• Hi everybody,

    I'm just looking for some advice on beginning to learn the organ. I've wanted to learn since I was a little child, and it's why I originally started taking piano lessons. I dropped those a few years ago in high school and then picked them back up in university and have been moving fast through the levels (RCM between Level 6 and 7 right now).

    I've got access to a 102 year old retrofitted organ at my local parish, which is a blessing. It's older, and needs a bunch of fixes, but it'll do. I've self-taught some basics spending many hours playing around on it, which is wonderful. I really think that organ should be encouraged more at a younger age, so you're not stuck in your twenties, like me, looking to begin. But, I digress.

    Couple of questions I'd like to throw out there:
    What level do you all recommend being in piano before beginning on the organ?

    Do you recommend any resources (books, sheet music, etc) that would be good to get started until I can secure a teacher?

    Any general tips? All are appreciated :)

  • Although organ and piano technique and touch are quite distinct it remains that a good piano technique is often an excellent foundation for organ studies. Still, many organists begin their organ studies without piano background. It sounds to me as if you could at your present state of advancement begin organ studies with a respected professor or teacher. You mention university. Does your university have an organ department? If so, this would be a good place to enquire and begin your organ studies. Otherwise, seek out the organist at a nearby church which has a serious music program (probably, but not necessarily, episcopalian). Meanwhile, you might invest in Harold Gleason's organ method and begin practicing the exercises and graded literature.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,361
    I had to Google level 7, but you must be far enough along to have some sound physical habits (and perhaps to have already heard 'the piano doesn't get mad, it gets even') and be ready for Ritchie's Organ Technique: Modern and Early.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,217
    If you are interested in basics, get the Flor Peeters "Little Organ Book." $14.95 at Sheet Music Plus $10.79 paperback on Amazon.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 9,540
    All good suggestions above... keep practicing the scales, arpeggios, etc. on piano or organ. Don't drop the piano. It is good to keep it going. The most difficult thing will be learning the pedals... attack those excersizes from day one. if you don't have them, get a pair of organ shoes. congrats and welcome to the small world of being an organist.
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,361
    Peeters is indeed cheaper now libraries are closed, but his easiest exercises are borrowed from Lemmens. It's surprising Stainer's The Organ isn't at IMSLP but only at Archive.org.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 340

    Welcome to the forum, and welcome to organ-playing. The happiest years of your life are to come.

    I would like to encourage you, and anyone who comes to this thread in the future, to really get off on the right foot by starting with a teacher right away. If you’re going to get good at the organ, you’re going to have to practice a lot. If you’re going to practice a lot, you’re going to be doing the same thing over and over again. This means you could engrain some great habits, and also some really bad and painful ones.

    I started organ lessons aged 14, when I was in about the same place as you as a pianist. For better, for worse, for some years before I began lessons, I already had an organ at home and would sometimes play in churches that needed an organist. I was going on what seemed natural, and what I had picked up from various books. I spent the first months of lessons trying to fix all the bad habits I had acquired, and completely reworking my stance at the instrument, the placement of my feet on the pedals, and my keyboard technique. Had someone been there the first day I said “I want to play the organ”, I could have progressed much faster, and wouldn’t have ended up injured by reverting to old habits when my concentration slipped in practice, or when I wanted to sloppily play advanced rep I had no business playing. I’m now about your age, with a BM and MM in organ, and everything’s worked out marvelously, but there’s much I would have done differently in my teens when I first started out.

    If you can get someone to point the way as you get started, the time you put in will be more fruitful, and you won’t have to spend time undoing what you taught yourself if you get off track. I’ve seen and taught some self-taught organists who tied themselves into knots trying to follow what their books told them, misinterpreting what was written or thinking every word was gospel for everyone, whether they’re 4’ or 7’ tall, fat or skinny, playing on an 18th-century tracker or a modern American organ. RSM 6/7 is well beyond where many pianists start organ; you have an outstanding background in keyboard and theory, so the rest will be easy for you, as long as you don’t get off on the wrong foot.

    Perhaps you might reach out to a teacher in your area and see if they wouldn’t mind teaching via Skype/FaceTime/whatever, or PM me and I can suggest several people I know who are teaching that way during this pandemic. Best of luck – you’ll be brilliant.
  • Hi all,

    Obviously studying with an excellent teacher in-person is best, and that's precisely what we had in mind at Dunwoodie before the pandemic in offering the course "Introduction to the Organ for Pianists." A sort of Pipe Organ Encounter for adults who are intermediate or better pianists.

    Given the current situation, though, we've migrated online, and the creative, resourceful, and wonderful Dr. Crista Miller will be teaching the course from Houston on the Pasi at the co-cathedral, amongst other instruments in the area. For anyone looking for resources to learn, I'd recommend the course to you. Of course in this context you'd need access to an organ for the duration of the course and a steady wifi connection at that place.

    It runs August 3–7, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. and 3:00-6:00 p.m. The break in the middle affords time for Dr. Miller to work one-on-one with students, and for students to practice.More info is available here. There's a 50% tuition discount for musicians who obtain a letter of support from their pastor, and the course is available for audit or 2 graduate credits.
    Thanked by 2Gamba brendan358
  • These are all wonderful responses, thank you all. I'm very excited to begin, although it seems to be a bit of a mountain right now, especially with all that's going on with COVID.

    I'm from the Archdiocese of Toronto, and I'm really blessed to be surrounded with two extremely talented organists at my parish so I'm sure I can make some connections. I know they themselves are too busy to teach me, but I'm sure they know people. As for right now, I'm making do with some online videos to get an understanding of the instrument, as, for the time being, I can't access the church to practice. It seems that the AGO has some great online informative lessons.

    I'm very excited by the encouragement of others here, it seems like a great community that really is supportive of music education and development. Having just graduated university, what better time is there to pick up the organ?

    As for piano, it's something I want to excel with too, so of course I won't be dropping that either, and I have a wonderful piano teacher/schola director who has taught me a lot.
  • CGM
    Posts: 524
    A couple more organ books:

    1. The First Organ Book, by Wayne Leupold.

    2. The Organist's Manual, by Roger E. Davis.

    And I second the recommendation of Flor Peeters' Little Organ Book.
    Thanked by 1StimsonInRehab
  • Another vote for George Ritchie's Organ Technique:Modern and Early.
  • wolffwolff
    Posts: 23
    The issue with piano to organ is you play pipe organ very differently from piano because there's no way to sustain notes like you can with the sustain pedal on a piano, soon as you lift your finger up the sounds immediately stops, in a piece like a hymn it would sound choppy to play it like a piano.
    I would just go with organ and not think of graduatingt from one instrument to another, the piano has 88 keys the organ usually 58 to 61 plus pedals, they aren't at all the same.
    Thanked by 1hilluminar