Heidi Bender - Page 2 of 45 - Inspiration and stories from the organ bench (with cats)
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!

January 29, 2018

January 2018 Organ Lesson – The need to become self aware

January 2018 Organ Lesson - The need to become self aware

Last Saturday, I meant Michael for another organ lesson at his church. I learned that I need to be self-aware when I am practicing at home. It’s  possible that I am relearning this again.

My problem is that I think my playing at home sounds okay. Then I go to my lesson, and it isn’t accurate! I also still have the problem of redistributing the tempo. It may come out to the right time in the end, but that doesn’t make it okay!

When I played “Christ is Made the Sure Foundation,” the passing notes were two slow. And then in “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken” some of the eight notes were too fast! This is frustrating, of course. And I need to be able to identify these issues at home.

January 2018 Organ Lesson - The need to become self aware

My plan to become more self-aware

I will record myself playing with the metronome clicking. At my previous lesson, I was directed to play the Fugue from “Prelude and Fugue in E Minor” at a slow tempo with the metronome. And Michael said he wanted to hear a recording of it. Well, I practiced this way for two months (I don’t practice every day). But I waited until the night before my lesson to make a recording! It was clear on the recording that I was ahead or behind the metronome some of the time.

Michael’s other suggestion was for me to play with more stops. He said with a fuller sound I might be able to more clearly hear the problems as I am playing. So, I will give that a try. Since we had the issues with the kittens getting inside of the organ, I’ve also had the expression pedals at about the same volume level. It’s a bit of a hassle to remove the piece of wood the prevents the cats from getting inside of the organ, but I should still increase the volume. And, it was hard to hear the pedal notes on the recording.

Other updates for the lesson

I once again failed to play “Glory be to the Father” correctly. That first line is messing with my mind. I will stop playing it for awhile. Also, Nun Bitten Wir was moved to the back burner as it’s about 90% ready to go. Michael asked me to focus on the hymns and fugue until my next lesson.

Also, I was assigned “Let it Breath on Me” which is intimidating because of all the dotted notes which are an ongoing struggle for me. I will conquer them!!!

Cat update

My latest cat project is fostering a cat that was bitten by another animal. He is in the picture for this post. I took him to the vet when he came to my yard limping. While at the vet he tested positive for feline leukemia virus. So, he’s being kept indoors (so that he doesn’t spread the virus to other outdoor cats) and away from my indoor cats (so they don’t get it) while I find a home for him.

He wasn’t very good at being a stray cat (he was in many cat fights during the fall, even after being neutered). So maybe like me, he struggles with self-awareness!

What tips do you have for discovering issues on your own while practicing?