Welcome to The LDS Organist Blog

The purpose of this blog is to help pianists learn to become true organists. Many individuals believe that if you play the piano you can play the organ, but the instruments differ greatly. While this blog is specifically geared towards members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, much of the information shared can be utilized by all. I hope that the information I share here will help you become an effective organist in your ward, stake, or other congregation.

Feel free to browse and search this blog. It was started in January 2010 and while new posts aren't added very often, this blog contains a wealth of information and is a wonderful resource for all organists. If you're a new reader, you can find the first lesson here: Before We Begin: Acquiring the Essentials. Also, please "like" the corresponding facebook page, which is updated more often. A link is provided on the right sidebar, or you can click here.

Thanks for visiting!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Lesson 23: Helpful Resources

Click here for Lesson 22: More technique (Don't forget the piano!)

As I contemplated the topic for today's lesson, I decided to share a number of available resources with you. As I mentioned before, a good, solid foundation is essential in order to progress further on the organ. Next week I'll share some creative hymn techniques, starting with hymn introductions, but first, here are some excellent resources. It is really important that you have this foundation before continuing, as I explain later in this lesson.

Music Theory

I mentioned in lesson 22 that it's a good idea to brush up on music theory, for as we continue through the lessons it would be nice to have that background. If you don't have access to a music theory book, you can look online for lessons. I haven't looked into these extensively, but here are two that I found with a quick Google search that appear to be well done:

Ricci Theory
Ricci Adams' MusicTheory.net

8notes Theory
Music Theory on 8notes.com

Organ History

Organ History

In lesson 21 I shared a brief history of the organ. An excellent site to learn more about organ history is:


There you can find a section dedicated to the organ and how it works, organ history, and a geographical tour through organ history. If you are interested in learning more than I was able to cover in lesson 21, this is an excellent resource for you.

Organ Tutor 101

Organ Tutor

Dr. Don Cook developed an interactive, multimedia approach to learning the organ. His Organ Tutor is used at BYU to teach students to play the organ. More information can be found here, including sample lessons:


If you feel you need more help with organ technique than I'm able to give on this website, I recommend trying the sample lessons that are available, and if they help, it might be wise to purchase Organ Tutor.

Self-Study Organ Courses

BYU Organ Study

BYU Independent Study offers two free organ performance courses. You can find them here (scroll down to "music"):


These are another great resource and can be taken online.

Why is a foundation important?

I've mentioned the importance of a solid foundation before, but I never explained why.

In order to use some of the creative techniques for the organ, you will need to know the following:
  • What key the hymn is in, and what the tonic and dominant of that key is, in order to add a pedal point.
  • How to add passing, neighbor tones, and/or suspensions to a hymn.
  • How to play a hymn with the soprano, alto,and tenor in the manuals with the bass on pedal, and also how to play a hymn with proper legato technique entirely on the manuals.
  • How to solo out the tenor and/or soprano while playing the remaining notes in one hand with good legato technique.
  • How to play the alto line an octave higher (above the soprano line)
  • How to switch the soprano and tenor lines (so the soprano is played an octave lower and the tenor is played an octave higher)
  • How to play the soprano as a pedal solo while playing the alto, tenor, and bass on the manuals.
  • By looking at the date the composer lived, knowing whether to play the piece in the legato style, or whether to play the piece non-legato (which will be explained in the future)
  • How to transpose a hymn in your head, even to keys with six flats or five sharps.
  • And more...
We are about to get into a lot of really fun techniques. I don't want you to get overwhelmed, or to begin learning these techniques before you are ready, technically.


Begin working on hymn #3, Now Let Us Rejoice. Mark in the fingerings and pedaling. Read through the text and decide where to breathe and where not to breathe. Choose your registration. Learn the hymn as outlined in lesson 9. We will be using this hymn in our lesson next week.

Continue reviewing major scales and arpeggios and working through a piano technique book (on the piano).

Review the past lessons on this blog, keeping track of areas you need to work on.

Continue working through an organ technique book, such as Organ Tutor or the books discussed in lesson 22.

Continue playing through pieces you have previously learned, so that your progress is not lost.

Brush up on music theory using a music theory book you currently own or the websites listed above.

In Conclusion

Moving forward from this point is a lot of fun, but it also requires a commitment to proper organ technique and theory. I'm very excited to continue on this course with you!

Continue on to Lesson 24.

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