Nine Ways to Ensure Successful Organ Practice
“There are not enough hours in the day. If I only had at least four hours a day to practice the organ I would make much better progress. I practice my organ repertoire, but it seems like I am getting nowhere.” These are some of the comments I hear from my organ students regarding practice.
Practice can be successful if one follows a few ideas for the creative and wise use of the practice time available.
- Plan a specific time to practice each day and stick to it. We all function better at different times during the day. Try out a few different practice times. Do you focus better in the morning or later in the day? Does family or work dictate a practice time? Once you have discovered a time that works in your schedule and with your mindset, put that time on your daily calendar.
- Set an overall goal for each practice session and write it down in a notebook! A practice session goal might be to:
- Work on the cadences in one piece and opening phrases in another
- Practice separate parts in one piece and put all parts together in a second
- Work on a difficult three measure phrase with the metronome and play a full page of another piece with the metronome
- Practice hymns with the pedal and left hand only and reward yourself by playing a favorite hymn with all parts.
- Place sticky notes on your music to track progress. List the date a piece was begun, dates practiced, completion goal, tempo goals with metronome markings defined and met, final tempo goals, other challenges to address. A visible reminder on your music helps you track your goals, challenges and successes.
- Write down questions/challenges/successes during your week of practice in your practice notebook to share with not only me, but also with a colleague or friend.
- Work diligently with the metronome. This is possibly the most difficult task for an organist, but it shortens the learning time by helping maintain a steady tempo from the first practice sessions.
- Focus and never allow mistakes. Thinking you will easily play through a difficult passage the “next time” is one of the biggest mistakes. Mistakes made repeatedly while waiting for that “next time” take hours of practice to correct.
- Play the best you can each time you play. Do not settle for mediocre playing.
- Play a “fun” or reward piece at the end of the practice session. After working toward your practice session goal, challenging yourself to play cleanly and well, play something you love and know well to end your practice and work session. You deserve it.
- Enjoy yourself! After all, we play the most magnificent instrument ever built! The organ! Who knows you might just be the world’s next famous concert organist.