Curious brown toad
Has to register music
Alone without me.
Today's question was sent by Ugochukwu. He wants to know how to make appropriate registration for different kinds of organ pieces.
Listen to our answer at #AskVidasAndAusra
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Vidas: Let's start now Episode 24 of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. Today's question was sent by Ugochukwu, and he asks about the registration. How to make appropriate registrations for different kinds of pieces? Well, Ausra, is it a narrow or a broad question?
Ausra: This is a very broad question.
Vidas: Yes. We could write a dissertation about that and it would only scratch the surface, right?
Ausra: Yes. More than one actually. You could write many doctoral dissertations on this subject.
Vidas: You could write one dissertation for registering let's say chorale preludes, another for registering free pieces, for registering French organ music.
Ausra: Sure, Italian, German. It also depends on which century the music was created.
Vidas: Okay, but still we need to give some advice how to start thinking about the registration, if you don't know anything, right? Let's pretend that the person doesn't know anything, and he or she is positioned at the organ bench for the first time, and they need to learn something, to play something maybe for church service. Imagine yourself in this situation. What would you do for starters? What's the basic principle of organ registration for you?
Ausra: Well, if it's unfamiliar organ and I don't know what to do, I would just use the Principal 8’ at the beginning.
Vidas: That's the most basic organ stop, and usually you can see this in the façade and you can hear it very clearly, and it fits well for a lot of organ music, a lot of kinds of organ music, a lot of types of organ musical compositions. Even for let's say a fugue. You could play a fugue, entire fugue or fuguette or chorale prelude just on one Principal.
Ausra: Of course, if you need a louder sound, you could add different principals like 8’, 4’ and 2’. You would get pretty big sound already then. Then in the pedal I would say you would use if it's loud registration, 16’ Principal and 8’ Principal and maybe a 4’ Principal. This would be loud enough.
If you need softer registration, then just take a flute. Take 16’ and 8’ flutes of the pedal and do the same the hands, only an octave higher so it would be 8’ flute and 4’ flute.
Vidas: Usually, we need to have 16’ in the pedals, right?
Vidas: Unless ...
Ausra: Unless it's indicated in the score. So when you are taking a piece of music, always look at the suggestions because especially modern composers they always add what kind of registration they expect you to play, so always look at that. Then of course we have always adjust to particular organ because the composer might imagine one stop, but your organ might not have it, so you have to adjust somehow.
Ausra: Sometimes, we have to do tricks like, for example, to add only 4’ flute for example and to play it an octave lower or things like this.
Vidas: Yes. Another principle is of course to remember that in earlier days before the 18th century, 16’ in the pedal was not always a norm, not always the required thing, right?
Vidas: Not always. If you play a chorale prelude or chorale fantasia in a certain episode, you have a chorale tune in the pedals…
Ausra: ...Then you will have to play it on a higher flute.
Vidas: Then you need to think about the range. If it's a bass range, then 16’ Posaune it would sound well, but if it's a tenor range then of course 8’ Trumpet would be appropriate, not 16’, right?
Sometimes, the composers wrote chorale preludes where organist would play the tune with the pedals, even though it was written in the alto or the soprano ranges. So you need then to have 4’ reed like that or even a 2’ Cornetto or something. I think they call it Cornetto with a very short resonator and high-pitched stop in the pedals at 2’ level.
Ausra: Of course, there are also stops that you cannot use alone without other stops. For example, you could not use mixture alone without other stops, or you should not use undulating stops like Unda Maris.
Vidas: Mixture for avant-garde music lends well, right?
Vidas: If you are composing a piece which is very weird and has modern sounds, then solo mixture or tin bell or sharp sometimes might be very appropriate just for effect.
Ausra: Yes, but not for a Common Period..
Vidas: Right. Exactly. What else can we suggest for starters? Never change the registration too often.
Vidas: That's one of the common mistakes people make. You have to look at the texture of the music and see if one episode is entirely in one color, entirely in one character, then you don't need to change it within the episode. Then when something new comes into the piece, then you can change something, correct?
Ausra, how do you decide when to play on one manual and when to play on two manuals?
Ausra: It depends on the structure of a composition.
Vidas: For example, if it's not written in the score, you probably look at the solo line, right? If that solo line can be played with one hand and the other couple of voices can be like an accompaniment, not as important, then you could play the solo line on the separate solo stop.
Ausra: Sure, yes.
Vidas: Like reed, mutation combinations, flute combinations, right?
Ausra: Yes, and if you are a beginner organist and you're playing at church, where you have a few combination sets, so just program them in advance and do let's say number one the loudest registration and then softer and so on and so forth. That way you can change registration pretty easily during service.
Vidas: And a lot of organs have presets, right?
Vidas: They’re not necessarily very well constructed. You have to check them if they suit your style and taste.
Ausra: Well, always listen to what you're doing. I think your ears are the best help.
Vidas: Okay. Always simplify, simplify, simplify, at least for starters, right?
Ausra: If you don't know how to use a particular stop, just don't use it until you will find out what it is, if it is suitable or not.
Vidas: Exactly. I think for starters people can experiment with various sorts of registrations in their pieces, in their music. And please send us your questions.
Vidas: We would love to help you grow as an organist, and the best way to contact us is through email. When you subscribe to our blog at www.organduo.lt, you can respond to any of our messages and therefore we could help you grow.
Thanks guys. 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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