Confessions of a Reforming Organ Student

I have a confession to make: I’m bad at practicing the organ.

However, that’s an improvement. In the past, I’d say that I was horrible at it, or even worse. I have told my students that my first organ teacher will be receiving an extra wing on his mansion on high as a reward for putting up with me. If that is the case, he will justly deserve it.

My teacher tried to put me on the right path. He told me to study the organ methodically, to practice slowly and build speed over time, to work out fingerings and follow them, to practice the hands and feet separately and gradually integrate them, and, most importantly, use the metronome while practicing. I disliked these methods so much that I called them the “dreaded methods.”

Sadly, I ignored this advice because I was too impatient – I wanted to learn to play the organ and I felt that these slow and seemingly arduous techniques were simply getting in the way. The end result of my unskilled practicing has been a number of problems in my playing. I tend to have uneven tempos when I play, something that is now devilishly difficult to get rid of. I have a hard time synchronizing both hands when playing rapidly, which makes my playing sound ragged. These things and many more could have (and should have) been avoided had I practiced properly.

I am happy to report that I am reforming. Many years ago I played for a regional conference and had to learn several new pieces. In a somewhat rare flash of sanity I decided to practice these pieces using the dreaded methods. I was astonished at the results. I learned the pieces much more quickly and with far better quality. Strangely enough, the music was also more enjoyable. I continued to experiment with better techniques and found that there were many benefits I had never seen before. Nowadays, I wouldn’t think of learning a new piece without slow, methodical study.

I wish I had had the understanding in my early years that I do now. I have come to learn through life’s experiences to seek for the best methods possible and implement them to the best of my ability. My past playing was, at best, merely adequate. I’m now learning to seek for excellence in what I do. I no longer dread the methods of good practicing, but instead embrace them.

The valuable lesson I have learned from all of this applies to life as a whole. Our loving and benevolent Heavenly Father is far wiser than we are, yet we tend to substitute our own understanding for his. He sends us prophets to help learn his rules and it is to our benefit to learn from them. Obedience is not an impediment to progress but instead enables it.

Please practice life wisely.


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