Practice length is one of the main concerns of aspiring organists. In particularly, inability to practice for larger amount of time means less satisfactory results in the long run.
Here I don't mean the situation when a person can't practice for long enough because of the busy schedule at work or family responsibilities. Instead, I'm talking about an organist who wishes to spend more time on the organ bench but is either bored or otherwise can't commit to longer practice hours.
Let's discuss a little bit what happens when we practice. This way you will see the situation in a different light, I hope.
When we first sit on the organ bench and start working on some exercises, we notice right away how rigid and inflexible our hands and feet are. If we keep playing the instrument gently for 15 minutes, the feeling is that our hands and feet start to feel a little better - we are starting to warm up.
In the next 15 minutes we can start to see the actual immediate results of today's practice. For example, we can learn a fragment of 4 measures which will be one step towards our long-term goal.
Of course, we can stop here and start doing something else. If we do, then what we have accomplished today is only these 4 measures. What about the previously learned material that we mastered in the past practice sessions? Have we had time to play it at least once in a slow tempo and refresh our memory?
No, we only mastered these new 4 measures. Of course, we can repeat the old material before learning something new but the situation is the same - we either haven't learned anything new today or learned some new fragment but forgot older fragments.
Can you see the problem here? If we want to start learning something new and at the same time build on what we have already mastered, we need to put longer hours for practice.
Let's say we spent 15 minutes for warm-ups and exercises, then another 15 minutes for repetition of older material. So after half an hour only we can start learning something new today.
A lot of people stop practicing right here. The question is why? To answer it, we must ask ourselves, how do we feel after these 30 minutes?
Well, if we play with pedals, our back starts to feel a little tired. What happens with our mind? If we honestly were focusing on the music for half an hour, then surely our mind starts to feel tired, too.
If we want to continue to practice, we could either push through the feeling of being tired or we could take a short 5-10 minute break. In order to not overexert ourselves I recommend a break.
Drink a glass of water, relax a little and stretch your upper and lower body for 5 minutes. That's it. All you need is some air, breathing, and you will start to feel refreshed.
Then come back and practice for 30 more minutes. After that, take another short break and so on. This way, your practice will become more enjoyable and not become tiresome. If you have enough time, you can easily practice for 2 hours a day this way.
Is it OK to push through and practice longer without resting? Yes, it is great to do it occasionally because your mind also needs to have the ability focus for longer periods of time. In fact, you may want to learn to focus for at least one hour - that's an average time of the organ recital. If you practice this way, don't forget to rest more after this hour.
However, your normal everyday practice should be fun and easy - your goal is to practice for years to come and not to burn yourself out.
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my video Organ Practice Guide.
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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.