Early organ music requires different kind of pedaling than Romantic and modern compositions. Like fingering, pedaling techniques used in the Renaissance and Baroque music depends not only on different stylistic trends and compositional style but also on major differences in organ building and construction. Just like fingering, choosing correct pedaling allows good articulation, phrasing, and touch, among other things. In other words, if you know the general ideas and concepts of the pedaling used in early organ music, pedaling itself will help you play the music in style and you will achieve the correct articulation naturally. Whether you play music of Schlick, Buxtehude, Sweelinck, Bach, or any other Renaissance or Baroque composer, you will benefit from the correct pedaling methods. Today I would like to reveal the most commonly used pedaling technique for 16th, 17th, and 18th century organ music.
Do Not Use Heels
The rule in pedaling early organ music is to avoid using heels. In countries, like France, pedal keys were very narrow and it could be played using toes only. Moreover, very often organ bench on historical organs was in a position were playing with heels was simply impossible. In other words, the full foot of an organist could not fit between the organ bench and the sharp keys. Although in Italy pedal keys were not as narrow, they were quite short. So the only option on many organs was to play with toes. In addition, on the clavichord sound made by the heel would produce a squeaking effect. Since clavichord technique was the basis of organist technique as well, all toes pedaling is the best choice in early organ music.
Perhaps the most popular pedaling technique in early organ music is alternate toes. It basically means that some passages of pedal lines should be played using toes of left and right foot in alternation. For example, try to play the ascending C major scale in this way: left-right-left-right-left and so on. Start the descending scale with the right foot. Make sure that the notes would not be played legato. In other words, you should try to achieve small articulation between notes. Shorten every other note a little so that you will make small accents on strong beats.
Note that you should not use feet crossing with this technique. In other words, do not put you foot behind or in front of the other. Instead, move both your feet together as a unit. If you perform the C major scale in this way, it will be easy to feel the pulse and alternation of strong and week beats. The typical use of alternate toes technique also is in the descending pairs of sixteenth notes, such CD BC AB GA FG EF DE etc.
I recommend regular practice of major and minor scales in most common keys using alternate toes technique. In other words, play scales with up to two accidentals which were the most often used in the Renessaince and Baroque music. This practice will help you to master not only this technique but also the natural articulation.
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.
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