The ultimate level of this skill is demonstrated in the notorious 6 Trio Sonatas by Johann Sebastian Bach which he wrote for his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann to complete his education in organ playing. In this article, I will give you my personal tips and advice on how to develop hand and foot independence in organ playing.
- Keep it simple in the beginning. Because so much of organ literature is too difficult for a beginner, you can easily create your own exercises. Start with note-against-note exercises for two voices in quarter notes. For example, just play a C major scale in each hand at the interval of the third. By the way, thirds are very sweet sounding intervals and they are used in most of tonal music. This means that one part starts on C and the other – on E. In each exercise, play an ascending and descending scale. After several repetitions, when one version becomes easy, switch hands. Note that the third becomes the sixth which is an inversion of the third. In this and the following exercises, use these three dispositions:
2) Right hand and pedals
3) Left hand and pedals
- Second, play two-against-one exercise. As in the previous exercise, both parts will play the C major scale at the interval of the third but this time the top voice will add an extra note in between moving in eight notes. For example, it will sound best if you play a third up and a second down in this voice (E G, F A, G B, A C etc.). Note that every other note is the note of C major scale. Please refer to the practicing instructions of the previous exercise.
- Third, practice three-against-one exercise. In this exercise, both parts will play the C major scale at the interval of the third but this time the top voice will play in triplets. For example, add two stepwise ascending notes in the top voice (E F G, F G A, G A B, A B C etc.). Note that while descending, triplets will become descending as well. You can create this exercise in another way as well while adding an extra lower neighbor tone (E D E, F E F, G F G, A G A etc.). Please refer to the practicing instructions for note-against-note exercise.
- Finally, play four-against-one exercise. In this exercise, both parts will play the C major scale at the interval of the third but this time the top voice will play in sixteenth notes. Add a leap by a third down and play three notes up (E C D E, F D E F, G E F G, A F G A etc.). Note that while descending, you will need to add a third up and three notes down for the sixteenth notes. Please refer to the practicing instructions for note-against-note exercise.
If you want some real challenge, play them in the key of A minor, too and start transposing them into different keys with ascending number of accidentals (G major and E minor – 1 sharp, F major and D minor – 1 flat, D major and B minor – 2 sharps, B flat major and G minor – 2 flats etc.). Need help with your music theory skills in building these scales? Just let me know and I will explain it to you.
If you follow my suggestions, in time you will be able to play technically advanced and polyphonically challenging compositions very well. You will be surprised how fast you will advance. Hand and foot independence will skyrocket your organ playing to the next level in no time.
By the way, do you want to learn to play the King of Instruments - the pipe organ? If so, download my FREE video guide: "How to Master Any Organ Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music.