SOPP450: I want o be able to play all the hymns of my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and Sunday organ solos as needed using the foot pedals
Vidas: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 450 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Mark, and he writes:
Vidas and Ausra,
1. What is my dream for my organ playing?
Answer: to be able to play all the hymns of my church (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) and Sunday organ solos as needed using the foot pedals. I'm a "recovering pianist" who started playing the organ at age 62. I haven't yet been able to master the skill of playing the foot pedals along with both hands. I can play the bass part of most hymns using the foot pedals alone. As soon as I try to play the pedals and manuals together, everything falls apart. Instead, I use an electronic bass coupler on my church's digital organ to automatically play the bass voice while I play the manuals with my hands.
2. What are 3 most important things that are holding me back from realizing my dream?
Answer: 1) lack of time. I also work a full-time job, exercise at a gym, and I'm preparing 3 to 4 hymns every week for presentation each Sunday at church. I'm the only organist in our congregation so it falls on me to have all of these hymns ready to go each week.
2) having to be at the church building in order to practice playing the hymns on an organ. I do have a full-size digital keyboard in my office that I use to practice playing hymns with my hands only, but it's not the same as the organ manuals and, of course, it doesn't have a pedal board.
3) lack of knowledge of an effective and time-efficient method for a pianist to learn how to play the organ manuals and pedal board together.
Thank you for making the Total Organist program available and for asking the above 2 questions. I look forward to your answer.
V: So, basically, let’s start from the beginning, Ausra, right?
V: Remember, Mark wants to be able to play all the hymns for his church, and organ solos on Sundays, with pedals as well. And the foot pedals are holding him back, right? So, let’s start with the lack of time, first of all. He has a lot to do, but he has to also prepare three or four hymns every week. How to manage this if he’s only a pianist?
A: Well, in a way, we definitely are not magicians, and we cannot make Mark have more time, since he’s working a full-time job and exercising at the gym. I would not suggest for him to quit his job or stop exercising. I guess he just has to plan his free time more efficiently.
V: Mm hm. And I would add that, with time, he will get better in preparation for the church with his hymns, and that will require less and less time.
A: Well yes, I think the main problem, you know, is he doesn’t have an instrument with a pedal board, other than when he’s at the church. And since you are not practicing with the pedal all the time, you will not improve very fast. So what I could suggest him probably to use the artificial pedal board made out of paper, like some of your students from Unda Maris studio does.
V: Yeah. Let’s see how people can download it. It’s very easy. If you go to our homepage, organduo.lt, on the sidebar, you can see our picture, right? And above the picture there is this email subscription form. But below that, there are some entrances and some information about us, and just before the end, just before the button for RSS feed, there is this question: Don’t have an organ at home? Download manuals, paper manuals and pedals. Print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together, and you’ll be ready to practice anywhere there is a desk and a floor. Make sure you have a high rise chair, of course. So this is really simple. Let’s see if it works. I’m trying to download it. Yes, the manuals are clearly visible, and the pedals work as well. So this is a good starting point for people, Ausra, who don’t have a, let’s say real pedal board, right?
A: Yes, because if you won’t practice with the pedal, you won’t improve. And in Mark’s case, I think he lacks coordination, which is very common for people who play piano but haven’t played organ. For beginning organists.
V: Mm hm.
A: So, he really needs to work in combinations. Not try to play everything together, but to play right and pedal, left and pedal – probably pedal alone first of all, and then to try to put all things together.
V: Well, exactly. It’s no wonder he struggles with pedals if the only thing he does is practice the hands and then adds the pedals, or practices the pedals alone and adds the manuals together. I think it’s the last step, but we need to have fifteen steps for four-part hymns.
A: True, and if he will practice at least with the artificial paper pedal board, he will be able to coordinate much better, because you will know when you have to do something with your feet all the time.
V: Yes, so to answer the third challenge that he’s having about the lack of knowledge an efficient method, right, how to play organ manuals and pedals together, he could take advantage of our courses.
A: True. Although, you know, about time efficient methods, everybody wants to get fast results, good results, but that’s absolutely impossible in the field of making music, you know, playing nicely. Because there are some steps that you cannot skip, and some things that you cannot do as fast as maybe you wish to.
V: Absolutely. You have to gradually proceed to the next level without skipping anything in between.
A: Of course, you can make your practice more efficient, you know, and use right methods that will make your practice more efficient, and you will achieve results faster. But still, you have to take each step.
V: I could compare something that other people could really understand – like working out, for example. I’ve been doing this pull-up routine on my hymns, not hymns, but rings in our garden, on the apple tree. And before I went to Poland to play my recital in Torun at "Pro Baltica" Music Festival, I could do 18 or 17, I forget, maybe 18 pull-ups, I think.
A: 18, I think.
V: 18, yeah, it was my record. Barely, of course, it was really difficult, but 18 is a good number. But then, a second trip came up to Malta, and I didn’t do anything during that time, and afterwards I was kind of tired and besides lazy, and only this weekend I’m starting to pick up my pull-up routine again. And I cannot do 18 of course, but I can do 13. So, I’m starting where I am right now, and gradually, the pull-up number will increase. I’m not worrying about that.
A: But when you began it, tell everybody that you could do barely one.
V: No, I couldn’t do one.
V: I couldn’t do one last August when I started. I could only hang on the pull-up bar, for, I believe, 10 seconds. Yeah, 10 seconds was my first try. Then gradually, a week later, it was 20 seconds, one week later 30 seconds, and then I started doing one pull-up afterward.
A: So I guess the same is with organ practice, no? You cannot play entire hymnal book right away. You need to more gradually learn each of them.
V: Good example – thank you, Ausra. Also Laurie, who has transcribed this podcast conversation has this idea for Mark:
"I might suggest to Mark to use his cheat-button for 2 of the hymns each week, and concentrate on learning ONE hymn each week with pedals so it is not overwhelming. This is similar to what you told him - small goals are more achievable."
V. So, I hope this was useful to you guys. Apply this in your practice and you will reap good results. We hope to receive more of your questions very soon. 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.
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.