Some organists live in an area where finding a decent practice organ is difficult. They may even have to drive for many miles to play the organ. However, the solution might be quite simple, without the constant need of commuting. In this article, I will give you 4 powerful techniques for practicing organ playing without an organ.
1) Practice on the piano. Practicing organ pieces on the piano also helps to build up your technique. For this practice to work you would only need to use the special organ touch on the piano (mp) without using too much force. And of course, replicate the necessary organ articulation. If your organ piece has a pedal line, you can imagine it and play it on the floor.
Yes, you don't see the pedals this way, but what is more important, you are making the necessary movements with your feet. You can sing the pedal part while playing the rest on the piano. This will help to listen to the pedal line (and will develop your ear training). See my article about piano practice for more details.
2) Practice on the table. You can take your organ practice one step further. Play your manual part on the table, and the pedal on the floor. I have written about this technique in detail in this article.
By the way, I use the piano practice to prepare for recitals whenever I stay at my summer cottage where I have the piano. The table practice works fine for me when I'm traveling. Just last Friday, I had a concert in the famous Riga Cathedral where I stayed at the hotel and practiced on the table. It worked great.
3) Practice with your organ score only. This is a very effective way of practicing but not too many people use it. For this practice to work, you don't need any instrument at all, just your organ score. In fact, you don't even need a table for your finger work. All you need is to imagine your music and your playing while looking at the score.
As you practice this way, try to follow the music with your eyes and focus on each measure. The more details you can imagine and notice, the better your practice will be. You can notice the fingering, pedaling, articulation and other elements. Very often when we play an instrument, our minds will wonder around and we loose focus which is not a very effective way of practicing. You will be surprised, how much your focus will improve when you practice using your organ score only.
4) Memorize the piece and don‘t use any instrument. This technique is a continuation of the previous tip. We all know the power of practicing from memory even though we perform the music from the score. By memorizing the piece you will know it on a much deeper level. You will internalize the piece – that is why they call it „playing by hearth“.
However, this tip takes memorization even one step further. Here you don‘t need an organ, piano, or table. Just imagine that you are playing the piece the way described in the third tip. Your fingers and feet should not move. In fact, you can practice this way while lying in bed – just before you fall asleep for the night. Again, the more detail you can imagine, the better.
This will be a tremendous help for improving your focus also. If you are not used to it, at first you will find hard to even imagine one line because your focus might be not as strong. However, with time you will be able to complete the entire piece without losing focus.
Note that these tips are not a real substitute for organ practice, but if you can combine organ, piano, table, organ score, and your memory regularly - you will have a powerful practice routine. Try any or all of the above techniques today. You will save a lot of gas money this way needed for commuting.
You can also download my FREE video guide: "How to Master Any Organ Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music.
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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.