practice Archives - Heidi Bender

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January 5, 2019

How to find a home practice organ

How to find a home practice organ

Since I have an organ at home, I have been asked about how to find a practice organ. This post will contain my ideas of how you can find a home practice organ.

I was fortunate to get my Saville organ for at home for free! At the time, I was taking organ lessons with Michael, and he was the organist at Adrian College then. The college has a pipe organ, and they were not using the Saville organ that had been donated to them. I was able to take it to my home for free and have been using it ever since.

If you choose an electronic organ, I strongly recommend finding a model that has a full range of pedals. The models with only one octave of pedals aren’t going to help much with practicing to be able to play other organs. Newer electronic (or digital) organs will sound more like an actual pipe organ than older models. My organ is from the 70’s. Technology has advanced a lot since then!

Once you find an organ, you may need to make a plan for moving it to your home, unless you bought it from somewhere that provides delivery. They can be very heavy. It took 4 people to move my organ into the house. You may need to hire movers, rent a truck, find 4 strong people that can lift it, etc.

How to find a home practice organ

Check with piano stores

Piano stores that sell used pianos may also have used electronic organs. I discovered this when I bought my piano.  The store had at least one electronic organ on display each of the three times that I visited.

Ask around

Some churches may have electronic organs that they are no longer using. Or they have more than one instrument and be willing to part with one. Of course, this could be quite time consuming depending on the number of churches in your area.

Ask everyone that you know. Someone’s relative or friend of a friend might have an old organ that they would be happy to get rid off.

Thrift Stores and online selling sites

One time, I saw a full-size organ with the full pedal board in a second-hand store — however, most of the time I’ve seen the small organs with only 1 octave of pedals, which I recommend you avoid.

You can also check Facebook Market Place, Craigslist, and eBay for electronic organs that might be for sale close to you.

small organ without all the pedals

Small organ without all the pedals. I don’t recommend this type of organ for practice.

Contact places that repair organs

They last time my organ was serviced, the technician mentioned that he had other organs for sale. These organs were not listed for sale on his website as far as I remember. Even if the repair place doesn’t have any organs for sale, they might know people in the area that are looking to sell.

Buy from a dealer

Depending on your budget, you might decide to purchase a new organ. Dealers that represent big brands may also have used models available. The prices will vary depending on how many ranks and the size of the organ. A 5 manual organ will cost more than a 2 manual organ.

I have heard of Allen, Rodgers, and Viscount organs.  There are likely more brands out there.

Several years ago, I went to the American Guild of Organists convention, Rodgers was there selling new instruments. They, of course, sounded great! However, the price of a new organ wasn’t in my budget then, and I didn’t think a newer organ would help me become a better organist any faster.  I am sure it would have been more enjoyable to hear!

What if you want a pipe organ as your home practice instrument?

Pipe organs are going to be more expensive. But if you have space and budget, you can have a pipe organ in your home!

  1. Contact a pipe organ builder and hire them to build one for you
  2. Find a home to purchase that already has a pipe organ in it. You’d need to be willing to move. I remember when a house in Grand Rapids, MI was for sale that has a pipe organ in it. The listed price for the house was much less than what it would cost to get a similar organ installed new.
  3. Check with Organ Clearing House. While they mostly seem to work with large organs, sometimes have smaller home organs. These smaller organs may have 4 ranks.

What other tips and recommendations do you have to find a home practice organ? Please share your ideas in a comment below.

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!

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.

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