Vidas: And let’s start Episode 49 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Anna, and she asks about the pain she experiences in her knees when she plays the pedals. Probably, she feels that when she turns--when playing pedal passages--when she turns, it’s kind of painful to her. Maybe she’s doing something wrong. What do you think, Ausra?
Ausra: Well, she might be doing something wrong, but another thing is that she might have weak knees, basically, like a medical condition. So at the beginning, I would suggest to her to contact her doctor, and do some tests on her knees, because the problem might be just a medical issue--not her playing. And another thing that I would suggest for her to do, or to try to do: to exercise before practicing the organ. Because you have to warm up if you have bad knees, in general; it will help you to reduce your pain.
Vidas: So like, stretching, you mean?
Ausra: Sure. Some physical therapy, I think, also would help her to improve things. I’m not sure if it would help like 100%, but at least it might lessen her pain.
Vidas: Right, when your body feels warmer, and the blood circulation is normal, then you can start playing full speed, especially with your feet.
Ausra: Yes, and of course I would wish to see how she’s sitting on the organ bench, and how is she moving, when she has to shift her legs; because another thing that might cause this knee pain is, maybe she shifts too suddenly; and the sudden motion might cause pain, too. What do you think?
Vidas: When you are shifting pedal positions--when you’re sitting facing straight and the pedal passages continue to go upward or downward--you need to change positions. And the correct way to do this is by pushing off of the opposite foot. So for example, if you are going upward, you push off with the left foot; and your lower body, your knees, continue to face the direction that you’re playing (basically upward), right? But your upper body must always face straight, to the music rack. Does it make sense, Ausra?
Ausra: Well yes...yes and no. It might be very hard to do, especially when you have pain.
Vidas: So when people have pain like this, in their knees and sometimes in their backs, too, is because they don’t push off with the opposite foot and their lower bodies continue to face straight even though they are moving to a new position with their feet. So for example, they’re playing extreme bass passages--extremely low passages--but the knee is facing the center. So it’s kind of breaking their knee. That’s why it might be painful. I don’t know if it’s the case with Anna, but it’s worth investigating further if she is changing position correctly.
Ausra: Yes, and I think she definitely needs to contact a doctor, and to see, if it’s not like arthritis or something medical. And then if everything is just fine, then just exercise and try to find new ways to move on the organ.
Vidas: Have you ever had a similar situation, Ausra--pain in your knees when playing pedals?
Ausra: Actually no. I had knee problem when I played piano, way back in my high school time. Because when playing piano, you only use two pedals, and not always you have to (especially the left one). So when practicing a few hours you would get a sort of stiffness in your whole body, especially in your knees. And it would be hard for me to get up from the chair after playing for two or three hours. So that was very painful. But this pain disappeared when I started to practice organ; because my knees kept moving all the time, and actually helped me to avoid pain.
Vidas: Hmm, interesting. For me, I had some pain issues when I first started playing the organ in the 10th grade; and later on, too, in the first years of music academy in Vilnius. Really, nobody taught us this correct way of changing position in Lithuania, right?
Vidas: So people kept playing in whatever way they found easier, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it was the correct way, or a healthy way.
Ausra: Yes, that was the method in Lithuania, actually. I remember when I asked my teacher how I could play a right note in the pedal...She just told me, “Oh, whatever, play it with your nose! Just hit the right key.” That was her answer!
Vidas: Half-jokingly, she said that?
Ausra: Well...I don’t really think so. It was a very ironic joke. Not very nice, to talk with your students in that manner!
Vidas: So instead of explaining to you how you could depress the pedals with your foot, and make the sound with your feet correctly--instead she chose to deflect your question with ironic humor, and because she actually didn’t know, herself!
Ausra: Probably. She did not know, probably, about pedal preparation, so that was the easiest way for her to get rid of my questioning.
Vidas: So guys, please, please, please pay attention to how you shift positions when playing the organ, and pedals--it’s really, really sometimes damaging to your knees if you don’t pay attention, if you continue to play facing the center with your knees and your lower feet continue to play, in the lower range or the upper range. So your knees should always face the note that you’re playing with the pedal--that’s the general rule. And you push off to the new position with the opposite foot.
Ausra: Yes, please do that. And let us know how things are going.
Vidas: Yes, please reply to our messages when you subscribe to our blog at www.organduo.lt. And we will be very glad to help you out and answer any other questions that you might have in the future of this podcast. Thanks for listening!
This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
PS Would you like to save yourself weeks or even months of tedious work when writing the most stylistically appropriate fingering and pedaling yourself for efficient practice of Piece d'Orgue, BWV 572? If so, check it out here. 50% discount is valid until August 23.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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