Tips for how to practice well, or how to encourage students to practice

The question of how hard is it to play a pipe organ cannot be simply answered with how difficult it actualy is to play, because there is also the fact that this is not an instrument you can easily purchase and bring home, so why would you learn to play such a bothersome instrument? and how hard is it to master?

History of the Pipe Organ

The first organ design. Greek.

The Organ has been around for quite some time, dating back to 200 BC in Greece, and it is beleived that it was made by a man called Ctesibius, however he did not mean to make a musical instrument ike the one it came to be, it was mostly to explain and demonstrate the principles of hydraulics.

Many years after that it started being used as an instrument and eventually around 400 BC it was used during weddings and other celebrations.

The first organ design was also not sustainable, and eventually the design was made simple by replacing the piston, valves, and water cistern. However after this redesign the world did not see much organs until around 900 BC when the medieval church organ came to be and after that it kept evolving while its popularity increased all around Europe.

Hard To Play?

Saying that it’s hard to play may be accurate, of course any instrument is hard to play at first, but there are a few things that make this instrument a bit more intimidating than others.

The thing about the pipe organ is that there are many things you need to be aware of when playing it.

It’s not the hardest instrument to play but it’s by far the easiest,to master the instrument and feel comfortable, your body needs to do a lot of things at the same time, more specifically, it requires you to be thinking about five different things at same time while playing.

You’ll be playing the keys on the organ, using your feet to control pedals and holding the notes, since there is no sustain pedal like on the piano.

When it comes to stops, which produce the range of notes needed, you will also have to control the sound by changing the positioning of these stops.

In conclusion, easy to learn, very hard to master.

Katelyn Emerson

In an interview with Katelyn Emerson talks about her experience playing in beautiful cathedrals.

BVF: Share your feelings about playing in some of the most world-renowned cathedrals around the world?

KE: Since even the smallest of pipe organs has a few dozen pipes and the largest have several thousand, it is far too cumbersome to bring along one’s own organ when traveling, so one of the most unique and interesting parts of being an organist is getting to know a new instrument (or more than one!) for each recital. What comes along with such a unique challenge is also being able to view extraordinary place from the most unusual angles: seeing the Cathédrale Notre-Dame from the balcony, being the organist of whom hundreds of tourists are taking photographs at the Hallgrímskirkja in Reykjavik, Iceland, seeing the façade of the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ from the console on the stage during a recital, enjoying the incredible serenity of Spain’s Montserrat Monastery prior to the concert – all of these are experiences that I would never have had if I weren’t fortunate enough to do what I do. Perhaps the most important thing is simply being interested in having such experiences. So much of the time, playing the organ seems to require interest in history, in architecture, and in art before any note is played. Without the curiosity in what makes our world, our lives, and our music “tick,” such experiences merely become a completed checklist, not life-changing memories

The pipe organ has special connections to specific places which makes it a very unique instrument.

Click the link for an interesting beginner’s guide.

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There comes a point in the journey of a musician when it’s not just about playing with an instrument and learning, there is a lot of trial and error, boring parts, persistence, necessary rest and a few more battles which sometimes can take a toll on creativity and the natural flow of composition and music making.

This burn-out can come in many forms but the most common is when music has become your job or a main objective in life, this makes the time for music very precious and makes us think as musicians that we have to make the most of it.

Burn-out is is a state of emotional, physical, and mental exhaustion that is often caused by stress. It happens when you feel overwhelmed, drained and tired. In music this sort of attitude will take away your motivation and even make you doubt why you chose to be a musician in the first place.

In order to accomplish the general goal of a musician, there are some obstacles to overcome that can become very tiring and can potentially trigger this burn-out state.

The great Prog. Rock band Rush, experienced this at one point during their career, singer and bassist Geddy Lee said:

“Neil wasn’t too happy then, but neither was the rest of us, we were burned out on tour and not playing too well and not caring about it—that’s the worst. You just go on stage and do another show, but you’re not all there. It’s too much on automatic pilot.”


Composition is the first step when making music, and it’s usually not that frustrating, unless you find yourself stuck and no creativity comes from your mind. At this point many musicians sometimes go against this feeling directly only to find themselves with greater frustration and eventually feel burned out.


Recording music can be one of the longest most frustrating parts of music, not only because you have to perform the best way possible, but also all the technical things around it makes every detail a very particular weight to carry.


Having people you care about support you in what you do is always important, this is no different when it comes to music. This sort of support can come in the form of family, friends and love interests.

Not only will the people around you make you stronger but also the people who listens to your music, as this will reinforce the fact that you are indeed making good music, and it’s not just support from people who loves you.

Money Making

It shouldn’t be that common for musicians to feel burned out right? it’s supposed to be something to feel happy, feel good no matter how much deep in the music industry you are as a musician, but in many cases today, music can be just about making money, and when art becomes a product everything else starts to fall apart.

Even in the early stages of a musicians project, there has to be a second source of income, so that music isn’t shackled by the basic needs, even though it may be able to cover them later on.

Make music because you love music.

The Life Outside Music Making

Getting obsessed with “getting things done” is often one of the biggest mistakes when it comes to preventing being burned out. Of course things have to get done, and more often than not you can’t decide to have all the time in the world, however, sometimes it’s necessary to take a break from music and just enjoy everything else.

Taking some time to practice something else, whether it is another art, a sport, or a hobby, will not just make you relax but also find inspiration for your music.

In the end music speaks about everything that happens in life, if a musician tries to make something from nothing without even a spark of inspiration from something that he lived, then nothing will come to life and he will most likely feel burned out.

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Every instrument gives us a chance to make unique music, and it’s in the hands of the aspiring musician to sort of lean towards a personality or identity behind it. In this case we’ll be going over some tips and thoughts surrounding the guitar.

As any other instrument, frst you have to learn the basics, this means getting used to pressing down the strings correctly, then parcticing scales, a few easy tunes, chords and then for many people there is a diverging point.

An aspiring guitarrist who chose the guitar because he had to choose an instrument in the classes their parents chose for him is very different than someone that begged their parents to buy a guitar. Of course the end result can vary but this usually matter in the end.

After this step, the aspiring guitarrist has an idea of what he or she wants to sound like when becoming a good guitarrist. This will slightly push the person towards a learning method.

Classical Way

For starters, this means using an acoustic or spanish guitar, and using mainly your fingers to play instead of a pick like most electric guitar players.

This path is also a good idea if the sound you are looking for is all about classical complex structures and compositions that require a good amount of practice to read music and play it

In an interview with Brad DeRoche, classical gutarrist Raphaella Smits talks about some aspects of classical guitar playing.

It’s like an orchestra, it’s like a whole story, an entire world. So, it depends on the piece. What controls your thoughts, apart from everything technical, is the piece. That’s what makes each piece so special. And I think you feel more about the music than you think about it. I’ll give an extreme example: If you feel like it’s heaven, you are not thinking about the sky and the clouds and the sun and the stars. That would be nonsense of course. If you think about heaven, that’s something very spiritual. If you think about something earthy, it could be a very primitive feeling. So, it’s never very clear. Somehow music is not very human. How you move your fingers, how you sit, how your memory works; that’s the physical part. It’s like building a house, you know?

Self-Taught or Non Academic Teaching

While it’s not a necessary rule, self taught guitarrists tend to lean towards rock, blues or even some forms of jazz. This is mainly because of the nature of these types of music which have an emphasis on feeling, and strong imposing sounds rather than highly trained technique.

There are many good examples of this. Brian May from Queen was self taught, and while his first guitar was a classical acoustic guitar he then built his own first electric guitar because it had more sense with the type of music he wanted to play.

Kurt Ballou from the Metal band touches the subject of self taught musicians saying:

“I never had guitar lessons (…) My dad played a little bit of guitar, he never really taught me anything, but he did give me a chord book. I had played saxophone and piano prior to it, so I sort of transferred my musical knowledge over to guitar. We’re all just students of the artists we like who we spent listening to while we were younger and attempting to mimic what we heard on these records.”

He says that being self-taught made him appreciate some things a bit more than musicians who take lots of lessons and tend to be more technical. “Lessons seem to focus more on the dexterity of playing, whereas people who are self-taught have to use their ears more to decipher what they’re hearing,” he continued. “I think you become a more observant player that way and you also start to learn how an ensemble interacts with each other.”

Both ways are good, they are just different approaches to learning how to play guitar but the best idea would be to experiment wth both ways to some extent, and think that the first one grants you better tools, and the second one helps you express yourself in a more open and welcoming way.

In the end there are no laws or rules, but the experience will be different and this will ultimately affect your identity as a musician.

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