SOPP539: My organ only has 25 pedals
Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra
V: Let’s start episode 539, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Kirk. And he writes:
I have been practicing 2 hours a day on my full console organ. A couple of questions for my organ only has 25 pedals, so what does one do when running in organ music that is above the range of that pedalboard which runs down to 2 octaves below middle C up to Middle C on the piano. Also, I have been working out of my hymnal breaking up my practicing on the hymns down from soprano, alto and tenor and the bass part separately. With the Marcel Dupré book, I am working on one piece at a time, and working consistently on one section at a time in piece until I get my coordination and phrasing right before I go to the next phrase to work on.
V: Mmm-hmm! So, Ausra, do you understand what kind of pedalboard does Kirk have? He has from Bass C to the Middle C, like most of the early organs?
A: Yes, yeah.
V: Two octaves. Two octaves plus one note. Well, sometimes we would have 27 notes like up to D, right? Which would facilitate a little bit. But for example, in a church where we both worked, which is called Holy Cross church, it does have only…
A: Holy Cross.
V: Holy Cross. it does have only pedalboard going to treble C.
A: Well, it was sufficient for church music. Because, anyway you wouldn’t play virtuoso pieces on that particular instrument since we had only one keyboard there. So it was good for him and for some liturgical pieces. So I guess, well having such an organ, you have to select your repertoire accordingly.
V: More early music?
A: Yes, more early music. That’s right.
V: I doubt that Marel Dupré’s 79 Chorales go above C too often.
A: Well because it’s also sort of liturgical music.
V: Plus it’s a beginners book.
A: That’s right so it’s not for like, very advanced organ music.
V: Yeah. He might get into higher notes from time to time but not very often.
A: But then he can play them an octave lower.
V: An octave lower. And the way we do this is not dropping just one note, for example. If there is a note, treble C in your score, right, and then right next to it is D. You have to think strategically. Dropping D one octave below sometimes would sound unconvincing.
A: True. Maybe then you have to play lower, both notes, C and D.
V: Or maybe entire phrase.
V: Or see how can you rearrange the parts and the intervals. For example; if there is an interval when you drop downwards, if there is an interval of fourth and fifth, it’s okay, right? Second, third is also okay. But about a sixth? Sixth is also okay downwards.
A: Yes, sixth is okay I think. Seventh is not okay.
V: I think seventh is okay if you go downward but seventh upward is not okay, right?
A: Anyway I think if we are talking about functional harmony you need to avoid the interval of the major seventh.
V: Major seventh. Not a good...
A: Major seventh yes. It’s really bad and you need to avoid augmented intervals.
V: Uh-huh. Augmented meaning like Bb to C#.
V: Augmented second.
A: Going up. I mean, yes, doing augmented interval. If you would go below from that, you would have like diminished seventh, which would be worse.
V: From Bb to C#.
A: That’s right.
V: Diminished seventh. Or augmented fourth is not good. Make it diminished fifth. A diminished fourth is better than augmented fifth.
A: In general, that’s a rule you know.
A: In functional harmony that you avoid the leaps of augmented intervals.
V: The second part of this question, he writes about those chorals from Marcel Dupré’s book. He writes that he’s working on one piece at a time and working consistently on one section at a time in the piece until he gets his coordination and phrasing right before he goes to the next phrase to work on. Can we suggest to memorize, like Marcel Dupré says?
A: If he has time then yes. Why not?
V: I think he has to find time because he uses Marcel Dupré’s book. And Marcel Dupré specifically states that after you can play the piece very slowly, both hands and the pedals, then you practice each phrase separately, and do it from memory—basically memorize it. But his method of memorization is very curious—you take a phrase of four measures long, and then you practice repeatedly the first measure, always starting and ending on the downbeat of the next measure, right? And you do like maybe five times while looking at the score and the five time without looking at the score. And then you do the same for the second measure, and then for the third measure, and then for the fourth measure—separately. Sounds boring!
A: Yes, it does.
V: But that’s what master recommends.
A: Well, yeah.
V: And then guess what comes next? Next comes two measure fragments. Measures one and two, two and three, three and four. And then you memorize one, two, three, and two, three, four together. And only then you memorize one, two, three, four together.
A: I’m glad I wasn’t Marcel Dupré’s student. I would might have just died because his method is so boring.
V: So let’s see if Kirk can survive that.
A: I guess Marcel Dupré was famous for his discipline and for strictness to his students.
V: Yes. And some people don’t like that. And that’s okay with me, because I’m not Marcel Dupré, and he’s dead.
A: I know. Remember once we did those tests for fun, to tell us which of French…
A: organists we are.
V: On Facebook.
A: Yes. It was just really funny.
V: I was Marcel Dupré?
A: No. I was Marcel Dupré. And you were Cochereau.
V: Pierre Cochereau.
A: Pierre Cochereau, yes.
V: I wonder why.
V: There was one answer about Charles Tournimere. Who was Charles Tournimere? Our friend Polish maybe.
A: No. He was also Marcel Dupré.
V: He was also Marcel Dupré. Mmm. Interesting. Yeah. I guess you can only admire old masters or modern masters, up to certain point. Never try to become a master like Marcel Dupré. Be yourself, better. If you see your own character trait which is different from Marcel Dupré’s, develop it further. It will become your unique point of personality. And nobody can imitate you this way, which is more, I think, valuable than imitating masters in today's world. Because there was already Marcel Dupré, there was Pierre Cochererau already. But there is only one Ausra and one Vidas. And we’re still alive and still kicking.
A: That’s right.
V: And there is still one Kirk, and he needs to become also the best version of himself. Thank you guys. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Please send us more of your questions. We love helping 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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