One of the signs showing that a person playing an organ is indeed an organist as opposed to a pianist is this: most of the time, unless there is a legitimate need for it, an organist doesn't lift the fingers and the feet off the keyboard and feet.
How critical is to keep this contact for an organist?
I think it's important for at least two reasons:
1. It's vital for the control of releases of notes which is the key to achieving the desired and precise articulation.
2. The pipes can speak to the best of their ability.
The first point is extremly evident when you play polyphonically complex music, such as the Baroque pieces. Because of the intensity of independent melodies, each voice requires its own articulation which is best controlled by keeping the contact with the keyboards and pedalboard. It's also important even in the Romantic and modern organ music when some notes have to be shortened to the exact point.
The second point is most applicable when the tempo of the composition is fast and when there is a need to play staccato. Lifting off the fingers and the feet into the air often makes the staccato sound too short - the pipes simply don't have enough time to speak.
If you have an extensive training in piano playing, keeping contact on the organ is not easy. It's a new habit and as always, forming a new habit requires time, patience and some perseverance but it''s definitely makes the playing much more idiomatic on the organ.
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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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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.