By Vidas Pinkevicius
"I never seem to be able to hit the right pedals when playing with my feet. It's so frustrating", one of my readers wrote to me.
She misses the correct pedals like they would be a hard-to-catch annoying mosquito.
That's because she didn't program her feet to automate their movements with pedal preparation.
Is this absolutely essential to your organ pedal technique?
Yes, I think so, at least in the beginning when you can't feel the pedalboard very well.
The change in your pedal powers will not happen overnight, though. It takes time.
But you will certainly feel small improvements each day you practice the same fragment with your feet over and over.
Like an onion you grow in a jar with water at the end of winter.
It's a good feeling.
I once observed a student play the organ:
His head was down all the time -
it was evident he had to look at the pedals constantly.
Was he afraid to pound the wrong note?
Was he unfamiliar with the instrument?
I think he formed a habit gradually
by practicing this way day in and day out.
Can you form a new habit?
Can you resist the temptation to look down?
For starters try implementing
pedal preparation technique
as often as you can.
This is one of the keys to
perfect pedal technique.
Ausra's Harmony Exercise:
Chord Progression in F# Minor: i-i7-iv-ii65-i64-V7-i
I bet you have been in a situation where you had to play an organ piece in public and you lost control of your pedal part. As a result of this you obviously made a few nasty pedal mistakes. That might have happened because you lost position on the pedalboard. In other words, you would play a passage with your feet and suddenly you wouldn‘t know where exactly is there right pedal to press.
There are only two reasons for losing position of the pedalboard.
1. Lack of pedal preparation.
2. Lack of focus.
As you might know pedal preparation is the secret technique that not too many organists use but it would help you to make your pedal playing very powerful and automatic. When you master your piece and apply pedal preparation, you never have to look to your feet in order to find the right pedals to play.
Pedal preparation is best practiced repeatedly with the short fragments of the pedal part in a very slow tempo. For example, repeat the passage of two measures 10 or more times while playing very slowly.
More importantly, as you release the note with your foot, with one swift motion slide it into position for the next one and let it rest there. Don‘t play the next pedal yet but let it wait for its turn. This of course applies for any of your feet, left or right.
Using pedal preparation doesn‘t guarantee the success, though. What you also need is to focus your mind. Focus is your mental attitude where you put you conscious mind into the current measure that you play.
No matter what kind of thoughts enter into your mind, don‘t fight them, don‘t think about them and don‘t worry about them. Simply be in the current measure. This is easier said than done of course but one thing which really helps to focus is your eyes. Fix your eyes on the measure that you‘re playing.
If you do this often enough, little by little your mind will learn to focus and you will have no trouble in finding the right notes and maintaining position on the pedalboard.
Have you ever wanted to know one organ technique which would make your pedal playing automatic? In other words, instead of struggling to hit the right notes with your feet, would you like to know how to achieve the level when you could play any pedal line fluently even without thinking on auto-pilot?
The answer is simple: make use of pedal preparation technique. Here is how it works.
As soon as you release the note with one foot, slide it in place for the next note of the same foot with one swift motion. Don't depress the new note yet but let it wait for it's turn. Do the same with another foot for the entire pedal line of your organ piece.
If you tried it on your organ, you would soon discover that at first you really have to think about the next note and its preparation. So now you might have an obvious question - how many times should you repeat the pedal passage to make it fully automatic?
What I have found from my personal practice is that I need to repeat a small pedal fragment (about 4 measures) in a slow fully controlled tempo 10 times for 10 days in a row. That makes a total number of 100 repetitions (more in cases for extremely difficult music).
This make sense when you think that it takes about 80-100 times of repetitions of the word in a foreign language to fully sink in in our long-term memory.
If you haven't ever used this organ technique in your pedal playing, I encourage you to try it out. Make a little experiment. During the period of the next 10 days, learn one passage of pedal part with pedal preparation and another passage of similar length and difficulty without it. You will be amazed when you compare your fluency of both passages.
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my video Organ Practice Guide.
We all have heard about pedal preparation technique in organ playing. It provides lots of benefits to the organists - pedal playing accuracy, fluency, and automation. Yet very few people take advantage of this incredible technique and in result their pedal playing will not develop up to the high level. If you are struggling with your pedal playing, read this article in which you will find out why organists don't use pedal preparation often enough and I will provide the tips for you to successfully apply it in your practice.
First of all, if you don't know what pedal preparation means, let me explain it to you.
Pedal preparation is a technique in which the foot is placed on the pedal right after the previous pedal is released. In other words, if you want to use pedal preparation, you just slide your foot to the next note in exactly the same instant after releasing the note you just played. Don't press this new pedal but let your foot rest in place and be ready for your next note.
Playing the pedals this way will give you the necessary fluency and automation because you will not have to think about what is coming next in your pedal line.
Although the benefits of pedal preparation hopefully are very clear to you, there are not too many organists who practice this way. Are you wondering what is the reason for that?
Although every person is different, for many people this is because of laziness in organ practice. You see, it is much easier to play the organ piece you love from the beginning until the end without stopping and without paying attention to such details, as pedal preparation, eliminating mistakes, correct depression of the pedals and so on.
In reality we all are quite lazy when it comes to practice. We want to achieve the results fast but don't realize how much work needs to be done in order to achieve our goal.
The same holds true in pedal preparation. In order for this technique to work, you have to practice short fragments of your pedal line alone repeatedly. In other words, if you want your pedal playing to become automated, play an excerpt of about 4 measures in a slow tempo 10 times in a row.
With each repetition try to focus and reach for preparing your foot in place for the next note. Now this is not easy but it is simple enough to understand. You just have to push yourself to do it correctly each time.
The next day you come to your organ practice repeat the previously mastered fragment 10 times with this technique. Do this 10 days in a row and you will have your fragment fully automated, I guarantee you.
Try this experiment: repeat one pedal fragment at least 10 times for 10 days with pedal preparation in a slow tempo. The fragment doesn't have to be long - up to 1 line of music. Practice other lines as you normally play without applying this technique. After 10 days, compare the result of these 2 different fragments. I bet after those 10 days you will never want to play the old way again.
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my free Organ Practice Guide.
Or if you really want to learn to play any organ composition at sight fluently and without mistakes while working only 15 minutes a day, check out my systematic master course in Organ Sight-Reading.
Because pedal playing is a new skill for all beginner organists, the vast majority of them have a strong temptation to look down at their feet while playing pedals. However, the looking at the feet should be avoided because it inhibits the technical advancement of the organist. Just as playing with the fingers it is advisable to look at the organ score instead at one’s fingers the same applies when playing the pedals. In this article, I will give you the advice which will help you to play good notes on the pedals without looking down at your feet.
Write in pedaling. In order to avoid confusion and accidental pedaling which leads to mistakes and unnecessary tension, I strongly advice to write in all your pedaling. Pencil in your pedaling with the signs for toes and heels (left or
right foot). If you write in your pedaling regularly in your scores, you will start to feel the predictable patterns which will help you make the right choices even without writing down your pedaling. However, pencil in the pedaling at least until you are comfortable playing with correct pedaling the Baroque compositions. For Romantic and modern organ music, it is best to write in the
pedaling in every score.
Use pedal preparation. This technique will increase your pedal playing abilities enormously. Simply prepare your feet for the next note in advance. For example, as you release the note in the pedal part, slide it instantly into position for the next note. Do not play the next note, of course, but let it rest and wait for its turn. In order to be implemented correctly, this technique must be practiced over and over.
By the way, it is a very powerful technique which makes your pedal playing automatic without the need of conscious thinking. This, of course, reduces the chances of mistakes dramatically and you will not need to look at your feet while you are playing. At first, you will find that it is hard to remember the position for the next note. In this case, write in your pedal preparation in parentheses. Later, with the advancement of your pedal technique you will start to feel the next note in advance and will not need to think about the preparation at all.
If you use my advice and write in your pedaling and practice pedal preparation regularly in your daily practice, after short few months you will begin to notice that the temptation to look down at your feet gradually lessens. This will happen because you will know your pedal board much better than before.
If you are interested in perfecting your pedal technique, an invaluable resource is Organ Technique: Modern and Early by George Ritchie and George Stauffer.
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.
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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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