together start to rehearse. And this new part suddenly makes no sense to the soloist. I think a good soloist will always need to get acquainted with himself or herself with the full musical material.
A: That’s right.
V: So, that’s why we, that’s why I didn’t rush introducing three steps or even two steps, because it was very methodological. I first went through separate lines until the very end, and then came back with two voice combinations, which is of course a challenge sometimes for a lot of people. It’s much harder than one line.
A: Oh yes. True.
V: And another comment that David has here, that most of the early weeks were in d minor, and only later, the course was transposed into various minor keys. The reason I decided to put off transposition to the later part of the course was that students should familiarize with the texture first. Because Bach’s art of fugue is not a beginners texture at all. It’s completely advanced fugal texture. And first you practice in one voice, then in two parts, and three parts, and if I added to this challenge, transposition on top of that right from the start, I think for a lot of people it would be impossible. Even as it is it is difficult course. So it’s good that David found first weeks too easy. Maybe he could skip some material. Maybe just play faster or something. Still he should find it useful. And his own level will then start to be revealed in the middle.
V: Would you agree, Ausra?
A: Yes, I agree.
V: Would you start transposition right from the start?
A: Probably not. Well, I would do, but if you are beginner, then not.
V: Mmm-hmm. And if he needed more keys, of course it’s wise to supplement study material with other pieces. And he’s writing that he’s studying Dupre's 79 chorales, which are in various keys.
V: But here is the thing; he’s using baroque pedaling. I don’t think Dupre understood anything about baroque pedaling.
A: True. I wouldn’t do a baroque pedaling in Dupre’s chorales.
V: Dupre always emphasized legato playing, and even in his edition for the Bach organ works, he always used finger substation and glissandos, and heel-toe pedaling, just like he would apply it in his own works, or 20th century works or 19th French organ works. So when somebody is playing 79 chorales by Dupre, please use modern fingering and pedaling.
A: Yes, I think it would work better.
V: Mmm-hmm. Excellent question I think, and feedback. This is really helpful. Thank you guys for doing that. And please keep sending us 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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