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Practice makes perfect….

31st October 2018

Although some months have gone by since I last updated my blog, my work on the organ has continued. During the summer term I was lucky enough to have my lessons at University Church, where the Baroque organ is simply superb. This gave me lots of motivation and my practice went well.  It was however a bit confusing, as each organ is totally individual, and I had to learn a completely different sequence of stops for each piece depending on whether I was playing it at school or at the church. I wouldn’t have missed the opportunity for the world though, and I am very grateful to Mr Brown, our organ teacher, for organising it for me.

Towards the end of term, I was pronounced ready to start using the foot pedals. This, I soon discovered, is a huge challenge in itself! After equipping myself with the correct organ shoes I began the first of the foot pedal exercises. No problem I thought, until it became apparent that I was supposed to play them without looking at my feet. Then, there were more than a few wrong notes. Eventually however, I succeeded, and began to learn my first few pieces with pedals. Again, this was more difficult than I had anticipated. Not only do I have to co-ordinate ten fingers and two feet, but I also have to process three staves of music at a time, without mixing them up. This is a real piece of brain gym, and to be honest, it’s still a quite frequent occurrence to find myself playing the pedal part with my left hand instead of my feet. As they say though, practice makes perfect…….

Over the summer holidays, my playing took a bit of a back seat as I concentrated on my family, and the lack of the school routine meant that I lost my regular practice sessions each day. I also only had my electric piano at home to practice on, which meant that all of the foot pedal work came to a grinding halt.

I returned to school after the summer holidays feeling really rather ambivalent about whether to continue learning. I did however decide to pick up the regular practice sessions again, and to see how I felt after the first few lessons.

Fortunately, by the end of the first lesson back, I was feeling motivated again, and my regular practice sessions have generally been good this term. Sadly, my timetable doesn’t allow me to go to University Church this term for the lessons, so we have moved back to school. This does have its plus points though, as it means that my teacher can help me to get the best out of the instrument that I am practising on every day.

Back in February, you will remember that we encountered lots of problems with the school organ. These still remain a complete mystery, although we have tentatively put them down to electrical/computer interference. The good news is that since then, the problems appear to have solved themselves, and the organ is now in good working order, although the engineer did have to visit last week as one of the foot pedals was stuck on. This is now resolved, and I began practising my pedal pieces again this morning. In the interim period while the pedals were out of action, I went back to manual only pieces, and in particular have been focusing on legato playing (I thought I was playing legato, but apparently not!) and also on finger independence. Finger independence exercises are again superb brain gym work. Whilst holding down various notes in each hand, you have to play patterns with the other fingers without releasing the held notes. To begin with, I could not do it, but a week on, my practice has meant that I am feeling quite smug with my new found skills. I bet that I’ll be getting even more challenging exercises this week at my lesson though! Can’t wait. Although my journey learning a new instrument continues to have its peaks and troughs, for the main part it has enriched my life and it has also put me a little closer in touch with my pupils who face the same ups and downs with instrument learning as me. Keep going girls!

Mrs Walster
Director of Music