Friday, August 21, 2015
When I first started studying the organ, I felt that the more I learned the less I actually knew. There was a very steep learning curve, and I felt left behind. When I finished my Organ Essentials semester class at BYU, I was sure of only two things: I could NOT play the organ, and I was NEVER going to take the Organ Literature class that followed.
Life has a way of working things out, and while I never did take the Organ Literature class, I ended up devoting much of my life to the study of the organ, even picking up a number of organ students along the way.
One of the biggest problems my students face, is one I faced myself: incredibly slow visible progress. It seems that hours and hours of practice produce a negligible amount of success, especially at first.
It's frustrating and discouraging when hours of dedicated practice seem fruitless. To help my students, I always teach them what is actually happening.
Playing the organ involves many different skills and cognitive abilities that aren't used anywhere else. Learning how to play with independence of line (sustaining the soprano while the alto line breaks, for example; or playing the bass line in the pedals, but the tenor line with the left hand) requires the brain to make new connections. Recent research shows that the brain, even throughout adulthood, has remarkable plasticity. It might be difficult for an old brain to make new connections, but it's never too late for renovation!
With steady, consistent practice, your brain is making new pathways. While you often won't see remarkable progress immediately, even after numerous, consistent practice sessions, your brain is working behind the scenes, building and strengthening new neural pathways.
After many consistent practice sessions, you will see improvement. Once the pathways are strengthened, success will come, sometimes overnight, sometimes a tiny bit here and there, but you will finally realize the result of your hard work.
Take heart: just like the tortoise in Aesop's fable, you, too, will win the race and find great success on the organ through consistent, diligent, and dedicated practice.
Enjoy the journey, have faith that your brain is working behind the scenes, and celebrate little successes along the way.
I know you can do it!