Just a quick reminder about the poll we are having where we would like to know your opinion about our new Secrets of Organ Playing Contest. If you haven't voted, please do so by the end of this week in this post.
Also we'd like to congratulate Nancy and Lev who recently took advantage of 50% Christmas discount of Total Organist. We're sure they will learn a lot and advance much faster than they would on their own!
And now let's go to the podcast for today.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 363 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Leon and he writes:
“Dear Vidas and Ausra:
I had a mild case of the flu from Saturday through Tuesday. Seemed like a cold for the first two days, but "the grippe" was there when I awoke Monday. Thanks to the flu shot in September all was able to be treated with symptomatic meds, and no fever. So when I got back to practice yesterday, I decided to retry the OrgelBuchlein. I was able to do No. 1 at half speed with only two mistakes. And rediscovered that I had done the 15-step method on them all from November 2017 to March of this year. I'd completely forgotten that, but the penciled in evidence is there on the music - computer-printer copies from IMSLP. So, an unexpected early Christmas present thanks to you two.
A: Very nice letter.
V: Let’s start with the flu. How are you feeling by the way today, Ausra?
A: I’m a little bit sick and I have a little bit of fever since last so I might be getting flu as well.
V: Let’s hope that it will pass like Leon’s case.
A: Let’s hope for it because I also got my flu shot in October.
A: So I’m sort of ready for flu season.
V: And then he writes that he practiced OrgelBuchlein No. 1 at half speed with only two mistakes. That’s a good evidence that he’s progressing with his organ playing don’t you think?
A: Yes, I think that’s a good sign.
V: In general I think that when people are stuck and doing things step-by-step they are not really noticing their own progress and that’s OK. We all are in this situation so then we suggest that after three or six months that you go back to some previously more difficult pieces that you even didn’t play but just played as a sight-reading exercise and try it out now and chances are if you were diligent in your organ playing and sight-reading over the course of six months that this particular piece would go much easier this time.
A: Yes, in general I think that when we practice on a daily basis often we cannot notice our progress but if we do a break and then we come back to it then we can see it more clearly as it was in Leon’s case.
V: Do you like the 15-step method Ausra? You know what I am talking about, right? Solo parts, then two-part combinations, then three-part combinations, and then four-part structure, if the piece has four parts of course.
A: Yes, I know this system, I think it’s excellent if you have patience and if you have enough time.
V: But it’s not for everyone, right?
V: For example right now I’m practicing Sonata "Ad Patres" by Bronius Kutavicius, a living Lithuanian composer, and my recital is coming up in January and this is a playable piece, not too difficult except for the middle section, quite virtuosic, but this section is kind of repeating itself sort of like 13 times and if you learn one or two repetitions you learn the entire thing. So what I’m doing now I’m not playing 15 step combinations but I’m gradually expanding the fragments by starting every quarter-note, every half-note, every measure, every two measures and so on, doubling the length of each fragment.
A: I think that this approach of 15 steps I think it’s very worth trying if you are learning pieces by J.S. Bach.
V: Polyphonic music.
A: Polyphonic music, yes.
A: Because for some pieces there might be other things you need to work on.
V: Right and plus it depends on your level of advancement.
A: That’s right.
V: Maybe I would do 15-step method on a very complicated fugue but not necessarily on a Orgelbuchlein chorale.
A: But if you are a beginner then I think this approach would be useful to probably any piece.
V: Obviously. Yes, definitely, 100 percent correct. And if the piece is not polyphonic but has a few layers, right-hand, left-hand and pedals, three layers, then we need to look at it from a different perspective, maybe work one hand at a time, that would be right-hand alone, left-hand alone, and pedals alone, also in fragments and then two-part combinations would be right-hand and left-hand, right-hand and pedal, left-hand and pedal and only then the last combination all parts together. So 7-step method here would be possible to do if the music is not polyphonically created but again it depends on your level of advancement.
A: That’s right.
V: Umm-hmm. So it seems like Leon is having a great time practicing, hopefully next year will pass without flu.
A: Yes, let’s hope for that and let’s wish everybody good health because it’s sort of a mean thing to everybody.
V: Umm-hmm. And when we receive messages like that when he writes “an unexpected early Christmas present thanks to you two” it’s really very pleasing to read, right Ausra?
A: Yes, then I feel like Santa.
V: You are Santa?
V: Oh no, I thought Leon was Santa. Maybe you are right and I am right too, maybe you both are Santa’s to me (laughs.) Again, we give presents all the time, right? We give advice freely and for people who take the advice and apply them in their practice this becomes a present. Not only advice but something that they can apply in their lives and improve their lives.
V: Hopefully sometimes not even organ playing but sometimes other things. So those people like Leon who practice diligently will I think sooner or later reap results, don’t you think Ausra?
A: Obviously, yes.
V: If you are just banging your head against the wall then sooner or later something will break (laughs.)
A: You are making rather funny comments.
V: That’s good.
A: That’s usual.
V: So wonderful, thank you guys for sending those questions and please continue to do so even in the next year because next year maybe will be a new beginning to you. Maybe you will start to look at your own organ playing activities from a different perspective. Maybe you will have something like New Years Resolutions but I don’t really believe in New Years Resolutions don’t you Ausra?
A: Well, me too because usually it doesn’t work.
V: Yeah, it works for two weeks.
A: Because when we attend our gym we always notice that before New Years and right at the beginning of New Years there are so many people attending the gym but then in the middle of January they are disappearing.
V: Yes, they say “Oh I will start losing weight” or “Oh I will start going to the gym every day” or “Oh I will lift the weights every day” and this is too much. It’s better to say “Oh I will practice for 15 minutes a day” whatever it means practice, doing push-ups, or taking a walk or running or swimming. For organ playing the same, you don’t need to practice for 3 or 4 hours like some of our students do obviously at the beginning, maybe later you will have the strength to do that but first you have to get the stamina and the best way to do that is step-by-step maybe gradually increasing the length of practice time by ten percent a week.
A: And if you want to watch something funny for New Years Resolutions you can watch Bridget Jones movie, the first movie.
V: Bridget Jones Diary.
A: Yes, where she gives New Years resolutions.
V: Oh, (laughs) we will not say anything more.
A: True, I hope you will enjoy it.
V: No spoilers. Thank you guys for listening, for applying our tips in your practice, please keep sending us your wonderful 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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