How to Use Hymns to Develop Hand Independence and Enhance Your Service Playing in 6 Easy Steps? (Part 1)
Many organists struggle to be able to play challenging polyphonic organ compositions. Music by such great composers, like Bach, Buxtehude and others has many independent voices and very often more than one in one hand. To be able to perform such pieces with precision and confidence requires good hand independence. An organist has to have the skill to play rhythmically and melodically independent parts in different hands. Many people choose to play special exercises from various method books which obviously is a good way to achieve hand independence. However, what they might not realize is that the solution to advance in building this skill is waiting for them in the hymns they play every Sunday. Today I am going to share with you my easy 6 step approach on how to use hymns to develop hand independence.
1. Play soprano and bass parts from the hymnal. Do you have trouble playing the entire four part texture of your hymns? If so, just play the outer parts one in each hand. That should be easy enough for most people. If not, practice one hand at a time until you can play each of the two voices correctly at least three times in a row. When this becomes easy, try playing both voices together. Notice how well the hymn sounds this way. It is because the soprano and the bass are precisely the most important voices in such music. The soprano is the most melodically developed voice and the bass is the foundation of harmony.
2. Play soprano and bass parts 2 against 1. When the step 1 becomes easy, try adding an extra note in the bass line using eighth notes. If you see the repeated notes in the bass, play the lower or upper neighbor tone. If there are notes in stepwise motion, you can play thirds upwards if the melody is ascending or downwards if the line is descending. If the bass has leaps of a third, the easiest way is to play passing tones. As you might already notice, the main rule here is to arrive at the next bass note by step, either from above or from below.
3. Play soprano and bass parts 3 against 1. It this step, you will use eighth note triplets in your bass line. The melodic figures can be quite different, but again, try to arrive at the next bass note by stepwise motion. The nicest melodic lines can be constructed when the bass moves by an interval of a fourth.
4. Play soprano and bass parts 4 against 1. After the previous exercise has become easy, the next step is to add sixteenth notes in the bass against one soprano note. Again, the options for melodic figuration here are many, but try to calculate how many notes you have to play in stepwise motion before the next bass note. Consequently, sometimes the first interval will have to be a leap but the next three will be adjacent notes.
This article continues in Part 2 (steps 5 and 6).
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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