April 2016 Lesson: Still Struggling

I am still struggling with syncopation. On April 30, I met Michael for another organ lesson. I haven’t played the organ since then. Tomorrow, I will get back on the bench.

April 2016 Lesson- Still Struggling

My expectations going into the lesson were very high. I had been working on my mindset for a few weeks. I had practiced every day in the week leading up to my lesson.

I knew the classical pieces would need to be repeated as they were not strong enough yet. And I had underestimated the complexity of “Herr; num selbst den Wagen halt”. It looked easy!

I didn’t get a passing mark on any hymn. Same old story with syncopation and tempo.

I’ve been working on “Lo, He Comes with Clouds Descending” for over a year. I felt like crying during my lesson, but I managed to hold back the tears. It was better than my previous lesson, so that is a positive, but the syncopation still needs work. Michael gave me a suggestion for a different way to practice. I am hoping this will help me to get it right!

The Break

I decided to take a break after my lesson. I was going to have a busy week working on my book and we had a trip planned to visit the Mammoth Caves. This seemed like a good time for a break.

My hope is that taking a break will help me to change some of my practice habits more easily. I need to stay committed to different practice techniques for more than a few days.

I need to make a habit of recording myself even when I think it sounds okay when I play it. I will need to rely on the metronome to help me learn to feel the beat. We noticed that if I made an audible sound for sub-dividing, my tempo was better than when I just did sub-dividing in my head. I will practice making an audible sound along with the metronome.

I am also reading The Power of Neuorplasticity now. I will learn how I can reprogram the “programs” in my brain. Perhaps choosing different thoughts will lead to better organ playing. Time will tell.

Even with the current hardship of syncopation, I still believe that I can learn to play pieces in tempo. I am not giving up!

I haven’t thought of a good question to go along with this post, so I will just thank you for your support!

Is my fixed mindset hindering my progress?
June 2016 Lesson: Ending the insanity practice method
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Heidi Bender writes about her experiences of learning to play the organ. She started on the adventure in 2009.

She also writes on her website Tons of Thanks, which helps people write thank-you notes. Heidi is also a cat lady who writes at The Joy of Cats.

7 thoughts on “April 2016 Lesson: Still Struggling”

  1. Hello Heidi

    It’s always lovely to get your news. Thank you so much for sharing your experiences. Mom is always right! So let’s hope the break will work wonders.

    Be of good cheer. Hymns can be really difficult, particularly to play them well. I spent three months doing a lot of practice on one hymn to play in a competition and felt I could do it really well at home but certainly didn’t do justice to myself on the day.

    Just having to play things on a different instrument can mess me up until I know them really well. Then there is the adrenaline rush of the performance (lessons) situation which makes me tense. Good practice habits, relaxtion and performance experience will triumph in the end.

    So, what to suggest? Identify the problems. Simplify and focus on the issues.

    For syncopation this could mean sorting the rhythms out away from the organ just by tapping them out. Set up the beat first then try tapping the rhythm of the music. Then sing along to your tapping. Then just think the tapping and sing along to it. Your subdivision and counting will help.

    Make haste slowly. Sort the problems one by one and once and for all. Vary the speed of your practice. Never play too fast and make mistakes but do speed up early on even if it means playing the parts separately to be accurate.

    Well, I certainly hope there is something helpful here. I know only too well how frustrating the organ can be but it is also very wonderful.

    All best wishes & Good luck


    • Hi Peter,

      Thank you for the encouragement!

      What I have started doing is recording myself with the metronome on. Then I can play it back and hear where I am off and make corrections. I have a lot of muscle memory to change!


      • Hello Heidi

        That’s great! I think muscle memory is one of my problems. It seems the way I learn is by mainly muscle memory. Then there are problems when things change – different organ or muscle tension.

        I am having some success by trying to concentrate on the musicality of the playing. I think singing really does help.

        Good luck.



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