SOPP667: I'm an advanced organist, but in all my years of studying and playing, none of my teachers has ever taught pedal scales or arpeggios
Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 667 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Justin, and he writes,
I am currently subscribed to the Pedal Virtuoso Course. My materials for the week usually arrive on Wednesdays around 11:30 am local time, but for some reason, I didn't receive my materials for Week 5 (not in either my inbox or my spam folder). Could you arrange to have it sent?
I've been enjoying the course. I'm an advanced organist, but in all my years of studying and playing, none of my teachers has ever taught pedal scales or arpeggios. So I'm grateful that this material is filling in that gap!
Thanks, and all the best, Justin
V: First of all, of course I sent Justin the material, missing material, and the problem was with the auto responder service that I’m using. I looked up - everything was set up okay except one specific Week 5. And after Week 5, there is Week 6, 7, 8, etc., and they were scheduled correctly. But since Week 5 was not specified to go on a certain day, then Week 6 also wouldn’t get sent out. So I fixed that mistake. Does this make sense?
A: Yes, I guess so.
V: (laughs) That’s a little bit technical talk.
A: And I’m not a really technical person.
V: In some areas you are!
A: I could teach about parallel 5ths and octaves.
V: Yeah, that’s also technical. So Justin is taking Pedal Virtuoso Master Course.
A: Well actually, it’s a very nice message. I was really glad to hear from somebody who is an advanced organist and still can find useful our materials from Total Organist.
V: This specific course could really be helpful to advanced organists as well, because we start with C Major scale and C Major scale is not the easiest one to play even if you are experienced organist, right? You have to really develop flexibility of an ankle. And that’s not always the case with organists.
A: Yes, and actually this is, that C Major scale is very deceitful, because even on the piano it’s not the easiest scale to play actually. Because often people just avoid the black keys, thinking that they are real trouble-maker, but actually it’s not. Usually the white keys gives more trouble.
V: Correct. Unless there are too many black keys, then you can get lost in the keyboard, but what if you have one or two, those two black keys give you sense of direction, and also because if you look at your hand, your palm let’s say, your first finger is lower than the rest of them, so it feels natural to play sharps on some occasions.
A: Because when you can use your thumb closer to the black keys, yes.
V: Yes. You place your thumb on the white key, and let’s say the second finger on the sharp key.
A: Yes, and now a funny thought came to my mind. I thought about Bach’s Prelude in D Major which opens with that pedal line scale.
V: Yes, yes.
A: And I thought what a good joke it would be to transpose it into C Major. Would it be easier or harder, what do you think?
V: With Baroque pedaling, probably easier, probably easier, because all the white keys - remember, the feet are not exactly shaped like your fingers, so it’s a little bit easier to play on the white keys. Although one or two doesn’t hurt also.
A: Well, thanks for explaining me that feet are not exactly as my hands! (laughs) I was kind of confused about that. Thanks for clarifying it to me.
V: I wasn’t keeping you in mind in this specific example, but maybe some people could relate.
A: Yeah, so I was wondering maybe I should learn that D Major Prelude and Fugue. I have played it awhile ago, but maybe I need to play it in C Major and it will be easier.
V: That particular scale would be easier, but what about the rest of the Prelude?
A: Well, I’m not sure. I need to look into it.
V: Yeah. So yeah, difficult scales and arpeggios in this course are very helpful in developing perfect pedal technique, but if you are talking about BWV 532, D Major Prelude and Fugue, this opening, a lot of people are still using modern pedaling to play this passage.
A: I know.
V: You know that?
A: Yes, I know that.
V: With heels.
A: Too bad, but it’s their choice. What can we do?
V: Yeah. Even concert organists and lot of experts on...very famous organists on YouTube for example use heels, whereas Baroque pedaling could be very simple for this passage. Left, left, right, left, right, left, right, right.
A: Yes, I guess these virtuoso organists, concert organists as you call them, they probably haven’t played the real Baroque organ.
V: Real Baroque pedalboard.
V: It’s a flat…
A: Because I just can’t imagine using heels on real original Baroque organ.
V: Mm hm. Yeah. If you have let’s say at your disposal radiating AGO specification-based pedalboard, with the sides of the pedalboard going upward, it’s completely different feeling than the flat pedalboard that you see in Baroque instruments. And in a lot of cases in Romantic instruments as well. In Lithuania for example, in village churches, right?
A: Yes, that’s right.
V: The modern pedalboard wasn’t standardized probably up until 20th century,
A: As many things actually, wasn’t standardized until that time. As tuning, for example.
V: Yes. Tuning, pitch, a lot of instruments were either a little bit higher or a little bit lower than concert pitch A 440.
A: So music had more colors.
V: A lot of instruments had temperament different from equal temperament of today’s piano. So you could modulate to many different keys, and still feel the difference between the keys.
A: That’s right.
V: What do you think about people who don’t like exercises and scales and arpeggios - would they benefit from this course, or would, it would be counter-productive?
A: I think everybody would benefit from it, but it’s just question of personal choice.
V: Yes, some people enjoy playing repertoire straightaway.
A: Yes, that’s right. And it’s okay. If exercises are exhausting you or killing you, then why bother, if you are good at what you are doing?
V: And on the contrary, there are people that I even know personally who refrain from playing repertoire unless they can play exercises for a long time. They could practice exercises for weeks and months.
A: I guess probably for those people, simple exercises is like a therapy, like some sort of meditation, don’t you think so?
V: Yes because let’s say in this course you get one set of exercises every week, and if you learn one exercise per day, you’ll get kind of sense of accomplishment.
A: Sure, and I guess it’s up to each person to find her or his own way, what really works.
V: Yeah. Some people play hymns instead of repertoire or exercises. They’re not interested.
A: Which is also perfectly normal, because hymns are fun to play, and they are naturally really pleasing, even musically.
V: I found that using hymns in organ demonstrations is really really fun, both for the performer and hopefully for the listener too.
A: Yes, especially if you grew up in a church and certain hymns are really deep under your skin.
A: And it really appeals to many people, I think.
V: Yeah. It depends who’s listening, of course.
V: If you are someone who never sang hymns, then probably organ demonstrations with a different kind of music would work better. All right 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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