This review of OrganTutor Organ 101, by Philip Gehring, FAGO, was published in The American Organist, Dec. 99, p. 86.
ORGANTUTOR ORGAN 101, BASIC SKILLS FOR THE PIANIST, Don Cook. Looseleaf workbook with CD-ROM software (available for either Macintosh or PC). Provo, UT: Ard Publications (distributed by Brigham Young University), 1998. $99.85 + [shipping].
Computerized learning, so widely used in many fields of study, has come to the study of the organ. OrganTutor, prepared by Dr. Cook of Brigham Young University, is described in the book's introduction as "a computer-based resource for classical and traditional sacred organ instruction." The author refers to the work as a "teaching assistant," and emphasizes that the "tutor was created as an aid to--not a replacement for--the live organ instructor." At BYU, an introductory course in organ playing is offered in class format, one instructor teaching several students in a laboratory supplied with a number of electronic organs. OrganTutor is designed to replace much of the lecturing on basic organ technique, thus leaving the instructor more time to listen to individual students. Equally important, it is available to the student outside of class time as a reinforcement and drill resource, in much the same manner as language labs have been used in the learning of a foreign language. The picture on the monitor demonstrates what the student's hand or foot should look like when playing a certain passage. One can proceed through each lesson in order, or can click into any topic that needs review.
Outside the university campus, there would be few situations in which a beginning organ student would find both an organ for practice and a computer with CD-ROM in the same room. But the tutor could be most useful nevertheless, especially in situations where the organ student has only occasional contact with a teacher. Many of the questions that arise between widely spaced lessons could be answered by OrganTutor, with the result of much more productive practice. Thus the Tutor could serve two admirable purposes: facilitating the teaching of organ in class format at institutions where economic pressures limit the availability of one-on-one instruction, especially for beginners: and aiding the individual student who, for one reason or another, is unable to engage in the traditional pattern of weekly lessons with a human teacher. Even in schools where organ students have regular private lessons available, this publication could be a valuable adjunct to the learning process.
The method of organ playing taught in OrganTutor is that of the most widely used and respected method books of the day, such as Gleason and Davis. In addition to posture and basic finger and foot motion, the tutor includes topics such as touch and articulation, voice-leading, registration, and hymn playing. The student is strongly urged to continue studying after completing the course, and any teacher should be grateful for a student who is grounded in the basics through a course such as this.