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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.
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!
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!
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?
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!
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!
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.
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.
Do your cats “Help” you practice?