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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.
366 Episodes
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?
This question was sent by André, and he writes, Hello dear Vidas, I received the statement from Patreon about your support. I am extremely honored and grateful for your help, which means a lot to me. First, because I’ve been following your channel for many years, long before you started using Hauptwerk. In fact, many years ago you recorded a video about possible works to study with only a manual, which was a starting point for me in the organ. And finally, I printed the paper pedal board that you made available on your website! Anyway, receiving your support means a lot because you have always been a person who inspired me! Here in Brazil things are scarce in relation to the practice of the organ, but I was never discouraged, I was always positive. And now with Hauptwerk, and with my future equipment, I will be able to study this instrument that I love so much more! Thank you very much, affectionately, André Barbosa
This question was sent by Mario, and he writes: “Hello Vidas, my name is Mario I am a 25 year old musician from Panamá. My dream is to become Panamá's first organist, we have two pipe organs in the country and lucky for me I have access to both. One is Spanish pipe organ with 2 manuals and 30 note straight pedalboard and 51 keys on each manual. Second is a Renaissance pipe organ built in 2019 by a Polish organ company, it has 3 manuals with 51 keys also and a 27 note pedalboard. I am very interested in developing my sight reading abilities to a high level, where I could Just grab any composition and play it at tempo, and I mean piano or organ composition. I am wondering if your sight reading course would be good for me. I am comfortable sight reading hymns, but I don't have knowledge on pipe organ repertoire, only Bach. I practice on a digital Piano a Yamaha p155. I bought an AGO pedalboard and it should arrive in 2 weeks. Let me know if you can help me become a master at sight reading.”
This question was sent by Diana, who transcribes fingering and pedaling from our videos, and she writes that: “Sometimes I read a treble clef like a bass clef...”
This question was sent by Keith, and he writes in response to my letter asking what are his goals and challenges in organ playing.  He writes, Vidas, Thank you for sharing your knowledge and love of organ playing. My dream for organ playing is to facilitate the expression of worship in music, with the language of harmony. What things are holding me back from my dream? 1. My ignorance/lack of skill. - In February I dusted off my marginal four years of grade school piano lessons, after 34 years. 2. Realizing what good technique is - what such technique should feel like when I practice and play. 3. Practice method/discipline - What is a minimum of major/minor scales, vs Hanon finger exercises, vs practicing a piece. - I practice about an hour a day, some days twice that. Wish I could practice more. The mini-course emails have been very helpful to me.  I let them queue up behind each other, until I have a chance to fully consider each one. Regards, Keith
This question was sent by James, and he writes, Thanks Vidas for acknowledging my donation.  With lockdown and retirement I have a bit more time to work at learning the organ.  I am now 73 so things are a bit slower for me. I have an old analog Viscount organ but I have found that my new iPad can produce even better and authentic sound. Favourite at the moment is Pipe Organ and St Just. So I have brought out my old Casio keyboard which has a MIDI possibility and bought the necessary connectors and connected it to my old stereo system, it really can sound amazing and have to keep the volume down. Love the “pedal notes”. Over the winter I shall follow your example and buy new keyboards, I think it will be better than only one. Music wise I continue to work away at hymns and have started flowkey. I bought your Prière à Notre-Dame as it is just about my level though hard work with all the accidentals. So I would appreciate you doing more of the simpler stuff, I am not quite ready for the toccata.  The likes of simpler advent music and Rhoysymedre like what you are beginning to play with fingering would be really useful. It helps build confidence and speeds the process up if an expert such as yourself does the ground work. So thank you for all you do, all you online organists are amazing at this time and offer so much to those of us who feel safer not going to church, a real godsend indeed. So you keep safe and bless you, Jim (James)
This question was sent by Abe, and he writes, I had a stroke which hit my left hand very hard.  It is slow and lazy.  Any suggestions?
This question was sent by Brigitte, and she writes: “Thanks Vidas for the complete pedaling and instructions. It has created a great opportunity for me to focus on the pedal technique for early music beyond toes only.”
This question was sent by Luis Garcia, and he writes, Dear friends: I live in Spain and here there are few organ teachers.  Pedal Technique is a mystery here.  I need to learn how to play pedals without looking at the pedalboard and with a mind strategy.  Some teachers recommend to slide the foot counting the intervals. I think that it may well be in some times but not all the time.  Others recommend memorizing the gaps in the pedalboard.  And the worst teachers don't recommend anything. Even it is very difficult to see organists with organ shoes.  Spain is a bad country to learn how to play the pipe organ. Remember that I am interested in a romantic technique.  I know that you like Baroque music. Please, try to help me.  Thank you. Luis García
This question was sent by James, and he writes about my piece called “Nassat, from the Organ ABC”: “The speed of this piece and transparency of registration made me appreciate how generous the acoustic is at your church. I’m still stuck on Krummhorn and Larigot”.
This question was sent by Robert, and he writes, Dear Vidas, I completed your Pedal Virtuoso Master Course in late August and upon your request, below you will find my feedback. Without a doubt, I am very happy to have taken your course!  I discovered it online at the beginning of June after searching for ways to improve my pedal technique which was holding my organ playing back.  My goals consisted of learning how to sit comfortably on the organ bench so that I could play the pedals and maintain my balance, discover for myself how to develop more flexibility in my ankles, and learn how to use my feet more efficiently in order to play more advanced passages as well as reduce strains put on my foot muscles and joints (i.e., prevent future injuries). After spending twelve weeks working on the given assignment for the day, to my surprise, each goal saw improvement and not just a slight improvement!  Although I often needed more than fifteen minutes to work on a given assignment, my feet now know where to go and my hips and body now support my balance and the ability to play a passage legato while avoiding foot strain.  One thing I did that helped solidify what I had learned in previous weeks, was to review previous assignments in addition to the daily assignment.  Currently I am reviewing the course by playing every scale and arpeggio from a given tonality three times a day for one week (this is my fourth week, so I am reviewing scales and arpeggios in E minor which is Day 1, No. 4 from each of the twelve weeks).
This question was sent by William, and he writes, Vidas, Thank you for putting together this course. My sight reading of notes and rhythms both improved significantly from 9 months ago. It also improved my sight reading of dense passages of music. The areas that gave me a little trouble (that I need to continue working on) are the counting of 32nd notes and irregular rhythms (triplets against 2 eighth notes / 4 sixteenth notes / dotted eighth note and a sixteenth note).  Regards, Bill
This question was sent by Brigitte, and she writes: “Hi Vidas and Ausra, The more complicated rhythms are my favorites for sight-reading. Also I have been listening to recordings from Art of the fugue and did some research as I was wondering about the meaning of the different parts. There must be so much more that can be learned from the Art of the fugue. The variations of the Genevan Psalms are of interest to me too. Can I find them somewhere together to come back to them? Enjoy following you and learning from you. Regards, Brigitte”
This question was sent by Brigitte, and she writes, The variations of the Genevan Psalms are of interest to me. Can I find them somewhere together to come back to them? I enjoy following you and learning from you. Regards, Brigitte
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. Thanks, Markus”
This question was sent by David, and he writes, "I didn't see this video when it was posted because I was buried with work at the time. Thank you for posting it and this podcast. This week, I am experiencing the same thing, but with a simple hymn that I should have no trouble with, but one measure is just not coming, and I, too, felt like hitting the (imitation) organ as I was practicing... (but I didn't do it... it already doesn't fully function properly on Sunday mornings). This made me realize that sometimes this is a normal thing to experience."
This question was sent by Graham, and he writes about the video where I introduce my Hauptwerk set-up on YouTube. Hauptwerk set-up and streaming set-up, to be precise. He writes, As others have already commented, Vidas, a really useful and helpful upload explaining how you produce such wonderful recordings - though as amazing as all this technology is, it would mean nothing if it was not for your truly fabulous playing and teaching! As you know, I am a big fan of James. He recently played some Clementi on the organ and I commented with a reference to the contest between Mozart and Clementi in 1781. So I am going to make the same judgement as Emperor Joseph II, who diplomatically declared a draw between those two great composers. I declare a draw between the massive amount of wiring and equipment both you and James have. Just looking at all those 'tripping hazards' gives me palpitations. At least my humble Viscount Chorum just plugs in and plays . . . but of course, does not give me access to some of the greatest organs in the world! Thank you, Vidas.
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