Before we go into a podcast for today, I want to add that yesterday I forgot to share a video of Ausra playing Andante in D Major by Felix Mendelssohn, when I announced a score with fingering and pedaling so here it is now. Enjoy!
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start Episode 240 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. This question was sent by Mark. He writes:
Unfortunately I am not playing the organ at present due to a hand injury.
I should be most grateful if you would cancel my subscription to Total Organist at present and not automatically renew my subscription when it becomes due.
All being well I will rejoin your site once I am back playing in the future.
V: I wanted to include this question about what to do if you have a hand injury. Should you postpone your playing, delay your playing, or is there anything you could do beside your hands.
A: Well, if you have injury to only one hand you could still practice with another hand and of course your feet.
V: I remember reading about Marcel Dupre when he was in his youth during one summer he injured his wrist and it was quite dangerous. A few centimeters off he would have cut himself to death. But luckily it wasn’t very serious but still he couldn’t use his hand so what he did, he practiced pedal playing entire summer until his wrist healed. And in his memoir he wrote that he played pedals with vengeance. Basically pedal scales and arpeggios and that’s where he developed unbeatable pedal technique.
A: Yes, this accident, this injury could be thought of as a new possibility to improve your pedal playing.
V: Yes, because it’s good dream for many people to perfect their pedal playing but a lot of people don’t even get around to this, right? Because they have so many things to do, so many things to play and they simply don’t have time for playing pedal exercises, right? But if you are in a position where you can’t play with your hands for a period of time, let’s say a few weeks or a few months even, right? You don’t know how long. Then that might be the ideal time to perfect your pedal playing.
A: True, and since you still have another hand that you can use you could work in combinations too.
V: Mark doesn’t write which hand he injured.
A: It doesn’t matter because he can be both right-handed and left-handed so it doesn’t matter so much. But I think if you stop practicing at all through that time of healing it will be very hard for you to return back to playing.
V: Yes, it’s not only like not practicing for a few months and your hands will become weaker, right? Or feet too. It’s not only that, it’s your will, right? You have to persevere. It’s difficult to even sit down on the organ bench in general, right? And if you leave that for several months and try to come back it will be even worse I think.
A: Yes, but also you could draw a useful lesson from a situation like this because this situation shows how fragile the organist or any musicians’ life is. For example you could injure one finger, or lose one finger and wouldn’t be able to play again as you did before. So what I mean is that you need to have a backup…
A: Yes, for example like I teach music theory but I can also play the organ. So in the case where I couldn’t play the organ, I can still teach.
V: That’s right. In general I think organists are in a position to do at least three things. To teach, to perform, and to play in church services.
A: Sure, and I would say also to conduct the church choir. I think it’s also part of organists job.
V: Yes, conducting would include that too. But there are several other options that depend on your own interests and your skill set and your talents and even on your hobbies. Right Ausra?
V: What is important is that you don’t stay for an extended period of time without creating anything, right? Because you will actually weaken your creativity muscles, so to say. So maybe changing medium, maybe it doesn’t have to be music for that time. Maybe see if you like other artistic ways to express yourself. Only you can know that but it’s important to immerse yourself in creating every day, at least for fifteen minutes a day, right Ausra?
A: Yes it helps to be in good shape mentally and physically both.
V: Excellent. So I hope Mark and other people who are struggling with hand injuries can still practice. The least they could do is to practice pedals. And in our courses we have Pedal Virtuoso Master Course which has complete set of pedal scales and arpeggios over one and two octaves and this will help you to perfect your pedal playing technique in twelve or thirteen weeks. So check it out if you haven’t seen this. Thank you guys, it’s really wonderful to receive all kinds of questions. It doesn’t have to be direct questions like in general we receive, but it could be like practice experience, it could be your feedback, it could be anything you struggle with. We try to find ways to improve, right Ausra?
A: Yes, and by helping you to improve we actually improving ourselves too.
V: Yes, it’s very selfish. We are very selfish. We are always helping ourselves. Because when we teach we think deeper about these questions, right? And how we practice, how we did in the past, right? For example, I also had a finger injury at one point, but many, many years ago and the easiest way out for my teacher would have been to just say “Oh, Vidas just skip practicing piano for three months.” But instead she gave me etudes for left hand because I injured my right hand and I played a few etudes for left hand alone for that period and I passed examinations in the school and practiced like everyone else. It wasn’t a vacation for me.
A: True. And I remember reading about Maurice Ravel's’ friend who lost his hand in the war and he was quite a good pianist so Ravel actually composed a concerto for his friend for one hand so things happen in life. We just have to adjust I guess.
V: I think the pianist was Paul Wittgenstein and he was an Austrian concert pianist and he performed Maurice Ravel's’ concerto for the left hand only when he lost his right arm during World War I. So there are always options to keep practicing, keep improving every day, right?
V: That’s what we do. Thank you guys, this was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: 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.