Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 437 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by May, who is our Total Organist student. And she writes:
Hi Vidas, Thank you again for addressing to my concerns in details! I have not had the time to spend on the 3 to 4 rhythms yet. In fact, I had to put the sight reading courses aside in order to focus on the harmony (which has been taking 1.5 hours each day from my practice time). I simply don't have the time for writing out the chords beforehand (it would have taken me at least another 45 minutes each day to do so). In your week 11 video, you said it would be easier if we write down the chords before doing the hands on practice. How could practice in writing makes playing easier (for we are not looking at our chords when we play the harmonization anyways)?
And, she has questions on the week 11 of Harmony for Organist Level 1 video and exercises....
1. When you demonstrate exercise 1, you say aloud each chord (and how it connects to the next chord). For the first 3 chords in the 2nd half of exercise 1, I think I hear you say "subdominant". Should they be tonic?
2. In exercise 8, the 2nd note (A) in measure 3 belongs to tonic chord, and the 3rd note (D) belongs to the subdominant chord (See attached). They are apart by a 4th. In what way should they be connected using our rules?
Thanks in advance for your help.
V: So, primarily, May is interested in harmony, right? And I wrote to her my answer:
Dear May, Writing in practice makes playing easier, because it helps us think faster. But not writing the chords is also fine, but you are exercising a different skill, basically, improvisation on the spot.
1. Yes, in measure 5 and 6, these 3 chords should be tonic. You have a good ear and eye.
2. In measure 3, yes, A-flat is the tonic and D-flat is the subdominant. Do you know skips of the thirds? It means the 3rd in the soprano or the tenor of one chord can jump to the 3rd of another chord, which is a 4th or 5th apart. Common notes are held constant, the 3 voice goes to the nearest chordal note, and the bass jumps to the root of the next chord. Position changes from closed to open and vice versa. Starting from the bass, these 2 chords are spelled F-A-F-A-flat – one more time, F-C-F-A flat, and B-flat-B flat-F and D-flat. Hope this helps.
What do you think, Ausra?
A: Well, I’m thinking that, you know, you need to know the theory very well, and have quite a good performance skills in order to be able to understand the benefit of knowing theory. I think for beginners, sometimes it’s very hard to understand why we at all need it.
V: Mm hm.
A: But really, knowing structure of the piece, knowing chords – it really helps. But you need to reach a certain level to feel the benefit.
V: And that’s why your kids at school are revolting sometimes?
A: Yes, and that’s why, you know, wanting to quit my job almost every day, after you know, teaching for a few hours.
V: But if you taught, let’s say adults, who are motivated, they come to you voluntarily?
A: Well, you know, I think each age group has its own problems. Because like, kids sometimes don't have motivation but they are very good material to teach, because they can learn things very fast, not realizing that themselves, sort of they take everything from their surroundings.
V: Like a sponge.
A: That’s right. And for adults, it’s another strength and another weakness. Because we usually don’t question things, why do we need it, because we are more motivated, you know, of learning things. But let’s face it, I feel it on myself, that with age, you lose ability to learn things as fast as you know, let’s say in your teenage years.
V: Mm hm. Well, you have to have a constant habit of learning. And many people who are adults quit learning after school. Therefore, one of the reasons it’s harder, it’s just, they don’t exercise this muscle, don’t you think?
A: Well, yes, but…
V: And I’m not talking about organ or harmony, but in general.
A: But I think if you keep learning all your life, you know, you keep learning new things, I think you will be better than other adults that stopped learning, let’s say after high school or after university.
V: Definitely. What stops people from teaching themselves something?
A: Well, I think sometimes some of them maybe just, you know, already created comfortable life, and they are satisfied with it.
V: Living in their comfort zone, and don’t have the need to step out of it.
A: Yes, but some of them actually have you know, desire to learn new things all the time.
V: Mm hm.
A: And some are put in the situation that we have to change something in life to learn new skills, let’s say to find new jobs. So, there are, I think, different situations for different people.
V: And people who are comfortable where they are right now, I think they miss opportunities, right? Because every day, we make choices to do this or to do that, to learn something or not learn something. And if we stay where we are, we never reach a high level of our potential. Never realize our potential. And I think we will never reach our potential anyway, because life is short, and we as humans, are…
V: Not…I’m using a different…I’m looking for a different word. We tend to save ourselves much more than we should, probably. I’m talking about myself, Ausra, of course.
V: And you can talk about you, but I’m not forcing you. But yes, I’m tending, I tend to be gentle with myself too much. And therefore, I am maybe not pushing myself that hard, or harder.
A: Well, I’m always too hard on myself. So if we would mix our skills together, we would get, you know, like a perfect person.
V: I don’t know. I don’t know.
A: Very well balanced.
V: Never tried to mix two people together, so, two people’s skills together, so it’s really hard to imagine. Okay. But anyway, May’s on the right path with her harmony studies, I think. Even if she struggles with some weeks more than with others. I think her brain will thank her in the long run.
A: Let’s hope for it.
V: Because constant learning postpones aging and cheats death, too, by proxy. 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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