Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 153, of #AskVidasAndAusra Podcast. Today’s question was sent by David. He writes:
Thank you for your encouraging emails. They have made a very big difference to me. I have always enjoyed playing the organ but you have given me a renewed enthusiasm, a sense of achievement and deeper enjoyment.
Cheers, best wishes to you and Ausra, have a good Christmas break.
I am getting better, but my pedaling is in need of work.
The organ I use has a 'special' pedal coupler called 'MB' or Manual Bass. This takes the 'signal' from the lowest note played on the Great manual and treats it as if it were a 'signal' from the pedal board, thus allowing the pedal stops to sound from the Great. If you had no stops out on the Great, you could use this coupler to play the pedal pipes instead of using the pedal board itself - although you could only play one note at a time as it selects the lowest note played from the Great only. I am afraid this works so well and it is so easy to give a full organ sound, that I rarely use the pedal board, other than for pieces I am really familiar with, e.g. wedding music!
I watched your video on playing a C major scale on the pedal board, this was so helpful that when I saw your 10 day pedal playing challenge, I thought it was exactly what I needed. Early this year I bought a special pair of organ-master dress shoes which also help. I have quite big feet (UK 11 - EU 46) and normal shoes make it difficult to be precise. The higher heal helps as well and the soft sole is a great advantage with just the right amount of friction.
I live in Sheffield, South Yorkshire in England.
V: So, Ausra, I think it’s good that David is playing with the right kind of organ shoes.
A: Yes, it helps a lot.
V: Some people prefer to play with socks, some people use other kinds of shoes, but eventually you need to choose the right equipment, right?
A: That’s right. It makes a big difference.
V: So, this manual-bass coupler is a very interesting phenomenon. Have you ever met it or seen it on the organ?
A: Actually, no. I haven’t.
V: I saw it just once or twice, but only on electronic organs, like Allen digital organ. I remember, we have a studio organ at the Lithuanian Academy of Music, and the principle is this; if you engage this coupler, you could play pedal stops with your hands.
A: Well, but that’s, that is cheating.
V: That’s what they thought. That’s what they thought. It’s only for people who don’t use feet during their playing.
A: I know, but, but, but, I just don’t imagine how can you play organ and don’t play the pedals.
V: It’s little bit, too bad, right, that David is not always taking advantage of the pedal board. And you can sometimes even forget how to play your feet if you do it too long with your hands.
A: I know, you have to practice your pedals every day, until you will feel comfortable. Because I think this is the most fun part of playing organ, is to be able to play pedals.
V: Definitely. It feels like you are dancing, actually. Do like to dance, Ausra?
A: Well, I like to play organ more.
V: But does organ pedal playing remind you of dancing?
A: Well, maybe a little bit, yes.
V: To me, it reminds me of using your entire body, even, so, I’m not a dancer myself, but I danced a little bit when nobody was looking. So it feels like similar motion. It was really a weird situation, to see me dancing. So, of course, I play better with pedals.
V: Have you seen me dancing, Ausra?
A: Yes, I have danced with you?
V: What you do think?
A: (Laughs). I think you play organ than you dance.
V: Do you think I have hope to become a better dancer, like I’m the organist now?
A: (Laughs). I’m sure I don’t think so. Sorry!
V: That’s too bad. I was going to apply to ballet school.
A: Heh, heh, heh.
V: But now I’m crushed.
A: Yes, sorry for that.
V: You’re good at crushing my dreams. What dreams could I crush on you now?
A: I don’t know. I better don’t tell you my dreams, so you cannot crush them.
V: Yeah. Guys, keep your dreams to yourself. Don’t tell anybody because some people can take advantage of your dreams, and uh, you know, make fun of you.
A: Yes, don’t tell your dreams to Ausra; she is cruel. That’s what you meant.
V: I will not say it out loud.
V: Excellent. So I guess we have to help David to get better with pedal playing, don’t you think?
V: The first step he needs to take is simply believe that it could be done, with time.
A: Yes, of course.
V: Maybe a few months, maybe a few years, but eventually pedal playing will get easier.
A: Because you know, if you avoid them, you will never feel comfortable about playing pedals.
V: You have to face your fears, right Ausra?
V: It’s like, if you are afraid of spiders, you have to get into the spider’s web, and you know, get comfortable with ten or one hundred spiders. Ausra is looking now for spiders because I’m afraid of spiders and she would bring a few of them on my head now.
A: Well, I think you are just pretending that you are afraid of spiders.
V: I’m not afraid of spiders when I draw them, actually. So, I better try to draw them with pencil or a pen. But when I see them, it’s very frustrating and scary. What about you?
A: I’m afraid of snakes.
V: So, are you afraid of drawing snakes?
A: I wouldn’t like to draw a snake actually. I hate them, you know, in anything, in nature, and also in drawing. I just don’t want to look at them.
V: But what would happen if a snake appeared on the pedal board?
A: Well, it would be the biggest nightmare of my life.
V: You would be playing like a dancer then, right, like a gigue.
A: Well, I think I would just scream and run.
V: So, guys, if you want to I think Ausra is saying, correct me if I’m wrong, if you want to get better with pedal playing, put some snakes on the pedal board, and force yourself to, to, you know, avoid them when the bite you. But still keep playing, right Ausra?
A: Ha, ha, how funny. Don’t do that. Don’t listen to this!
V: My advice always works, don’t you think Ausra?
A: Maybe not about snakes.
V: Okay. I will try it myself then and then I’ll let you know how it goes. So, of course it’s important not to skip pedal practice, for David.
A: That’s right, because you know, don’t use that coupler, unless you use it on very special occasions, but don’t use it, on a regular basis.
V: If you’re so used to that button, maybe it will be very hard for you at the beginning, maybe, the first couple of months, you know, to avoid playing with your left hand, the pedal line. But later, you’ll thank us, actually.
A: I know, because otherwise, how can you play real organ repertoire which you know, has right hand and left hand and pedals. So you will not be able to play it, if you use this coupler.
V: Or maybe David doesn’t have a goal to or dream to play real organ literature, don’t you think?
A: I don’t know. It’s hard to tell.
V: If that’s the case, maybe he should challenge himself a little bit, of playing unfamiliar repertoire specifically created for the organ.
A: Yes, I think that’s a good way.
V: And in a few months, he will start to see some progress and get hooked on this.
A: That’s right.
V: An entire world will open up for David, and people like David, maybe who are also struggling with playing with their feet and would rather use the manual-bass coupler instead of real pedal playing.
V: Thank you guys. I hope this was useful, and please send us more of your questions. Ausra and I love helping you grow.
V: And please remember, when you practice…
A: Miracles happen!
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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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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.