SOPP448: My dream for organ playing is to be able to play, at very least hymns and sightread intermediate organ music
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 448 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Christianna, and Christianna writes:
“My dream for organ playing is to be able to play, at very least hymns and sightread intermediate organ music. The three inhibitors at the moment I think, would be: 1. Lack of a teacher, 2. Having to drive fifteen minutes to play on an organ and, having to deal with the fact that it's not available on weekends, 3. None of the music stores in my area carry any sort of organ method or scale book. I think that might help at first as I work on figuring out the foot pedals and stops, even though my organ only has four stops for each manual.”
V: So, Christianna wants to be reasonably good at intermediate organ music and playing hymns. That’s a very decent goal, I think.
A: Yes, for a church organist, it is.
V: And I think her problems or challenges can be overcome, right? Lack of teacher. What would you suggest?
A: Well, nowadays, there are so many sources on the Internet!
V: And, isn’t that the reason why we started our podcast and blog and training courses?
A: Sure! I think you can find lots of material in our resources that would help for you to become at least an intermediate organist.
V: Yeah, no doubt about that. And, of course, this question that Christianna is answering is sent to her after about two weeks of being here in our community, so she’s kind of new. She needs to explore a little bit more what’s available—what free materials are available, what courses are available—and definitely, she will find something for her. The second, obviously, challenge is with the organ itself.
A: But she only has to drive 15 minutes. Do you consider 15 minutes to be a long way to find an organ to practice? I find it a funny distance, 15 minutes.
V: 15 minutes? It’s a reasonable distance. If, for example, you are living in a city, then it’s really not that far. It’s like going to a gym, basically, right?
A: Well, it takes us longer to go to a gym from the place where we live.
V: And it takes longer for us to go to the church from where we live.
A: Definitely. So I think nowadays, when people are driving really long distances, for example, to work every day, 15 minutes doesn’t seem a long time. And if you don’t want to waste those 15 minutes, you may listen to some useful stuff while you’re driving.
V: For example….
A: Well, you can learn learn languages.
V: Or listen to Maltese music.
V: I need to tell the background of this joke for people to understand. When I went to Malta to play there for 200 tourists from Paris, “Le Figaro” newspaper, I saw one person playing a mandolin in 60 languages, and I asked for him to play something and sing something Lithuanian, and he did one of our most well-known songs, and obviously, I bought a CD from him with his music, Maltese music, where he played mandolin. So that’s the origin of this joke. Obviously, you could listen to books on tape, or podcasts, or as Ausra says, organ music…
A: But anyway, 15 minutes of drive is not a long distance. I wouldn’t consider it a problem.
V: A little bit of a problem would be if she cannot practice on that organ on weekends. Right? The organ is not available, she says. So on those weekends, maybe practicing at home on the table would help, if she doesn’t have any other instruments, like a keyboard. What else?
A: True! That might help.
A: Because, I think if you have a goal, and if it’s important for you to reach the goal, you will always find possibilities to do it, and if you don’t maybe that goal wasn’t so important for you.
V: And if it’s important to you, maybe with time, start saving some money, investing some money for a keyboard to have at home.
V: Number 3 would be, “None of the music stores in my area carry any sort of organ method,” which is also related to the first question, lack of teacher.
A: True, but today, if she can use the Internet, it means that she can order things online.
V: Obviously, yes.
A: And there are so many things you can get on the Internet.
V: And, if she just looked around, we have so many courses, and practice courses for fingering and pedaling, it’s a good starting point, I think.
A: I guess nowadays, it’s not so hard to find the information that you need, material that you need, as I think it’s hard to decide which one to buy!
V: Oh, it’s called, “information overload.”
A: That’s what I think is more common nowadays.
V: When you have 50 sources to compare, and you don’t know which one is better, then you basically are stuck, and freeze in your mind. I think the best way to start is wherever you are—whatever is in front of you. It might not be the best method, or the most comprehensive method that you wish for, but it’s a good starting point, and it will lead you someplace, and after you reach that intermediate goal, you can go to the next level.
A: Sure. Do you think the Hymn Playing Workshop would be helpful for her, from our teaching materials?
V: Yes, we have those hymn playing workshop videos and hymn scores in that, so yes, it will give her a foundation on how to master those hymns, and after those videos, she will have the knowledge to apply it to any other hymn, which is good.
A: And because it has videos, it sort of replaces the real teacher.
V: Yes! The real teacher would also be, maybe, more strict with her, giving external motivation, because she would be maybe embarrassed to show up unprepared. With videos in our courses, there is a different motivation, which is basically inner motivation. That’s what we value the most. Right Ausra?
A: True, and I think that inner motivation is the most important, because look; even if you go go to college or to university or academy of music, or a conservatory to study music, your studies won’t last forever. Eventually, you will graduate from the institution and you will be left on your own! So if you won’t have that inner motivation, then what can you do? You will start practicing!
V: And we’re seeing people quitting playing after a while, because they lack motivation. So, I think it’s good to find some sort of external motivation in the form of public performance opportunities, maybe in the same church that she would practice, she could give public performances during services, maybe—preludes, postludes, communions, offertories—or if she is really good, later on she could prepare a post service appearance.
A: And Christianna also says that her organ where she practices is probably not a large one. It has two manual, each having four stops. I think it’s a reasonable size organ for practicing. It’s more than enough, I think, to become an intermediate organist.
V: We have two stops at our home organ. Yes.
V: That’s enough, I think. Whatever more that you need, you can pretend you have. If you need a swell box, you can pretend you’re using it with your right foot. If you need toe pistons and studs, you can pretend you are pushing them. Right? Thank you guys for those wonderful questions. Keep sending them! 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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