Setting short-term and long-term goals is crucial, if you want to achieve any kind of measurable results as an organist. It focuses your practice and helps to use your time available in the most efficient way. It also helps you to resist the temptation to skip one or two practice sessions because in your mind each day is one step towards your goal. One practice session wasted is gone forever.
Here are some of the most common goals I see organists set for themselves:
1. Prepare and successfully perform a recital. Take a deep look at your skills as an organist and decide what level of difficulty your pieces should be. Set a date well in advance (but not too far) and choose a venue. This could be your church or a church in your area where you have lots of friends, family members, and other people who are likely to attend your recital. If you have a trusted relationship with the local organist, you can ask for the possibility to perform in this church.
2. Prepare and perform at the church service (weddings and funerals also count). This is self-explanatory for any church organist yet we see people over and over again who prepare their hymns and service organ music in a sloppy way. It's important to take any church service seriously and prepare the same way as if Bach or any other master you respect would attend it (you never know who's listening).
3. Prepare a challenging piece. If you have a piece that you want to play but it is a little out of reach (but not too much) for you at the moment, you can set a goal to learn it by a certain date and play it for your friends or family. If the piece is long, divide it into manageable units or sections and concentrate on the them in each of your practice sessions, remembering also to refresh already mastered ones regularly.
Here are a few more:
4. Learn to play any hymn setting with the soprano in the pedals.
5. Transpose a piece into another key.
6. Learn to play a piece with the sheet reversed. Not as crazy as it sounds.
7. Introduce the organ to kids in your congregation. Let them play it (3 at a time) and take pictures. Organize their improvisations so that they would not be lost.
8. Discover an old organ in your area which has been forgotten and remind the congregation of the value of preserving it.
9. Use story-telling in your recitals with improvisation.
10. Think of the people with vision or hearing disabilities. Introduce the organ and its music for them. Invite artists, dancers or actors to collaborate. Can they touch it, smell it or perceive it in any other way?
Don't forget to measure your success rate. This can be done by setting short-term intermediate check-points. Don't measure how many mistakes you made while playing in public. Instead, measure how may times you have slain your inner dragons which don't want you to succeed. Don't measure how much applause or lack of applause you got. Instead, measure how many souls you have changed.
It turns out that the goals which are the most difficult to measure are the ones which we need to set the most.
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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.