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.
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,
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.
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...
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,
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 Keith, and he writes in response to my letter asking what are his goals and challenges in organ playing. He writes,
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.
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,
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.
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,
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,
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.
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.
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.
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.
This question was sent by Ian, and he writes:
“The organ world needs more videos like this - however experienced and skilled you are, practice is sometimes slow, difficult and/or frustrating. It helps everyone if we're open about it. Thanks for sharing!”
This question was sent by Robert, and he is a student of Pedal Virtuoso Master Course. And he has a question which sounds like this,
I just finished the tenth week of your Pedal Virtuoso Master Class. Unlike previous weeks when I come to the last day, I still have issues maintaining a proper sense of balance while seated on the organ bench. This affects my accuracy (I either hit an extra pedal in one foot, miss a pedal, or slide off the correct pedal and into a non chord tone), playing legato (sometimes a major third in one foot is not possible to connect), and playing the pedals silently (as opposed to making a too much noise).
Regarding balance, I found in all the previous weeks that I could sit quietly on the bench and avoid having to pull myself back to my normal seated position by shifting my weight from one hip and buttocks to the other. This week, perhaps due to the fact that an octave arpeggio in octaves covers too much space on the pedals in such a short amount of time as well as the fact that two feet moving at the same time reduces the body’s range of motion, playing an arpeggio this week with confidence was not possible. My appearance on the bench was too active as I had to keep adjusting myself when my body would move closer and closer to the console as a result of twisting my body in order to reach pedals. For some of the arpeggios, like B Minor, E Major, and D Minor, not moving on the bench put too much of a strain on my legs and feet that in the end did not enable me to reach the desired pedal in one foot (and occasionally pedals in both feet) with confidence.
My remedy this week has been to shift my weight a little bit, however, a precise note to shift on (unlike scales and all previous arpeggios) or even which direction to shift into (left or right side) has not been possible for me to determine. These problems occur when I am playing very slowly in rhythm. Faster tempos are not possible this week.
Feel free to contact me.
Thank you for your time and thank you very much for designing a wonderful course as well as sharing your knowledge with me and every other organist.
Let’s start episode 610 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Joanna, and she writes:
“Dear Vidas, can finger substitutions be used in slow baroque music, such as Kyrie by Cabezon? Or is it best to stick to articulated fingering even in relatively slow passages?”
This question was sent by Paul, and he writes:
“Thank you for sending your Organ Duet Recital. Bravo!
For the moment my challenge is BWV 564. I am able to play the toccata by heart, Adagio I still need the score and fugue is not yet on an optimal level.
I try to realize what you call articulate legato.
This question was sent by Kaki, and Kaki writes,
"Thanks for the upload! I remember when I was learning the whole suite, always loved Krebs and this Courante was my favorite. There aren't many videos if any at all on this Clavierubung #2 and you uploaded the whole suite! Thanks so much, I enjoyed listening (: A little gem in the sea of youtube videos!"
This question was sent by Laurie, and she writes:
Be sure you are sitting down to read this. 😂 I have no objection to the study of articulate legato touch for early music, but my question is, why MUST we use it? I understand it was the practice in the time of Bach and early music, but wasn't that true because the tracker instruments lent themselves to that sort of touch? And the flat pedalboards could be navigated easier with all toes, rather than using heels. But if we have a modern instrument that does not have "tracker touch" and has a concave radiating pedalboard, why not lend new interpretations to these masterworks? It could give new life and new understandings to old music.
I'm sure you have heard Cameron Carpenter play. I'm not always a fan, but I learn something new about the construction of the music when I listen to his interpretations. For example, here he is playing the Bach B Minor Prelude and Fugue on a modern organ, making full use of colorful registrations and expression pedals. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jixCGS_AAG8
Isn't this improvisation in its own way? What do you say?”
This question was sent by Robert, and he writes,
Thank you so much for the video of you working on Vierne Final, sym 1. Within just the first 3 minutes I learned so much about how to practice properly, the key word here is properly. I, of course, practice (and I'm a slow learner but I get there) usually sections at a time and slowly but watching you slowly and what appears to me slight hesitation at certain points to read ahead. I may be misinterpreting what you're doing but it makes sense and allows for a much smoother transition from section to section until the full work is learned and brought up to speed.
I've listened to more than 3 minutes but not the complete video which I will do now. I can't wait to see what's ahead that I will learn. You are such a good human being and make the world a better place. Thank you.
Warm regards to you both,
This question was sent by Richard, and he writes,
I am a pianist and I’d love to get the pedals working when I sit at the organ. I also struggle with improvisation which can be a real hindrance during church services.
This question was sent by Francois, and he writes:
“Good day Vidas and Ausra,
I hope you are well and you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.
My name is Francois, I live in London and I came across you on the Hauptwerk Facebook group as well as YouTube. Thank you so much for all the wonderful videos and music that you two post, it really is an inspiration. I also saw your article about your Hauptwerk setup at home which was very helpful and I’m now in the process of replicating your setup. I received my keyboard stand over the weekend and today two of my three Nektar Impact GX61 keyboards were delivered. I’m only using the basic Hauptwerk subscription as I haven’t played organ in about 20 years and I need to get back in the saddle, so to speak. The peddle board will have to wait for now as it is a bit pricey.
I would like to get a bit more info and help on your sound setup. I see you have Presonus Eris E4.5 monitors in your list of equipment. Are they good for reproducing a good sound especially in the 16’ and 32’ registers? How do you connect them to your Apple, do you connect them using an audio interface? I’m running on Windows 10 on a Dell laptop and any guidance and advice will be appreciated.
Sorry for all the questions, but I really like your setup and I know that if you are happy with it then I will definitely be happy.
Thanks again for your amazing videos and for sharing your talent with us. Much appreciated.
This question was sent by Klāvs, and he writes,
There are answers to your questions.
1. My dream for playing organ is to play in church services and in concerts. I have played in church services some times.
2. My 3 important things that are holding me back from realizing my dream is:
Equipment - if I want to learn organ playing I need to go to my church, where there is a pipe organ with pedals and 2 manuals.
Quiet place, where I can learn.
Knowledge of playing technique, because I don’t have an organ teacher yet.