Vidas: Let’s start Episode 81 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Alan. He writes:
“Hello Vidas and Ausra, this is a very interesting problem that Vince describes, and one I can empathise with.”
By the way, Vince had a problem: that when he makes a mistake, he really cannot hear it. Basically, he might play a piece of music, but mistakes elude him, especially in the inner voices. So Alan writes further:
“In my case, I seem to be somewhat dyslexic between my feet and my left hand. Which is to say, when I make a mistake, I often find that I have confused the left hand (tenor) and pedal (bass) lines. Somehow I am reading the bass line but the instructions are being carried out by my left hand instead of my feet (and visa versa)! I have to stop, recognise what is happening, and mentally reassociate parts with hands and feet in order to continue. It is frustrating, but I do believe that the right sort of exercises/training could improve independence of motion, and strengthen the linkage between parts and hands/feet. I have tried to develop a few such exercises myself, but I haven't had very much success in eradicating the problem yet.
I continue to enjoy and benefit from your daily postings. Thanks and keep up the good work! Regards, Alan from Australia.”
So, what do you think, Ausra? In my opinion, this problem that Alan experiences has to do with hand and feet coordination.
Ausra: That’s right. And this problem, I think, most of the organists at the early stage of their practice - beginner organists encounters this problem. Very few can escape it.
Vidas: Especially right-handed ones.
Ausra: Yes, especially right-handed ones.
Vidas: So, when we were beginners, remember, 30 years ago or more, we had a fairly good background in piano playing; and then pedals came along with the organ. And now our teachers gave us pieces to play on the organ...How did you feel with the LH and feet combinations--reading three staves?
Ausra: Actually, very bad, at the beginning. I just remember that my LH always wanted to play the same line as the feet - my LH wanted to double the pedals.
Vidas: Yeah...for me, too.
Ausra: And I remember one piece I had to play a passage up with my LH, and at the same time my feet had to move down. And I could not do that. It just seemed like my brain was divided into two parts.
Vidas: Mhm. That’s very natural, right? Because we have to understand what’s happening in our brains, then. When we pick up a new instrument, like the organ, which has an extra part--solo part, pedal part, which is like a third hand, by the way--our brain has to develop new neural pathways, basically, which are not there. It’s like riding a bicycle for the first time. You stumble, you fall, you trip...and then you get better, a little bit...and then you STILL fall and trip many times. But less, with practice.
Ausra: Yes. And of course, in this case, I think every person is different. For somebody it might come very easy; and somebody may not even encounter such problems; but for others it might be a real, big problem, and it might take a lot of time to make it work.
Vidas: Well exactly, because as you say, some people can manage coordination and doing several tasks at once in their brain, right? Like talking and driving. But others cannot really concentrate on talking or on driving; they have to do one thing at a time. Unless they are naturally very good at this.
Ausra: And it might even be a gender thing, at some point, because I think that women can multitask better than men.
Vidas: Why is that?
Ausra: I don’t know, it’s because of our brain.
Ausra: I don’t think it’s because of evolution, but…
Vidas: I’ve heard it’s because of evolution, because women had to take care of many things at the same time.
Ausra: Yes, but also, women just have more neural connections in their brains.
Vidas: Ahh, that’s right, perhaps. But because of that kind of evolution maybe, they have more neural pathways, right?
Ausra: Yes, it could be, but I also encountered this combination problem at the beginning, as a beginner organist, and I struggled with it for a while. But you just have to be patient, and you have to practice in slow tempo, and you have to work in different combinations. There is no easy way to overcome this problem. There is no magic stick that will solve all your problems right away.
Vidas: You’ll maybe feel better when we say that we also had to overcome this challenge in our beginner days, right? When we were just starting to play the organ, we also played lines with our feet, but in our minds, it got mixed up with the LH, and vice versa.
Vidas: It’s normal.
Ausra: And I wonder how do left-handed people feel? Do they have the same problem with RH and pedal? I never heard about it.
Vidas: Oh, guys! If any of you listening to this discussion is or are left-handed, please write to us: what’s your beginning experience with pedals and LH combination? Maybe it’s easier for you than for right-handed people; I don’t know. We are both right-handed.
Ausra: Yes. But it’s good, because after a while, while practicing organ, most of the domestic things you have to do, you can do with both your hands; because you sort of have both your hands well-developed.
Vidas: Not only hands; you can also pick up things with your feet.
Ausra: No. I am not doing that.
Vidas: I do! I do pick up eraser and pencils all the time with my feet. Yes. I cannot really write with my feet yet, but I’m trying. So guys, this was fun. We hope this was useful to you. Please don’t feel discouraged and frustrated, because everybody is suffering from this at the beginning. You just have to go over that dip of frustration and continue to the other side.
Ausra: It will get easier in time.
Vidas: Exactly. And of course, if you want other exercises which are good facilitators, then of course, regular organ music definitely works, right? Because LH and pedal part are definitely different and varied; in many cases they don’t usually double each other. And if you want extra exercises, you can take a look at our Organ Playing Master Course, Level 1, where we have exercises for RH, and LH alone, and pedals alone. That’s the beginning stage. Once you can do this correctly, you can easily go to the Left Hand Training, I would say, Ausra.
Vidas: Remember, this training has all 6 trio sonatas by Bach, transposed in all keys, and you can practice for LH and feet, LH combination alone, and RH alone, and pedals alone. That’s the next stage after the Organ Playing Master Course, Level 1. Once you get through this, then the next stage would be Two Part Training, which also deals with trio sonatas in different keys; but then you have those 2-part combinations which Alan is struggling with, and obviously these exercises from trio sonatas could help you improve your hand and feet coordination enormously.
Ok, please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow as an organist. 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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