Heidi Bender - Page 3 of 45 - Inspiration and stories from the organ bench (with cats)
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?

November 18, 2017

November 2017 Organ Lesson – A new experiment is needed

November 2017 Organ Lesson - A new experiment is needed

On November 11, I met with Michael for another organ lesson. I will share the highlights in this post as well as about a new experiment that we are going to try with my practicing.

The Highlights

I received a passing mark on the hymn “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies.” That felt wonderful.

I am still struggling with “Glory be to the Father.” As mentioned previously, this is not a complicated piece. I should be able to sight read it. Micheal suggested I find a way to reframe it.

Also, after nearly two years of the prelude from Prelude and Fugue in E Minor being on my assignment list, I played it well enough to take it off the list. I wasn’t able to play it flawlessly, but it was the best that I have played it for Michael. I also played it near the end of the lesson, and I was started to feel fatigued.

Michael also said that I look stiff when I play, so I will try to loosen up!

November 2017 Organ Lesson - A new experiment is needed

My cat Violet on the organ bench.

The New Experiment

I have been working on the fugue from Prelude and Fugue in E Minor. So far, I have mostly practiced with hands only. I played it for Michael. As usual, the tempo wasn’t accurate throughout. My quest for perfect notes leads me to imperfect tempo. And then months of having to overcome the muscle memory that has set it.

Michael said as an experiment, I am to set the metronome to 35 for quarter notes. This pace feels slow and plodding. But he said to do it for two weeks and then make a recording playing it with the metronome on. And he wants to hear the recording.

A few weeks before my lesson,  I finished reading The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin. From this book, I learned that I am an obliger which means that I respond better to outer expectations than inner expectation (you can take the free quiz here to discovery your tendency).

So, the experiment works well with my obliger tendency. Now, if he wasn’t expecting to hear the recording (the outer expectation), I don’t know if I would have stuck with it for two weeks.

We have not tried this approach to learning a new piece before. This new practice method may be what I need to learn new pieces faster with proper tempo.

My next lesson will probably be in January. I will let everyone know how it goes!

September 4, 2017

August 2017 Organ Lesson – Don’t be a Tempo Pusher

August 2017 Organ Lesson - Don't be a Tempo Pusher

On August 26, I met Michael for another organ lesson. The gap between this lesson and my previous lesson was larger than planned. This was due to the time required to socialize kittens was more than anticipated.

The big takeaway from this lesson was “Don’t Be a Tempo Pusher.” Oh, and I have to keep working on “Christ, Whose Glory Fills the Skies” as I was not playing the pedal legato.

August 2017 Organ Lesson - Don't be a Tempo Pusher

Don’t Be a Tempo Pusher

I was assigned Prelude from Prelude and Fugue in E Minor from the Eight Little Preludes and Fugues on October 31, 2015. Almost two years later, and I am still working on it. I cannot remember how many times we’ve said “one more lesson.”  At this lesson, I was pushing the tempo in some sections.

I was playing a bit faster than called for. This is a tendency I seem to have which gets embedded in my muscle memory. And then I have to spend time correcting it.

This piece is so close to being done. I feel frustrated with the amount of time I’ve taken to get it right. But Michael compared my progress to waxing a car. You wouldn’t wax 90% of a car and then try to sell it with 10% unwaxed. Since I’ve come this far, I need to polish that last 10%.

This tempo pushing problem isn’t only with this piece. I do it in hymns too. I need to be patient with the music and let it happen. There is no need for this rushing!

Assignment Update

At this lesson, I received Micheal’s approval on “Praise to the Lord, Almighty.” I was assigned “Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken.”

I am also to keep working on the Fugue from Prelude and Fugue in E Minor. This piece one was neglected to the point of not practicing it more than twice in between lessons. I gave up on it after socializing the kittens. I choose to focus on the hymns that were further along.

Michael also recommended that I don’t take long practice breaks!

We kept one of the kittens that I socialized. Her name is Nacho.

We kept one of the kittens that I socialized. Her name is Nacho.