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: Let’s start episode 603 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Pieter, and he writes,
Thank you for your email with week 11 of the sight reading course attached. I am persevering with the daily routine and I notice first of all a much greater stability and confidence with rhythm. Some of the figures in the exercises are complex from a sight reading perspective but this has definitely improved over the weeks. I think notation accuracy was not a major problem for me but I still have to be careful to observe accidentals etc. It is very easy to miss repeated ones.
I am greatly enjoying the routine of the course and am always a little curious as to what the new challenges will be week on week.
I will of course contact you if there are any queries but for now it is all very clear and the approach you take is very logical.
My very best wishes, Pieter
V: So Pieter is taking our Organ Sight Reading Master Course, Ausra, right?
V: And he seems to get a great deal of enjoyment and also results from it.
A: Well, I think it's very beneficial to spend some time every day on doing sight reading.
V: You know, just recently these last few days, I was also beginning to pick up my sight reading routine again. It’s quite difficult to do it properly and regularly when you are doing many recitals every month and mastering many kinds of organ pieces regularly every week and uploading them to YouTube and perfecting them. But, I’ve still convinced that doing regular sight reading exercises will help me and anyone else in the long run, right Ausra?
A: Yes. I remember a few summers ago, I spent in the village with my parents and I didn’t have an access to an organ, so I brought with me a few volumes of classical sonatas. So I sight read whole sonatas by Mozart and whole sonatas by Beethoven. And actually, it was fun and it was really beneficial.
V: Absolutely. Sometimes people don’t realise the power of sight reading they have under their fingertips. Like for me, my eventual goal is to sight read an organ recital.
A: Wow! What would you play on that kind of recital?
V: Let’s say Widor symphony. Or Vierne.
A: Maybe some Fantasy by Max Reger?
V: Anything, yeah, anything that people would request. You know, some organists online, when they play live recitals, they take requests from their audience. And sometimes they take requests and their fans leave comments with their favorite pieces. And for the next recital, this organist would learn this piece, or a few pieces, you know?
A: Well, it would be more fun if right before recital, audience could choose their program for particular recital.
V: Yeah, post like a poll with some choices in some categories like baroque, romantic, contemporary, or 20th century and then contemporary, and plus improvisation obviously, and then people could choose, and I could play anything they choose. That would be really fun!
A: Well, good luck with that!
V: I’m not at the level just yet, obviously, where I could sight read a recital. But I am at the level where I could sight read a soprano part for the recital.
A: Good! I think I could do that, too!
V: Yes. A lot of organists that I know have decent sight reading skills. Sometimes better than we do, right, Ausra?
A: Well, I’m pretty good at sight reading, but it’s still not enough to be really good.
V: So, I just tried to sight read live and stream it on YouTube for a few days in a row, just soprano part. I took, I think Sweelinck’s pieces - Variations on Allein Gott - and this is a very long piece, with I think 14 or 17 variations. And I enjoyed playing and counting and playing at the concert tempo actually, the right tempo, with good quality registration, with nice sample set from I would think Rotterdam, St. Laurenskerk, by Sonus Paradisi. But only the soprano part, you know? It’s like one single instrument was playing. One melodic instrument.
A: Yes. You love to do that kind of stuff, as I noticed.
V: Yeah, and after awhile, when I go through all those collections of my favorite music, I can go back and sight read alto part.
A: And then maybe to put things together, or not?
V: Not yet, then the third step would be the tenor line, and then the fourth part would be the pedals. And then the fifth step would be soprano and alto part together. But that is many weeks away.
A: Okay, we will see how it will go.
V: Because my goal is not to master each individual piece, but my goal is to be able to be able to reach this level where I could sit down and play whatever I want at the first sight reading test.
A: Well don’t you think you are a little bit too old to get such a kind of skill?
V: As long as I’m living, I think I can improve. This is encouragement for senior organists, too.
A: Yes, but it will take you many years, I think.
V: Longer than…
A: Sure, sure.
V: ...in my childhood days.
V: But now I have another advantage over my early days, because I’m focused. I know what my goals are. Remember when we were little kids, 6 years old, 7 years old, even 10 years old, do you think we could do some focused practice back then?
A: Well, actually I don’t know about you because I didn’t know you at that age, but I was pretty good with focus since very early in my age. I didn’t have that problem.
V: What was your goal in music playing, let’s say when you were 7 years old?
A: Well, whatever my teacher gave me to learn, that’s what I learned.
V: So that was not your goal then.
A: Well, but you know, I always knew what I will want to play next. And if my teacher would ask, I would say that I want to play this, this, and that.
V: Mm hm. So you had a good teacher.
V: Me too. So anyway, we are now at the age of whatever, we are however old we are, and we also need challenges. Every age level needs challenges. Larger or smaller, it doesn’t matter, but it has to keep you on the edge and this goal has to be interesting enough for you to encourage you to get up out of bed in the morning.
A: Well, yes, but people can have various goals.
V: Such as?
A: Just to live through a day and enjoy it.
V: Yes, that’s one goal. To reach the end of the day.
A: That’s right.
V: Mm, for me, I need more adrenaline, you know?
A: Well, I enjoy a slow life.
V: I mean adrenaline, not like riding g a motorbike through the cliff and jumping from roof to roof, but challenges like this keep me also, keep me motivated to continue to practice.
A: Well I enjoy looking at my flowers, watering them, observe my environment. It makes me happy.
V: Very good. You feel relaxed like this?
A: Yes, sure. I don’t need to count my YouTube channel subscribers like you do.
V: Yes, she’s making fun of me of course. And I’m guilty of this, too.
A: But I love practicing the organ and playing the organ. But it seems that Vidas sometimes enjoys more counting how many pieces he played, how many hours he had posted, and as I mentioned before, how many new subscribers he got, and so on and so forth. For me, there is all this not as important. I enjoy actually process. Because I am not practicing for anybody else, I practice for myself.
V: So guys, you see, we are different. Right, Ausra?
V: And I believe our subscribers are different.
V: So if some people like what I’m teaching, staying focused and keeping yourself motivated with external goals, and accountability like public performances, then you can pay attention to what I’m saying. But if on the other hand, a person is more like Ausra, then of course, she can teach you some things, too.
A: Well, let me make one remark about your teaching. Sometimes, it reminds me of preaching, not teaching.
V: Define preaching.
A: Like telling how many minutes per day you have to put on the YouTube channel, in order to get a larger audience.
V: Oh, I know what you mean. Can I share this with our subscribers now?
A: Please do.
V: Okay. Before we recorded this conversation, we were talking about a strategy for Ausra’s channel, to grow it to reach 4,000 watch-hours in the past 12 months. Basically, within the year, she needs to reach 4,000 hours. This is 240,000 minutes. (laughs) 240,000 minutes per year, of watch-hours. I mean, total number of minutes that anybody watched your videos. Does this make sense?
A: Well, not really, because when you start naming all those minutes and seconds and hours and all those numbers, my brain just shuts down.
V: You know why? It’s important this number. Maybe not those 240,000, but 4,000 hours, watch-hours. Because this is one of the requirements that YouTube has since 2018, if you want to monetize your videos, your channel. If you want to show ads on your videos and get rewarded for people watching them. So one of the requirements is to reach 1,000 subscribers, and another part of this requirement is to reach 4,000 watch-hours within the past year.
A: That’s why I don’t watch your videos, because we have all those ads before the real performance, and it usually advertises things like diets. And I’m thinking, do they really know that I am fat and I need to go on a diet?
V: Now, you see ads because you don’t have a YouTube premium account. I have YouTube premium. I pay extra for this privilege, but I don’t watch ads.
A: Well, I rather be just a regular user but don’t have to pay for it.
V: I could pay for you.
A: No thank you.
V: I see. So anyway, this strategy to reach 4,000 watch-hours in the last 12 months is something we have to figure out. How often should we post, and how long the video should be? And it turns out that the longer, the better. Because if you post short videos, then even if you have, like, 100 views, you will have like maybe 100 minutes.
A: But still, I’d rather prefer to sit down at the organ bench and practice instead of just keep counting as you do nowadays.
V: Absolutely. So after we’re done recording this conversation, we will go to practice. And my hope is that Ausra will let me to record her practice, longer practice I mean, and she would get 15 or even 30 minutes of watch-hours from one organ practice lesson today.
A: I guess I have no choice, just to obey you.
V: No, it’s an experiment. And see if people will criticize you. And if not, you can continue, if you like.
A: Am I your guinea pig?
V: In a sense, we all are our own guinea pigs, so I do experiments with myself easily, and when it works, I can advise other people.
A: And now it’s not enough just to do experiments with yourself, so you are involving me.
V: Okay, guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: (laughs) We will go to practice now, and we will of course report the results afterwards, in the next podcast conversation. Thank you guys. 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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