Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 192 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Robert. And he wrote a response to my question about what are his organ dreams, and the challenges that he’s facing in his organ journey. So, he writes:
1. I'd like to perform, occasionally, in public and perform concert-level pieces.
2. Major holdback is a lack of adequate practice organs, and someone to actively listen to my practice.
Hmm, interesting. So, that’s a very natural dream, right? To be able to play in public?
A: Mhm. yes.
V: Concert-level pieces. For that, of course, he has to develop a large repertoire. What else?
A: Yes...and you know, for his first performance, he could sort of mix pieces. Not necessarily play all the hard stuff, or long stuff.
V: Exactly. And not necessarily even a full-hour recital. You could play 30 minutes.
A: Yes, and it always depends on what audience you’re playing to, too. Because not everybody appreciates long-lasting and difficult music. From the audience, I mean.
A: That sometimes, people enjoy hearing lighter music.
V: You know what I would do if I were a beginning organist, but would love to eventually play in public: I would probably go to find friends in local churches, and then ask for occasional performance opportunities in the liturgical setting. What I mean is, I would play a postlude or a prelude or communion piece, or even an offertory, once in a while--maybe once a month. One piece or two pieces--it doesn’t have to be long, right? 2-3 minutes. So basically 2-3 pages of music--that would be enough, and enough to keep me motivated, at first.
A: Yes, that’s true; but later on, you would have to keep going with concert repertoire and more complicated pieces. And what I would also suggest, maybe you can find somebody who will help you to perform together--with you, I mean another instrument or you know, a soloist. That way you could do, let’s say, half a concert of your solo music, and half a concert with your soloist.
V: Exactly. Even if this concert itself would be short.
A: I know. And that way, usually when you accompany, it’s easier.
V: Yes, maybe without pedals.
V: But he writes that he can’t find adequate practice organs, right? In his area. So maybe he could go to one of the churches, and ask for permission to practice there occasionally, maybe in exchange of playing some services. It’s a volunteer work, right?
A: Yes. But I remember in my study years in Lithuania, of course I did not have enough time on the organ as I wanted or as I needed; so what I did was I practiced my organ pieces on the piano, too.
V: Of course, we don’t know if Robert has any type of keyboard at home.
A: But I think it’s easier to get, let’s say, piano, than organ. Don’t you think so?
V: Generally speaking, yes. Or maybe a keyboard, an electric keyboard.
A: So that way, you could save some time, and do some work on that kind of keyboard.
V: What some of our Unda Maris studio students do: they print out our paper pedals and paper manuals, and play at home on the table and on the floor. And not all of them do that, because you cannot hear the sound. But people who are persistent, and have a big vision--they would rather do this instead of skipping practice.
A: Yes, that’s true. So, you know, you can find various, most unexpected solutions to your problems!
V: And it’s just temporary--I don’t think you would play all the time on paper, or an electronic keyboard. Maybe it’s just for a month or two, until you get a better solution.
A: And I think, you know--if you would do some part, or the largest part, of your practice at home, in any way, or at least be able to play notes smoothly (not making too many mistakes), then you will not feel embarrassed when somebody would be listening to your practice. And this was a problem, too, for Robert, as I understood from his question.
V: Umm, I’m not sure I’m following you. That he would love that someone would actively listen to his practice, right? Like a coach? Or not…? Or do you understand that somebody is listening, and he is embarrassed?
A: That’s how I understood this part of the question. Maybe I…
V: Ah, could be both, actually. Could be both scenarios.
V: If someone is listening to his practice, it means that he has an instrument on which to practice. That’s good, right?
A: I know. But you know, if you don’t have somebody who would listen to your practice and would advise you what to do or what not to do, and how to play, you could record yourself.
A: And listen to your playing. And you know...you will hear some things that you will probably not like; and then you will change them, and improve them.
V: You know, the funny thing about recording yourself is that before you do that, you think, “Oh, you play so well sometimes, you are proud of your achievements because you spend so much time on the organ bench.” And...sometimes you cannot really hear what’s happening until you record yourself. And don’t even listen to yourself right away, but after a few days--after you forget that feeling of that practice. And then you sort of listen to that recording as a stranger, and then you can be more objective.
A: Yes, that’s true. And also, some people who are very modest might have a very bad opinion about their performing, about their performance. And this might change, also, after listening to their recordings, that, you know, they listen and, “Oh, I’m playing actually quite well!”
V: So it depends on how you judge yourself.
A: Yes, and what your character is.
V: If you’re a perfectionist or not.
A: That’s true. But either way it would be useful, for yourself to record your playing.
V: Are you a perfectionist, or not?
A: I will not dignify this question with an answer!
V: We know the answer, though! And...was it difficult for you to let go of the feeling that you might not be perfectly prepared for the public release of your recording?
V: You have to let go of your imaginary mistakes.
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: Sometimes those mistakes don’t’ kill you, you know.
A: Yes. Sometimes they do.
V: Hahaha! What do you mean?
A: I’m just making fun!
V: I see. Yeah. Sometimes, people, if you put a recording on YouTube, you can receive some nasty comments. And I don’t recommend replying to those comments at all. If you don’t like negative feedback, ignore those comments. And you can even mute comments, and let them vent anywhere else, on their own channel.
A: But you know, from my experience, I think that people who give other people negative comments, they actually cannot play well themselves.
V: Absolutely. And in my experience, whenever I listen to YouTube videos, sometimes I encounter not-so-well-performed pieces, right? But I never, ever have complained about that performance level, and never said, “Oh, you should not play the organ,” or “Just keep it to yourself, I’m embarrassed,” and things like that. Never. You know? Because I know what it takes to play well.
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: Or what it takes to play badly, right?
A: I know.
V: So it takes thousands of hours. And if that person was brave enough to put that recording out there, and feel vulnerable, that’s better. It says a lot of you.
V: So Ausra, let’s encourage people to publicize their own performances on the internet. Okay?
V: So, encourage!
A: Don’t be afraid to put your recordings on the internet!
V: Exactly. You actually will feel stronger about yourself, once you are doing this for, let’s say, a month or two. You kind of feel resilient to feedback and negative comments.
A: Yeah, so just lose the comments!
V: Exactly. Thank you guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: We hope this was useful to you, right Ausra?
A: I hope so.
V: Please send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen.
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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.