SOPP498: If I could I would practice organ 10 hours a day, but I can't because it would ruin my hands
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 498 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. And, this question was sent by Linda, and she writes:
“If I could I would practice organ 10 hours a day, but I can't because it would ruin my hands. I had hand surgery in 2015 from over-practicing. I passed Part I of the AGO colleague exam in May. I am set to take Part II in November. I'm sixty years old, and in the remaining years God gives me on this earth, I hope to also achieve the higher AGO exams, plus learn as much organ literature as I can. I heard a youtube recording of Klaas Jan Mulder's "Fantasie-Toccata on 'Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan", which blew me away. Dutch organ literature is definitely an area I want to explore, as well as the standard organ literature I haven't learned yet. Love your website. There's a lot of material there. Blessings on you, and thank you again.”
V: So, Ausra, would you practice for 10 hours a day if you could?
A: Well, I don’t think it’s necessary to practice for 10 hours a day. But I would be happy if I could practice 4 hours every day.
V: What would you play?
V: Starting from what?
A: From everything. All the Trio Sonatas by J. S. Bach—because so far, I have played four of them, so I still have two sonatas to learn—and other excellent stuff. Maybe Franck’s “Chorale in E Major,” which I haven’t played, yet.
V: The first one?
A: Yes, the first one. So, and other stuff, too.
V: We will be playing our organ duet recital in a couple of days, or in a few days, maybe on Saturday, and after that, probably it will be time to start playing solo, too.
A: Yes, if school doesn’t kill me.
V: Yeah, that’s a big consideration. I think I’m going to be a little bit busy even after this recital with various organ demonstrations and educational events, I think. But, I will continue sight reading. This is really good for my own skills.
A: But what do you think? Is it always necessary to practice for 10 hours?
V: I have never practiced for 10 hours. Well, maybe once. Maybe once, when I was really short on time, and the concert was maybe in two days.
A: You know, the most I have practiced was actually four hours, but it was four hours of excellent practice. But even though four hours is not like 10 hours, I could not practice the same amount of hours the next day, because, simply, your head needs to lead your practice, not your hands.
V: It’s the same with physical exercise. If you do over-train one day, you will not be able to do the same type type of exercise the next day. You will have to rest one day.
A: True. So, I guess, even if you practice a lot on one day, you need to take it easy on the second one; on the next one. Because, I think when you are learning the organ repertoire, you also need to do some mental work with the music that you are playing.
A: Yes, and it’s not only… you don’t do it only by sitting on the instrument and practicing. You need to think about the music, too.
V: What do you do when you think about it?
A: Well, I often think of different excerpts from the piece and think about the form, about the meaning of the piece, and it helps, too.
V: I used to do that more when I had time. Now, I just don’t have this privilege anymore—sitting without the instrument—because there is so much on my plate already. But, when the occasion arises, for example, I’m traveling, sitting in the hotel, the concert is tomorrow, and I still need to work on something, obviously that would be a great way to practice mentally.
A: Plus, I’ve realized that sometimes you keep practicing and practicing and practicing, and instead of improving things, you sort of start messing things up. And sometimes, giving a break of one or two days actually makes your program sound better.
V: Or come back to the same program after practicing something else for a week, or two weeks, or a month. Right? You switch things up a little bit. It’s like physical exercise. One day you want to work on your upper body muscles, maybe, the next day, maybe on your lower body, maybe the third day on your core abdominal muscles, and then maybe the next day, you might rest. After 3 days, you take a rest., and then, start over again. There are all kinds of methods of mixing up physical exercise, so I think with organ practice, this could be applied in some way, too, this type of a variety.
A: True! And, as Linda mentioned that she already had surgery, and that she loves to practice a lot, I guess this trouble with her hands shows that you need to practice less, actually, and to practice fewer hours, actually, but maybe to do it more efficiently.
V: And maybe warm up.
A: Yes, that’s a good idea, too.
V: And maybe practice easier pieces?
A: That’s a possibility, too.
V: We don’t know exactly what her level is, but certainly overextending yourself doesn’t help.
A: But it’s very nice that she has the goal of what she wants to achieve. That’s very important. I guess when you have a goal, then it’s easier for you to practice.
V: Yes, you feel motivated externally, and then you just have to follow through. Thanks guys, this was Vidas!
A: And Ausra!
V: Please send 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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