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 643 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Whitney, and she writes,
My challenge is with getting enough courage to play hymns with pedals. I can do it fine when practicing, but I get way too nervous when I’m playing at Mass.
V: Hm. That’s a good question, right Ausra?
A: Yes, I think all beginners go through this stage when you are scared to add pedals.
V: It can be compared with any type of new skill that you are trying to build up, and when you want to play it for yourself, it’s one thing, but when you present for others, it’s completely different. Let’s imagine you want to improvise for yourself, right? Yes, it’s confusing sometimes, but you can feel much safer than playing for others, correct Ausra?
A: Sure. Well, you know what I could suggest for Whitney to do - when she practices for herself, let her imagine that she is playing in public. You can do that sometimes. You can trick your mind sometimes. And you might get as nervous during practice as you get in a real performance. And that might help to control that stress level that you get.
V: And one way to do that is obviously to record yourself, even with video. Put a cell phone, if you don’t have a tripod, just position maybe further away from you so that your hands and feet would be visible, and play that hymn, right? Several stanzas. And you will soon discover how different you feel when you know that you are being recorded, correct?
A: Sure. And also, never skip practicing with the pedal and playing in public with the pedal while accompanying hymns, because I think the pedal is crucial for hymn singing.
V: Plus, if you skip playing with pedals, let’s say you’ve been practicing a hymn or a few hymns for a week, and then Sunday comes and you have to present it with the pedals, but you suddenly get stressed out and play only manual parts, then what happens is that you suddenly sacrifice your progress, right? This one day.
A: Yes, that’s very true. Because I think that things will get easier the more experience of public performing you will get.
V: Another thing that seems strange from Whitney’s question is that I’m not sure she’s practicing hymns correctly. Because she writes “I can do it fine when practicing,” but then she’s getting way too nervous when playing at mass. So I assume she would play the manual part, correct, when playing in the hands, she would need to do soprano/alto in the right hand and tenor and bass in the left hand part, correct Ausra?
V: When playing with pedals, the correct way of playing hymns is to omit the bass in the hand and play it instead with the pedals. Don’t double hand and feet.
A: But very many beginners actually do that.
V: So my question is, if you can do it the right way for yourself, how can you suddenly, suddenly play all four parts in a different arrangement - two parts in the left hand instead of just one part in the left hand, right away in public?
A: I think it’s not such a difficult thing, because most of organists come from the background of being more or less pianists. So I think it’s easier to manage two voices suddenly with the left hand than one with the pedal.
V: Another explanation is that she is doubling the bass line in the left hand part, and then she just drops the bass in the pedals and plays the hands.
A: Yes, that’s also possible.
V: That’s more than likely to me. Because I’ve seen it over and over again. And this is incorrect. This will slow down your progress. It actually is counterproductive.
A: It is, yes. But you know, some people might add that we have all these various organ stops in the instrument. I mean, 16, 8, 4, 2 and so on and so forth - and that we have that one single note doubled or tripled, or four-tuplet many, many times.
A: Quadruplet, yes - four tuplet! (laughs) My English is not so good, but you know what I mean. And people might ask you, then what is the problem if I’m doubling bass in the pedals with my left hand? Because organ already doubles everything everywhere. What could you say for people?
V: Obviously, you don’t have to take my word as 100% truth. It’s okay to play with hands only, without the pedals. It’s okay to play two parts, soprano and bass. It’s okay to play the trio texture without one of the inner parts. It’s okay. And as long as you have variety and still play some four part texture as well, yes Ausra?
V: You can play five parts if you want, or six, with double pedals. (laughs) You see? There is no one right way to do it. And you can solo out the melody, the chorale line on a different manual, taking the alto and tenor in the left hand part. Or you could even play soprano part in the left hand, but left hand but one octave lower - that would be in the tenor - and switch tenor and soprano in the right hand part. That would be interesting, this position. Various creative ways to play hymns, but more advanced, obviously. So, least advanced way to play hymns convincingly and still build up your pedal technique and independence of hands and feet is by playing four parts, soprano/alto in the right hand, tenor in the left hand, and bass in the pedals. So, final thoughts, Ausra?
A: Yes, I agree with you as always.
V: Not always you agree with me.
A: Okay, okay. But I agree this time.
V: Yeah. Do you agree that people should record themselves?
A: Yes, it’s very helpful. You know, what would be a correct way to say it? If you want to live in peace right now, then maybe don’t record yourself. Because the recording will trouble you a lot. But if you want to be at peace in the future, then better record yourself today, and your recording will teach you a lot. It will teach you more than a good teacher can do. Because when you listen to yourself from the side, you will suddenly realize what you lack, and what you should do in a different way, and what you are doing right. It will teach you a lot.
V: Exactly. It’s like preparing for a competition ahead of time. Preparing for a stressful situation. Do it yourself right now, something more difficult, so that later you will be well prepared and feel easier, okay? 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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