I love "the Jig" fugue by Bach. It always reminds me of this little experiment I did some years ago. I used to wonder how many repetitions of the piece do I need to play in order to master it for public performance.
And then one time I sat down and counted. It took me 40 reps to feel comfortable.
But I was practicing by myself. I didn't have some weird choir member come up to me and whisper really quietly into my ear, "there's a spider on your shoulder". I would surely stumble, panic and stop playing.
Well, probably I need 20 more reps just to be sure. 60 reps total to prepare for this scenario.
But then I thought, what if I'm playing and all of a sudden I hear sirens of imminent earthquake and I see the ground open up and this choir member who just scared me with a fake spider disappeared into a hole?
Would I still continue to play?
O well, maybe 20 more reps should do it. So after total of 80 reps shattered houses won't bother me any more.
But what about if my priest comes up to me and yells, "you're fired!"
I guess I would need an extra 20 reps. Yeah, make it 100. A nice round number.
That's all you need to be ready for spiders, earthquakes and being fired...
...and still continue to play.
Today's question was posted by Robert. Here's what he writes:
I just purchased BWV 577. What should the tempo be? I'm just having a look at it. Often on YouTube they "race pieces". To impress?
As I want to study your fingering and pedaling, I'm able to sight-read it easily but am jerking the tempo too much!
In this piece you also recommended to study by " first right hands, then left hand, then pedals, further right hand and pedals, then left hand and pedals.
I read what you wrote about studying it years before but I don't quite follow your 10 steps. Regarding the numbering. Like 10 x just 1 beat? Am I correct? Anyway using the former method that I use quite a bit I hope to smoothen it out. One definitely feels the "Gigue" motion! Till next time...
Listen to our full answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
Vidas: Hello, guys. This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: Let's start Episode 17 of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. Today's question will be about the Gigue Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach, BVW 577. This question was posted by Robert. He wrote, "What should the tempo be. I'm just having a look at it. Often on YouTube, they race pieces, to impress perhaps." Another part of the question was like this: "As I want to study your fingering and pedaling, I'm able to sight-read it easily, but I'm jerking the tempo too much. In this piece, you also recommended to study first the right hand, then the left hand, then pedals, and then the right hand and pedals, and then left hand and pedals, those two voice combinations. I read that you wrote about studying years before, but I don't quite follow your 10-step procedure regarding the numbering, like 10x, just one beat. Am I correct? Anyway, using the formal methods that I use quite a bit, I hope to smoothen it out. One definitely feels the Gigue motions. Till next time."
That was a long thought by Robert. Have you played this piece before, Ausra?
Ausra: No, I haven't played this Gigue, but I actually I have played many similar Gigues.
Vidas: It looks to me that Robert is wondering about the tempo, first. Let's discuss the tempo issue. Let's pretend it’s another Gigue. You know C major Toccata, Adagio and Fugue by Bach, BVW 564?
Vidas: The fugue is also in the gigue motion, and a lot of people do play it very fast. Do you think this type of dance movements should be played too fast or moderately fast?
Ausra: I think the Gigue in general should be fast, but even while playing fast, you must control everything, and you must listen to what you are playing. You must hear what you are playing.
Vidas: Right, because it depends on your acoustics of the room you are in and the size of the instrument, also. The larger the room, the larger the instrument, the slower actually you should play, the more articulation you should use. Correct?
Ausra: Correct. Gigue, of course, is a fast dance, but it's not an etude. You cannot play it as an exercise as fast as you can.
Vidas: What do you think about the practice procedure, one voice at a time, then two voices combination, and then finally three voices, and then four voice, final result? Would that be helpful?
Ausra: Yes, I think it's very helpful, especially for a beginner, maybe not so much for advanced organist. But even you know if you are advanced organist, I think it's good to follow these steps.
Vidas: In general, I advise people do like this: First, read this fugue. If they play it in a moderate tempo and make tons of mistakes, then it means you have to go back and do the practice step-by-step procedure, right?
Ausra: I think that's a good advice.
Vidas: If not, if they are really excellent sight-readers, why not you play the entire piece, in four parts right away, and then work up your tempo and be a little more precise, if you want, with fingering, pedaling. But it's the next level, probably.
Ausra: Of course.
Vidas: Not too many people I know can do this. Of course, if you want to achieve this level, you have to sight-read every day, you have to sight-read at least one new piece a day, probably.
Vidas: After they master, for example, all those solo parts, and then two voice combinations, then three part combinations, and then finally entire four part texture, let's say, very slowly, they have to speed up the tempo, because the tempo still has to be final result fast. What's your advice on this?
Ausra: I think it will come to you while practicing. You just will notice that you're playing faster and faster each time. When you will master the general text.
Vidas: Memorize perhaps, right?
Ausra: Well, yes. Yes, when you are playing the really fast tempo, definitely it's easier to play from memory.
Vidas: Memorize, and of course pay attention to how the piece is put together, count the number of subject appearances and make sure you know what key this theme is, what voice. You have to know the plan of the fugue.
Ausra: And to dance the Gigue, it's very important to keep the steady tempo and to emphasize the strong beats.
Vidas: Exactly. Making the down beat longer and the upbeat shorter, right?
Vidas: What about speeding up the tempo when you can play entire piece slowly, with those combinations? How about this way - stopping at every beat, then at every two beats, at every measure, at every two measures, basically doubling the fragments, but playing all the voices now, and between the stopping you have to play really fast?
Ausra: I don't practice this way myself, so I cannot tell you. Maybe it works for some people. I just don't practice it myself. It's more your way, you know, not mine.
Vidas: Yeah, I sometimes like to do this, especially when the piece is really tricky. Not necessarily the fugue, but it might be a piece like right now I'm studying the piece called “A Ride In A High Speed Train” by Ad Wammes, the contemporary Dutch composer, and it has a lot of complicated rhythms and syncopation and minimalistic texture, which is very, very repetitive. When I sight-read it, it's very, very hard and slow at first. Now I'm speeding up by doubling the fragments.
Ausra: Good, if it works for you.
Vidas: Okay. I hope, guys, this was useful for you. Please send your questions to us. We'll be very glad to help you out. Right, Ausra?
Vidas: Okay. This was Vidas ...
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice ...
Ausra: Miracles happen.
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