SOPP590: My dream for organ playing: To be able to play with above average results for an audience
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
A: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 590 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Hervey, and he writes:
“1. My dream for organ playing:
To be able to play with above average results for an audience.
2. The three most important things holding me back:
a. Not good enough at reading notes.
b. Have to memorize music before it can be played.
c. I consciously play every note instead of letting it flow freely from the mind.”
V: “Above average results…” What does that does it mean in your understand, Ausra?
A: Well, it depends on the person, because I, for example, think that I’m a little above average organist.
V: Not genius level?
V: But for him, if let’s say he’s not good enough at reading notes, or can’t really play freely from his mind, his goals must be probably more basic, not too advanced. Right?
A: I guess so, and in this last section where he talks about that he consciously plays every note instead of letting it flow freely from the mind, I think it’s because he doesn’t feel comfortable at…
V: Reading notes…
A: ...reading notes.
V: So the challenge, number 1 for him, is to get better at reading music.
A: That’s right, and that’s, I think that the sight-reading course might be helpful for him if it’s not too difficult.
V: I think it’s too difficult for starters. Yeah, you have to be a little bit… like reach a basic level of reading notes, first, and then be comfortable with slowly playing through the first exercise—very slowly, like half speed, like 30 beats per minute. If you can do that, you can progress through the course, probably not week after week with every lesson like we deliver it to your email inbox, but at your own speed. If we have 7 exercises that week, it doesn’t have to take 7 days for you. For each person it’s different. Maybe two weeks you will take. Maybe a month you will take for this first week of material, and that’s okay! Right?
A: Yes, I think that’s okay. And what do you think would be a good collection for Hervey to sight-read. Do you have any suggestions?
V: I think we have a course a little bit more basic about sight-reading. Let me check—not the “Sight-Reading Master Course,” but something a little more foundational. Let’s see… “10 Day Hymn Playing Challenge,” for example. Hymns are little gems of four part organ music! They last between 1 and 2 minutes, and they all have four parts in this little workshop. And we have ten hymns in this course, and it’s very very basic. I’ll teach you the same, basically, techniques that you need to master any piece of music, working through single lines, then combinations of two parts, three parts, and finally four-part texture, but we don’t start with “The Art of Fugue” like in “Organ Sight-Reading Master Course.” Instead, we start with simple note-against-note texture with one voice. So soprano plays quarter notes. A lot of people can do that. Even beginners—almost beginners, I would say. What do you think, Ausra?
A: Yes, I think that’s a good suggestion. I think hymns are very handy for organists. Plus, because most of the hymns are familiar to us, so it makes things even easier.
V: And after that, of course, you can check, Hervey can check if he has advanced substantially in order to be able to practice through the first week of the “Sight-Reading Master Course.” Maybe the next step for him would be to play and master my other training--”Left-hand Training” and then later “Two-part Training.” These are pieces taken from Bach’s “Trio Sonatas.” Exercises first in single voice in “Left-hand Training” and then two-part texture in “Two-part Training,” but instead of playing in the original keys that Bach writes, I have transposed everything starting from, I believe, C Major, and then going through all the keys through the circle of fifths. That’s how you advance little-by-little. What about this idea, Ausra?
A: Sure, I think it’s a good idea to add extra accidentals with each try.
V: And maybe “Left-hand Training” would be enough before jumping to the “Organ Sight-Reading Master Course.” I think, yes, because “Sight-Reading Master Course” starts with a single voice. So with “Left-hand Training,” you master this a-little-bit-intricate rhythms in “Trio Sonatas,” not only with the left-hand, of course, you practice with your right hand, as well, and maybe with your pedals, as well, those pedal parts, slowly, of course. And then you can be kind of ready to start a 40 week journey with “Organ Sight-Reading Master Course.”
A: Sure, and another thing that I would like to add to what you just said is that in order to become a fluent reader of music, you need to do it on a regular basis.
V: The minimum time, I think, is three times per week. Minimum.
A: That’s a bare minimum.
V: Bare minimum. Every other day, basically.
A: I think if you really want to see progress and won’t get frustrated, I think you would need to do it every day.
V: Every day, just a little bit.
A: At least a little bit of it.
V: 15 or 20 minutes, preferably more. If you can’t handle sitting on the organ bench for a longer time, take frequent breaks. Before you get tired, you stop playing, you take your walk, drink your glass of water, stretch, breathe, whatever is more comfortable for you. Then, after 5, 10, 15 minutes, you come back, and you feel refreshed. Right?
A: Yes, that’s right. But I think this regularity is very important.
V: Right. And don’t be frustrated if you don’t see results overnight. Right? It’s a life long journey. And be content with the privilege of sitting down on the organ bench. That’s all that matters. You are making progress, it’s just not apparent to the naked eye. You have to have a microscope, basically. But, if you check the piece that had been difficult to you at the beginning after one month of your studies, or three months, or half of a year, I can guarantee, if you follow our suggestions and tips and practice procedures, you will find that the first piece that was difficult to you, then after that period of studies will become much, much easier. So you will have advanced in organ playing, I think, quite far through that time.
A: Excellent observation.
V: Thank you! Thank you, Ausra, for helping me guide Hervey, and hopefully it was helpful to other people, too. 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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