Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 452, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by May, and she writes:
What are the prerequisites to Organ Hymn Improvisation Master Course Level 1? For example, what kind of chords do I need to know in order to study this course well? What level of music theory should I have before starting this course?
Also, what are the expected outcome of this course?
V: Maybe you could ask me some questions about this and I could explain it a little bit further, right?
A: Don’t you think May asked enough questions in one question?
A: Maybe you need to start in a row and answer them.
V: I will start from the beginning but if you need some clarification, just tell me.
A: Okay, sure.
V: Okay. Prerequisites to Organ Hymn Improvisation Master Course Level 1, is very simple; you need to know only intervals.
A: No chords then?
V: No chords because it’s a course for two voices.
A: I see.
V: And each hand plays counterpoint. One hand plays a melody, hymn melody and another hand plays counterpoint to it, and then they switch. Therefore no chords are built in this course. So prerequisites are really simple—you just need to be able to play two notes together on the keyboard without pedal. Alright? We talked about chords—no chords are needed, and what level of music theory? About intervals I could talk about a little bit, right? What kind of intervals? Well of all the intervals until an octave, up to an octave, perfect octave. So, a unison which is an interval of repeated notes, like C and C. This is a unison. It’s called perfect unison because it has no vibrations. Then major and minor seconds, then major and minor thirds, perfect fourth, a tritone which is, could be augmented fourth or diminished fifth, perfect fifth, minor six, major six, minor seventh and major seventh, and then the last one would be perfect octave. Does it mean that you should use all those intervals? How do you think, Ausra?
A: Well I don’t think so, because there are good intervals and bad intervals.
V: Yes. But you have to know all of them…
V: in order to avoid bad intervals.
V: And so we primarily sweet sounding intervals which are major and minor thirds and sixths, but then occasionally use octaves and fifths. But then there are some rules to avoid parallel octaves and fifths.
A: What about fourth?
V: Fourth is allowed. Fourth is okay.
A: What about second?
V: Second is a dissonance, therefore it’s a, not sweet sounding interval, and therefore we don’t use it in this style.
A: And I guess then you don’t use seventh as well, yes?
V: Seventh is an inversion of the second, so yes—no seventh. Would you like to know, Ausra, what are [is] the expected outcome of this course?
A: Well yes. I think it would be good know before starting the course.
V: I think you could also guess what people could do after practicing.
A: Well after practicing these counterpoint intervals, you could start practicing chords too.
V: Three voices.
A: Three voices, yes. That would be then next step, to add another voice.
V: Mmm-hmm. At first we do note against note—counterpoint for two voices, then two notes against one, then three notes against one, then four notes against one—those kinds of things. So therefore the next level could be also note against note for three voices and then note against, two voices against one, for three voices. Gradually complicating, making the texture more complex so to say.
A: Do you think it’s important to start from this level one if you are just a beginner? Or you could skip it and start with harder courses? What would be your suggestion?
V: Your goals. Depends on your goals, right? If you are trying to learn improvisation on the hymn tune and you want to [do] a methodical method, a systematic method, then yes, probably starting from two voices, note against note is very beneficial. And sometimes even too hard for really, people who just started playing organ today. Maybe they can play only with one voice. Then okay, play just the hymn tunes, for right hand and left hand alone. And then, after that you will be ready to supply the second voice.
V: Right! So we hope with Ausra, that May can benefit from this course as well, and others who are interested in learning hymn related improvisation, which could lead to further discoveries and complications, like fuguettes, and also chorale preludes, and also chorale fantasias later on.
V: And once you learn this course you will be able to learn and play maybe ten or more variations on the same hymn tune because of the progressing complications of the variations.
A: It’s very beneficial, especially if you have long service.
V: Yeah. You could play…
A: If you have to prolong your playing time.
V: You could add interest with registration of course, but it could be an excellent piece for communion, for example.
V: Or a prelude. Good. Thank you guys for sending these questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
V: 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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