Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 463 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Anne, and she writes:
“I am finishing up learning the notes to the Bach Prelude in D, BWV 532. This has been a long road to learn this piece – I started working on it again in January but put it aside in March for the Easter season before getting back to it in late April after Easter was over.
I am currently practicing the spots that I have trouble with slowly each day and then I play the entire Prelude up to speed as many times as it takes to get through it with the least amount of errors. Staying focused is my biggest problem at this point. My mind tends to drift when I’m doing all the repetitions. However, each day it feels as if it is becoming more and more familiar and I hope this eventually will allow me to play through the piece with few errors.
I will continue doing this for the next month before I begin to think about performing it. I have a lesson this coming week so I’ll be interested to hear what my teacher has to say. I have not had a lesson for a while due to the Easter Season. Hopefully, he will like what I have done with the piece.”
V: So, Ausra, Anne’s biggest trouble is with concentration. Right? About when she’s playing BWV 532 Prelude.
A: True. I think to be concentrated throughout performing is really challenging for many organists. How can you focus? What do you use? What kind of techniques do you use?
V: I use my breathing to help focus. Sometimes, I breathe in and out very slowly and deeply through the nose, and rhythmically. I do this… it depends on the rhythm, sometimes, of the piece, and tempo. Maybe once a measure in, once a measure out.
A: Well, I do that breathing exercise when I go to bed in order to fall asleep easier.
V: And, does it help?
A: Yes! It helps, so if I would use the same technique on the organ bench, I don’t know what would happen. I might fall asleep in the middle of my recital.
V: But there are more things to it, I think. Right now, I don’t really need to concentrate on my breathing to stay focused. You know? Because I have 25 plus years of experience playing organ, and I think those years add up, and it gets easier with time. You don’t pay attention to external noises and things that might distract you at first.
A: I think that you might lose your concentration when you are playing without a specific goal; when you are not giving yourself a specific goal—why you are repeating this piece over and over again. I think you need to raise a goal for yourself each time playing through.
V: Could be. A simple goal like this: The first time she plays a piece or an episode of the piece, she would notice a few mistakes. Right? And the second time, she would try to correct just one mistake. The third time just the third mistake. Would that work, Ausra?
A: Well, that might, for her, but when I’m talking about making a goal for yourself, I’m thinking more about, let’s say, “Now I will play this through, and I will really listen to the tenor voice, for example.
V: Oh! Interesting. That might be even better!
A: Or, “Now, I will play this piece, and I will subdivide everything into 16th notes,” and things like this—musical goals.
V: To keep your mind focused.
A: Yes, or, “This time I will play this piece through, and I will always lean on the strong beat of each measure.” And when you have this kind of goal, it helps you to keep focused throughout the piece.
V: Good idea! I think this is helpful for everybody, not only for playing D major Prelude by Bach, but in general, when you are doing multiple repetitions.
V: Okay, guys, please apply those tips in your practice; this really works. And, 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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