Many of my organ students ask me how they can play their organ pieces without mistakes. They ask for an advice about being able to achieve the level of fluency when they could sit down on the organ bench and play flawlessly for a long time any organ composition they want, slow or fast, easy, medium, or difficult. They know it is possible because they have heard top level organists play organ music with such an impeccable technique that it could be taken directly from a CD recording. However, they also know that very few people ever advance this far in organ playing. Performing on this level takes more than mastering a piece of music. It also requires a special attitude and mindset. In this article I would like to give some insight into the techniques which might help you eliminate mistakes in organ playing.
Somebody told me some years ago about the difference between the good performance and a superb performance. When you are listening to a good organist playing some nice organ music, everything seems to sound well. There might be some tiny insignificant errors but in general, you like this performance. However, if you happen to listen to a real world class performer, there is something more in such a playing. It is hard to express this feeling in words but you feel that absolute clarity and sense of precision and perfection in such a performance.
If you ever had an opportunity to listen to such playing, you probably know what I mean. I am not talking about many wonderful CD recordings which we all love to listen to, because most of the time they are edited, mastered, and sometimes they may not necessarily reflect the real skill of the organist. I am talking about the live organ concerts, these unforgettable events when you simply marvel at the artistry of the performer.
At any rate, the real difference between a good performance and a superb performance is attention to detail. A truly world class organist will know exactly why he or she made some particular decision about some episode in the organ piece. These people never leave anything to chance. At any given moment in a piece they know the exact reasoning about the fingering and pedaling choices, about the rhythmic and melodic accuracy, about the phrasing and articulation, about the registration, or about the formal and harmonic structure of the piece. They simply give such a meticulous attention to any detail that many of us take for granted.
So if you seriously want to be able to play without mistakes, I recommend you give some thought about the above mentioned aspects of organ playing. Moreover, once you are sure about your choices in your practice, you should attempt to achieve those things through practice. In other words, it is not enough to know why you are playing this particular spot with this fingering and pedaling, articulation, ornamentation, or registration. You should reconcile all these things through dedicated and relentless practice. Always ask yourself questions like “Does it sound the way I want it?” or “Why am I playing this spot in this particular manner?”
Answering to these questions and in turn practicing with attention to detail will enable to progress to such level of organ playing when the task of playing without mistakes will seem insignificant. Instead, you will want to express the composer’s intentions to the best of your ability. And you will have the means to do that. Remember, that professionalism is not necessarily a financial status of a person. You can also think of it as an attitude. You can play like a real professional with absolute precision and clarity a simple 2-part invention or a majestic 5 voice fugue. The complexity level does not matter. What matters is the attention to detail.
By the way, do you want to learn to play the King of Instruments - the pipe organ? If so, download my FREE video guide: "How to Master Any Organ Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music
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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.