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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Monday, March 26, 2012

Don't psych yourself out

I had the opportunity to play this beautiful, small pipe organ on Friday evening:

Bigelow Pipe Organ

Knowing that the organ differed from my practice organ, I went to the chapel Wednesday morning, where I was able to play my piece for the first time on that organ. It went fairly well, but there were a couple of pedal notes that I wasn't playing consistently. Here's why. This is the flat pedal board on the pipe organ:

Flat pedal board

And this is the concave radiating AGO pedal board on my organ that I'm used to:
AGO pedal board

Now, it's an adjustment to play on a flat pedal board, but not a huge one. The middle notes are all pretty much the same, but the extreme highs and lows aren't. For the most part, I was playing the pedals just fine. There were two spots in my piece where I struggled. I jump down to the low D at one point, and at another I jump up to middle C.

After leaving the chapel that day, I concentrated my practice on cleaning up my left hand technique and working on finding corner chromatics for my pedal notes (bumping against a sharp to find the right natural note).

Friday morning I played my piece perfectly, over and over again. My left hand was clean, my hands had great non-legato technique, and I was finding my pedal notes from the sharps. I knew that I'd be just fine, but wanted to run through the piece on the pipe organ again, just to make sure. That was a mistake!

Friday evening I arrived early and played through my piece on the pipe organ again, missing those same pedal notes that I thought I finally had down. I was frustrated, and my confidence crumbled. All through the potluck dinner, I just knew that I would struggle with playing the pedals properly.

Finally, when the recital began (I was scheduled to play in the middle) I realized that I needed to feel confident, or I would just crash and burn. I tried to feel excited about this opportunity, and to feel confident in my preparation. I knew that a wrong pedal note is not the end of the world, and I also knew that my feet knew what to do if I just trusted them. I tried to turn my attitude around. I immersed myself in Bach and tried to let the music wash over me.

Playing Bach

When it was my turn to play, I was nervous, but really wanted to convey the beautiful message of my simple piece. It began well, but as I approached the difficult spots, I began to focus solely on my feet. A couple of times my left hand just forgot to play! I remember thinking, "Really?"

When all was said and done, my feet played the piece pretty much perfectly, yet my hands had turned to mush! I felt that I did have the spirit of the music in my soul and hope that at least that message came through my train wreck of a performance. I was so disappointed, but at least I had changed my attitude and was able to continue the piece without grinding to a stop in the middle.

Why did this happen?

A while back I posted on getting the brain out of the way. That advice always works for me. If I approach the organ with confidence, knowing that I'm prepared, it comes through in my playing. Unfortunately, I didn't feel comfortable on the organ Friday night, and it definitely showed, to my great embarrassment.

Afterwards, everyone was kind, and I'll chalk it up to a learning experience. After all, it was only the second official recital I've ever played for...

1 comment:

  1. You hang in there, J. That's exactly what it was: a learning experience. Next time will be different. Thanks for sharing this experience and being brave enough to play on the recital in the first place. Mike C.

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