SOPP616: I want to improvise hymns over modern pop and musical music just by hearing the song in the radio
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
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V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
Vidas: Let’s start episode 616 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Markus, and he writes:
“At the moment I started to play hymns. Some time in the future I want to do church service. And I want to improvise hymns over modern pop and musical music just by hearing the song in the radio. A really high challenging goal for a late-beginner, I know. :)
Therefore I really appreciate your melodic dictation course.
Vidas: So, Markus is taking our “Melodic Dictation” course
Ausra: I know! Wonderful!
Vidas: And the way that he wrote to me was because he couldn’t open the training file a few days ago. You know why?
Ausra: No, I don’t know.
Vidas: It’s because the trainings are in pdf format, the answer keys, for example, and when he would click on those links to open the pdf file, he would get an error message, 404 error from Google, that the page that you are looking for does not exist! So I was kind of scared, you know?
Ausra: Yes, I imagine that.
Vidas: And not only Markus, but several other members of the Total Organist community who were taking, let’s say, the “Sight-reading” course or the “Pedal Virtuoso Master Course,” they he also wrote that they couldn’t open the files. So I wrote to MailChimp about it and asked what’s happening, and it was just a temporary issue, and during the glitch, I could open the files using a different browser—not Chrome browser, but let’s say, Brave browser. And it looked just fine. So I’m glad it got resolved now, and people can access pdf files from Google Chrome as well.
Ausra: Excellent, because I think Google Chrome is the most popular for people to browse.
Vidas: Yes. yes. So Markus writes that he wants to improvise hymns over modern pop and musical music. Do you have an idea what he’s talking about?
Ausra: Well, I think I’m sort of imagining that.
Vidas: I asked him to send me a video of an example, but he said he just heard an organist do that in a live recital, and it was not a video, so he was just inspired by a live example.
Ausra: Yes, I’m just thinking, for example, how the improvisation on the pop song would work, let’s say in a conservative church.
Vidas: But even more than that, I don’t understand how this might look like. Imagine you have a hymn, and you have pop music. So you kind of juxtapose a hymn over pop music. What’s the result? I don’t know.
Ausra: Well, some of the hymns I really like are pop music, too.
Vidas: Maybe he means to add the pop rhythms, syncopations, like that.
Ausra: Well, that could be, I think, too.
Vidas: Jazz influence!
Vidas: But keeping the original hymn melody.
Ausra: Yes, but you know, I wouldn’t call the jazz music a pop music, because it’s not.
Vidas: And what is jazz?
Ausra: I think it’s just, you know, like a separate genre, and it’s too complicated to call it pop music.
Vidas: Yeah, pop music usually don’t have many chords.
Ausra: Yes, that’s right.
Vidas: So, the way to try any improvisation probably would be to simplify the structure, simplify the texture, and to deal, let’s say, just with the rhythms. If you have some kind of modern sounding, pop sounding rhythms in mind, he could use his feet or his hand to create accompaniment in these rhythms. Right?
Ausra: Yes, that’s a possibility.
Vidas: And then use maybe more pop sounding chords to accompany the hymns.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: That’s about it, I think.
Ausra: Yes, I think so.
Vidas: Unless you want to sound more jazzy, so then your chords could have four notes, five notes, six notes, like a seventh chord, ninth chord, suspensions various augmented chords. Right?
Ausra: Yes! Actually, now when we talked about it, I remembered William Bolcom. Do you remember his compositions?
Vidas: “Gospel Preludes?”
Vidas: Yeah, but again, those gospel hymns are a different genre, not like “Old Hundredth.”
Vidas: It’s a different type of melody. But the way he created those preludes is very nice.
Ausra: Yes, I like them very much.
Vidas: Hmm.. suits “praise band” style.
Ausra: That’s right.
Vidas: But in an artful way.
Vidas: So guys, keep these tips in mind when you try to improvise hymns over modern pop and musical music. Hopefully that will make sense, and let us know how it goes!
Ausra: Yes, and send us your recordings! We would love to hear you playing.
Vidas: Even better, put them on YouTube and share with us the link!
Ausra: That would be great!
Vidas: And keep sending us your questions; we love helping you grow. And remember, when you practice,
Ausra: 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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