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And now let's go to the podcast for today.
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 361 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Lisa and she writes:
“Why is it bad to double the bass line in the pedals? I don’t notice much difference in the sound. I’m a new organist, having played the piano for church for 30 years.”
V: That’s a nice question, right Ausra?
A: It is.
V: And we have talked about it a few times but for people who come to the organ from piano background it’s not so apparent.
A: True and it’s like a regular kitchen and dishes is comparing to gourmet kitchen and dishes. That’s what it is when you double pedal with your left hand and then you don’t. You need to develop a keen sense of what you are playing and you really need to develop your ability to listen and to hear things. It comes with experience.
V: Umm-hmm. I wrote to Lisa that if you double the pedals you won’t be able to develop left-hand and pedal independence. That’s the main thing and independence is needed when playing real organ music. But if organists work at church don’t have any interest in real organ music and they only stick to hymns then what we’re talking about is not really understandable to them. It sounds well, it really does and there are organ pieces like that where pedal bass is doubling the left-hand bass, for example right now I am playing Priere by Juozas Naujalis and throughout this piece somehow he wrote this doubling in the pedals and in the left-hand maybe because he didn’t have in mind a big enough organ, I don’t know, but he had many instruments at hand …
A: Look if you have let’s say big organ you are adding big registration, what happens when you double bass and left-hand. That’s already each organ stop, if you pull out 8’ stop and 6’ stop and then you put let’s say 4’ and 2’ and blah, blah, blah, and mixtures, how many already sounds do you have for each single note, it’s above all imaginable.
V: In the pedals, right?
A: And in any also in the manuals because no, you rarely play with one stop pulled out .
A: It already doubles in itself in that single voice. It already doubles itself and triples and quadruples.
V: Huh, I see.
A: So why do you need to do that unless it was composers’ wish.
V: But I don’t understand why this wish was Naujalis position.
A: Well I don’t care so much about it, maybe he really didn’t have a big pedal.
V: Or maybe he wrote this piece for organists who couldn’t really play pedals and left-hand independently in Lithuania.
A: That’s more possible because he worked for many years as organ teacher too so maybe he noticed this problem as well.
V: And that’s why he wrote those wonderful organ trios.
A: But anyway, when a composer does that he probably wants to give more gravity to the pedals and to the lower parts of a piece. But I don’t’ think it’s so much stood for him, that’s my opinion, and do whatever you want, you know you are free person.
V: So for Lisa and others who are wondering why we do not double the bass line in left-hand… I was just reading this question one more time and she is asking backwards. “Why is it bad to double the bass line in the pedals.” In the pedals it’s good, but in the left-hand it’s not good.
A: Yes, that’s what happens to you because when you have a hymn it’s four voices most often and what people do is they play all four voices on the manuals and then put the lowest voice on the pedal part and what we are meaning is that you need to play three voices on the manuals, so soprano, alto, tenor and then to play the bottom line with your pedals.
V: I think Lisa needs to try this technique, right? It’s rather new to her and rather uncomfortable probably at the beginning and she will struggle with those hymns and that’s OK. It will just mean that if she’s up to the challenge, it is a challenge for beginners.
A: It’s just that I did not understand her question right from the beginning.
V: I understood the question but she is writing it backwards. In her mind probably it’s normal to play the bass line in the left-hand and then why do we need to double the bass line in the pedals.
A: We need to play the bass line with the pedals and not with your left-hand.
V: Exactly. If you play without any pedals then obviously play the bass line with the left hand. But that is the point, if you always play without pedals you will never learn to play the pedals and then it will be hard to call yourself a real organist.
A: True, then better stick with the piano if you don’t want to play the pedals.
V: Charles Tournemire once wrote that organists who cannot improvise are just half organists. So what would he call people who play the organ without pedals?
One-third organist or what?
V: One-fourth probably. We are not making fun of Lisa or anyone else of course. We’re just suggesting to try out this technique and not to play as it’s written right away but just play it and treat it as a real organ piece. It’s very small maybe one page long, one minute long, right? And you first master it probably voice by voice, and then two voice combinations, and then three part combinations and only then tackle four-part texture. For Lisa if she has played piano for church for 30 years maybe she doesn’t need to play separate voices at first, maybe she can do two voices but definitely she needs pedal line separately.
A: Sure and why pedal, the bass line on the pedalboard sounds better than on the manuals, that’s because you have more 16’ stops on the pedal and you give it gravity which is very nice for hymn accompanying and congregational singing.
V: Yeah, it’s like having double basses in the orchestra.
A: You will not have that effect if you will only use manuals even if you put the 16’ on the manuals but will not use the pedal the effect will not be as nice.
V: I haven’t thought about that for many times but now it’s very obvious, if you omit double basses from the orchestra it’s not just the 16’ is missing it’s the entire foundation is missing.
A: That’s right.
V: The same is for organ too.
A: I don’t think you would be able to listen to the violin for such a long time without double basses.
V: Exactly. Well, people need to try those challenging things, right? That’s why we are learning. That’s why we are trying to get better at things we couldn’t do yesterday, right? There wouldn’t be a point of practicing and spending hours on the organ bench if all we ever wanted to do was to play the hymns in way that we always play.
A: That’s right.
V: Even playing the hymns are maybe ten or twenty or thirty different ways and that’s another challenge in itself, but that’s the theme for another Podcast. Thank you guys for listening, this was fun, and please keep sending your wonderful questions and we hope to help you grow and 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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