SOPP593: I am actually a jazz guitar player who is studying music at university but who has long been passionate about Baroque organ music
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 593 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Graham. And he writes,
First I would just like to say thank you for your informative videos on playing and teaching the organ. Your passion and insights are much appreciated.
1. I'll mention that I am a complete beginner to playing the organ despite my musical background. I am actually a jazz guitar player who is studying music at university but who has long been passionate about Baroque organ music as well as jazz organ and I decided to start learning recently. Although it isn't serious right now (but I practice a lot) I would love to be able to one day play some of North German music such as Bach or Buxtehude and develop a good pedal technique. For now I only have access to an electric organ (I have a spinet with 13 pedals) but will try to get a Hammond with 25 pedals for practice. So in short I would say my dream would be to become fluent in some North German repertoire (and maybe the opportunity to one day actually play it on a real pipe organ haha).
2. - First limitation is my current instrument. Since I can't really practice a proper two foot pedal technique on my 13 note spinet there doesn't seem to be too much that I can play from the German repertoire. (If you have any recommendations on beginner organ music with easy pedal parts that are real baroque music that would be very helpful!)
- My current technique on the manuals is limited. Since I don't have an organ teacher it's hard to know if I am using the correct fingering techniques on the manuals. I know I should use fingers substitutions but it's hard to know exactly how when reading it from a book. There's way more about piano technique online than organ it seems so it can be hard to find someone demonstrating the exact techniques.
- Last, would be an effective practice plan and a clear place to start. A plan that would help a beginner start to learn how to really play the instrument. Since I'm already a musician who must play and improvise all the time it can be frustrating when switching to a new instrument yet very exciting!!
Thanks again for the great lessons, keep it up!
V: Well, this is a long message, and I’m already tired after reading it.
A: Yes, it’s a long message. Very informative. First of all, what struck me is that if he really wants to play Bach and North German repertoire, what’s specific about this repertoire is that it all requires quite well-developed pedal technique and to have a normal pedalboard. Because as you know, all these North German instruments had these well-developed huge pedal towers.
V: Mm hm.
A: And if he doesn’t have pedal tower, pedals for right now, I would suggest he would look more to the South German repertoire.
V: Mm hm.
A: Austrian repertoire. And he could try composers such as Pachelbel, who made a big influence to J. S. Bach. Or he could look at the Georg Muffat and his toccatas, because they require very few pedal.
V: Hm. This is Italian influence.
A: Yes, yes, yes. And another thing that sort of struck me a little bit that he talked about finger substitutions. Again, if you are playing baroque music, North German baroque music, Bach’s music, you don’t use finger substitutions. In very, very rare cases, you might need finger substitutions when playing, let’s say Bach - but not when playing, let’s say Buxtehude.
V: Mm hm. The texture has to be really really thick to justify the need of finger substitution.
A: Yes, and in general, you need to play that articulate legato, or basically, you need to detach every note. And for doing that, you don’t need finger substitution.
V: Yeah. If you have two voices in each hand, you don’t need finger substitution. You can do it with early music fingering and keyboard fingering and playing detached note with articulate legato.
A: Because you use finger substitutions usually, and pedal substitutions as well, when you’re playing romantic music, where you have to play smooth legato. That’s where it comes handy, but not in baroque music.
V: Well, sometimes people get confused if they see a score, edited in 20th century…
A: At the beginning especially…
V: Mm hm.
A: ...or at the end of 19th century.
V: Or even in the middle of the 20th century.
V: Some editors still did this, and they get the score, they love the piece, and they start to follow the directions - legato here, legato there. So to achieve legato, you need to use finger substitutions. But what they don’t realize is that those legato signs are editorial markings, not original markings. And just general thing to keep in mind: if the music is composed before 19th century, we generally play it with articulate legato. And we can apply early music fingerings this way. Most of the time, but not always, sometimes we use thumb on the sharp keys.
A: Well, in Bach I do that...
A: ...quite often because...
V: It’s complicated.
A: ...it’s complex music.
V: But not finger substitutions. They are more modern…
V: ...like 19th century developments.
V: Same for pedal technique. If you need to play legato, then you need to use heels. But not in early music. Not in music composed before 19th century.
A: Well, and if he’s looking, Graham is looking at a suitable source that he could trust, and that I trust myself, I would suggest him to look at the Ritchie/Stauffer’s organ technique book.
V: Yes. You can go to our website, and there is a link right on the front page of organduo.lt, with the cover of that book. I think it’s a green cover I think, Ausra, is that right?
A: Yes, but I can think you can find it in other colors as well.
A: Because it’s had many, many republishings, because it’s very useful, very often used in colleges for students and teaching purposes.
V: Mm hm.
A: And it’s good because it has descriptions, clear descriptions about different styles, and examples - not only repertoire but also exercises. And you can compare how the modern technique and the early technique differs. And you can try and to see what works for you.
V: Yes. And by studying this method, you become a well-rounded musician. You learn new techniques and early techniques as well. You learn to play with toes only in the early pedalings, but you learn to do all kinds of modern tricks with heels…
V: ...in the later music.
A: In the later music, yes. But for example, if you are only looking at the baroque music for right now, then you might want to look also at the book of Sandra Soderlund.
V: Mm hm.
A: She talks basically about early music technique, and she also includes the musical examples.
V: Yes, Sandra Soderlund. Very useful example. I think we will link, we will add a link to her book in the podcast transcription so people can click and check it out. Okay! And remember that sometimes, we do play legato in baroque music, right?
A: But these are very rare cases…
V: Rare cases.
A: ...and they have to be marked in…
V: By the composer.
A: By the composer, yes.
V: Or, there should be a special genre of legato playing, like durezze e ligature, chromatic toccatas…
A: Slow toccatas.
V: Slow toccatas by Frescobaldi, let’s say. Italian baroque school from 17th century, even 16th century, you see lots of chromaticism and chords fixed texture, and they best sound when played legato, right? Although other things by the same school, by the same composer, are to be played with articulation.
A: And what I also was very happy to read in Graham’s letter, that he likes North German music. I like it too, very much. And because he’s a jazz musician, I can see how he can, why he likes it, because it has that free improvisatory nature as well as in jazz. So actually, although these two genres are separated by a few centuries, they still have some features in common.
V: Yes, the great jazz improvisation tradition is still alive, and people are creating in real time. Whereas in the baroque times, it was very customary to play on the spot, spontaneous organ music with pedals, without pedals, you know?
A: So if Graham in the future will develop his organ technique, he might become an excellent improviser on the organ, in a different style.
V: Yes, just have to study the old models.
V: Thank you, guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: 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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