Interesting fact: In a liturgical worship service with communion, how many notes, on average, do you think are played by the organist? A. 999 B. 7, 045 C.. 11,023 If you guessed, 11,023 — you are the winner! WOW! Some organist actually counted all those notes! Those are a lot of notes to play at the right time, in the right tempo, on a pleasing registration to lead our congregations in worship.
Some of you are playing for those complicated liturgical services, some of you are playing three hymns and a prelude and postlude, some are playing a different type service each week. No matter how many notes you are playing in a service, your congregation is blessed by your practice! Blessed because you have taken your calling as a church organist seriously enough to lead hymn singing effectively and confidently, blessed by the care in which you chose and presented your prelude and postludes, blessed by your meditative music during communion. They are blessed because your music enhances and does not detract from their worship. Thank you, church organists, for your dedication to your craft.
And, what if you are not a church organist, but are exploring music to play for a recital, to record for posterity, or to play for a family member or friend, how many notes are you playing? A. 1.024 B. 6,397 C. 15,978 D. More?
Your practice is equally as important. With each practice session you are building skills, building confidence, working toward your goal.You are blessing yourself and others with your music.Happy practicing!
Jordan, organist, has a large organ studio with students of all ages and skill
levels. With her husband, David Jordan,
media artist of Pro-Motion Music , they are the creators and presenters of the dramatic story-driven
organ and multimedia concert experiences, From Sea to
Shining Sea,Bach and Sons, and Around the
World in 80 Minutes.
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I recently read Julie Andrews’ autobiography, Home– A Memoir of My Early Years and came across this intriguing practice tip!
“My coach, Madame Stiles-Allen had taught me how to work on a problematic note in a song by strengthening the note before it. I was amazed and humbled to discover that this technique can be applied to many aspects of theater: drama, comedy, song, or dance. It seems to me that if a moment in one’s performance feels lost, it pays to take a look at the moment before it–to help set up and strengthen the troubling area.”
Am looking forward to putting this concept into 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.