Pedal playing is perhaps one of the most exciting aspects of organ playing. Everyone wants to start playing those flashy virtuoso pedal lines of Bach's d minor toccata, a large North German Baroque style Prelude or the Flight of the Bumblebee.
But, of course, we don't start pedal playing with such virtuoso music. We keep it really simple at the beginning, just a few long sustained notes played with alternate toes only.
Just as with manual playing, the very first thing you have to learn when playing the pedals is how to depress and release the pedal keys correctly.
So, what is the correct way to do that? The normal way we depress the pedals is through the light, swift, and precise motion of the ankle. In this case, the ankle serves as a fulcrum. As with manual playing, do not lift your feet from the pedal board.
Keep the feet in contact with the pedal board at all times. This is really important. Always feel the surface of the pedals with your feet. In fact, the way we sit on the bench already helps to do that. The height of the bench should be adjusted so that your feet should be touching the pedals lightly. Not pressing, of course, but touching.
If you lift your feet off the pedals in the air and let them hanging there, then there will be a couple of problems.
First, very quickly you will feel some tension in your legs. You see, to let the feet be relaxed and touching the pedals is easier than to lift them. Therefore, this tension, which arises from the incorrect motion of the leg gradually will begin to form an incorrect habit and technique.
Second, as with finger work, the releases will not be precise and clear which in turn will lead to the imprecision of the rhythms in the music.
On the other hand, if you keep your feet in contact with the pedals, you will coordinate the releases much easier. Your pedal technique will be much more precise.
Another thing to keep in mind is that the pedal should be pressed with the inside of the foot. This can be achieved, if we keep both the heels and the knees together.
For smaller intervals, up to a fifth, you will have no problems playing this way. However, for large intervals, of an octave and others, it will not be possible to keep the heels together. It this case, just keep the knees together.
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.
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.