SOPP536: How can a self-taught organist become proficient and get to the master level of the organ?
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 536, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This questions was sent by Kirk. And he writes:
It has been a long time since I have written you. How are you doing? I am working out of Marcel Dupre 79 Chorales for Organ. Talk about working on coordination, for me to do them I am practice between 50-60 MM. And if I mess up I go to the measure and practice at least 10 times just to start.
Question besides having a teacher, how can a self-taught organist become proficient and get to the master level of the organ?
V: Well, Ausra, I guess our website is all about being self-taught and getting help, not from a physical teacher but from online sources, right?
A: Yes, true. If I would be in Kirk’s shoes and I would like to learn organ, to play organ, to be proficient, I would gather information that I need, let’s say from our web site or in general, books, and get the scores that I need. Then I would keep working and following those guidelines. And then of course I would record my work and listen back to it. Because I would have to be teacher for myself so I would have to listen to my recordings and be critical about them and then try to improve them. But of course, it’s always nice when somebody else will listen to your recordings and excites you.
V: Then you need to have a teacher—online teacher, right?
A: Yes, online teacher.
V: Mmm-hmm. Get online coaching. I guess with technology today it’s possible to live in one side of the world and be taught on another side of the world, or get access to a teacher if you are living in an area without teachers. Right? It’s all about just being open to new possibilities. But as he says, practicing each measure ten times at least to improve and avoid mistakes, is a good start.
A: Yes, it is. Although I myself never count how many times I have practiced certain measure or certain spot. I’m not a number person so if I would have to count each time how many times I played certain measure, I would just give up practicing at all.
V: You know, there are all kinds of people who prefer methodical learning, counting the repetitions. Some don’t because it’s boring for them. Some prefer scales and arpeggios and exercises. Some want to go straight to music. I think a person has to choose whatever works for them and stick with it. Any method will work. Maybe some methods work better than others but as long as you keep practicing regularly and diligently, you will keep doing progress.
A: But you know about this playing, let’s say certain measures, certain numbers of times, yes?
A: I think it doesn’t work. You know why? Because I don’t know any of piece of music that would be equally hard from first measure to the last measure. There are always easy measures in the piece and there are always harder and very hard measures in the piece. And if you will play exactly the same number, each measure, then certain spots will be harder for you to play. You will never master it. You will never be comfortable with entire piece.
V: But I can write to you equally well designed measures and you can practice them ten times.
A: No thank you!
V: (Laughs). It would be very boring. For example, I’m practicing right now the two Bach’s chorales from Eighteen Great Preludes, or Leipzig Collection—Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, BWV 660, and BWV 661. And at first I started really counting repetitions and being very methodical about that. But after about third day, I understood that it won’t last with me—this kind of method, because I’m not a beginner anymore and I can master things naturally, really. And now I’m just enjoying myself and still making progress. Would you say, Ausra, that this is more beneficial to my situation?
A: What, counting or not counting?
V: Not counting.
A: I think it’s more beneficial.
V: Mmm-mmm. But for some people, they do like to count. They do want to feel the need to see a progress. Maybe they don’t understand if they’re playing better or not but if they count the number of repetitions, they feel that they’re progressing. It’s maybe a different thing.
A: But still you need to work on some starts more than on the others. Because, believe me, for example, now I know that sort of repeating the Wachet auf, from Bach’s Schubler Collection…
A: The famous C flat major, which is the work that Bach himself really done from his Cantata 140.
V: This is BWV 645 in Schublers Collection.
A: Yes. And it has this common form for most of the Lutheran’s chorales. He has a bar form which has an A section repeated and then the B section which is a new one.
V: Bar, meaning like B-A-R, right, the word?
A: Yes, B-A-R, and it has, if I would have to draw a form of it, it would be like A-A and B. So you have the A section repeated.
V: And B is usually longer than A.
A: Yes, that’s right. And because I don’t have much time to practice so usually I play it, well once a day…
A: And now after practicing it for what, three weeks, I notice that, that A section goes just so well.
A: Because I play it twice. Because that’s how the music is written. But the B section is much harder now.
V: And longer.
A: And longer.
V: Mmm-mmm. So naturally if you repeat some things more times, you learn it better than other spots. Yeah. So I hope Kirk would take advantage of that, will take advantage of our courses that we have to offer because you can only learn so much from those free conversations that we provide. And if he needs more specific guidance, we have many training programs and scores with fingering and pedaling which will save him tons of time too. Thanks 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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