SOPP687: My dream is to improve my playing with the most effective way to practice and get the most out of my practice time
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 687 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Steven, and he writes:
Here are my responses to your questions.
1. What is your dream for organ playing?
My dream is to improve my playing with the most effective way to practice and get the most out of my practice time.
2. What are 3 most important things that are holding you back from realising your dream?
A. Effective practice and getting the most out of practice time.
B. Better registrations for the music
C. Being more confident in my playing
Currently practicing Widor’s Toccata from his 5th organ symphony and Vierne’s Finale from 1st symphony and Carillon de Westminster. And these works of J.S. Bach:
Toccata and Fugue in d minor BWV 565
Fugue in D BWV 532a
Praeludium and Fugue in d minor BWV 549a
The Gigue Fugue, BWV 577.
Thank you for all you two do in assisting others to improve their playing skills at the organ.
Vidas: Well, where shall we start, Ausra?
Ausra: It’s up to you. You choose.
Vidas: Okay, this is a long message, but let’s decipher a little bit. Unpack it. Right? His dream is to improve his playing with the most effective way to practice and get the most of his practice time, which is rather generic.
Ausra: Yes, it’s very generic.
Vidas: It doesn’t say much. But then let’s maybe talk about challenges, and then pieces that he plays a little bit mentioning.
Vidas: So the first: Effective practice and getting the most of practice time.
Ausra: Well, I don’t think you can find a magical way that with sitting down at the organ you will learn all those really difficult pieces that we read here. So basically, you just have to practice every day very diligently and spend at least a couple of hours at the organ bench.
Vidas: Yeah, if he is practicing one, two, three pieces from this symphonic repertoire and four major pieces by Bach, that’s a lot!
Ausra: Yes, that’s really a lot, and what I noticed, that from his repertoire that he selected, actually his repertoire doesn’t show variety. And when I say about variety, I’m meaning that, for example, that if he would choose to practice an entire symphony, let’s say, by Louis Vierne, he would get different pieces in that symphonic cycle.
Vidas: Or Widor’s symphony.
Ausra: Yes! But now, if you choose only loud and fast pieces as I see on his list, then I don’t know how to make your practice really effective because you can really hurt your hands.
Vidas: Exactly! You practice for a couple of hours, 7 major pieces…
Ausra: And basically, these are almost all Toccatas, or Fugues, you know!
Vidas: Yeah, Toccata style pieces. It’s really difficult. If you think of Toccata and Fugue as two different movements, so it’s even more than 7 pieces. Right? It’s 7 plus 1 and 2… 9 movements in total!
Ausra: So if all these pieces are new on his repertoire list, I would never learn them all at the same time. It’s really unrealistic.
Vidas: And what’s the point of playing them all together at the same time? You will not be able to play them all in one recital or in one church service as a postlude or prelude. Definitely not. So you need variety, as Ausra says. I understand that some people value loud and fast organ music, and especially famous, loud and fast organ music, which is a shame sometimes, because there is so much wonderful slow and famous organ music—slow and soft, famous organ music. If you only are interested in famous work. Plus there are so many undiscovered composers or forgotten composers who created either slow music or fast music but we don’t know about it.
Ausra: But even, you know, when talking about these composers mentioned here—Bach, Widor and Vierne—there are so many pieces written by them that are really worth our attention and could add very nicely to the variety of repertoire, for example all the Chorale works by J. S. Bach.
Vidas: Yes, it definitely would hurt my program if I only played Toccatas and Fugues and Preludes.
Ausra: Or by Louis Vierne also there are other cycles.
Vidas: Yes. Maybe with Vierne I wouldn’t start with symphonies, I would start with probably “24 Pieces in the Free Style,” which could by played by hands only or with pedals—optional pedals.
Ausra: Because look, if you are playing only fast and loud pieces, and you are talking about problems of making registrations, actually like all these pieces mentioned by J. S. Bach, they can all be played with one registration: Organo Pleno. That’s it!
Vidas: Principle Chorus. 16’, 8’ 4’, a 5th mixture, a 2’ and you can couple another manual to the same Hauptwerk great division, also Principle Chorus without 16’, so it would be 8’, 4’, 2, and mixture with a coupler to the Great, and with the principles 16’, 8’, and 4’, and Posaune with mixture. That would be quite enough.
Ausra: And Vierne and Widor, they usually describe what they want from the registration, so it’s not a problem to pull out the right stops. But again, there wouldn’t be much of a variety because all those pieces are also toccata like and really fast and virtuosic pieces. And well, if you are talking about effective practice ways, you need to have quite a selection of repertoire, and never work on more than two or three big pieces in your repertoire at one time. You need to have shorter pieces, you know, softer pieces, slower pieces. That way, you can alternate in your practice time. Because if you only play fast and hard, you definitely will damage your hands, and once it’s done, usually there’s no way back.
Vidas: Exactly. If you practice for 20 minutes those 9 pieces on your list, for two hours, 20, 20 20, 20, 20, 20, that’s only 6 pieces that you can do in two hours. You need three hours just to spend 20 minutes on each piece, and that’s even not a lot. Right? You need, I think, at least 30 minutes for each piece. So in two hours, I don’t know how much time you can devote to organ playing each day, but on average, 2 hours is a good amount of time. You could only do four major pieces…
Ausra: That’s right!
Vidas: So, as Ausra is saying, look at softer and slower pieces, both from Romantic and the Baroque repertoire that you like. Surely there are more pieces than you wrote on the list that you would be like to be playing. You know, pieces by Baroque composers like Buxtehude. They’re easier than Bach’s Chorales, some of them.
Ausra: Definitely easier than Bach’s Preludes and Fugues or Toccatas.
Vidas: Yes. And you mention as number C challenge being more confident in your playing. That will solve your problem with confidence. If you only play fast pieces, it’s hard to be confident. I would never be confident if I only played fast pieces.
Ausra: I know! And physically, how can you do it in one recital to play only fast and loud? And people would get tired, too, after listening to Organo Pleno all the time.
Vidas: I think he’s not thinking about a recital, definitely, because he would… from the start he would plan a more varied program, I think.
Ausra: Yes, but of course, if you are a church musician, too, then you of course can play a loud Prelude and Postlude, but in the middle of the service you wouldn’t play Toccatas or even Fugues.
Vidas: Exactly. So that’s our best advice to you, so I hope you will take it! Thank you guys for sending your questions; we love helping you grow. This was Vidas,
Ausra: And Ausra!
Vidas: 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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