SOPP509: Most often I spend too much time on new pieces and too little time - on pieces learned earlier
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 509 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Diana, and she writes:
“It’s difficult for me to know how much time it’s best to leave for learning new music and how much time - for refreshing previously mastered material. Most often I spend too much time on new pieces and too little time - on pieces learned earlier.”
So, Ausra, do you know Diana from our Unda Maris studio?
A: Of course I know her.
V: Yeah, she is now practicing various manualiter pieces, namely Chorale Harmonizations from Krebs’s “Clavier-Übung”, but only outer parts—soprano and the bass—and she is now starting to practice Bach’s inventions, and in addition to that, she is transcribing fingering and pedaling from Lemmens’s “Short Trios” and playing them, as well. So, it depends on her choices, probably, what she needs to do on the goals, right?
A: Sure, because from her question, of course, I know her personally, but if I didn’t know her, I would still understand that she is just a beginner, because usually this is the kind of question that might arise from a beginner. Because, for an experienced musician, it’s clear that it’s impossible to keep under your finger all the repertoire that you have ever learned all the time.
A: Yes. Well, unless you have learned only maybe… I don’t know...
V: ...five pieces…
A: ...90 minutes of music, then yes. But you know, if you have mastered hours and hours of music, then I think it’s impossible, and it’s not your goal to keep everything under your fingers all the time. Then you will have just played from morning until night every day.
V: So probably, for beginners like Diana, her goal should be to learn as much new music as possible. Right?
A: Yes, I think so. I think she would benefit more from that after just repeating the old stuff. Of course, she needs to think what kind of pieces she liked from her repertoire and she would like to play in the future, that has some artistic values to her, and maybe to play them time after time. But I think her main focus needs to be learning new repertoire.
V: It’s like for babies, right? Babies grow up so fast, and for example babies’ clothes no longer fit them after a few months. Is that a good comparison?
A: Well, yes, I think it’s a good comparison. I would never think about that myself, but yes, you could say it like that.
V: So Diana is like a musical baby, and she needs to change her clothes constantly—musical clothes.
A: Repertoire, you mean.
A: So, what about you? How much repertoire is under your fingers, for example, in a given moment?
V: Well, I’m different from most of my organists that I know—my friends, because I improvise in public, and that’s a big difference from just playing something that is written and keeping that under your fingers. So I’m generally thinking about learning new music for my upcoming recitals if I’m planning something to play from the repertoire, not only from improvisations. But right now, I have two recitals coming up which are improvisations, two recitals with you which are organ duets, or four duets, actually—two in Lithuania and two in other countries—and then some organ demonstrations, as well, so I have to be constantly ready to play in public, basically. My situation is different from most people, I think.
A: But I guess if you are an organist and you are somehow related to the church, even if you don’t have a regular position, or to the universities, I think you need to keep some of your repertoire ready at any time. So maybe while learning new and difficult pieces, you need to have sort of a basic repertoire that you could be ready to refresh right away if you would receive any calls that you need to replace somebody and to play for some occasions, such as weddings, funerals, Mass…
V: A collection of short pieces.
V: Two or three minutes each, or even one minute is okay, probably, for starters. So, it reminds me of the examination requirements of the American Guild of Organists, where they have this test for the service playing certificate. They have requirements to play a few preludes, a few offertories, a few postludes, and a few communion pieces, and a few funeral pieces, and a few wedding pieces. So maybe a total of twelve pieces for this test. And for this occasion, maybe if you’d add six categories, so one or two from each category would be a good place to aim to learn for your constant repertoire. Don’t you think?
A: Yes, I think that’s a good suggestion.
V: Until you become a good sight-reader and can sight-read this kind of music on short notice. Okay, 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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