SOPP646: The first week I was not using certain muscles in the ankle area, I had sore muscles while playing organ pedals.
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A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
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Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Let’s start episode 646 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Manfred, and he writes:
I was playing the organ in the church for services only. The requirements are low. Therefore I could train the Pedal in ‘wild’ and fairly uncontrolled way.
Because of Corona the congregation must not sing. The organist is asked to prepare a few pieces as a solo. So I started to look for organ pieces that are a little more demanding.
Then I was facing severe difficulties with easy or low-medium pieces for organ. Thanks to Youtube I watched the pedaling of good organ players. My style is way off!
This led me to you. You have a method, you want to teach it in an internet-based style – so, I gave it a try.
Man! The first week told me I was not using certain muscles in the ankle area, I had muscle sore. Now, I see a much higher flexibility in my ankles.
I was playing with a sort of tennis shoes. No way! Yesterday I started with organ shoes (dancing shoes actually). Now I can feel the pedal keys and can slide on them. Wonderful!
After this first week I do not detect better accuracy. But my feet want to adopt the new pedaling style when playing my organ pieces. This is sometimes confusing, but I am sure in 2-3 weeks the new techniques will make my feet more ‘relaxed’ as they become friends of the pedal.
I am eagerly looking forward to the next few weeks!
Vidas: So Manfred obviously is taking our “Organ Pedal Virtuoso Master Course.”
Ausra: Yes, that’s a very useful course, I think, for everybody.
Vidas: And the first weeks are not very easy for him, as for most people who try. But the good thing is that he didn’t give up.
Ausra: Yes, and it’s a very good thing that he started to play to their more appropriate shoes, actually, because it’s really necessary if you want to play pedal with great accuracy and will not hurt your legs.
Vidas: Exactly. So at first, he would accompany the church congregation singing before the pandemic, probably. But of course now the requirements have changed and he has to play the organ solo more.
Ausra: True. I think that’s the case with many organists.
Vidas: It’s also a good opportunity for people to explore new skills and build up technique, build up repertoire, learn new pieces, basically.
Ausra: Yes, because most of the people have more time during pandemics.
Vidas: Except that sometimes the pandemic demands more online work, like for you. Right Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, but I don’t need to drive every day back and forth to school.
Vidas: I see. So Manfred really can take advantage of the situation. What else can we obviously recommend besides just sticking to the course and learning new pieces?
Ausra: To play more repertoire, probably.
Vidas: Yeah. This course, “Pedal Virtuoso Master Course” shouldn’t take more time than just a warm up. 15 or 20 minutes… well… maybe at the most, half and hour, probably. And then, when you are warmed up, you could play probably hymns and repertoire—mix them according to your needs.
Ausra: Yes, I think that way it will be more comfortable for you and your practice won’t be so tiresome.
Vidas: Maybe Manfred also needs to think about hymn playing in a more structured way and treat each hymn as a very short organ piece, and play pedals in a controlled way, like you would in a regular organ piece. Maybe write in some pedaling. Figure out where to put the right-toe, left-toe, right-heel, left-heel, things like that, and probably learn, depending on his sight-reading abilities, learn either separate voices or separate lines, and then combination of voices instead of jumping into four-part texture right away. What do you think, Ausra?
Ausra: Yes, I think that’s a very good advice.
Vidas: I see just too many people playing hymns in an accidental manner, just from the beginning until the end, hoping they can do it eventually. And eventually, they will be able to do it in a maybe average-organ-playing way, but if you want to excel in it and play with good rhythm and good pulse, your playing and practicing should be according to plan. What about, Ausra, pedal playing? Do you think it’s good to warm up with those pedal scales and arpeggios, or is it a little bit too stressful on your ankles?
Ausra: Well, I would say if it’s early morning, then it might be too stressful. But if it’s the middle of the day or evening, then I think it should be okay.
Vidas: When I started to play organ at home, I sometimes notice like muscle spasms when my muscles are cold, so that might happen when you would started your practice with pedal playing alone. Right? Very rigorous scales and arpeggios according to this pedal virtuoso master course, but maybe if you warm up a little bit more with easier music, alternate toes first—not toe-heel-toe-heel, but just alternate toes, exercises like that, or access from hymns, maybe play from just the hymn bass line. Right?
Ausra: Yes, I think maybe that’s a good suggestion—really useful.
Vidas: Okay, so… but the most important thing is obviously to stick to this program and to finish it. And then you will notice real improvements. He says that he doesn’t notice improvements about the accuracy yet. It comes after a month or so, I think.
Ausra: Yes, and another thought or idea that came to my mind while reading this remark about accuracy: Maybe he’s practicing just a little bit too fast. That might affect accuracy greatly, so maybe he needs to slow down just a little bit.
Vidas: My usual recommendation about the tempo when you practice is, choose the speed in which you can avoid making mistakes. That simple. For some people it’s moderate tempo who are very good in sight-reading. But for most people, it is a very slow tempo, and when they say they practice slow, usually they’re not practicing slow enough!
Ausra: Yes, I agree.
Vidas: Probably not the metronome should be your guide here, but the accuracy itself. If you can play at this tempo without mistakes, then the tempo is right at this time of your development. If it’s not, then slow down.
Ausra: Good advice, Vidas!
Vidas: Thank you! Thank you guys, this was Vidas,
Ausra: And Ausra!
Vidas: 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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