Imagine you are a beginner at the organ. You love this instrument. You listen to your favorite organ music and watch many videos online and little by little you start to have the desire to learn to play the organ.
You manage to find a small organ for practice or perhaps you found a church where the organist agreed to let you practice for some 30 minutes a day when the organ is not being used.
You bought some scores of your favorite organ pieces and you are ready to start practicing. You even found a pair of shoes which look like they could work on the organ.
So one evening you sit down at your practice instrument, open an organ score, turn on the organ, pull out some stops and start playing...
If you really are a beginner, what you will discover right away is that you don't know what to do. Sure, you may know how to read music (anyone can figure out the notes in the treble and bass clefs easily). Even if you don't read music, you can go online and you will find hundreds of sites which can teach you how to do it in 30 minutes or less.
But the basic problem you have to face is that even if you know how to read music, real organ pieces are way out of your reach at the moment. Even Orgelbuchlein by Bach, even Chorale Preludes by Dupre and yes, even Menuets from the Notebook of Anna Magdalena Bach are too complex, if you never played an instrument before.
What you really need is an experienced organ teacher to show you what to play at the beginning. If you don't have an access to a teacher, you can learn to play the organ by yourself, but you need a systematic, step-by-step approach in your first attempts to play this instrument.
It's best to start with something really simple - with single voice exercises where your only task is to find the right key on the keyboard or pedalboard, press it and release it in the correct manner. The rhythm should be very straightforward with slow note values (whole notes).
And so you would practice this way, perhaps getting to know various keys with ascending number of accidentals. Little by little the rhythms begin to become more complex - half-notes, quarter-notes, eighth-notes and so on but you still have to play a single voice melodies for some time.
Only then you can start practicing exercises and pieces for two and three voices. As you can imagine, it's really difficult to find something suitable from the real organ repertoire. Sure, you can practice separate voices of a multi-voice composition but what about the rhythms? What about the systematic approach to keys?
Because of this complexity, a lot of people who start practicing the organ without the right guidance simply quit and say to themselves "No, it's not for me. I'll never be able to master this instrument if the beginning is so complicated." And sadly, they give up and move their interest to something else.
I din't just invent this hypothetical scenario in my head. Every day I receive tenths of emails and some of them are from beginners. What they ask me to create is a simple training program which they could use in case they don't have a teacher.
Also we have to remember that organ playing from an organist of today requires at least two very different playing techniques - early articulated manner of playing (for the Renaissance and Baroque music) and the legato style of playing (for Romantic and Modern organ pieces).
Keeping this in mind I finally managed to create a program like that which you can check out for yourself and see if this might be a great way to start the new year with my systematic step-by-step organ playing course for beginners which will help you build a solid foundation for your further organ playing efforts.
Sure, you can find some very good organ method books but the thing is, you will not get feedback from the them. On the other hand, with my program, you will get unlimited email support from me during the entire length of the course. If you get stuck or need help with anything - simply write me a note and I'll be here to help you out.
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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.