SOPP460: I am 72 years old and it takes longer to learn things than it did when I was 17
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 460 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Mike, and he is answering my question to him when I asked what is his dream in organ playing and the obstacles that are holding him back. So he writes:
“It's just the learning process. Your pedal videos helped a lot and getting pretty comfortable with the first octave and working on the second octave now. Your advice to practice slow and take a couple of measures at a time has made a lot of difference in the outcome. I had a couple of years of piano so this experience is really helping. I am 72 years old and it takes longer to learn things than it did when I was 17. Appreciate you, Mike”
V: Does it seem to you, Ausra, that Mike is practicing my “Pedal Virtuoso Master Course?”
A: Yes, I think so. It looks like that.
V: At first, those exercises deal with octaves: scales over one octave, and then scales over the second octave. So, he did that, and now he’s in the second layer of exercises. After that, I think, comes arpeggios.
A: I think it’s so nice that at the age of 72 he’s learning new things. It always amazes me. I respect people like him.
V: Would you like to be able to also learn something new when you reach 70?
V: Or 60?
V: Or 50?
A: Yes! True!
V: What would be your things on your list?
A: I don’t know, it depends on what my health will allow me to do.
V: For example, right now. What are you dreaming of? You don’t have much time now, but what if you had?
A: Well, now I want to learn how to paint with watercolor.
V: I see! It’s difficult to blend colors, for me.
A: Well, it is difficult for me, too! I think I am a very untalented painter.
V: But, you are improving! Don’t you think?
A: I don’t know. It seems like I’m drawing the same all over and over again.
V: That’s actually a good sign, because the progress is really happening behind the scenes. In organ playing, too, when people are saying, “Oh, I’m practicing all day long, and week after week, month after month, I don’t see any progress,” it means that probably, they’re too close to see the progress. They need to look at their first exercises, like some months ago, and compare it to what they can do now. Don’t you think?
A: Yes, but I think it’s harder, when you’re playing organ, to compare yourself with a younger you, and earlier you, because if you do drawings, you can just pick up your earlier works and compare them to your late works.
V: Have you done that?
A: No. I haven’t.
V: And I have, in my mind, and I think you are really improving.
A: Yes! I hope I won’t stop practicing organ because of the drawing.
V: I don’t think you have any danger in that. Still, you are a professional in organ playing.
A: Well, so what will you suggest for Mike, how to practice in the future?
V: Recording himself helps a lot, I think. Then he will have an archive of videos and/or audios to compare his earlier exercises with what he can do now. And as you say, it’s more difficult than in drawing or painting, because in drawing or painting, you can just flip through your pages in your notebook, but unless people record themselves in organ playing, they simply have a choice of practicing the same piece and seeing if it’s easier or not, but it’s subjective. You can be easily deceived. So, people need to record themselves, I think.
A: I think that’s a very good suggestion.
V: You don’t have to publish your recordings, you know? Just for your own benefit, your own comparison. Listen to the old recording, maybe 3 months or 6 months from now, and then you will be able to see if you are progressing or not! Right? So, I think that Mike is feeling his progress, right? Because he is using that advice that we always give: practicing slowly, a couple of measures at a time, and since he’s in his 70s, it takes longer to learn new things. Do you think that this is normal, or not?
A: I think he is definitely normal.
V: You don’t have to be frustrated with that.
V: I think people sometimes are too much obsessed with progress or results, and not so much obsessed with sitting down on the organ bench.
A: True, but I think that the world around us needs us to rush things—always to run ahead, because look at all that tempo that we are living in because of the Internet and smartphones, fast food, and all that stuff.
V: Can’t we just slow down and take things the easy way?
A: Well, I think we can, but probably most of us imagine that we cannot.
V: We have this fear of missing out constantly, from all, and therefore we pursue new things and try to impress somebody, and ourselves as well, and sometimes it’s good, but not beyond our limits. Sometimes it’s too much.
A: And it’s so funny, because if you think about your household and all that stuff that we have nowadays like washing machines and other equipment that could make our lives much easier, and we have water in our houses! You don’t have to bring it each time when you want to drink it or to wash your clothes or do something with it. But, it seems like we have less and less time left.
V: Well, exactly. I think the best thing we could do is to start our day with things that matter to us, and this way, at least we know that we did something that gets us closer to our goals.
A: Yes, but you can do that if you don’t have to go regularly to work every morning, like most of us do. So, I guess the age of 70 is really nice, because most people are retired at that age already, and they can do and plan their day accordingly. So, I think it’s nice to be able to manage your time as you want to.
V: But even if you work, sometimes you can do things later at night or even before getting up at the normal time, like making some sacrifices.
A: Yes, for example, I get up every morning at 6 AM, and I have to teach at school, so I would have to get up in the morning at 4, I guess, to practice organ. Would you like it?
V: For you..
A: Would you enjoy it?
V: Actually, I would enjoy it a lot.
A: I think you go crazy after a while.
V: I could listen to two things all night long. Do you know what they are?
A: My playing.
A: I don’t know.
V: Bird songs.
V: So, for your, obviously, situation, I think you’d better practice after work, when you go back, right?
A: But you know, either way, during winter time, it’s a real sacrifice either way, because it’s dark all the time… almost all the time, and those few lighter hours, I spend teaching at school.
V: You’re right. It’s difficult, it requires sacrifice, and that’s why it is so valuable. If it were easy, everybody would do it.
V: 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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