"I Have Forgotten the Basics" (And Other Answers From #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast, Vol. 3)
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Vidas: Let’s start now Episode 54 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Morton, and he is struggling with Guilmant’s prelude based on the hymn “Thine is the Glory,” which is the paraphrase of a chorus in Judas Maccabeus. He writes:
“I really hope to get that up to standard by Eastertide of 2018. My "struggle" is with certain places where I have to coordinate my hands and feet together...
The good news is that I have brought the following up to performance level for Eastertide, in case I'm asked to play a few selections at the chapel's Spring musicale: Charles Callahan. An Easter Site II. An Easter Meditation. Martin Gaskell - The Strife is Oe'r. Prof. Gaskell has a youtube web site, and you may get in touch with him there and also listen/view recordings of some of his compositions.
I'm working on JSB's - arrangement by Virgil Fox Now Thank We All Our God. Still a long way to go, but at least it is coming together.
I would like to learn Jose Lidon's Sonata on the First Tone but the problem is with fingering, and perhaps trying to learn too much too fast! I found one free edition on line with some fingering. Some fingering for me is better than no fingering but it would have been nice to have a bit more fingering.”
So, an interesting question, right, Ausra? Long, but basically we can subdivide it into two parts. Morton is struggling with coordination of hands and feet, and the second part is with fingering.
Ausra: Sure. Very common problem, shared by many organists. So, when talking about coordination, I think the best way to improve it would be to practice in different combinations, and not trying to put all things together at once. It will save you time eventually. It might not seem like this when you will start to practice, but definitely it will save you time. What do you think about that, Vidas?
Vidas: I agree with you, and I also think that from the pieces--list of pieces that Morton has listed here, he is practicing quite a few compositions, maybe too many at the moment.
Ausra: Could be, this could be a problem, too.
Vidas: How many pieces can a person comfortably practice during one practice session--what’s your opinion?
Ausra: Well, it depends on what kind of pieces, basically; but if it’s a long piece, I would suggest to practice it alone, during one practice session. Otherwise, I’m not imagining it is a productive practice time. What do you think about it?
Vidas: So you’re basically suggesting to practice one episode of one piece and then having a break.
Vidas: And then coming back and doing something else.
Ausra: Yes, sure.
Vidas: With another piece. So, exactly. And since we always recommend having a break, every thirty minutes or so, so then you should maybe divide your practice time accordingly: if you have two hours a day, so maybe you can practice four pieces --maybe spend thirty minutes on each piece. Or, if you have just one hour, maybe two pieces will be enough. Is that a good idea, Ausra?
Ausra: I think it is a good idea. Because, especially when we’re young, we can practice for many hours, and don’t take breaks at all; but later, it will injure you, your health--your body, actually, for practicing so many hours without a break!
Ausra: So you better, exercise in between your practice.
Vidas: So, this famous Pomodoro Technique, where you practice or do something very focused for twenty-five minutes, and then have a five-minute break, is very useful, right? You can simply exercise, drink a glass of water, take a walk, stretch, during this break; and then come back to practice for twenty-five minutes more on another fragment, in another piece, maybe.
Ausra: I think that’s a good idea.
Vidas: So, going back to Morton’s question about coordination: as you suggest, it’s really wise to spend a considerable amount of time with combinations in separate voices.
Vidas: Don’t go to another combination unless you can play--without mistakes, fluently, three times in a row--the current one.
Ausra: Sure, because, for example, if you are playing, you know, a hard spot only with your left hand and feet, and you still struggle with it, definitely if you will add the right hand, you will not be able to play it correctly. So just be honest with yourself.
Vidas: And don’t try to rush; there’s no point of rushing. I think you have to enjoy the process and not necessarily the result. Don’t be anxious to get the result too fast.
Ausra: Well, if you will practice right, the results will be good, I believe.
Vidas: Every day you will get better--you will notice that.
Vidas: And that’s the biggest joy, I think.
Vidas: Wonderful. And going back to fingering portion of the question--Ausra, is there a way for him to get the fingering easier, if the piece is not fingered enough? For example, if he’s practicing José Lidón‘s “Sonata on the First Tone”--so, he would like to have some fingering, right? Maybe we could do a score with fingering for him, too. But if there is no score with fingering, what should he do?
Ausra: Well, he could write down his own fingering, actually, I think, especially the hard spots. Maybe not the entire piece, but those hard episodes.
Ausra: This would help. Otherwise, also writing down fingering will save you a lot of time. Because if you practice without any fingering written down, it means that every time you will play the same spot with different fingering, and it will slow down your process of learning.
Vidas: Exactly. So guys, we hope that this has been useful to you, and please send more of your questions, and you can do that by subscribing to our blog at www.organduo.lt (if you haven’t done so already) and simply by replying to any of our messages. We would love to help you grow as an organist. Thanks guys, this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.