Heidi Bender - Page 2 of 45 - Inspiration and stories from the organ bench (with cats)
August 11, 2018

August 2018: My first piano and organ lesson with my new teacher

My cat Lina supervising as I practice the piano after my first lesson with the new teacher.

On Friday, I had my first lesson with Marijim Thoene. She is my new teacher for organ and piano. When I contacted her a couple of months ago, she suggested that I get a piano (which I did) to help correct the issues I have with playing the organ. My weekly lessons will be for a half hour and may eventually be bumped up to an hour.

The Lesson

Marijim started the lesson by asking me to play something I know well. On the piano, I had made it most of the way through book 2 of the Alfred d’Auberge Piano Course. So, I choose Big Rock Candy Mountain, not feeling 100% confident, but I had to pick something.

Marijim commented on the position of my hands and forearms and the angle of my thumb on the keys. My technique needs work. If my I can improve my technique playing the piano will sound better and be easier. And the skill will help with my organ playing too.

Next, I played “Crown Him with Many Crowns” on the organ which didn’t go very well. Even though I have played this hymn many times at home (and by memory), I wasn’t able to make it through the second line. I was nervous (sweat through my shirt nervous), but I still should have been able to play it. I need to be able to play on any organ.

Perhaps, my problem with the organ is not having enough confidence in my playing.

My cat Lina supervising as I practice the piano after my first lesson with the new teacher.

My cat Lina supervising as I practice the piano after my first lesson with the new teacher.

The Assignment

Marijim gave me forearm exercises to do on the piano. The exercise involves exaggerated rotation of the hand and fingers. When playing just a 5 note scale, my hand is to rotate in the opposite direction, before rotating to strike the key. This rotation will give my fingers more power! I am to do the exercise in 15-minute intervals when I’m not distracted by anything else.

Also, she gave me a stretching exercise to do: Stand with my arms up and out to the sides and then bend my wrists up and down. Her wrists are much more flexible than mine.

I also need to work on my posture and stop slouching! Not slouching is painful and will take work. I already am starting to get the rounded shoulders of my mom and grandma. You can see the slouch in the video from when I played the organ for the first time at a church. I will be working on my posture all of the time, not just when playing the organ.

With my first lesson complete, I feel that if I put in the effort, I will improve my playing and along with it my confidence. And weekly lessons while provide greater accountability.

 

July 1, 2018

Summer Update: A new teacher and a piano

used piano

I have two updates to share. First, I’m starting with a new teacher in August. And then, I bought a piano!

The teacher change:

When I reached out to Michael to schedule a lesson in June, he let me know that I needed to find a new teacher. He had personal reasons and also suggested that another teacher may be able to offer a new approach to my rhythm problems.

Michael had been my teacher for almost 9 years, as I started with him in September 2009. I am very grateful for all of his time, support, and advice. I hope to make him proud someday!

He also suggested that I find a teacher that could give me weekly lessons. I have a teacher lined for weekly lessons starting in August. I will withhold her name until I’ve met her in person and she approves having her name on my blog.

The piano:

My new teacher read some of my blog posts. She suggested a “back to basics” approach to fix my rhythm, which included practicing on a piano.

I didn’t have a piano. I probably could have worked out something with my church to practice on the piano there. My parents also have an old piano (it would need to be tuned though and might have other issues). Knowing myself, I felt like I needed to have a piano at home if I was going to be serious about it.

I went to King’s Keyboard House and purchased a used piano that was once in a school. It was already tuned, and I can turn it back into the store for credit if I ever want to upgrade to a better piano.

My new teacher had me order the Alfred d’Auberge Piano Course Books 1, 2 and 3 and NoteSpeller books 1 and 2. So far, I’ve played through all of book 1 and part of book 2.

Playing the very simple pieces in book 1 that contain eight notes, reveals my rhythm problems. So, I have a problem with the basics!

I am practicing with the metronome until I can meet with my new teacher.

The timing of needing/wanting the piano seemed meant to be as just a couple of weeks prior, my husband and I had emptied a bedroom to have it painted and to install cat shelves. So, we were able to accommodate adding a piano.

The cats do like to run across the piano, and some of them sit on the bench while I practice. I am thankful that there is a cover for the keys!

cat on shelf by piano

Kilala on the shelf by piano

Do you think piano practice will help make me a better organist?

April 14, 2018

April 2018 Organ Lesson – Slow Progress is still progress!

April 2018 Organ Lesson - Slow progress is still progress

On April 7, I met with Michael for another organ lesson. I didn’t have a lesson in February or March. By the time I was ready (I contact him once I feel I have progressed enough to make a lesson worth his time), he was busy with Easter commitments.

April 2018 Organ Lesson - Slow progress is still progress

Lesson Highlights

I started the lesson by playing “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.” I nailed the first half! With the second half (which is a bit harder for me to play) I am still playing with my old habit of redistributing the tempo. I thought I had this worked out at home, but when we worked in small sections and with Michael pointing things out, I could hear the problems. So, I will continue to work on this.

“Christ is the sure foundation” finally received Michael’s stamp of approval. I did have some tempo issues, but I had a recording from home that proved that I can play it correctly (with the metronome). I’d been playing this hymn for almost a year. I was ready not to play it again.

My love/hate relationship with the metronome continues!

“Let it Breathe on Me” was interesting in that I could play it with the metronome but the tempo was wonky without it. So perhaps I have become too reliant on the metronome.

I am still struggling with note accuracy Fugue from Prelude and Fugue in E Minor once the pedal part comes in. Michael suggested that I practice it without the metronome until I have the notes correct.

The metronome isn’t always my friend!

Slow progress is still progress

My progress feels slow and it slow, having to practice hymns and other pieces for a year or more isn’t a stellar pace. But I am still improving and haven’t given up! Persistence will win.

Part of my slow progress is due to not making the time to practicing every day. Recently, my foster cat has taken priority over my organ practice (and other activities) in the evenings. He has to be kept separate from my other cats since he has feline leukemia virus and I want to spend time giving him attention every day.

But, if I really wanted to get better faster, wouldn’t I find a way to practice more? Do less of something else to have time for the cat and organ practice? I can make different choices.

The habit of not practicing every day has become just that, a habit. I need to work on straightening the habit of daily practicing! I am feeling inspired to work on this habit after reading this blog post on the Yes and Yes blog.

My progress is slower than I want it to be but it’s still progress. I can also tackle my practice habit to get better faster.

Have you changed a habit that lead to significant change or improvement? Share a success story in the comments!