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!
Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 655 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Ausra, and she writes,
"This week I’m struggling with sitting down on the organ bench. At first I didn’t have time and now I don’t have motivation to practice."
V: What can I do?
A: So since it’s my question, so now you will have to answer it, and I will just listen to your suggestions.
V: Okay. I’m like a psychotherapist, and I first will ask you some questions, okay? How do you feel when you have the urge to practice, but you don’t? Do you miss it?
A: Well, I have guilty conscious.
V: So deep down, you would love to practice, but the pain of sitting down on the organ bench is bigger than the pain of actually not practicing, right?
V: You have to flip this if you want to ever overcome your situation. The pain of not practicing has to be bigger than the pain of practicing.
A: Well, but there are some problems that distract actually me from practicing. Changing to another Hauptwerk setup is one of the problems. Because I sort of started to miss our old Hauptwerk setup.
V: Now you have to go to our friend Paulus’ home. He has our old organ setup.
A: You know that that’s impossible, and to tell the truth, yes, it’s really hard. Because I never know what you will buy, and when you will buy, and when a new thing will arrive at our home, and what kind of mess I will find. For example, like last Monday I returned after a long and really hard day, because I was teaching half of a day online, and then I went to school to teach live, and stuck in a traffic jam, and I came back home and I found like a strange kid running all over our place, and you know, the organ builder working at something with you, and I just turned around and left.
V: We should clarify this situation. That day, that evening that Ausra is talking about, our friend Carpenter brought us our new table for the Hauptwerk setup. Earlier we had a table bought from IKEA, very cheap, but it served us relatively well except it wasn’t stable. It only had two legs, so imagine playing, putting your keyboards on two-legs table. And it would shake with every minute of your pressing the keys.
A: But the problem that is that now we have a new table, and we have an old table we don’t know what to do with it, so it just piles up with an other junk. Which is not a trouble for Vidas to live with, but it is really a trouble for me. And plus, we still have another table, new table, that our friend Paulus has to pick up from our home. So right now we have actually three tables. So come up guys, we might give one to you as well.
V: (laughs) If you need tables, we have them.
A: So all these things, actually you know they demotivate me from playing, and they distract me and they irritate me. Maybe I’m crazy, I don’t know.
V: No, you’re not crazy, because it’s, those, these are triggers, you know? They trigger your reaction or kind of frustration. And this frustration can prevent you from doing the thing that you love.
A: And that new, for example pedalboard, it irritates me because a couple times when I practice it, the B flat, that one in the middle which is very often used, started sort of shake, to shake. It was really frustrating. Because this was the first time that it happened to me to any pedalboard that I have tried, and I have tried many of them, and I know that I’m playing pedal quite gently and I’m never kicking them. And if this really happened, it means that something isn’t really right with it. And if other pedals will do the same in the future, then it will drive me, drives me crazy.
V: You see, you never assembled a pedalboard and you don’t know how it works. Inside of that pedalboard, there are, what’s the term - screws, yes - so the week before that I was assembling that pedalboard, and that B flat that you’re talking about probably loosened up a little bit. So I just took a screwdriver and fastened it a little bit more. So I actually fasten all of them regularly now. Because it’s a new pedalboard, a new basically device, and some sticky keys or some loose keys might appear from time to time. It’s probably normal for a new device to behave like that. Do you remember how our new organ at St. John’s was at first? I was inside of the organ every week, regulating the mechanics. But now it’s not that way, because it’s dry and already regulated, and used to the environment, and well it’s adjusted.
A: Well, but what then about the Viscount pedalboard with which we had not a single problem?
V: I don’t know what to tell you. I liked it, too. So maybe this pedalboard will also be a good pedalboard. Actually, this is a really soft pedalboard. I like the touch. It’s like a carpet. When you press the key, you don’t even feel the bottom of the key. You have to be like stepping on carpet, so you play, you have to play very gently. But now our friend Paulus can play the Viscount pedalboard and enjoy it.
A: I miss it very much.
V: So we’ll go to Paulus from time to time. We’ll visit him. (laughs) No, but I actually think that the reason it frustrates you, those changes, arriving new tools, gadgets, tables, Hauptwerk setups, all this mess, the reason it distracts you from your playing is because, let me ask you this question - What was your goal in organ playing before this mess? Did you have a goal for a specific, you know maybe like short term goal, like three month goal.
A: Yes, I would usually have some performance planned ahead so I would have to prepare for it.
V: Yeah. So one or two or three recitals lined up, yes? So the same could be also in this situation, you could just set up a goal for yourself. And actually we do have a goal for Pentecost, to play a recital of works by Bach and (XXX Composer 9:24)
A: I don’t think I will be able to get ready on time.
A: Because I’m not practicing. So you might do that recital on your own. Well you know, I’m really busy at school. I have so much teaching, and exams are approaching so fast, and all that unclarity about how much longer will we teach online, or how often we will have to go to school, and how all the schedules will work. It’s completely messed up.
V: I think what you’re experiencing with online teaching is really crazy, and…
A: ...and even to tell for example for my 8th and 9th graders if we will have exams online, or at school - I don’t know. You know, students keep asking me every day about all these questions and I don’t know what to answer.
V: I know. If I had to teach your load online and fill out all the paperwork grading additionally to teaching, you’re now spending probably twice as much time than before with your teaching online than at school. And it really affects your well-being probably, and your ability to do the things that you would love to do besides school, right? There is no energy left or as we joke, RAM, in computer like memory, internal memory. There is just so much things you can do with your energy, and when school takes up everything, there is nothing left to share with organ playing, let’s say, right?
A: Yes. I guess you are right.
V: So I don’t think my Hauptwerk setup, mess, tables, all those issues that you were facing with pedalboards is really a problem here, or defining problem. I think the problem is that you don’t have energy left from school. You work too much, you see? You are spent. And probably solution could either be to wait for better times, for vacation, summer vacation, right, when there is more free time…
A: Which will be very short, as was the last year.
V: One month?
A: Because all the exams are postponed for the seniors.
V: Right, yeah. Art requires sacrifice, and sometimes that sacrifice is just too much, right?
V: Frankly speaking, I don’t know what I could do if I had to teach that much like you do. Maybe I have a better health condition though - more energy in general - and maybe I would still have enough energy to practice, you know, my own things. Maybe. I’m not sure, but I sort of fantasize here.
A: You have never worked so much as I do.
V: I would probably not work that much, either. If I had to complete those tasks as you do, I would probably leave them in less perfect shape, you know, those things, and still would take care of my own goals, my own goals would probably need to go first. Because the school would not take care of me. I still have to take care of myself. So maybe that’s my suggestion to you. Don’t do everything at the 100% level at school. And sometimes you take some breaks, like student work piles up and you don’t grade them right away. You sort of let it rest and take a walk in the woods to just relax. This is good I think, too. Correct?
A: I don’t know. But still, that work doesn’t disappear, so I still have to come back and do it.
V: Or you could give some of them, some of it to me. I could also share, help you grade it.
A: No, I wouldn’t do that. Because you know, one time you actually really helped me to do my work, not at school of course, but when we were living with a host family in the United States.
A: And Vidas wanted, because it was really tired, to clean the desk for our host, host lady. And actually he did it, but then she would scold me and show me that mess that actually was done. So I never asked Vidas to do anything instead of me. Because he simply can’t. So if you would grade my students’ work like this, it wouldn’t work.
V: You think I wouldn’t grade them like you? Maybe it’s not the right comparison, because I understand how to grade dictations and even some harmony exercises. Not maybe at the highest level that you did with 12th graders, but I could do 10th graders, for example, easily. Not sure about 11th graders, though. (both laugh)
A: You are funny.
V: But you could teach me first, and then I could…
A: No no…
V: ...grade them.
A: It’s too hard to teach.
V: I’m a good student, you know. I would listen to you, I would respect you, and I would worship you.
A: Yes, you are a very good student. Actually, a couple of times when I was teaching online, Vidas fall asleep during my lectures, and actually he even snored, and I would have to talk really loud to my students that we wouldn’t hear his snoring in the same room!
V: I hope your students are not listening to our podcasts right now.
A: And I don’t know if I was so boring? Once I was talking about the dominant ninth chord, and I think another time it was about the second scale degree ninth chord.
V: No, it wasn’t...it wasn't anything to do with your teaching or the interesting things you taught or not, it was just because I lacked some sleep that night. I needed more sleep, so…
A: And you found a perfect time and perfect place to do it.
V: Yes, your voice was calming me and letting me into a good dream.
A: I’m glad.
V: Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: We hope this was useful to you. Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
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Our Hauptwerk Setup:
Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.