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.

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Look Ahead

Curves ahead sign
Image Source


When I began to drive, I could not do the figure eight. No matter what I did, the car would not stay inside those white lines. Driving on the road, I was jerky when it came to curves--I stayed in my lane, but my passengers did not have a smooth ride. As I became more experienced, I learned why I had these challenges driving. I did not look ahead. I was focused on where I was right then. Driving the figure eight required anticipating the curve--knowing what was ahead and making sure I got there effectively. When driving on the road, anticipating the curves in the road allowed me to smoothly follow the curvature without jolting my passengers as I entered a curve.

What does this have to do with playing the organ?

As an impatient person, I tend to rush the last beat in every measure, no matter what I'm playing. I generally practice with a metronome, as I did with the Buxtehude's Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland. Consequently, my rendition is very boxy and, frankly, boring.

Now that I've learned the piece, I'm attempting to shape the lines without introducing extraneous movement in my hands and wrists. This is not an easy task for me, and I've struggled for a couple of weeks with trying to make it flow. I think I had a breakthrough today. Instead of focusing on the current measure and note, trying to figure out where to push and pull the tempo, I need to look ahead and figure out how to get where I'm going effectively. It's not about where I am--it's about where I'm going, and where I'm taking the listener.

I think by stepping back and focusing beyond the measure and notes that my hands are currently playing I'll be able to finally figure out how to bring Buxtehude's piece to life.


In case you aren't familiar with this beautiful piece of Bach's mentor, here is Felipe Dominguez, a recent BYU organ performance graduate playing it:

3 comments:

  1. That's a nice analogy. Sometimes I think fear keeps us from looking ahead. When I was younger and taking piano lessons, my teacher assigned me the first three pages of a Chopin Waltz. I worked all week on it. When I played it for her the next week, she turned pages for me. She even turned the page after I finished the assigned three. I stopped playing and told her I hadn't gone any further than what she assigned. She seemed surprised that I hadn't even peaked. She showed me that the rest of the song was repeats of the movements I had already learned. I had learned the whole piece without realizing it, simply because I had been afraid to turn the page :)

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  2. Hi,

    This may be off topic but I heard recently that the church is preparing to publish a new hymnbook. Does anyone have any information on this? My ward is not ordering any new hymnbooks because they were told to wait.

    Any information on this would be appreciated. Thanks

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  3. In August I heard from a very reliable source that there will not be a new hymnbook any time soon. The current hymnbook is still being translated into other languages and they won't start working on a new one until after the translation efforts have been completed. Perhaps that could change, but as of August that was the status. Hope this helps!

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