SOPP417: I’m arthritic and find it difficult to move joints easily, especially the ankles and hips
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 417, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Colin. And he writes:
Firstly, I’m sorry if you have already received the following message. My computer is playing up and I’m having difficulty in sending and receiving some emails. Thank you for your Pedal Virtuoso Master Course. For some strange reason, I have been unable to download the material of the final lesson.
A bit of background about me: I’m retired and I have played the organ for very many years. However, the demands of my job and family have meant that I have not been able to practice regularly, with the inevitable result that my skills have deteriorated. I’m arthritic and find it difficult to move joints easily, especially the ankles and hips. I try to practice your course regularly though I have not been able to progress from week to week as rapidly as I should like. I see no virtue in going on to the next lesson until I feel like I have mastered the current one. I’ve found the sessions on arpeggios etc. particularly helpful, and I feel that I’m beginning to recover some of my earlier flexibility. I still find shifting position difficult though, I continue to work on it.
As you suggested, I have played a couple of pieces which I have not played for a long time, in order to see how my pedal technique has improved. I was really amazed at the confident way I was able to play the final part of the Mendelssohn organ Sonata n°1. Likewise, I managed the g minor fugue, BWV 542 confidently, even the long pedal passage in the middle, where you have to shift position felt very comfortable. So my practice is clearly paying off.
Thank you very much indeed, every good wish,
V: Wow, this is like a nice testimonial from Colin I would say. Don’t you think?
A: Yes, it’s very nice, thank you Colin, we appreciate it very much.
V: I think he did a good job taking a piece that he was practicing earlier with difficulty, maybe like g minor fugue, or Mendelssohn’s Sonata, and then, after a while of working with the Pedal Virtuoso Master Course, then playing through these pieces, like a test you know. To just see if it’s easier or not. And apparently, I was right, people do improve.
A: Sure, because when you practice only exercises, you might not notice that, but when you will pick up real repertoire, you will notice that you’ve really improved. Because all your hard work always pays off, maybe not as fast as you wish you know, but still, you will improve, in time.
V: I would compare it to looking at yourself in the mirror every morning. What happens is, you look almost the same right? Maybe not exactly the same: your haircut will be different, your mood is different, maybe your skin looks different a little bit from the night before, maybe sometimes you’re less refreshed than you wanted to be, but generally the changes with age are very difficult to spot if you look at the mirror every day. But what happens if you meet your friend who haven’t seen you for six months or maybe a couple of years, then surely they will notice the difference and you will notice the difference on them.
A: True, that is true.
V: Is this a good analogy Ausra?
A: Yes, it’s a good analogy.Maybe in organ playing you don't have to wait for 2 years to see the progress. But definitely you won’t be seeing progress each single day.
V: What does it mean to “see progress”, for you personally Ausra? What is progress? When you sit down on the organ bench and play those pieces that you’re getting ready to play at Notre-Dame for example in Paris.
A: Well, I’m not thinking so much about it right now, because it’s still so far ahead, but definitely you know, the more you put in, the more you get out of it. That’s always the case.
V: Are you so concerned about seeing progress actually, when you practice?
A: Well, not so much.
V: Not so much, yeah. You’re focusing on the process not on the result. Results probably will come by themselves.
A: That’s true. I don’t like to force things ahead of time.
V: You don’t want to force it?
V: Hmm. To me also I hold a similar position, that my goal is to sit down at the organ bench no matter what, no matter if I have a busy day or easy day, I try to sit down, if only for fifteen minutes, to play, you know, an improvisation. If I do that, I know that my fingers don’t atrophy, the muscles don’t atrophy. My imagination also improves a little bit. And maybe tomorrow I will have a better day to practice more, right? And usually I practice much more than fifteen minutes but that’s just the minimum I try to do. And somehow the progress comes by itself. You know, I have some goals for the future, pieces that I need to learn, but judging from my own experience, I plan well ahead those pieces and I know that with every practice, my playing gets a little bit stronger, even if the progress seems to be slow, but I know that I have plenty of time. Would you agree?
A: Sure, and I like to prepare things in advance in order to have some flexibility with everything you know, and not be rushed into things.
V: If you need to rush it means you’re planning poorly, right? If a recital is coming up next week and I’m still sight-reading this piece, something is wrong with my planning.
A: Yes but some people are like that and I don’t like it. I used to be like that myself too, in terms of memorization for example. I used to memorize at the last moment, I remember still things that I would have to play exam next morning and in the evening I was still working to memorize some of the parts, and I wouldn’t be any good at it. And then you experience extra stress and it’s not good.
V: And you don’t feel any joy in doing that, during exam?
A: Of course, you know if you’re a musician, sometimes you need to be put on the spot, but all the time, it’s not good.
V: Hmm. That’s true. I think Colin is on the right track with this course, Pedal Virtuoso Master Course, and of course since he’s retired and a senior person and he has arthritis, then to move in a flexible manner in those arpeggios and scales is quite strenuous movement.
A: True. Although I think that to keep moving is beneficial for people with arthritis.
V: Even though you can’t play perfectly those scales and arpeggios, do something with them. Play the best you can, and then, your joints and ankles will improve anyway.
A: But of course, do everything with care. Don’t hurt yourself too much.
V: Hmm, avoid pain basically.
V: Stop playing before you get tired, that’s a golden rule of mine. If I stop before I get tired, I never get tired!
A: Good for you!
V: Wonderful, thank you guys for listening, I hope this was helpful to you, and please keep sending your wonderful 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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