SOPP702: Are there any secrets or nuggets of wisdom as it pertains to learning difficult pieces quickly?
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.
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V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 702 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Leo, and he writes
Thanks so much for the fine work that you and your staff render.
I am currently moving into a new position as organist for the Second Presbyterian Church here in Memphis. I am ecstatic about this amazing opportunity.
Are there any secrets or nuggets of wisdom as it pertains to learning difficult pieces quickly. Please advise or share what to purchase on your website.
We already responded privately to Leo, but we thought that it would benefit other people to discuss this question, right?
A: Yes, it's a very important question, actually.
V: Yeah, if you have an important position and you know that your music responsibility would involve to learn a lot of difficult music very fast, maybe accompaniments, choral accompaniments, pieces with soloists, solo pieces for organ, what do you do, right? What would you do? Any ideas Ausra today?
A: Well actually first of all, just keep in mind that not all music that sounds hard is really hard to learn. So you can always search and look for compositions that sound like substantially hard music, but you don’t need much effort to put into that music in order for it to sound well. So, probably you have to select some pieces for playing at church like this. Then another advice would be, when you pick up a new piece, don’t play it from beginning to end. Maybe play it like once from the beginning to end, and then you have to analyze it, and to know what is hard in that piece and what is not as hard. Because even in the hardest piece, all the pages won’t be hard in the same way. There would be easier spots, let’s say like sequences going on, and maybe some pages without pedals, so you wouldn’t need so much time to spend on those, and then each time when you practice, just play through the hard spots first, and don’t play everything from the beginning till the end. That will save you time and make your progress faster. And of course, another advice would be just organize your music well. Because you really don’t have to play everything new every time. When you will build up a significant portion of repertoire, you can start repeating things, exchanging some things, and that will make your life easier, too. What would be your thoughts?
V: I want to elaborate a little bit on what you said before about choosing your repertoire wisely, that not all pieces are equally difficult to learn. And it’s true for contemporary repertoire, especially. If you compare it to classical repertoire, Baroque repertoire, or Romantic or even Modern repertoire, standard organ literature, they’re much more difficult than most of contemporary organ composers would write for liturgical purposes. Not necessarily for concert performance, but liturgical purposes. So basically, living composers. And there is a reason for that, because they are practical. They know that their target audience are busy musicians and maybe they have limited skill sets or always need to think about limited practice time, so they want to create the most effective music, but keep it still accessible. When I write music, I also keep that goal in mind, obviously. So if you don’t have lots of time, sometimes picking contemporary works over classical works would be a better choice. But then, you have to be careful about quality. Because time-tested classical works, of course they are quality works. But with contemporary music, you have to select your own pieces and trust your ears, trust your taste, and choose wisely with quality in mind.
A: And of course, you know, I think it’s very important to keep sight reading, especially if you are a church musician. Because the more you will sight read, the easier you will learn the new music.
V: I agree with that. I think Leo will learn a lot of difficult pieces quickly, because there is no other way around it, yes? Once you are thrown into that situation, as an organist in a large church, then at first it will be difficult, maybe six months or even a year, but I’m sure the second year will be much easier than the first one, right Ausra?
A: Definitely. The liturgical calendar, it will repeat the next year.
A: And you can just refresh some pieces that you played last year and they will still work nicely for a new year.
V: Definitely. So, if you have any other questions, please let us know. 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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