Heidi Bender - Page 4 of 45 - Inspiration and stories from the organ bench (with cats)
June 30, 2017

June 2017 Organ Lesson – Tempo Redistribution

June 2017 Organ Lesson - Tempo Redistribution

On June 17, I met with Michael for another organ lesson.

Since then, I  have been preoccupied with the five feral kittens that were born in my yard. If you want to know more about that, I’m sharing updates on the Facebook page for my cats.

June 2017 Organ Lesson - Tempo Redistribution

Now, about the lesson! This lesson was tough for me. I am still struggling with “Glory Be to the Father.” As can be seen in the picture, this should not be a challenging piece to play.

The problem is with the syncopation in the first measure. Michael called what I’m doing tempo redistribution. I am playing four beats in the measure but not playing the notes the length that they indicate. I get to the second measure “on time.”

This problem has been quite frustrating. I know am a playing it wrong. Looking at the note values, I understand how they relate to one another. Yet, somehow, I am still misplaying it. I was able to get it right at my lesson with coaching from Michael!

My problems continue, but I refuse to quit.  What I can do is focus on better practice habits.

Practice Habits

Since my previous lesson, I decided to write down how I am practicing. This way, when Michael asks me “how did I prepare for the lesson,” what I did is written down for reference.

I also thought writing it down, would help me improve my playing as I used the metronome much more than usual since I didn’t want to write down that it wasn’t used.

Given that I still had so many problems playing note values correctly, I wonder if I was listening to the metronome? Was it on, and I just blocked it out?

Here is a list of what I will work on between now and my next lesson:

  • Loud Metronome
  • Be very intentional.
  • Listen to the metronome. No blocking it out.
  • Record myself more often. Usually, recordings reveal that my playing isn’t as good as it sounded when I was playing.
  • Listen to recordings of others playing what I am leaning.

Do you have any other suggestions?

April 26, 2017

April 2017 Organ Lesson – Changing my practice habits (again)

Last Saturday, I had another organ lesson. The highlight of the lesson was receiving approval of my playing of “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee”. And I will be starting on the Fugue from the Prelude and Fugue in E Minor. Between now and the next lesson, I will be polishing the prelude.

Most of the lesson was like other lessons. I was able to play through the pieces at home the night before. They sounded okay to me. Then, at my lesson, I am not able to play them as well. This is due to my practice habits and geometry.

April 2017 Organ Lesson - Changing my practice habits (again)

Practice Habits

I am having to face the fact that my practice habits are hindering my progress. I am not using the tools I know that will help me, like the metronome and recording myself. I have heard this from Michael before, but have failed to make permanent change.

Change is hard. Earlier this year, I read The Compound Effect (affiliate link). This book emphasizes small changes as they are easier to stick to long term. The small new habit can have a big impact when done consistently over a long period.

I am going to focus on using the metronome during every practice session. That seems like a small change to integrate.

I did successfully break my toe hopping habit I mentioned in my previous post!

Geometry

And I had the problem of not being able to quickly adjust to the organ at Michael’s church. All organs are not same. The church’s organ has 3 manuals (keyboards) while mine has 2 manuals. And the height of the bench (neither is adjustable) is different.

The distance to the manuals and pedals are different enough to through off my playing. This cannot be an excuse and will be something I need to overcome this to be able to play at churches or funeral homes.

The solution is to play on other organs more often! My husband said I can’t buy another home organ (maybe another free one will come my way!) now (we don’t really have space for it). Being able to play at local churches occasionally would help, if I can make an arrangement. I’m not ready to substitute for another complete service yet!

Remembering my original goal

When I started out taking lessons more than 7 years ago, my main goal was to be able to play for a church. My progress has been much slower than I expected.  And, playing the organ well is much more difficult than I ever imagined. Michael and I discussed my goal briefly as he feels maybe I need to play for a church to get some momentum with progress.

Then, the day after my lesson, I attended a local chorale concert. The group sang “Lift High the Cross” accompanied by organ. That is one of my favorite hymns, which I discovered only after I started lessons and heard it played on Pipedreams. This may have been the first time I’ve heard it performed live.  Hearing it again helped me remember why I started on the path to becoming an organist!

Have you had success changing a habit?

March 7, 2017

February 2017 Organ Lesson – Toe Hopping habit

February 2017 Organ Lesson - Toe Hopping habit

On February 25, I had another organ lesson. This was my first lesson since I played for a church for the first time back on January 1st. Since I had to learn new pieces for that performance, I did not start focusing on the hymns assigned at my November lesson until mid-January. I took a break after the church performance!

February 2017 Organ Lesson - Toe Hopping habit

Toe Hopping

Since my last lesson, I developed a habit of using only my toes when playing hymns! I did not realize I was doing this until Michael asked me about it. He asked me why was I hopping my toes?

I don’t know why I started doing this. Maybe it felt easier at the time. This technique lead to the pedaling in the hymns not being as legato as they should have been. He had me switch to using heels and toes. After I switched the hymns felt easier to play and sounded better too!

I am feeling a bit frustrated with introducing a new issue to correct!

None of my pieces received a passing mark at my lesson. I admit that I did not try my hardest to fix things on my own since my previous lesson. After practicing so much in December, I felt a little burned out. I let myself fall into old habits (not using metronome enough, not counting, etc.) and relied on Michael to point out the issues.

Obviously, this was not the best choice in progressing with the organ! With so many years of practicing, I have the tools to fix issues before lessons!

Reviewing my church performance

I played a few of the hymns that I had played for the church service in January. I was not surprised when Michael expressed that they were not in the best shape! He is having me work on Glory Be to God the Father for my next lesson.

The interesting thing is, I have all the tools to fix the issues and didn’t do it before the church service. However with the short time frame I had to learn the hymns, I did the best that I could for the church service. I will need to let it go that my performance was more cringe worthy than perfect.

My performance of each piece can be viewed on YouTube here.

My kitten is helping with practice!

In other news my kitten, Taco, has decided to that he likes to run across the keys when I am practicing! I would love from him to sit calmly on my lap while he plays. Sometimes he also investigates the pedals while I’m playing. We adopted (rescued) him in December.

Taco on the Pedals

Taco on the Pedals

Do your cats “Help” you practice?