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My big step ....

Posted By: ChemicalGrl

My big step .... - 07/19/02 01:55 AM

Got something to share with everyone. After all this time of telling everyone how much I wished to take organ lessons, I finally made that big step and found a teacher in Chapel Hill who is willing to teach me.

Actually, he was looking for students, and one of my singing friends referred me to him. I'm scheduled for my first lesson next Wednesday evening. I'm so excited now, I can't wait!

I know, I do have a work deadline hanging over my head, but hey, I do need some diversions outside of the lab!

He wants me to get Bach's Eight Little Preludes/Fugues for the organ. So with reference to that one thread in the Pianist's Corner, I guess something from that set will be the next piece(s) I will be working on.

Wish me luck!

Lyn F.
Posted By: Elaine617

Re: My big step .... - 07/19/02 02:52 AM

Congratulations! Organ is a completely different world from piano, as you probably already know. Other than pedal technique, one of the things that I had some difficulty with in the beginning was that I had a really bad tendency to 'hit' the keys (a habit learned from years of piano) rather than 'crawl' over them. It didn't take long to learn the proper technique, though. I really enjoyed learning the Eight Little Preludes/Fugues. They were also among my first organ rep pieces. I hope you enjoy the organ as much as I do. Happy playing!

Now about our names. laugh My husband accidentally gave me the nick-name "Lyn" at a place I used to work several years ago (my real name is Elaine). He has a tendency to drop the "E" and pronounce it, "Laine." One day, he called my place of employment and asked for me. The girl who answered thought that he said, "Lyn" and sent the call to the wrong person, hence the pseudo came into being. wink

Anyway, I'm really happy for you and wish you the best with your organ study. Please post and let us know how your first lesson goes! smile
Posted By: ChemicalGrl

Re: My big step .... - 07/19/02 10:41 PM

Originally posted by Lyn:
Other than pedal technique, one of the things that I had some difficulty with in the beginning was that I had a really bad tendency to 'hit' the keys (a habit learned from years of piano) rather than 'crawl' over them.
I've read somewhere that there is a "staccato" touch (such as that piano players use) and a "legato" touch (such as that the organists would be using). I guess that would be something I'll have to get used to.

I will indeed post how my first lesson goes, thanks for asking! smile

Now going a bit off-topic here:

Originally posted by Lyn:
Now about our names. laugh My husband accidentally gave me the nick-name "Lyn" at a place I used to work several years ago (my real name is Elaine). He has a tendency to drop the "E" and pronounce it, "Laine." One day, he called my place of employment and asked for me. The girl who answered thought that he said, "Lyn" and sent the call to the wrong person, hence the pseudo came into being. wink
My nickname (Lyn) comes from my middle name, Elena. Most Filipinos I know have two given names, their mother's maiden name is their middle name, and their father's name is their surname. I never use my first given name (Maria) unless I absolutely have to (for official use, basically) and my second name (Elena) has pretty much been abbreviated in much the same way as your real name. Of course, people are always and forever misspelling my name (either adding the extra "n" or eek adding a "ne" at the end of it).

Well, enough of that for now. Time to find dinner!

Lyn F.
Posted By: ChemicalGrl

Re: My big step .... - 08/01/02 03:46 AM

My first lesson was supposed to have been today, but got postponed again due to a scheduling conflict. So it got rescheduled to tomorrow.

My organ teacher and I had a conversation though ... I mentioned to him I was a total beginner at the organ but had played the piano for at least ... oh, 25 years or so (eeks! never thought about how long until now!) and so he knew not to expect me to be able to play like an expert straight away. What puzzled me though was what he said with regards to pedalling. He had demonstrated to me his approach to pedalling and I thought it was a little strange. In mechanistic organic chemistry, there is a theory called "Principle of Least Motion." Electrons will take the shortest path inter- or intramolecularly to cause a reaction to go forward. Makes sense that such a motion would apply to other things as well. His approach to me looked more like a lot of wasted motions and a definite shuffling-type motion. I could only imagine a little shuffling along the organ bench as he was demonstrating on the floor and I had to hide a bit of a cringe. It doesn't look good if one were to shuffle along a piano bench, how much more along an organ bench! He says he uses mostly toes, not much heel, keeps his knees together as he "radiates" (yes, that's the word he used) along the pedalboard. I had been doing some reading on pedalling technique, and what he said runs counter to what I've read.

So now I throw out this question to anyone who might be reading this particular forum - pedalling technique. It makes sense to me that one foot would cover half the pedal board, the other foot the other half. (I had been reading a book on organ technique written by John Stainer. I think what he wrote on pedalling technique mirrors my preconceptions on pedalling.) Is there any one correct technique to pedalling, and if so, what would that be?

Thanks heaps.
Posted By: Eldon

Re: My big step .... - 08/01/02 05:21 AM

Chemical Girl,
You will need BOTH feet at both ends of the pedalboard. smile
Posted By: Elaine617

Re: My big step .... - 08/01/02 03:48 PM

Hi Lyn,

The way I was taught to do pedal technique was to use heel-toe if I need legato and using the toe for staccato. My teacher also had me use my left foot from the lowest C to the next octave and then use my right foot above that, if that makes sense. Right foot pedaling was probably one of the more difficult things for me to learn. My coordination just isn't as good on that side (and I'm right handed)! Sorry to hear that your lesson was postponed again. You must be getting pretty anxious to get started. Anyway, I hope this helps.

Lyn B.
Posted By: ChemicalGrl

Re: My big step .... - 08/02/02 02:48 AM

Eldon -

laugh laugh laugh

Lyn -

Finally had the first lesson today. And now that I've sat at the organ, I can visualise what you mean. Seems like you can probably go all the way up to at least E with the left foot if you centre yourself around E-F above Middle C on the manuals. But it was a strange sensation, I felt like the bench was way too high for me! Makes me wonder if the organ shoe company you recommended to me makes Platform Pedalling Shoes. I could just barely reach the pedals. And no, I'm not that short (around 165 cm tall) so you would think I shouldn't have any problems with reach at all.

After a brief explanation of the blood and guts of the organ, my teacher had me play a hymn (tune of St. Flavian), manuals only, and complimented me on my ability to sight read. He then mentioned that he thought I had just the right touch, not too heavy-handed like he expected someone who had played the piano for 20+ years would have, but he did mention something about trying to articulate the phrases a bit better. Putting in judicious breaks here and there ... connect some of the notes here and there ... I was trying my level best to follow him, but admittedly had a bit of trouble trying to visualise what it was he was trying to tell me. I guess I must have absorbed it somehow, because when I played the hymn again, I played it to his satisfaction.

So then we moved to the Bach. Had me play Little Prelude in F. He liked the way I played the first part of it. Again, did manuals only, no pedal. And we talked more about phrasing. He had me do a Hanon-like piece, telling me that it's a good exercise to ensure I develop the manual-touch for the organ. Seemed to like what he heard.

He then piled all this music on me - heart did a bit of a flutter when he gave me a couple of Buxtehude pieces (yes, I love Buxtehude) and said I could pick one to work on. cool

So all in all, I think it went well. I guess I shouldn't have based too much on our initial conversation. We got on splendidly well today, and I feel like I can work with him. Hope he feels the same way. He did compliment me on my musicianship. That made me feel good, especially in light of the training (or lack thereof, formally) that I've had.

So lessons are weekly, and once my grant goes out tomorrow afternoon, I'm going to march myself over to the Music Department here at the university and ask if staff members are allowed to practice on the university instruments. One day, just as a bit of a break, I wandered across campus in search of the Music Library to find a book on the analysis of Bach's WTC pieces that someone (BruceD, I think) had recommended to me. So when I got to the building, I was trying to figure out how to get up to the third floor when I stumbled into this huge room. There was two baby grand pianos, one harpsichord, and two organs. I think it would be way cool if I could manage some practice time on one of those organs, then whenever I'm culturing cells or waiting for a gel to run, I could just go ahead and head over to the music building and practice away.

But now I'm rambling on. Admittedly, I'm up on Cloud Nine. I think my teacher noticed how enthusiastic I was about the whole thing, and he commented on that as well. So all in all, a good lesson, and I am definitely looking forward to the next one!

Lyn F.
Posted By: Elaine617

Re: My big step .... - 08/02/02 03:43 AM

Wonderful!! I'm so happy that it went well for you. Don't worry about the bench feeling high--it can be a bit awkward at first, especially after being used to piano, but I'm sure you'll adjust to it soon (for me, it was the height of the music desk). Congratulations to you again & keep up the good work! I wish you the best & hope that you enjoy the organ just as much as I do. smile

Lyn B.
Posted By: Wags

Re: My big step .... - 08/10/02 04:11 PM


It's great to hear that you are starting organ lessons. I know from past threads that you have had some interest in the organ.

As far as the pedals go, I always practiced the pedals by themselves until I got the fingering (footing) correct. Actually, I would start working on the pedals months before tackling a new piece. In many cases you will have to use a toe heal or heal toe method, but in others I found that a cross over was necessary.

You may find it helpful, to just play the pedal parts of a Bach Fugue without learning the rest of the piece as an excersize. For example:

Fugue in G maj - the gigue fugue
Prelude and Fugue in A minor
Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor.

All of these have extensive pedal parts that make very good excersizes. Especially, the Fugue in G major. A very rowdy short fugue that was always a crowd pleaser. It requires all 32 pedals, so it can't be played on an organ with only 25 pedals. It will be obvious to you that both feet play at both ends of the pedal board.

The Passacalgia has a repeating pedal part that I found to be fairly easy to coordinate with my hands. It's not all easy, and at about 15 minutes took a long time to learn. If you use these pedal parts as excersizes, then when/if you want to learn the whole piece, you will already have some practice in on the pedals.

The A minor fugue is very difficult though. I never could get it up to speed all the way through. Again the pedal part by itself can be quite a task to learn.

I suppose your teacher will have better ideas for pedal excersizes. I didn't have a teacher when I started. They insisted I wear shoes and I insisted I would not.

Good luck with this. There aren't enough good organist anymore.
Posted By: ChemicalGrl

Re: My big step .... - 08/26/02 02:49 AM

Just wanted to post an update regarding my endeavour to learn how to play the organ ...

I had to find another teacher. Reason being, at the beginning of my second lesson, my organ teacher told me that he resigned his position due to health problems and that that day's lesson would be my last lesson. I was disappointed. But he encouraged me to find another teacher, he felt that despite my lack of formal training, my musicianship was excellent and that I had a lot of potential to do well on the organ.

So off I went to try to find another teacher. Luckily for me, I had a couple of good connections - one of my friends is an organist himself although will be going back to school shortly, and he's very good friends with the Sub-Dean of the local AGO chapter here. So a couple of quick email correspondences led me to my current teacher, who seems so far to be very good, and very funny. He started straight off by telling me I had to get the Gleason text and even told me to read Chapter 1 as an assignment before I turn up to my first lesson.

So my first lesson was last week Tuesday, and we went through some of what I read in the first chapter. He promised me an organ crawl, can't wait until we actually get to do that. Anyway, once the lecture was done, he opened up the Methodist Hymnal, and pointed to a hymn he wanted me to sight-read. I don't even remember what the hymn was, but I played it. His response:

"You played that very well ... for a pianist." eek :rolleyes:

But I think we hit if off immediately, despite his baseball jabs at me (he goes around town wearing a Yankees cap, and I had mentioned to him that I spent a year in the Boston area and 6 years in Worcester, MA ...) and I feel like I can learn a lot from him.

So my dream continues.

Lyn F.
Posted By: RickG

Re: My big step .... - 08/27/02 03:06 AM

I will say something here which will get me in trouble in this Forum. After I played a pipe organ (as a highschool student), the piano did not do it for me any more. There is something about the sound of those pipes and the power under your fingers that is intoxicating ( in a good way).
I use the piano in rehearsals and for working out the manual parts of organ pieces ( I am putting the finishing touches on the Mendelssohn's 3rd Sonata). It is also great for technical exercises. Remember, you are no better organist than you are a pianist.
There is also something to be said for leading worship with the organ and also directing a choir from the console. It has also helped pay the bills since I was in college! Keep up the organ! The Gleason book in the standard. The pipe organ is the king of the instruments!!
Posted By: ChemicalGrl

Re: My big step .... - 10/06/02 03:39 AM

Originally posted by RickG:
There is something about the sound of those pipes and the power under your fingers that is intoxicating ( in a good way).
I'm just getting around to experiencing this. I've been doing the manual and pedal exercises from the Gleason text, and am starting to play some "real" pieces. Actually, I'm also preparing to play at my friend's wedding at the end of this month, mentioned it to my organ teacher, and now we spend the last few minutes of my lessons each week to register the pieces I'm to play at the wedding. As I've just started Chapter 6 (playing pieces for both manuals and pedals) I know I'm a long way from playing pieces from the literature (and especially wedding music!) but got my hands on "Wedding Music for Manuals" edited by Charles Callahan. (Side note - my copy is autographed by Callahan himself; he gave an organ recital here last month, told him I was a beginning organ student, and he gave me heaps of encouragement.) And it is, indeed, a very intoxicating feeling, knowing that such sounds can come from my hands.

Originally posted by RickG:
It has also helped pay the bills since I was in college!
Interestingly enough - my organ teacher asked me why I was interested in learning how to play the organ. So I told him that I really love the sound of the organ, and had always wanted to learn how to play it. Never really had the opportunity or the means to do it until now. So he nodded his head sagely, and then added, "Well, one of these days, you can use the organ to help you pay the bills."

I never really thought about that, but I suppose he's right. I've been told that organists are really high in demand, and that if I really wanted to, could think about finding a quarter time position once I'm more comfortable and confident with my playing. Something to think about.
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