Imagine you sit on the organ bench and want to play a pedal solo line with the hand part silent. This could be an excerpt from an actual organ piece, such as Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV 564 by Bach, or a composition for pedal solo, like Epilogue from Hommage a Frescobaldi by Langlais. It could even be a pedal scale or arpeggio.
The question is this: where do you keep your hands in such situation?
There are 3 primary ways to do this correctly which are taught in organ method books.
1. On the organ bench
2. On the sides of the lower keyboard
3. On your knees
With the first method, you play the pedals while holding onto the organ bench. Here you are sort of helping with your hands to keep the balance of your body. This way makes it even easier to pivot to the new pedal position because your hands may involuntarily help to push to the right or left when needed.
The problem with this method is that your hands may not always be free to help you do that when you play the organ. In fact, very often your hands will be busy playing manual parts of your organ compositions.
Another way is to keep your hands on the sides of the lower keyboard. As with the previous method, the hands are a big help for keeping balance. However, the inherent danger here is to press the bottom or the top notes with your palms by accident (I've personally seen this happen) which can make a lot of noise especially if you are using a loud registration.
The third way is just to rest your hands on your knees. Although this method takes perhaps a couple of weeks to get used to but then you are quite sure that you are playing with your feet WITHOUT the help of the hands at all. You should use other techniques for changing position. This is my personal preferred method of playing pedals.
By the way, if you want to perfect your pedal technique, check out my Pedal Virtuoso Master Course - a 12 week training program designed to help you develop an unbeatable pedal technique while working only 15 minutes a day practicing pedal scales and arpeggios in all keys.
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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.