Vidas: Let’s start Episode 57 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. Today’s question was sent by Christa, and she writes:
“Hello Ausra and Vidas,
Thank you very much for your podcast. It is easier for me to follow the written version, so thanks a lot for it too. My question is: How can I avoid hitting two keys in the pedals at once? It happens easily, when I have to turn a bit over the middle and play lower notes with my right foot and higher ones with my left foot. Best wishes, Christa”
So basically, this question involves accuracy in playing pedals, right, Ausra?
Ausra: That’s right, yes.
Vidas: Do you notice yourself sometimes playing wrong notes, with your feet?
Ausra: Well, yes, definitely, sometimes I hit the wrong note; but actually, I don’t hit two keys at the same time with my feet. And since your feet are larger than mine are, maybe you encounter that problem.
Vidas: I guess the reason for this is simply an inability to adjust to the pedal part easily. And I don’t know if Christa is practicing on different kinds of pedalboards all the time, or just if she is used to one specific pedalboard; but it would help her, probably, to practice pedal preparation, don’t you think?
Ausra: Yes, I think that would be helpful; also, I’m not sure what kind of shoes she uses--if they’re suitable shoes for organ then it shouldn’t be so hard to hit only one key at a time. Because special organ shoes have narrow tips.
Vidas: And the heels are reasonably medium-high, and they are not very wide, too; so basically if you have ordinary organist shoes, you are in good shape.
Ausra: I think she might not turn, shift her body position fast enough, when she changes the position, going from the low pedaling to the high.
Vidas: What’s the easiest way to shift positions?
Ausra: Well, sometimes it’s very good to note especially if there must be a sudden shift, to add it in your score--maybe with some kind of sign.
Vidas: Maybe an arrow, right?
Vidas: Going upwards or downwards.
Ausra: Because I think the main reason she is unprepared for that shift in advance, and it takes too long; and then she just moves at the wrong time and hits two keys instead of one.
Vidas: That would help, obviously. And another thing that I mentioned earlier is pedal preparation, where you basically practice, multiple times, a short segment of pedal passage, and you aim to move your foot to the next pedal note, and let it rest there.
Ausra: Yes, and I’m thinking of another thing: her pedaling is maybe not correct; Maybe she tries to play too high with the left foot and too low with the right foot. Maybe she should revise her pedaling, to check it.
Vidas: But that depends also if you can shift your body comfortably.
Vidas: Because for me, earlier I thought I could play extremely low passages with my right foot, too, or extremely high passages with my left foot. But today I avoid that, and everything below bass G goes with my left foot, and everything above maybe A--like an interval of a perfect fifth in the tenor range, I would play with my right foot.
Ausra: Well that’s an easy way to do it in Baroque music; but if you’re playing later music, you cannot avoid playing with both feet all over the pedalboard. But anyway, I would sugget Christa to revise her pedaling. To see if it’s really good written.
Vidas: Exactly, and focus on practicing separate pedal lines and segments repeatedly.
Ausra: In a slow tempo, first.
Vidas: When you say slow tempo, how slow should it be?
Ausra: Well, I would say very slow, but, the tempo that you feel comfortable to playing right, in a correct manner.
Vidas: Basically, you play without mistakes, in this tempo.
Vidas: You avoid mistakes. So, fifty percent of concert tempo?
Ausra: I would say so, yes.
Vidas: If the tempo when you are ready to perform it in public is, let’s say, eighty beats per minute…
Vidas: Maybe it could be like forty beats per minute, when you practice.
Ausra: And also another suggestion would be, if the spots--a particular spot is very hard for you to hit one note at a time, maybe you just take a fast look down to the pedal. Maybe It’s not the best thing to do; but if you will do that twice, or three times throughout the entire piece, I don’t think it will be a crime. And it might help you.
Vidas: We look at pedals anyway.
Ausra: Yes, sure.
Vidas: We don’t recommend looking at the pedals; but involuntarily...sometimes we manage to get a glimpse or two.
Ausra: So sometimes it’s better just to take a quick look, than to make a mistake.
Vidas: And then, if you do have to look, then mark that particular place in your score: draw a sign of your eye, for example.
Ausra: Yes. Or eyeglasses.
Vidas: Okay guys, we hope this was useful to you. Don’t forget to send us more of your questions, and you can do that by subscribing to our blog at www.organduo.lt and simply replying to our messages. We will be very glad to help you out to grow as an organist. So--this was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: 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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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.