This is Part 4 of the series of articles about common mistakes in pedal playing. In order to have a full picture, please read the Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3 as well.
Playing too deep on the sharp keys. We should strive to depress the sharp key on the edge of it. So don’t go too deep. Although this might seem very insignificant, keeping the foot on the edge of the sharp key makes the glissando to the natural key very easy. For example, if you want to make glissando from F sharp to G with the toe of your foot, just place the foot on the edge of F sharp and you will have to move just a little. Do not lift the heels into the air. On the contrary, if you play too deep on the sharp keys you have to move your foot much more in order to slide to the white key.
In addition, toe-heel technique works much better if we keep the feet on the edge of the sharp keys. In other words, the movement of the foot required is very small when we play close to the white key. For example, in order to use toe-heel technique on F sharp and G, play the F sharp with your toe on the edge of this key. As you depress the G with your heel, just release the F sharp with your toe but do not lift it into the air. I recommend you practice the pedal part of your organ piece very slowly to properly observe these details.
Playing too far on the natural keys. This mistake is perhaps even more common among organists than the previous one. Basically the rule is simple - stay close to the sharp keys when playing the naturals. In other words, the feet should be able to feel the edge of the sharp keys which helps to hit the right pedals. For example, when you play F with your right toe, place it so that it would be almost touching the F sharp. Then you would feel the edge of the F sharp with the outside of your toe. However, if you place your right foot on the F too far from sharp key, chances of missing the next note with the same foot are much higher.
Lifting the feet off the pedal board. I have met many organists who don’t pay attention to this rule. It is not very serious mistake but it does make a difference if we think about the precision in pedal playing. For a beginner, it is quite a challenge to find the right keys on the pedal board without looking at them.
We should slide the feet from one key to another but without lifting them. In other words, the motion should be horizontal and not vertical. Then we could feel the distances from D sharp to F sharp and from A sharp to C sharp with our feet and orient ourselves accordingly. So keeping in contact with the pedals at all times helps to get used to the pedal board and play the right notes.
In addition, if we play without lifting the feet off the pedals, we use much less energy. This is because to slide the feet is easier that to lift them into the air in terms of weight. Think of how much your leg weigh. Obviously if the foot is touching the pedal, you just have to slide from one key to the next. Otherwise you have to work against gravity.
The list about these common mistakes in pedal playing continues in Part 5 of this article series.
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.
Would you like to say "Thank You" to us? Buy Us Coffee.
Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Do you have a unique skill or knowledge related to the organ art? Pitch us your story to become a guest on Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast.
Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.