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

Saville organ gets repaired and the pistons can be used!

Saville organ gets repaired and the pistons can be used!

Last week, Bill from Midwest Organ Systems visited my home and repaired my Saville organ. As a result of the repairs, I am now able to use the four pre-programmed pistons.

Saville organ gets repaired and the pistons can be used!

For the non-organists reading this, pushing a piston turns on many stops at one time. In the picture, the pistons are numbered 1 through 4 on the white buttons under the bottom manual (keyboard). In between the two keyboards are a row of numbers with lights under them. A red light indicates that piston is in use.

With this Saville model, only an organ technician can change the stops associated with each position. Once a piston is activated, additional stops can be added.

Due to there always being a problem with the at least one stop included in the piston setup, I haven’t used them in the past. I am excited that the pistons are finally working (I’ve had the organ for over seven years).

Other repair work

Some of the stops were not working properly. One of the pedal keys was out of tune since I’ve had the organ. When the previous repairman was here a few years ago, I forgot to mention this issue to him, so it didn’t get fixed.

Bill fixed all the problems, tuned the organ, and cleaned the key contacts. He also explained in detail how he could install a Hauptwerk Virtual Organ system into the console. When the Saville wears out, I will likely make the switch.

My cat Taco, was the only one of my cats intersted in “helping” Bill.

Seeing inside the organ was neat. There were many very small parts that had worn out.  There were more broken parts than pictured. Bill was prepared and able to replace them all.

Saville organ repair

Hear the Saville presets!

I made a recording of “Crown Him with Many Crowns” using a different position for each stop.

I got a little distracted when my cat jumped on the organ bench during the third verse!

This is the best that my organ has ever sounded. I know it’s old and electronic and doesn’t sound like a pipe organ. However, I love the convenience of being able to practice at home.

I am planning to have my next organ lesson in a few weeks! Due to socialing the feral kittens in my garage (which was very time consuming), I haven’t had a lesson since my lesson in June. We did keep one of the kittens (if you were wondering).

In the picture above that shows Bill working, you can see a board held in place over the expression pedals. This is to keep the cats out! Our two ginger cats still want to play and hide inside as they did when they were kittens and moved into the house in 2014 (they were also rescued from my yard). Violet, their mother, is seen in the video.

If you play an instrument at home, do your cats like to watch?