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Course Outcomes

  1. Students will participate in an off-campus performance or administrative experience to enhance the student’s academic training at the university.
  2. Students will gain access to professional contacts and create a network beneficial to future career choices.
  3. Students will apply acquired classroom skills in a professional setting.

Are You Enrolled in the Appropriate Level?

Make sure that you are enrolled in the level that is right for you. Level 1 offers beginning organ instruction—for pianists with little or no previous formal organ training, or who need help in applying what they have learned in their organ playing. Level 1 is also designed to be helpful to those who have played the organ for years but who have little or no formal organ training.

Level 1 develops the ability to sight-read single-line melodies. Music theory topics covered in level 1 include the overtone series, musical notation (including note names, clefs, ottava sign, accidentals, enharmonic notes, chromatic scale, whole and half steps) rhythmic concepts (including duple, triple, and quadruple meter; simple and compound time), note values and rest values, metronome indications, tempo indications, and time signatures. Level 1 students should already possess note reading skills at the piano, and be able to play hymns fluently at the piano.

Level 2 offers early intermediate organ instruction—for those with previous organ training, but who would benefit from a review of basic legato organ technique, repertoire, registration, and hymn playing. Level 2 develops the ability to sight-read two-part music, and covers more advanced music theory topics in intervals, scales, the keynote or tonic, modes, and key signatures.

Level 3 offers intermediate organ instruction—for those with substantial training and fluency in the basic organ skills and music fundamentals listed above.

If you feel that you have enrolled in the wrong level, contact Independent Study to request a change of course. If you are unsure, contact with your BYU faculty organ course instructor.

We hope that as you acquire the skills at this level of competency, you will enjoy a sense of accomplishment and will continue to progress through the higher levels. When you successfully pass the played assignments and written exams for this level, you will be awarded a certificate of completion.

Course Structure

This course consists of eleven lessons with Speedback assignments, three played assignments, and a written final exam. You also are required to choose a qualified organ teacher to help you through the requirements of your level. Your teacher should have at least one of the following qualifications:

  1. He or she should have earned a bachelor’s degree in organ or equivalent from accredited institution.
  2. He or she should have successfully passed the examinations of the American Guild of Organists, the Royal Canadian College of Organists, or the Music Teacher’s National Association.

You might consider a teacher who has studied for two or more years under an organist with one of the above certifications.
Make arrangements to meet with your teacher as often as needed to complete the course in time. Although some can complete the course with only occasional contact with a teacher, most students do their best work when lessons are frequent and regular (i.e., weekly or biweekly). You are responsible to pay the fee required by your chosen teacher.

Course Instructions

  1. The lessons are arranged in blocks according to lesson type (Music Theory, Registration, etc.). Use the following list as a general outline for the order to complete lessons, assignments, and reviews. First complete lessons 1 and 2. After that, you should usually be working on a Music Theory lesson, an Organ Registration lesson, and practicing on a played assignment at the same time.
  1. Study the reading assignment for each lesson with the goal of internalizing each concept thoroughly.

Course Completion

If you would like to receive a certificate that documents your successful completion, please send an e-mail with the following information to

  1. In the Memo line, please type: “Certificate of Completion from Don Cook”
  2. In the main text, type in your name, mailing address, e-mail address, and the date you completed the final exam.

Please send the information via e-mail within one month of completing the course. Dr. Cook will then mail you a Certificate of Completion.
If you do not have e-mail please mail your request to:

BYU Independent Study
Testing Department
206 HCEB
Provo, UT 84602

Course Materials

Summary: The main textbook for this course contains materials developed for the Group Organ Program at Brigham Young University and for the Independent Study organ courses. Its primary strength lies in the written materials, worksheets, and exercises that cover a wide range of topics of importance to the early-level organist. It is revised frequently to meet the needs of the BYU organ program—including these courses. In addition, you may wish to use the Davis, Gleason, or Keeler textbooks listed below for the exercises and studies that you will prepare for the played assignments.

OrganTutor Organ 101 is a computer tutorial and workbook. The technique exercises and hymn projects appear in the workbook for practice, but are also demonstrated through video clips on the computer tutorial. Organ registration and other concepts are illustrated through hundreds of audio clips. For more information, see the OrganTutor Web site.

Organ Technique: The Method Books

To prepare for the Speedback assignments and the written exams, you are required to use either OrganTutor Organ 101 Complete (computer tutorial and workbook), or OrganTutor Organ 101 Workbook only (workbook only – no computer tutorial). For the organ technique portions of the three played assignments, you may use exercises from those books or from the other three texts listed below as an alternative. You may choose any one or a combination of these from which to play.

In the Preparing for the Played Assignments section of this course there are charts specifying the particular exercises or pieces you need to prepare for each of the played assignments, according to the book(s) you choose to use. You may even use another method book with the approval of your BYU organ faculty instructor. Whatever method book you choose should develop the same concepts and skills listed in the charts using comparable exercises. There is a list of where to buy or order organ music in Appendix A of the course.

Music Theory

The Music Theory portion of this course is divided into three lessons (lessons 3, 4, and 5), to be studied in order. The text for the music theory portion of level 1, which is also used in levels 2 and 3, is the following:

Basic Materials in Music Theory is a programmed learning text in music theory, designed for self study. Chapters 1 through 5 of this book should be completed during the three lessons of Organ Certification, Level 1. We will focus on The Basic Materials of Music: Time and Sound; The Notation of Pitch; Time Classification; Note and Rest Values; and Time Signatures.

Organ Repertoire

The following book contains at least one piece that is required in both Level 1 and Level 2:

The other two or three required repertoire pieces should be selected from the list contained in the “Preparing for the Three Played Assignments” section of the course. That list includes pieces found in OrganTutor and from other books that can be purchased separately. Alternatively, in consultation with your local organ instructor, you may select pieces other than those included on the list. In doing so, be sure to choose pieces that require good legato manual and pedal technique and that you will be able to polish in time.

Organ Registration

The Organ Registration portion of this level is divided into six lessons (6 through 11), to be studied in order. The OrganTutor Workbook or OrganTutor Organ 101 Complete contains the needed materials in organ registration for this course. Additional information may be found in the books listed in Appendix B of this course. Each of the concepts should be thoroughly learned by first studying the sections given in The OrganTutor Workbook or OrganTutor Organ 101 Complete , and then by using additional resources as needed.

The lessons from the Music Theory and the Organ Registration sections can and should be studied at the same time. Studying music theory and organ registration together, as well as practicing for the played assignments, will offer well-rounded training in organ playing.

Piano Technique (Not Required)

The following method book is included for these reasons: (1) to indicate the technical and musical skill required at this level, and (2) as a recommendation for piano study concurrent with this level of organ competency. Piano technical study is recommended but not required at this certification level.

Alfred’s Basic Piano Library, Level 3. Van Nuys, CA: Alfred Publishing Co.

BYU Organ Faculty Resources

In addition to the materials you will receive from Independent Study for this level, other resources are available on the BYU Organ Study home page. Make use of this internet resource as you continue organ study. This website will be updated frequently with new and interesting organ related resources, some of which are designed specifically for BYU Independent Study organ students. In addition, Appendix B of this course contains a list of supplemental texts that you may also find useful.

Don Cook, your BYU organ faculty course instructor, can answer most of your questions dealing with the subject matter of this course. Feel free to contact him at 801-422-3260 or by email at For more information about policies and procedures, check out the Independent Study catalog.

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Speedback Assignments

After thoroughly studying each lesson, you should complete the corresponding Speedback assignment. Speedback assignments consist of a series of multiple-choice questions formatted for immediate computer (Internet) processing and feedback.

Most Speedback assignments may be completed with or without the aid of lesson materials. However, these concepts will be included in the final exams, which should be completed without using any materials for assistance. Whatever procedure you choose, strive for complete understanding of each concept.

When you are satisfied that the assignment represents your best work, submit it for immediate grading and feedback.

Carefully review any feedback you receive and work on gaining a full understanding of any unclear concepts. Use the feedback as part of your preparation for the final exams.

Played Assignments 1, 2 and 3

This course includes three played assignments. You must submit lessons 1 and 2 before playing Played Assignment 1 for an evaluator. For details on the content of the played assignments, see “Preparing for the 3 Played Assignments” in this syllabus

Prepare Played Assignment 1 by practicing the organ technique, organ repertoire, hymns, and sight-reading items required for that assignment. This process usually requires several weeks or months. When you are ready, follow the instructions given under “An Approved Evaluator” in the “Preparing for the Three Played Assignments” section of this syllabus.

Preparing for the Three Played Assignments

Looking Ahead

Each of the three played assignments (consists of up to four sections--organ technique, organ repertoire, hymn playing, and sight-reading. The evaluator will make point ratings for all sections on manual technique, pedal technique, accuracy of notes, and accuracy and steadiness of rhythm as applicable. In addition, he or she will evaluate certain sections for tempo, registration, musical effectiveness, and line (meaning consistent touch, clean articulation, musical phrasing, parts independent yet cohesive). The following discussion material and charts map out exactly what is expected of you in each of the three played assignments.


With the help of a local organ teacher of your choice, prepare for each played assignment by practicing the organ technique, organ repertoire, hymns, and sight-reading items specified for that assignment. These items are described and summarized later in this section.

In addition to the played assignment, a Speedback assignment reviewing the essential manual and pedal techniques is included in lessons 1 and 2. The Speedback assignments cover the information in OrganTutor Organ 101 that accompanies the manual and pedal exercises listed below. You should pass the Speedback assignments in manual and pedal technique (lessons 1 and 2) before completing Played Assignment 1. Once you have passed the Speedback assignments and feel that you are ready, make arrangements to play Played Assignment 1 for an approved evaluator. Preparing for a played assignment usually requires several weeks or months. You may play more than one played assignment in a single session, but be sure to prepare each item thoroughly.

An Approved Evaluator

Select an evaluator and make an appointment to play each played assignment for him or her. For this noncredit course, you are responsible to pay an appropriate fee directly to the evaluator at the conclusion of your session, which usually requires about ninety minutes. Although fees vary widely, an hourly rate of $50 is often appropriate. In seeking out a qualified evaluator, choose from these three options:

Approved Evaluator. Obtain approval for an evaluator of your choice from Don Cook, the course instructor. Contact him by email ( or telephone (801.422.3260), and provide him with the name, contact information, and general credentials of your proposed evaluator. Evaluators of your own choice will be considered upon request, but should be someone (possibly your local organ teacher) who meets one of the following qualifications:

Your BYU Organ Faculty course instructor, in person. If you wish to travel to Provo, schedule a time to complete a played assignment directly with your course instructor. Bring the Played Assignment Evaluation Form 1, 2, or 3 as appropriate. For this non-credit course, the fee for this service is $50 per assignment via Venmo (RDonCook) or PayPal (801-372-9869).

Your BYU Organ Faculty Course Instructor, through video recording. If you choose this option, you do not need a proctor or evaluator in your locality. Play and record the entire assignment without stopping the recording. Do not play any portion of the assignment more than twice. Mail the recording or post it on YouTube, Vimeo, or as a standard video file on another common file sharing service. In addition to posting or sending the recording, email the ungraded Played Assignment Evaluation Form 1, 2, or 3 to Don Cook ( for evaluation and grading. For this non-credit course, the fee for this service is $50 per assignment via Venmo (RDonCook) or PayPal (801-372-9869).

Meeting with the Evaluator

When you meet with the evaluator, do the following:

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Final Exam

The final exam, which consists of up to 50 multiple-choice questions, may be taken only after the played assignments, and all Speedback assignments have been completed. See the chart below and the Final Exam Preparation section of this course for further information.

The following chart details the lessons covered in the final exam:

  Final Exam
Organ Technique

* Lesson 1 (Review)

* Lesson 2 (Review)

*Lesson 3 (Review)

Music Theory

* Lesson 4 (Time Classification, and Note and Rest Values)

* Lesson 5 (Time Signatures)
Organ Registration

* Lesson 6, 7, and 8 (Review)
* Lesson 9 (The Three Primary Types of Organ Registration)
* Lesson 10 (Chorus Registration)

* Lesson 11 (Hymn Registration in Congregational Singing)

To successfully pass the exam, review the lessons thoroughly by rereading the text(s) and the feedback from the Speedback assignments.

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The grading scale used in organ certification for all assignments, exams, and for final grading is as follows. Note that a grade of D- (70 percent) or above is required on all assignments and exams in order to pass the level.

Assignment Percentage
11 Speedbacks

3% each (33%)

Played Asignment 1


Played Asignment 2


Played Asignment 3 20%
Final Exam (Must pass with 70%) 17%
Total 100%
A 100 - 94 C 80 - 79
A- 93 - 91 C- 78 - 77
B+ 90 - 88 D+ 76 - 74
B 87 - 86 D 73 - 72
B- 85 - 84 D- 71 - 70
C+ 83 - 81 E 69 - 0


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Course Policies

These policies are specific to this course. For additional information about general policies, please refer to Independent Study Course Policies page.


For this course there are 11 computer-graded assignments, 3 played assignments. Each assignment may be resubmitted once for a fee.  Must pass the played assignments with a 70% to pass the course.

Resubmit an assignment for a fee. 


1 proctored, multiple-choice, computer-graded final exam. All assignments must be submitted and graded before requesting the final exam. Students must pass the final exam to pass the course. May be retaken once for a fee. Students must pass all the exams with 70% to pass the course.

Retake an exam for a fee.

Getting Help

Please use the help menu in this course to contact Independent Study or your instructor. You can find a list of free tutors available to BYU Independent Study students on the Free Tutoring Services website.

Note: The Harold B. Lee Library website provides a number of online resources and librarians are available via phone, chat, and email to answer questions about library-related issues.

Inappropriate Use of Course Content

All course materials (e.g., outlines, handouts, syllabi, exams, quizzes, media, lecture content, audio and video recordings, etc.) are proprietary. Students are prohibited from posting or selling any such course materials without the express written permission of BYU Independent Study. To do so is a violation of the Brigham Young University Honor Code.

Copyright © 2016 Brigham Young University. All rights reserved.

Published by the
Department of Independent Study
Division of Continuing Education
Brigham Young University
120 MORC
Provo, Utah 84602-1514