Forum Top Banner Ad

Collapse

Ebay Classic organs

Collapse

Announcement

Collapse
No announcement yet.

Need advice - Learning in old age; self-paced training before taking organ lessons

Collapse
This topic is closed.
X
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Need advice - Learning in old age; self-paced training before taking organ lessons

    I need advice from experienced organists (teachers and non-teachers alike) who could hopefully point me in the right direction. I’m a “frustrated organist” (key word being “frustrated,” for I’m far from being an organist). Ever since I was a child I’ve loved the organ, its beautiful sound and versatility. I do some playing by ear, but have never taken organ lessons (‘only took one year of piano in high school back in 1974).

    I learned to play by ear on my own, first while I was growing up, using one of those Magnus chord “organs” (really a toy). I don’t know how many times I outgrew that thing, but my parents couldn’t afford to buy me a real organ or pay for lessons. So I kept playing it well into my teens, and even occasionally while I was in college. Unfortunately, during all those years my left hand really got spoiled with the accompaniment buttons; so as my right hand continued to develop in skill over time, the left hand lagged way behind--one of the problems I want to correct now.

    After I finished college I didn’t play again until 16 years later (1995), when I bought a used Lowrey Holiday Deluxe D-450. Married with children by then, there was no time or money for lessons. So, I continued playing by ear just for fun and relaxation, and learned how to use most of the D-450’s features, accompaniments, and the pedals (it only had one octave, though). In 2016 I replaced it with a Roland AT-90SL, which I like much, much better, I might add. I still play by ear and can comfortably play various pop songs with the accompaniments, and even a few slow pieces without them--despite having to “drag” that left hand along!

    However, now that I’m in my early 60’s and my wife and I are becoming empty-nesters, there’s a longing in me to finally do something I’ve always dreamed of: learn to read music, and truly become an organist--not a professional; just a well-seasoned home organist. I envision that being one of my main hobbies in my retirement years. I absolutely would love to play some of those beautiful hymns and melodies that are often played in church or at recitals. I am determined to reach that goal and want to take organ lessons in the future. The problem right now, though, is that I still work full time, and the little time available in the evenings is taken care of with house chores. My wife and I have to take care of everything, so “free time” is a very elusive commodity in our lives.

    Nevertheless, on those few days when there is some free time, including weekends, I want to use it wisely until my schedule allows me to start taking lessons in a couple of years. For instance, about a year ago I started learning to read music on my own and practicing scales and some entry-level songs on the piano. Speaking of piano, I was told to “master” scales, arpeggios, etc., on the piano first, then try them on the organ; could someone help me understand the reasoning behind that…? Is it truly necessary to dabble on the piano first, or should aspiring organists start straight on the organ? Pros and cons? Does age matter?

    Besides reading music, I want to start learning organ fundamentals and techniques in a structured manner, but it has to be at my own pace until I can start taking lessons. There’s so much I want/need to learn, but I don’t know where to start nor what methodology to follow. And since I can’t take lessons yet, that’s where I need some expert advice. One of my main near-term objectives is to develop hand independence, and particularly in developing my left hand. Of course, I also need to learn the myriad of other skills that anyone serious about being an organist should be interested in, such as fingering, pedals, arpeggios, and all the others that I don’t even know yet!

    I’ve heard about the “Complete Organ Player,” by Kenneth Baker, but I understand it focuses on popular songs. I’m more interested in first learning the skills required to become a good organist. I would think that, once I’m there, playing songs will follow. Besides, the music genres I'm more interested in learning are church and classical, at least for now since I already know how to play some pop songs.

    I truly would appreciate any advice that could help me figure out how best to start what I’m sure will be a long (but hopefully fun and personally rewarding) road ahead. Thanks.

  • #2
    You can go straight onto organ, no need to do piano first. Age does not matter a bit, I've taught lots of octogenarians and one of them was working at Diploma level (Grade 8+) before we sadly lost him to the Big C. You're a youngster.

    If you're more interested in learning church and classical, you've probably asked this in the wrong part of the forum. 'Home Organ' is a different genre, and the instruments are very different. If you look around in General Chat, and the Organ Music sections, you'll find that this question has been asked many times and you'll find threads with lots of opinions and advice.

    For 'home organ' style playing, Complete Organ Player is a well structured course that covers all the basics and, if you go through all seven books and the two supplements, you'll be well equipped to play most things in that style, as well as theatre and orchestral organ stylings.

    Bottom line from me would be, as you have a great organ at home (capable of doing just about everything in both genres), to find a teacher who will get you started on the right road. What you don't want to do is do so much on your own that you get into bad habits that are difficult to shake. I have several students who will take a short burst of lessons, follow that course for maybe a year, and then come back for a bit more. I'd like to think that you can find a local teacher that will do this, but organ teachers are getting thin on the ground.

    I wish you all the best in your endeavours.
    It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

    New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

    Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha Genos, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
    Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
    Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
    Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

    Comment


    • #3
      Good advice from Andy who should know. He gave me similar and helpful advice (the best part for me was the bit about Complete Organ Player) I managed to acquire the first four books of the series which is quite enough for my abilities - I have five thumbs on the end of each arm and cannot read music but the books are really good. Try and get them. Sadly in my case, even those excellent books cannot help me with my ten thumbs...:embarrassed:

      Your enthusiasm coupled with a good instrument and a will to play will get you there. Do not even think age - I am 72 this month!

      Take care and please do let us know how you get on.

      Nico
      "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request... B-)

      Comment


      • #4
        One more "aye" vote on the concept of "never too old": Remember that Grandma Moses never picked up a paintbrush until she was past 70. And her work is world-famous today. Also, of all things you can do that might deter or slow down Alzheimers, learning to read music/play an instrument is considered to be possibly the most helpful of all. And none of this even addresses the fun of it!

        Tony
        Home: Johannus Opus 370

        Comment


        • #5
          I'm afraid I can't offer a lot of advice, since I'm in a similar situation to you. I did have the advantage of about 1.5 years of organ lessons back in the late 1970s, so I know my chords, but I lacked the discipline to practice, and still do. I can play some simple songs with both hands and the pedals, but as soon as the rhythm starts to get complicated, I turn into 15 thumbs. I'm 100% convinced that it simply requires more practice, not that I have an inherent inability to play the organ. (After all, I can rub my tummy and pat my head at the same time, which many people cannot. :-), and I can also fly a plane, which requires pretty good coordination of four limbs when landing in a gusting crosswind, although not fingering skills.)

          I have the Complete Organ Player series, and need to start working with them again. Hate those 6th chords though; they sound awful.

          I also have a book, Complete Organ Method by John Stainer, which is geared more towards classical organ music than popular. Perhaps that might be a more appropriate book for you? If you Google it, I think you'll find that it's still in (re)print. I'm not experienced enough as either a teacher or student to comment on how good this book is. Perhaps Andy might have an opinion.

          Regarding the need to start on piano, I think that's a myth perpetuated by unemployed piano teachers. Other than looking superficially similar, the two instruments are nothing alike.
          Stefan Vorkoetter: http://www.stefanv.com

          1962 Hammond M-111 with Improved Vibrato, Internal Rotary Speaker, Drum Machine,
          Window Seat Tone Cabinets, Completely Rebuilt Amplifier, and Recapped Tone Generator.
          1978 PAiA 1550 Stringz'n'Thingz with many enhancements.
          2017 Raspberry Pi organ-top synthesizer.

          Comment


          • #6
            My suggestions:
            - Set aside time each week to practice (make it a priority). For the last few years, I have only been able to practice one day a week (due to several factors) and have had make sure that people (family, work, etc.) understand that I am not available for anything unless it's a true emergency during that time. If I don't do that, I never get to play.
            - Get the lay of the land when you have free time. Find books you can read (not sitting at the organ) on music theory, technique, repertoire, registration, practicing, etc.
            - Do what you can to find an organ teacher sooner rather than later. A good organ teacher will help you make the most of the limited time you have and will help you develop good technique so you don't waste time unlearning bad habits. A teacher also gives you some accountability to make progress each week. When I was learning guitar, I made more progress in 4 months with a teacher than I did in the previous 5 years put together (and I had to unlearn quite a bit).
            - When you start learning to read music, start with really easy music. You might feel a little hokey playing "Mary had a little lamb" and other children's song, but don't let pride get in the way of growth. And sometimes it's fun to be a kid again. Playing music that is too hard is frustrating because it is hard to play it fast and clean enough for it to sound like it should. A good teacher (or method book) will give you music that is easy enough to learn but hard enough to make you stretch a bit for every new song.
            - Scales and arpeggios will help you get familiar with different keys and modes. They also teach good run fingering technique. Although, it will likely be a while (years) before you will be playing at a level where those techniques will be useful. I wouldn't try to learn them all right now. I might try to learn the scale and arpeggios that corresponds to the key of the songs I'm learning at the time (probably start with C major).
            - Piano is not required. Piano and organ are played very differently. They respond differently and they require different skills to get them to sound good. I think the reason most people push the piano when learning organ is that there is more "learn how to read music" literature available for piano than there is for organ. Most of the books geared toward piano can still be practiced on the organ (they just won't get your feet involved and they might have songs that extend past the 61-note keyboard).

            Good luck and don't forget to have fun.
            Sam
            Home: Allen ADC-4500 Church: Allen MDS-5
            Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, TC Mixer, ADC TC SF2, and MOS TC SF2, ADC TC Cad/Rvt, MOS TC Cad/Rvt, Organ Database, Music Library, etc. PM for unlinked files.

            Comment


            • #7
              I'd agree with the comments about the 6th chords in Complete Organ Player, they can be omitted as they're seldom 'correct', ie. what was originally written. Ordinary majors will suffice.

              When asked to compare piano and organ, I usually say that the only similarity is that they both have black and white keys, but even then they can't agree on the number!
              It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

              New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

              Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha Genos, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
              Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
              Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
              Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

              Comment


              • #8
                Gentlemen, my sincere thanks to all of you for taking the time to offer valuable advice based on your own experiences. Andy, I’ll certainly search carefully through the General Chat and Organ Music sections as you suggested. I'm relatively new to the forum and was not aware of that, so thanks!

                I’ll also check out the Complete Organ Method that Stefan mentioned. BTW, Stephan, I’m not a pilot, but we do have some aviation background in common--I was a B-52 radar navigator back in the early 1980s. I even took private pilot lessons for a while and got to fly solo (‘still remember losing my t-shirt!), but never got the license. Other life priorities got in the way.

                Sam, I totally agree with you about starting with easy pieces, including children’s songs. In fact, that’s exactly what I did when I started practicing scales and entry-level songs on the piano a year ago--and they did help! Humility is a great virtue and an essential ingredient for learning.

                Lastly, I was relieved to hear from many of you that playing piano is not required to learn organ. Whew--‘glad to have that doubt cleared off. I guess our piano is about to start collecting dust.

                Thanks again to all of you.

                Luis

                Comment


                • #9
                  I wish more people would start with the organ than the piano. I never used the complete organ player, but I did start with Pointer System (learned my chords fast) and a series by David Carr Glover that had quite a bit of independence in the left hand. The book by John Stainer was standard issued in most colleges and he is correct that it teaches you how to play correctly and leads towards a more classical approach. Once you get rolling, the Dave Coleman series were always the most fun for me to play. Good luck and remember to sit on the bench every day and think like a child - they never worry when they make a mistake, they just do it again :-)
                  http://www.lorigraves.com

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by EclecticOrgan View Post
                    I wish more people would start with the organ than the piano. I never used the complete organ player, but I did start with Pointer System (learned my chords fast) and a series by David Carr Glover that had quite a bit of independence in the left hand. The book by John Stainer was standard issued in most colleges and he is correct that it teaches you how to play correctly and leads towards a more classical approach. Once you get rolling, the Dave Coleman series were always the most fun for me to play. Good luck and remember to sit on the bench every day and think like a child - they never worry when they make a mistake, they just do it again :-)
                    Well said! My daughter is well up in her piano training (I think grade 8 or something, whatever that may mean) and she plays really well and sings pretty good too. But whenever she sits down on the bench of that old Johannus I nursed back to life, I cringe every time she hits the keys - thumping them with zest and vigor that rattles my nerves, although she does play the organ well and makes good music. I will never say anything however, because I love her much more than even that old Johannus!

                    To me it appears that the piano needs a little thumping to hammer away at those expensive strings while the organ keys need to be approached a little more gently. Good piano players may tend to forget this delicate requirement when they play the organ and fray the nerves of aging wanna-be players a tad too much!

                    Nico
                    "Don't make war, make music!" Hammonds, Lowreys, Yamaha's, Gulbransens, Baldwin, Technics, Johannus. Reed organs. Details on request... B-)

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      My old organ mentor said very early on, "You strike the keys of a piano, you stroke the keys of an organ."

                      Good advice, and something that pianists can often find awkward to follow. The longer they've been playing, the better they are, the more they're used to piano technique. Not all make the transition successfully.
                      It's not what you play. It's not how you play. It's the fact that you're playing that counts.

                      New website now live - www.andrew-gilbert.com

                      Current instruments: Roland Atelier AT900 Platinum Edition, Yamaha Genos, Yamaha PSR-S970, Kawai K1m
                      Retired Organs: Lots! Kawai SR6 x 2, Hammond L122, T402, T500 x 2, X5. Conn Martinique and 652. Gulbransen 2102 Pacemaker. Kimball Temptation.
                      Retired Leslies, 147, 145 x 2, 760 x 2, 710, 415 x 2.
                      Retired synths: Korg 700, Roland SH1000, Jen Superstringer, Kawai S100F, Kawai S100P, Kawai K1

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'll only add a brief word of encouragement from this old guy (66) who never got terribly serious about the organ until my mid 50's. I did have some piano lessons in grade school, but I was not a disciplined student, preferring to wander off the page and play cute little ditties that we kids were doing back then when we'd run to the old upright piano after church service and bang on it until the grownups made us stop.

                        The organ started appealing to me when I was a teenager, and I even had a 25 pedal Conn of my own in my 20's, but I was content to clumsily play the easy hymns, not even learning to pedal properly, and that got me by through the years when I played for small country churches. I always believed that I wasn't capable of doing any better.

                        Then 12 or 13 years ago I finally got a nice AGO console organ for my home and began to sit down and practice several times a week. Immediately I found myself playing with much more confidence at church, and as time went by I began to conquer hymns that I'd considered way out of my league ("All Creatures of Our God and King") and dip a toe into real organ pieces.

                        Six or seven years ago I landed an actual paying organ position, and I've continued to polish my skills, practicing several times a week at home, and feel more confident than ever. I'm still no recital organist, but the improvement in my personal satisfaction has been astounding, and much of that has happened since I turned 55.

                        Go for it. No such thing as too old!
                        John
                        ----------
                        *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                        https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I'll "chime" in here too. I'm 60 and after giving up a lot of other interests I decided I wasn't going to let the organ go. I've been the rural church organist before and may be looking at another opportunity to do so. Sometimes I got to throw in a classical piece for an offertory. The clapping afterward was annoying but what was I to expect. They were heavy into county gospel at my last church.

                          In my last gig I was studying classical techniques between Sundays. It helped me a lot especially since I had an instrument at home. The church organ was AGO spec.

                          This is a worthwhile endeavor and you'll find it very satisfying.

                          On piano playing I started on the organ. I have never been a very good piano player because I stroke the keys. I have yet to get used to striking them. I do most of my piano playing on a keyboard with the touch feature (velocity?) turned on.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by andyg View Post
                            My old organ mentor said very early on, "You strike the keys of a piano, you stroke the keys of an organ." Good advice, and something that pianists can often find awkward to follow. The longer they've been playing, the better they are, the more they're used to piano technique. Not all make the transition successfully.
                            Coming at it from the other direction, I’m an organist who doesn’t play piano if for no other reason than it's so bloody exhausting.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I added David Glover's New Organ Course, Book One to the list of candidate books to get--thanks for the suggestion, Lori. And thanks to all for the recent posts. 'Glad to see I'm not the only one starting old on the organ. One thing I'll not have to worry about is striking the organ keys--I have too little piano experience. In fact, I pulled back from playing scales at the piano for a few weeks last summer because I started to develop slight pain on my left thumb--probably from striking the keys too hard or the wrong way (or both). After a few weeks away from the piano, the pain went away. The last thing I need at my age is to develop tendonitis just as I'm getting started on the organ.

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X