Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 518, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And this questions was sent by Oluwadotun. He’s a new subscriber of ours and he answered the question; when new subscriber after maybe two weeks, they get this question from us: ‘what are your dreams in organ playing right now and what are the challenges that prevent you from reaching your dream?’ And he wrote:
Dream of playing MUSICAL scores or pieces at sight.
V: And he writes further:
Oluwadotun: I need training on my sight reading ability and skills. I also want to improve my sight playing.
V: So basically, it’s all about the same thing.
A: Yes. All three sentences are basically the same.
V: Synonym's of …
A: As I read them, yes.
V: He basically wants to play musical pieces without practicing them and play them very well, probably, like sight reading.
A: Yes. I can disappoint him right away, that it’s impossible for anybody. I wouldn’t know a person who could play any given organ piece at sight, let’s say, in a concert. Do you know? In a concert. Difficult! Difficult!
V: Ah, difficult.
A: I’m not talking about like Frescobaldi’s Fiori Musicali that you play for church if you need something…
A: right away.
V: So you probably mean that some scores with easier technical difficulty level could be learned to sight read without mistakes.
A: Of course! Of course. But still, you wouldn’t play those in a concert probably.
V: Or maybe if you would play some of them in a concert, you would still definitely need some difficult music to play.
A: Sure. Of course, you would need to know to play various music during your recitals. Probably because you cannot play just very, very hard pieces, all of them, because you would collapse at the end of recital.
V: Mmm-hmm. Or, you playing very, very easy pieces isn’t a good idea either.
A: Everybody would either sleep or leave.
V: Mmm-hmm. Has to be some balance.
A: But I guess that if we are talking about sight reading, those pieces that you play in a regular like liturgical setting can be easily sight read, and that I think it’s okay. Still, if you are just a beginner, I would never suggest you just simply sight read it during church service. Because you might get fired.
V: Beginners cannot even sight read hymns.
A: True. Especially because of the pedal line and left hand tenor voice.
V: They all of course, not always know the trick to playing only the soprano and the bass parts, the two parts, outer parts, which sound pretty nice without the inner parts as well.
A: But anyway, in this question, I see this guy, he wants to take a shortcut. But I can really disappoint you that there are no shortcuts in playing organ and playing it well. Of course if you are play on a daily basis, year after year, decade after decade, yes, at some point you might notice that it’s very easy and everything is just so natural. But before that, achieving that you need to spend a lot of hours on the organ.
V: How many hours. Let’s disappoint him even further.
A: Well, I guess you love to count so you tell us a number.
V: Okay. In Berlin Conservatory, or Academy of Music maybe, there was this experiment conducted when researchers went and made a survey of students who are winners of international music competition—basically they are in a very, very world class level, very high class level, not just students who simply keep themselves afloat but at the best of their class—and asked them how many years, have they practiced their instruments, violin, piano, anything. And all of them appeared to have been practicing more than ten years, which also gives an average of ten thousand hours. Imagine! But obviously ten thousand hours is not just a number that you need to reach. Each hour, each minute, basically, on your organ bench, for example, has to be, what we call deliberate practice. Deliberate practice means that in each practice session, you have to set a goal, what you are doing today and try to reach this goal. Strive to make yourself at this skill or art, better every day. Is it clear Ausra?
A: Yes. Clear, frankly for me.
V: Otherwise, it’s just fooling around, like sight reading pieces which helps with certain elements of your sight reading skills, for example, but sight reading skills alone don’t get you win in international musical competition.
A: That’s right.
V: Right! Or play recitals, let’s say. It’s a part of that skill and there are many more things involved like being very good at music theory and harmony.
A: True. Because it’s essential, also if you want to sight read things easily. Because if you won’t have any knowledge of music theory, then I think it still will be very hard for you to sight read even after ten years of practice.
V: Well, in this case, like a person who just sight reads, sight reads, sight reads every day without giving a thought about what that music means in terms of musical ideas, keys…
V: and chords, chord progressions, they’re simply doing the same thing like reading a book in a foreign language, let’s say in Japanese, in very exotic language probably, and without even translating anything, without knowing what they’re reading about.
A: Now I thought about such a ridiculous example, for example, how I would compare the organization is sort of just reading, sight reading day after day without any thought. It’s like cooking for pigs, yes and it’s like cooking in a renowned restaurant.
V: But pigs are very happy, you know.
A: I know.
V: Every morning they’re squealing for breakfast.
A: But still do you vary menu for pigs? No. You just mash whatever, potatoes and some other stuff in it, day after day, but they are still happy, yes?
V: No steak?
A: No steak!
V: No cake?
A: No cake!
V: Alright. So you get the idea probably.
A: And I guess that in this modern world full of these smart technologies, it becomes a real issue for people and a real problem for people to stick to something and to do something on regular basis, to study something that takes effort for out of you. Because everybody just wants good results right away without putting any efforts, or putting just a minimal efforts.
V: Like fast food.
V: Mmm-hmm. Which tastes good but is not healthy.
A: That’s right.
V: So in organ playing you would do very well if you set a goal for each practice, if you sight read. Even sight reading has to be deliberate, playing at a certain tempo, right?, and thinking about what’s going on in the music right away.
A: And for example, if your goal is to be an excellent sight reader, it’s your sort of like a final goal, yes, long term goal. It’s not enough. You need to have some short time, short period goals too...
A: for each day or for each week or each month because only going step by step you will be able to achieve some progress.
V: All things that we are talking about seems to take years and even decades, right? And the people who want fast results might get sorely disappointed. But, let’s console them a little bit. What about enjoying moment to moment practice and the process, not the result. Result might come after years, but the process itself might be enjoyable too.
A: True. I think you just have to setup some sort of stable routine for yourself, and enjoy the moment.
V: Because practice is privilege!
V: Like our professor Pamela Ruiter-Feenstra used to say. So, 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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