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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.
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.
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!!!
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?
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.
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!
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!
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.
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!
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!
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?