SOPP636: I still feel like I am a slow learner, but I know how to pull apart a new piece and start making it work
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.
Vidas: Let’s start episode 636 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Steven, and he writes:
“Hi Vidas. Organ playing is going okay, thank you for asking. These days I am making more time for practice, which is key. I still feel like I am a slow learner, but I know how to pull apart a new piece and start making it work. Pedal work continues to improve, with the biggest aspect I'm noticing is my accuracy. The right foot position (like keeping toes touching the "black" pedals) seems to be super helpful. I have a teacher, and we have lessons every other week for one hour. I typically work up a couple hymns out of the ELW, sometimes an introduction or related piece with those hymns. Then I have several other pieces in various states of progress.”
Vidas: So Steven is talking his practice during the pandemic, and I’m very glad that it’s improving.
Ausra: Yes, and in general, I thought one day that many musicians will become really virtuoso during this time.
Vidas: Why is that?
Ausra: Because they stay home and practice all day long!
Vidas: Like we do!
Ausra: Yes. But of course, I don’t practice every day and all day long.
Vidas: Well, right.
Ausra: Because I have to teach online.
Vidas: When the pandemic hit, obviously a lot of people stayed at home. It doesn’t mean they have more time to practice. Right Ausra? It doesn’t necessarily mean…
Ausra: And it does not necessarily mean that they have access to an instrument at home.
Vidas: Right. People who relied on church organs now have to figure out a way to play at home. Or people who worked in a physical location before and now have to online during that time, usually that online work takes at least twice as much of time than if you compare it to the physical location work. Is this the case with you, Ausra?
Ausra: Well, I save time from the trip to my school and back, and this time I can practice, actually, at home.
Vidas: Oh yeah, depending on where you live from your work, commuting could be very time consuming, up to several hours per day. So during that time, if you stay at home and could squeeze in some practice time, that’s even better.
Ausra: Yes, and for me, for example, it takes about an hour and a half to go both ways back and forth to school, so, I think it’s a nice practice session.
Vidas: But even though you have to work more at school, you kind of are practicing more than before at home. Don’t you think?
Ausra: Yes, true.
Vidas: How can you manage that when you have so much work to do for online teaching?
Ausra: Well, because I have two instruments at home, actually three instruments at home, and I don’t have to go anywhere. I still can find much more time.
Vidas: Mmhmm, except, of course, looking at the screen is very exhausting when you have to work online.
Ausra: Yes, and you know, the worst thing about this pandemic is that actually when it started, I stopped reading books. I just simply gave up, because looking at the screens takes too much time and too much energy from my eyes, so I stopped reading other books non-related to my work.
Vidas: Me too. But we watch Netflix instead.
Ausra: Well yes, that’s not a very good habit, perhaps, but you have to do something just not to go crazy.
Vidas: Right. So Steven is practicing from Evangelical Lutheran Worship hymnals, and we used to have those in America. Right? The green ones—ELW. Remember those? We have one at home.
Ausra: Yes, we have one at home. The old one.
Vidas: They have, I think, upgraded, updated since we left The States. Remember, we were going back to Lithuania, and they were getting new hymnals.
Ausra: Yes, I remember that. That’s why we could bring the old one with us.
Vidas: Right. But I guess the core anthems and chorales and hymns are still the same. The core.
Ausra: At least most of them, I guess.
Vidas: Right. So, what I would suggest to Steven besides working on hymns, is probably focus more on pieces, also. He spends a lot of time practicing on hymns, but only the last sentence in his answer is about pieces, and we don’t even know what kind of music he plays besides hymns. So basically it’s probably not a big focus for him.
Ausra: Well, if he is a church musician it’s natural that you focus more on the hymn playing, although being an active in the Lutheran church, you will surely have to play some solo music as well, for each service.
Vidas: At least two pieces per Sunday—a prelude and postlude.
Ausra: Yes, and probably maybe even more, especially if you don’t have a choir.
Vidas: Right. Now during the quarantine it could be even more, because the organist has to fill in a lot of music himself.
Vidas: So yeah, that’s a good way of looking at things—through organ repertoire. Choose something doable, not necessarily Toccatas and Fugues and standard organ concert repertoire, but maybe shorter pieces—two or three pages.
Ausra: Yes, that’s, I think, a good suggestion.
Vidas: Alright, so hopefully this will help Steven. Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
Ausra: 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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