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Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast
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Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast

Author: Secrets of Organ Playing

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Conversations about all things organ playing. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene talk with experts from the organ world - concert and church organists, improvisers, educators, composers, organ builders, musicologists and other people who help shape the future of our profession.
382 Episodes
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This question was sent by Ausra, and she writes, "This week I’m struggling with sitting down on the organ bench. At first I didn’t have time and now I don’t have motivation to practice."
This question was sent by Manfred, and he writes: Hi Vidas, I was playing the organ in the church for services only. The requirements are low. Therefore I could train the Pedal in ‘wild’ and fairly uncontrolled way. Because of Corona the congregation must not sing. The organist is asked to prepare a few pieces as a solo. So I started to look for organ pieces that are a little more demanding. Then I was facing severe difficulties with easy or low-medium pieces for organ. Thanks to Youtube I watched the pedaling of good organ players. My style is way off! This led me to you. You have a method, you want to teach it in an internet-based style – so, I gave it a try. Man! The first week told me I was not using certain muscles in the ankle area, I had muscle sore. Now, I see a much higher flexibility in my ankles. I was playing with a sort of tennis shoes. No way! Yesterday I started with organ shoes (dancing shoes actually). Now I can feel the pedal keys and can slide on them. Wonderful! After this first week I do not detect better accuracy. But my feet want to adopt the new pedaling style when playing my organ pieces. This is sometimes confusing, but I am sure in 2-3 weeks the new techniques will make my feet more ‘relaxed’ as they become friends of the pedal. I am eagerly looking forward to the next few weeks! Best regards, Manfred
This question was sent by Doug, and he answered my question, What is your goal in organ playing, and what are some challenges that he faces when he tries to reach this goal.  So the goal is to become a church organist, and basically advanced in hymn playing.  And the challenges are three: Pedal techniques. Taking a hymnal with one line and converting it to swell, great and pedals on the fly. Grand Orgue or Hauptwerk conversion for home organ to practice on.
This question was sent by Bob, and he’s taking our Melodic Dictation Course Level 1.  He writes, "Vidas, I have a question about 4 kl. 280 in Melodic Dictation Week 9. I thought that if there is a pickup measure in a song that the last measure of the song and the first measure should add up to one measure. But in this case there is a rest contained in the last measure, so the two measures do not add up to one measure. How do I decide whether I should add the rest or not? Or is it one of those times that it does not matter? Thanks. Bob"
This question was sent by Paje, and this is the answer to my question, “What is the goal in organ playing, and what are some challenges that get in the way of this goal. So: “1. Dream to serve as an organist and lead the choir in my Church Organisation. 2. Lack of consistent mentorship, lack of accountability, lack of clarity on what to focus on first as a beginner.”
This question was sent by Nabil, and he writes, 1) My dream is to be a great concert Organist, and to be one of the most significant Organ performers in this century. Because I believe I have something new to bring. Also to be the first Organist in a Cathedral (good organs usually are in big churches), to push the people in the church with me looking towards heaven in their prayers by making great music… V:  This was his dream.  Number 2, it’s obviously the challenge, and it is 2) * Not having Organ or even Classical Music atmosphere around me. V:  He lives in Israel.  Also * Planning to study Organ and Church Music in Europe (it's very hard and complicated plan) * I need support in social media to get known Love you and Ausra!!!
his question was sent by Katrine, and she writes, Thanks for asking about this Vidas. 1. To be as fluent and reliable at organ playing as I am at the piano (professional accompanist/repetiteur by background) 2. Getting the set-up right for feet and being confident that I am practising in a way that will lead to accuracy - not sure if stool height is correct, shoes are perhaps too wide etc. Unclear on where feet should be able to reach (get pain in legs if I stretch too far and have hurt knee trying to insist with my right leg that it can reach the bottom notes!) and not sure how best to practise pedal scales (have seen varying advice on toe/heel use). Many thanks! Katrine
This question was sent by Rosemary, and she writes,: “Happy New Year greetings to you all. This day dawned breathtakingly beautiful and we will all be glad of the shade in the garden as the heat rises. A new year ahead in which our prayers and hopes are with those frontline workers caring for victims of Covid 19, and discoveries for containment. May you all and your families stay safe. Your comments, goals and plans are incredibly inspirational for me, with renewed energy I have heaped my attention on BWV 529, and various choral preludes, BWV 604 a favourite. Studying your improvisation and trying out some variations. Thanks to you all and the very best of good wishes for a happy and productive year ahead sharing your wonderful talents. Rosemary”
This question was sent by Pieter, and he writes,: “Dear Vidas, Thank you for sending me the extra exercise supplementary to the sight reading course. I appreciate that very much. Firstly let me apologise for my late response after finishing the course. It has been rather busy with various things. You may recall that when I first approached you asking your advice my goal to improve my sightreading skills was very much focussed on obtaining the CRCO (Colleague of the Royal College of Organists) diploma. I had already achieved credits for the paperwork and repertoire but not the musicianship tests. I am pleased to tell you that I achieved the last part of the qualification in the summer session and I therefore now have my CRCO qualification! I was really delighted to achieve this as it was a real challenge for me but after a lot of work, my efforts paid off! There can be no doubt that the sightreading course helped me particularly with issues of rhythm which I always found a weak point so I am grateful for that indeed. Although transposition was something I found slightly less challenging, this is also a sort of sightreading so I am sure the course helped me there too! I think I am done with organ diplomas so I will concentrate on learning repertoire now and just enjoying playing the instrument that I love but I have to say that my all round musicianship skills have improved through the experience of preparing for a challenging qualification and that has to help my playing in the general sense.This question was sent by Pieter, and he writes,: “Dear Vidas, Thank you for sending me the extra exercise supplementary to the sight reading course. I appreciate that very much. Firstly let me apologise for my late response after finishing the course. It has been rather busy with various things. You may recall that when I first approached you asking your advice my goal to improve my sightreading skills was very much focussed on obtaining the CRCO (Colleague of the Royal College of Organists) diploma. I had already achieved credits for the paperwork and repertoire but not the musicianship tests. I am pleased to tell you that I achieved the last part of the qualification in the summer session and I therefore now have my CRCO qualification! I was really delighted to achieve this as it was a real challenge for me but after a lot of work, my efforts paid off! There can be no doubt that the sightreading course helped me particularly with issues of rhythm which I always found a weak point so I am grateful for that indeed. Although transposition was something I found slightly less challenging, this is also a sort of sightreading so I am sure the course helped me there too! I think I am done with organ diplomas so I will concentrate on learning repertoire now and just enjoying playing the instrument that I love but I have to say that my all round musicianship skills have improved through the experience of preparing for a challenging qualification and that has to help my playing in the general sense.
This question was sent by Whitney, and she writes, My challenge is with getting enough courage to play hymns with pedals. I can do it fine when practicing, but I get way too nervous when I’m playing at Mass.
This question was sent by Graham, and he comments on my recording of the practice session of his Idyll. So he writes,: “Wonderful, Vidas! It was written in the summer of 2020 during the first lockdown of the Covid pandemic. I saw a competition advertised for a meditative piece for organ and this composition appeared nearly instantly! I do love Erik Satie's 'Gymnopedies' (I have heard you play No 2 on the organ!) and there is a strong French impressionist influence in this piece. It came together remarkably quickly from an initial improvisation to the finished composition as I was very near the deadline for submitting for the competition. As you know, I am not 'original' in my writing as I recognize everything I create is derivative - a fusion of everything I have ever heard or played. I love the music of Cole Porter and George Gershwin and Irving Berlin . . . so there is a trace of those songsters deep inside the piece as well. It sounds gorgeous on the Salisbury Willis - a sound I never expected to hear. THANK YOU!”
This question was sent by Steven, and he writes: “Hi Vidas. Organ playing is going okay, thank you for asking. These days I am making more time for practice, which is key. I still feel like I am a slow learner, but I know how to pull apart a new piece and start making it work. Pedal work continues to improve, with the biggest aspect I'm noticing is my accuracy. The right foot position (like keeping toes touching the "black" pedals) seems to be super helpful. I have a teacher, and we have lessons every other week for one hour. I typically work up a couple hymns out of the ELW, sometimes an introduction or related piece with those hymns. Then I have several other pieces in various states of progress.”
This question was sent by Andrew, and he writes: “I just wanted to say thank you for your "Mastering" series on YouTube. I am a percussionist turned organist, and every time I'm struggling to learn a new piece, it really helps to watch your videos. Even though I'm not learning the same music as you, the same principles of practicing apply, and I learn so much better when I remind myself to take things in small parts in repetition. You are doing a wonderful job of producing great content to help people like me. Right now, I'm working on "In dulci jubilo" by JM Bach, "Nun danket" by Karg-Elert, and "I Love Thee, My Lord" by Shearing, as well as some other long term Franck pieces that will be taking me a while to finish learning. The most challenging thing for me in playing organ is developing my kinesthetic sense between hands and feet, so I don't have to look away from the music and lose my place. I'm not a keyboard player by training, so I'm trying to take things slowly and learn from my mistakes as they happen, instead of just getting frustrated. Once the pandemic hit hard, I decided it was time to get an organ for my house so I could practice whenever it would be convenient for me. I also have a 2 year old son, so it's hard to get away from home for a long time to practice at church. I bought a nice custom package from Content Organs that I enjoy, but I also really like your creative setup and what you were able to put together from online stores. Looking forward to seeing more videos from you soon! Thanks! Andrew Fuhrman Austin, Texas, USA PS I will support you on Patreon!”
This question was sent by John, and he writes, Dear Ausra, thanks so much for this superb recital! Sorry I couldn't join it live, I've been very busy traveling and catching up with family, Covid restrictions are returning in Australia so I am cherishing every moment with family. Well done on the Bach, it sounded great, your articulation was so clear! How do you decide on a tempo for these Prelude & Fugues, do we have any historical indications or is it more based on how it sounds in the acoustic you play in? And please thank Vidas from me for his lovely contributions also! I am so lucky to know you both as friends and my teacher, you are so inspirational! Happy New Year to you and your family! Please stay safe and well! Take care, John
This question was sent by Diana, and she wants to know: “Is there a reason for avoiding parallel 5ths?”
This question was sent by Sally, and she writes, "Do you have a secret to playing melody in the left hand and harmonies in RH?  I have a hard time with that. My brain doesn’t want to allow LH to take the melody, at least not for long."
This question was sent by Rosemary, and she writes, Hello Vidas Firstly can I thank you for the wonderfully informative emails you have sent during the last week, To date I have found them very helpful and thought provoking.  A good beginning to the information I need to develop my study for the next 12 months. In reply to your first question. My goal for this coming year is a 30 minute lunchtime recital on 8 October 2021. My practice situation is a small instrument, one manual with a full pedal board and 5 stops in our local church  (country town). The recital is on an instrument 8 times this size in a provincial city 45 km away. Aug 2019 I was included in the programme and played an all Bach programme  (BWV 554, BWV 555,  BWV 604, BWV 536 and BWV 570 )  I lacked confidence and found it a rather tough experience and have resolved to better the experience. Important aspects to address. Developing a plan for the year's study.  Developing the programme. (Bach again as his music is a passion of mine, or a European tour, (Boellmann, Faure..Italian school, and Bach ) The learning of a piece, bringing it up to concert standard and maintaining the standard for the recital date. Work on analysing the piece, Your email of Dec 1st has been a great catalyst. Maybe this is one of the secrets to understanding the piece and gaining confidence in performance. Additionally, I have shortened the length of the fragments I learn at a time and have resolved to trial your suggestions. The content of the material you've sent seems like a good foundation. I need all these tips and more. I have had no formal lessons on the instrument, gathering knowledge through reading, listening and suggestions from colleagues in recent years.  More information on ornaments, (BWV 555 do you include the marked trill on the resolution of the prelude.)  The French Noels how do you fit in the mordants and how are they played, Currently I am learning Priere a Notre-Dame  L Boellmann your copy with fingering and pedaling, Sicilienne OP.78  G Faure Sonata 5 BWV 529 Bach third movement I am particularly interested in your copy of Ich ruf' zu Dir, Herr Jesu Christ  BWV 639  where you have written out the interpretation of the ornaments and how they fit in.More on this please. Time I stopped, I have gained regular access to the organ for the recital determined to be more familiar with the instrument, I have considerable support and assistance from the regular organists especially with choice of registration.  A big learning curve. Hopefully this finds you and yours well, a strange year with so many new challenges. Every good wish for this festive Christmas season. kind regards Rosemary
This question was sent by Andrei, and he writes: “Hi Vidas and Ausra! I have a question for you: If in a church there is a need for an organist, and the only two keyboardists are a professional concert pianist and a mediocre/intermediate organist, who do you think would be better to play on the organ?”
This question was sent by Stephen, and he writes: “At 72 years of age my goal is to play some of Bach's organ music with musicality and appropriate style...i.e. registration ...trills ..phrasing. I have explored the "Little preludes and Fugues"  using Soderlund's book on authentic technique for that period.   To be able to continue to practice.  (I own an Viscount Digital Organ with appropriate AGO standards. I also studied formally with an organist for 2 years) To be able to improve my pedal technique. I have used your Pedal Mastery Course to help in that regard. I purchased it when you first offered it to us.  I would like to know other sources of exercises that might help in improving. To be able to memorize even at my age....I find that practicing the organ and piano HELP keep my mind sharp ...Excellent therapy... Stephen”
This question was sent by Scott, and he writes, Hi Vidas. I'm new to organ playing and came across your site. Do you have a course that goes in order from kind of the beginning? I'm an intermediate piano player who doesn't read well yet. I also don't have pedals nor multiple manuals right now. Just using a midi controller with organ presets. Can a membership on your site help me where I'm at now with organ?
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