Considering organ lessons/the instrument I will be playing on
  • Or, the instrument upon which I will be playing :-P

    So the previous accompanist offered to give me lessons, and I am seriously thinking about it now. As a pianist for over twenty years, I am looking for advice and experiences from others who "crossed over". The instrument is a Rodgers, and I was told it was installed when the current church was built in the 1950's. Other than that I know nothing about it, but have been told it is a good one and people like it, and of course now they miss hearing it.
    What am I getting myself into???
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,888
    lol
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  • Oh Geez thanks that makes me feel so much better! LOL Hey listen I'm primarily considering this to make the people happy, not looking to change the world or have any debates, so when I ask what I'm getting into its a genuine question. Whether or not I will actually have time for this depends on what is involved (hence asking the question here where people might have good advice)...
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  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,888
    I am sorry for my short and curt response, FF. I just couldn't help reading your final sentence with some sarcasm as I have lived through the worst period of church music since Jesus visited the human race in the flesh, and am hoping to just keep the faith till the end despite the outcomes and results of it all. All I can say, if you aspire to serve the Lord, prepare yourself for an ordeal. (that is written in the scriptures somewhere). Other than that, if you consecrate yourself to the BVM, put on a scapular and pray the rosary then you will be just fine, but not without a struggle.
  • Well I do think the rosary and scapular are great ideas but I work at a Presbyterian church, not sure how they will feel lol! I'll do it before everyone else arrives, I'm always early...
    My so-called faith in fiddles pays me less than $400 a month before taxes, I'm not a stranger to local food banks and have been on public assistance before. Yeah I could get another job but I chose happiness and peace of mind over things and money...When it comes to music I will try anything at least once, because yes I am that stupid.
    So how awful is the organ lol...
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    Go for it. I was never much of a pianist - I think because I was not so crazy about the piano. I have been a church organist for 50 years now and have music degrees. I think that will allow me to give advice.

    Since you are already a pianist, keep in mind that plenty of music exists for manuals, only. I play some of the John Stanley works that rarely require pedals and also some early French literature that is mostly manuals. Franck and others wrote for the harmonium which is keyboard only. You can fill in pedal notes when you learn them, if you like. Not all music requires pedals. Take the lessons and learn pedals as you go.

    I don't know what organ method your teacher will use, but those books introduce you gradually to pedals through the lessons. You might consider "The Little Organ Book" by Flor Peeters since it teaches through some well-known Catholic hymns. Sheetmusicplus offers it on their site for $14.95 plus shipping costs. Granted, it has been around forever, but it is cheap in comparison to other organ method books and is a good place to start for beginning church organists.
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  • SO, open up a hymnbook, sit at the instrument and play. Explore the sounds, put a foot on a pedal. See what you think, If you enjoyed the experience go back another time. Most of what gets played in church on organs is not Organ music per se, but vocal parts and instrumental reductions. Try to stay away from pieces with arpeggiated, pianistic, damper pedal styles. Lessons would open up real organ repertoire if you're classically minded and want to play such pieces, point out more of the differences between organ and piano keyboard styles, if you're not able to figure them out yourself and make you practice at the pedals. Don't expect to accomplish it all in a few months and tell yourself you're a different person than our friend Mr francis there. YMMV
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  • My undergrad degree is in violin performance, although I have been a pianist longer and could have majored in it, and I will finish master's in music history this December with a concentration on seventeenth century music. I've got a big thing for Muffat at the moment, which is partly what spurred this idea on....
    Goals: be able to accompany hymns to make the people happy, then spend more time learning stuff that makes me happy :-)
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I have a big thing for Muffat organ works and am working on his Toccata Undecima at the moment for a recital in spring.

    This guy plays it well.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srvKsvAf_JA
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  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,888
    The new Rodgers are here... they are amazing.

    http://www.rodgersinstruments.com/roland-classic-c-330
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I didn't notice a price on this one. Any idea what they are asking?
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,888
    15k or so
    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • Any experience/info on earlier Rodgers instruments? As I said I am not sure, but was told they got it when the church was built in the 50s...I also looked at their website..
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,888
    The earlier, the less closer to a good simulation. So probably not a good simulation, but that is strictly a guess. See if you can find the model number.
  • Others can speak more authoritatively than I about possible instruments. All I can say is that when I really knuckled down to organ lessons as an adult, I saved up for a bottom-of-the-range Johannus digital instrument for home practice sessions.

    The Johannus had a problem: the pedal-board stopped at D above middle C. (It is amazing how often even pieces intended for beginners require higher pedal notes than that.) Yet it was broadly helpful. Later I traded it in for a bigger, better, and costlier Allan instrument, with a full pedal-board compass, and have never regretted the choice. I still use that Allan every day at home.

    Earlier on this thread, Flor Peeters was mentioned. Nobody should overlook the value of Sir John Stainer's organ primer, called with characteristic straightforwardness The Organ (and probably downloadable for free online by now; certainly widely available secondhand).

    I have heard various amateur players, more notable for pretentiousness than for anything resembling talent, break out in snickers at the very mention of this book. They are insane to do so. It is still of great value. Some of the exercises Stainer supplies will give even the most hardened professional a workout. And as well as being a significant composer Stainer was a master educator, so his prose is deliberately designed to keep readers awake.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,574
    R J Stove: ... Sir John Stainer ... The Organ ... probably downloadable for free online ...

    http://books.google.com/books?id=I-U5AAAAIAAJ

    https://archive.org/details/organ00harkgoog
  • Thanks so much everyone! I will try to get more information about the organ at Wed rehearsal.
  • I second Mr. Stove. The Stainer is a good book: from the pedagogy to the great pieces you can actually play for concert or prelude/postlude, etc.
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • I acquired my copy of the Stainer back in the bad old days before we had eBay, Amazon, Abebooks, and so forth. When I was starting out, I needed to obtain the book from the State Library of Victoria and (how charmingly démodé this procedure seems now) photocopy it. No great photocopying expense was involved, since the book is quite short. Of course it has long since fallen into the public domain, like everything else of Stainer's.

    At one point, Stainer gave me real comfort. For two unforgettable years I edited a quarterly magazine called Organ Australia. If ever there existed confirmation of Clive James's Rochefoucaldian epigram "The arts attract the insane," then that editorship was it.

    Unless you have occupied such a job (and preferably occupied such a job in the antipodes at that), you have not the smallest conception of how many Walter Mitty types there are out there, most of whom suppose themselves to be musicians and even organists, in spite of all objective indications to the contrary. Attempting to reason with such types reminded me of FDR's verdict on his youthful Navy experiences:

    "To change anything in the Na-a-vy is like punching a feather bed. You punch it with your right and you punch it with your left until you are finally exhausted, and then you find the damn bed just as it was before you started punching."


    So when it became obvious that I would lose the imminent and inevitable showdown with those fantasists who occupied positions of power, I found the attached Stainer quotation and put it just under the relevant OA issue's editorial. Approximately five minutes before what would have been my dismissal from the post, I resigned. It is still a quotation which I treasure.
    1145 x 487 - 125K
  • The Stainer was the book I was taught from and it is wonderful, I agree!
    Thanked by 2Wendi R J Stove
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I just bought the 1937 John & Harker Stainer edition from an Amazon used book vendor. I hope it is as good or better than the original.

    BTW, I learned with the Gleason book - damn him! LOL.
  • Goodness!
    That's rather a strong judgment, Charles.
    I, too, learned from Gleason. but thought him a fine tutor.
    Stainer's book I picked up along the way and did find it a welcome supplement.
    Though I now have come to appreciate his music and much from the romantic era, I in years past had a rather cocky prejudice against most anything other than Beethoven that wasn't 'early music'.
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    Let me explain a bit, Jackson. I had polio in that last big epidemic before the vaccine became available. The lingering effects are, that my eyes don't converge properly and my left foot doesn't play well with those Gleason pedal techniques. I work around the foot thing and do a lot of toe work. With the eyes, I have 5 pairs of glasses for different functions, since it is impossible to adjust one pair to compensate for the convergence problem. It all works out, thankfully.

    I will mention that several of my fellow organ students in college agreed that a burning of the Gleason book after graduation could only be a good thing. LOL.
  • kenstb
    Posts: 362
    I have really enjoyed this thread. To anyone who wishes to learn how to play the organ properly, I would suggest that at least for a while, you should invest in a decent teacher. Much of the more challenging material in the organ repertoire is less difficult if you are employing the proper technique.
    Thanked by 1R J Stove
  • Yes, a decent teacher is a must. Kenstb is right.

    In the search for finding adequate tuition, due diligence, almost absurdly simple in our own wired epoch, is your ally. What are Teacher X’s formal qualifications? Can Teacher Y boast AGO membership? Is Teacher Z on the police department's sex offenders’ list?

    The process scarcely counts as rocket science, particularly if you live in a large or even middle-sized city. If you live (as many Americans, though rather few non-Americans, do) in a city where the local college's music department offers organ-playing, you are still better off for recommendations. In addition, sympathetic members of the clergy will often know relevant names.
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  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I find my own students have the most difficulty with organ legato fingering when moving from piano to organ. They miss that piano sustain pedal.
  • I worry about that very thing, Charles. In fact I've been spending a lot of time with piano stuff that doesn't require pedal and trying to wean myself off using it so much. And then I spend two hours this morning indulging myself with Debussy...pedal withdrawal perhaps?
    @RJ: The organ professor at my university has not, to my knowledge, had any female students in recent memory and is a notorious misogynist. I have zero desire to study with him. I will most likely be taking lessons with the organist who retired from the position I hold now, and possibly the organist at my own church.
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  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,653
    If anyone with some prior-musical skills ever wanted to change careers from a secular-career to being a full-time church musician/organist, this is my advice.

    1. Save money like a fiend for a while.

    2. Find a good organist who is also a good at the "business" of being a church musician (ie. he/she has never been fired or forced to quit a position, runs good sturdy programs, has been on the faculty of programs like the CMAA Colloquium multiple times, and is respected in his/her field) and who is overworked.

    3. Contact them and tell them you want to become a church musician. Offer to be their intern for 6 months in exchange for them giving you lessons, practical advice, letting you sit in on rehearsals and meetings, etc.

    4. If they accept, move near the church and live cheaply (with a roommate) and spend 6 months doing nothing but practicing and soaking in all of the knowledge you can. Also work with grave diligence to file the Music Director's music, drop off their dry cleaning, make/bring them beautifully crafted coffees, and bring lunch to him/her at his/her desk.

    5. See if the person you're interning for can help you get a job.

    6. Work fiendishly hard.

    7. Then hopefully find a full-time position.

    This career isn't intended for everyone... but it is the best career ever.

    Also I need an intern.
  • ronkrisman
    Posts: 1,349
    I never realized that one could become a full-time church musician/organist after spending "6 months doing nothing but practicing and soaking in all of the knowledge you can."

    I guess I did it wrong. Those years in school: a complete waste of time and money.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    Good Father, after 50 years in this business I am still learning new things every day. Even the years of college don't teach everything. I must have done it wrong, too! LOL.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • Adam WoodAdam Wood
    Posts: 6,354
    One has to start somewhere. And not everyone has the time and money to spend four or more years in school.

    Would six months of intense study in organ, chant, hymnody, and liturgy turn someone into a world class church musician? No. Would it make them more practically qualified than a good number of people currently employed as full time church musicians? Most definitely.

    I'm not sure what coffee-fetching would teach, though. Perhaps it would help future Music Directors learn to live with the capriciousness and stupidity of some of the people men they might find themselves working for.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,653
    I'm just tired of drinking this shoddy k-cup coffee...
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,630
    Do you prefer high-end coffee, or sleazy gas-station coffee?
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  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,653
    I do enjoy gas-station coffee, but I think its more for the convenience of it all. If I had an intern that was capable of making good coffee, I would probably only have gas-station coffee once a week or so...
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  • Having wandered from the original question....

    With the prospect of not really making any money and being saddled with 5 to 6 Masses a weekend, making less than a Protestant organist makes for one service...only learn to play the organ if you really like playing the organ, like many of us do.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • Whoaaaa nelly I'm not looking for a full time gig! I enjoy the organ and would like to learn how to play it. I already have a four year degree in performance and will graduate this December with my master's in music history, and in addition have been playing professionally for over a decade. I think I will do fine. Would six months of intensive study in organ, chant, and all the rest be helpful? Of course, and I hope to do that someday! And if I ever find myself being an intern they will appreciate my coffee snobbishness and insistence on grinding the beans fresh every time. I'll bring my grinder along if I have to! And if gas station coffee is your thing then I'll get it. My stepdad loves Speedway coffee LOL!
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • 6 months of study with an energetic student with music reading ability and keyboard skills and teacher who is bright and supportive can produce an organist who is way beyond competent.

    There is an air about us organists that we are doing something very difficult with secrets of the craft passed along very sparingly.

    An air made up of hot air.

    The majority of organists playing competently each Sunday in the US have an average of six months of lessons behind them.

    Thanked by 1matthewj
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,888
    I started when I was six years old by praying the rosary. That clinched it. From there I started singing in the choir in third grade. By eighth grade had sung a lot of great SATB works. Studied organ in college, but I ONLY learned to play the organ, not to be a church musician. Took up my first position at 17 as assistant organist. Then DoM here and there and here and there. Hate to admit it happened so late in my career, but joined CMAA in 2005 (only because that was first time I had ever heard of them) after avoiding the OTHER orgs like the plague, and that is when I truly learned what it meant to perform sacred music. You never finish learning and getting better. I belong to the 'order of eternal learning'.
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