SOPP272: My biggest challenge is still to be patient and not rush ahead in a piece before I have mastered it bit by bit
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 272, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Jur. And he writes:
My biggest challenge is still to be patient and not rush ahead in a piece before I have mastered it bit by bit. I know this is a very bad habit and this is the reason why I never can play without making mistakes. I am trying to find the discipline!
Practising just one piece does get a bit boring so in addition to BWV 639 I have now also started working on BWV 731. I have practised this in the past but with different fingering, I am now relearning it with yours.
V: So Ausra, Jur is our Total Organist student.
A: Yes, he is.
V: And it’s very nice that people can take those pieces that we are fingering and pedaling them, and make them their own, right? They can apply to their own situation, and choose according to their level of mastery.
A: That’s true. It’s nice when you can have a variety of things to choose from.
V: Mmm-hmm. It seems that Jur likes Bach’s music a lot, right?
A: True. Because all he talks about is Bach’s music. And I think his chorales is a good start for organists.
V: ‘Ich ruf’ zu dir’ only has three parts: soprano part, the middle part played with the left hand and the pedals. They’re really relatively easy. I think it’s probably the most convenient way to start learning Bach’s chorales, or Bach’s music in general.
A: Probably yes, because the tempo is slow.
V: This was my first practice guide that I created when I started Secrets of Organ Playing back in 2011. So I intentionally first created the Vidor (???), how to master any organ composition, and I taught bit by bit how to master this particular piece. And then three months later I released this practice guide for people. But not only with fingering and pedaling, but I like to do step by step approach, with basically practice schedule. And the fragments that students could master for each day. So in the course of maybe two weeks, someone could learn this piece from our guidebook.
A: Yes. So know you talk about BWV 639, and he says that he learned it earlier with his own fingering, and now he is relearning it. So what do you think about relearning pieces? Is it a good way or not a good way, relearning a different fingering?
V: It’s been a while since I used somebody else’s fingering. I always create my own fingering, but I can imagine being in Jur’s shoes, or anybody else’s position that use a, let’s say, are used to playing with heels, or with finger substitution. And then he discovers something like my practice guide with a different system. Then, obviously, it takes a while to get used to the new method, right, Ausra? But I think it doesn’t hurt do to this. What do you think, Ausra?
A: Well, yes. I remember when before going to study in United States, I played toccata by J.S. Bach, C Major Toccata, Adagio and Fugue. And I played it actually using not only toes, but heels on the pedal. And it think I might [have] used some finger substitutions, especially in the adagio part. But when I played it again in the states with a different fingering and pedaling, using only toes and no finger substitutions, and I think it worked better.
V: How did your fingers react at first? Of course you know you have this muscle memory. And when you learn a piece one way, after a while, you come back to this piece, start learning it the new way, the old way sort of is still there.
A: It’s was hard. I think it’s harder to relearn piece in a different manner, with a different fingering and pedaling, than to learn a new piece. But I managed it because it’s such a nice piece that you cannot just don’t play it.
V: Yeah. You have to always look at your own goals. And if this piece suits your dreams, then you can learn it the right way, even if the old fingering and pedaling was ingrained in your own muscles and body for so long. But it takes open mind, yes? Sometimes, I get comments like, that ‘it’s not possible to play virtuosically, in using toes only’, for example with pedals. And I think we have discussed this earlier, right, on some podcast episode.
V: I think it takes open mind. What do you think, Ausra?
A: Yes, I think so. You need to be eager to learn all your life.
V: And people will say that it’s not possible, from their experiences it’s not possible, right? That’s where they come from. It’s not necessarily true. So his challenge, Jur’s frustrated with practicing a piece, I think too fast, right, before he fully masters is bit by bit. This is a habit that we sometimes all get.
A: It’s actually a very common thing. Everybody wants to play faster, very soon. But when you think about the final result, I think it should keep you slowing down and practice slower.
V: But people still do it not often enough, right? What’s the main reason for this, Ausra?
A: I think everybody wants to get immediate gratification.
V: And that’s nothing bad about that, right?
A: Yes, it’s nothing bad about that, yes.
V: We seek pleasure and try to avoid pain. That’s all we do actually.
A: That’s human nature.
V: Yeah. Not only human, all living things. Even plants, right, they strive to get to the light because it’s good for them.
A: That’s right.
V: And they try avoid dark places. But I don’t know how they avoid dark places, (laughs) if people plant them in a dark room. But maybe they can move, you know, when we’re not looking, right Ausra?
A: Yes, but I think this practicing slowly, I think we need to keep in mind that bigger, larger picture. That eagle vision, so called. If you would look at the final result from above, then you will find out that slow practice will lead you to that nice final result.
V: Mmm-hmm. And this vision is appropriate for big things, for your big goal, right?
V: And, what’s the opposite of that, of eagle vision?
A: Chicken vision.
V: (Laughs). A chicken vision, right? When we seek immediate gratification.
V: I see. So, yeah. Probably Jur, and anybody else in his shoes, needs to find a bigger motivation for practicing the right way. Maybe a challenge of some sort. Maybe some public accountability, right Ausra?
V: Maybe, to take it to the next level. If Jur is practicing for his own pleasure or not, but sometimes people get comfortable, or too comfortable in their own practice rooms, right, and only family members can see them, or hear them. Do you think that’s enough?
A: Well, it depends on what kind of life you lead.
V: Let’s say that a person only does this for a hobby, right, as a hobby. And doesn’t have any dream to play it in public. And the reason I’m advocating for playing in public now is that their playing will improve immensely, right? I understand amateurs and hobbyists. That’s really good. That’s what our organ fans are for. But sometimes you want to improve even more, right?
A: True. And then the public performance is [a] very good way to do it, to achieve something.
V: Right! And he knows that the reason that he can’t play without mistakes, is probably because he plays the piece too fast right away, and not master it in small fragments, right? So I hope he perseveres, and finds this inner strength to do this right.
V: Let’s wish him well. Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice...
A: Miracles happen!
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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