Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 390 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And this question was sent by Erika. She writes:
Pedalboard on the church organ hasn’t been working for a few weeks. I accompany the piano - the piano is the main instrument. But the organ fills in the bass line and adds depth to the sound. So I have had to find another way to bring out the bass to the best of my ability. What I have done during this time is play soprano, alto, and tenor with the right hand and do the bass in octaves with my left hand, keeping it as legato as I can. It’s been a challenge - kinda figuring things out as I go. Thankful that the organ is not the main instrument - it gives me a bit of space to learn this new way of playing and hide my uncertainties. Thankful also that the organ should be fixed soon. But it has been interesting to have to figure out in a different way what the purpose of the organ is at my church and to find another way to accomplish that purpose.
V: Have you ever played, Ausra, like that, in octaves with the left hand, and three voices in the right hand?
A: Well, hymns on the piano, no. Because, usually, there are possibilities to play piano and to play organ you just pick up the different hymns with different accompaniment—the ones that are suited for piano, because I don’t think it’s such a nice solution to double things in octaves, playing on the piano.
V: You mean like a regular hymn chorale tune wouldn’t sound nice?
A: Yes, I don’t think so.
V: With three voices in the right hand, right? It has to be choral SATB texture.
A: If you want to have a prominent bass, maybe you need not to play bass in octaves, but just to play it an octave lower.
V: An octave lower, exactly.
A: I think it would be better, at least for my understanding of how it goes.
V: But then, obviously, the tenor line would not be able to be played with the left hand, because the distance between the bass and…
A: But anyway, Erika doesn’t play tenor in the left hand in this case, so…
V: Ah, I see. Ok, so, playing it one octave lower, maybe she does that, I don’t know. She doesn’t specify.
A: Well, she says that she plays three voices with the right hand, and she plays octaves with the left hand, so it’s very specific.
V: But where is this octave? Lower or in the normal range? We don’t know. If it’s in the normal range, then obviously, it would be better to drop one octave lower.
A: But I just wonder how she plays those octaves legato, as she says. How is it possible? Unless she uses a lot of the pedal, and then I don’t think it’s very nice, because I think then everything goes very muddy because of her 5 voice texture.
V: Yes, it’s hard to know. So in every situation, probably, you need to trust your ears, and even record yourself from a distance, how you sound….
A: But anyway, when you are playing on the piano, don’t try to pretend that you are playing on the organ, because it’s a completely different instrument, and the tricks that you use on the organ don’t work on the piano. So, I don’t think you would have to imitate organ while playing the piano. A piano is a piano, so when you are playing on the piano, just know that you are playing on the piano.
V: On the piano you could add piano texture with more arpeggios.
A: Sure, that, I think, would be more suitable.
V: Make it more lively and moving. Not as stationary, because remember, piano sound fades quickly, and you need some tricks to make it sustainable.
V: So, we hope this was useful to you, please keep sending us your wonderful questions, and remember, when you practice,
A: Miracles happen.
PS David who transcribed this conversation later clarified the situation:
Dear Vidas and Ausra,
I don't think that Erika is playing the piano at all. I get the idea that Erika meant that both the piano and the organ are being played on the hymns in the service at the same time by two different people. She is playing the ORGAN, not the piano, and is doubling the base in her left hand while playing three voices in the right hand until her organ pedal board gets fixed (so it would maybe imitate a 16' and 8' in the bass since she probably doesn't have a 16' stop available on the manual).
At the same time, someone else is playing the piano (I have been in several churches where the hymns are played on both piano and organ at the same time).
In her church, I think she is saying that the piano player leads the hymns, and the organist is more in the background accompanying the pianist.
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Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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