Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start Episode 208 of Ask Vidas and Ausra podcast. This question was sent by Jane. She writes:
Is there a source on the Internet for all of the toe-toe, heel/heel scale patterns? I am playing 15-20 hours per week in preparation for some private lessons in Paris this summer.
I am an accomplished musician, but my pedal technique has become lazy over time. Working it back into shape as I am playing repertoire such as the Guilmant, op. 42 which has very demanding pedal passages.
Thank you for your inspiration!
V: So Ausra I think the best place to look for solutions for pedaling patterns playing scales in all keys is probably our Pedal Virtuoso Master Course.
A: Yes, I would say so because it has all kinds of scales you know and all kinds of pedalization.
V: It’s quite demanding because right away from week 1 we start with C Major pedal scale over one octave and every day for six days in a row you learn four different keys, four different scales in ascending number of accidentals. C Major, A Minor, G Major, E Minor. Then day two D Major, B Minor, A Major, F# Minor and so on. So by the end of week one you have the knowledge of playing those scales over one octave. Is this enough Ausra?
A: For starters yes, but when you need to expand you know that basis and to play not in one octave but in two octaves.
V: Right. We do that in week two. The same order of keys but now we expand into two octaves. And the principle for somebody who has never done it before is very systematic I would say. We try to keep both feet together, and your knees together, and your heels together. Basically you two feet have to move as one unit. Right, Ausra?
A: Yes, but it nevers works for me for example because I have short legs so you know I have to play scale in two octaves I wouldn’t be able to keep my knees together because I would fall down from the organ bench or I would injure my spine.
V: So, this is just for improving your technique or course. In real life those kind of passages over two octaves is rare to find.
A: Because it’s good if you are playing in a middle range. Then it’s OK. It’s fine. You can do that. But when you go extremely high up or extremely lower down then it’s much harder unless you have long legs which I don’t. So...
V: And basically when I first released this course I received a feedback from one of my earlier students playing C Major scale that it wasn’t really comfortable to play with both feet in the extreme ranges you know When you play C, D, E, F. In theory C with left toe, D with right toe, E with left heel and F with right heel. And then turn to G with left toe, A with right toe, B with left heel and C with right heel. So this is system we use, but in reality it is completely unnatural to do this in the lower range of the pedal board up to let’s say bass G. So then I changed the first five notes from C to G I recommend playing just with the left foot.
A: That’s what I would do too because otherwise I wouldn’t be able to reach such lower notes with my right foot.
V: And then the same is with the last few notes in the tenor range. Let’s say A, B, and C now I think is best to be played with the right foot alone.
A: Sure, yes.
V: So the principle is we keep is quite straightforward, right? We alternate toe-toe, heel-heel for both feet wherever possible but of course when you get keys with accidentals then you get into some tricky situations and sometimes you have to think whether to start with the toe or with the heel in order to land on the toe when you are playing this sharp.
A: That’s true.
V: Like in E Minor. E would be left heel, F# would be left toe, and G would be right toe, A would be left heel, B would be right heel and so on. Right? So we have to think about what’s possible and sometimes you have to skip sometimes some notes because when you get to more accidentals like F# Major for example then it’s you have to even do substitutions.
A: Luckily you don’t have many passages in organ music where you have to play F# scales in the pedals.
V: Um-hmm. Um-hmm. But I think it’s useful for people at least from the feedback we received so far. It’s not easy. You have to understand that. A lot of people start with week one, maybe week two and then they stop and don’t continue. Because later we have arpeggios over tonic chord, and then arpeggios over dominant seventh chord and dominant seventh scale degree diminished chord, and chromatic scales, and the same with double octaves you know. This is really a virtuoso organ pedal technique course. But it starts with a single octave scale.
A: Yes, and it doesn’t mean that you have early to work on the pedal course.
A: You need to play repertoire as well you know in addition to this because if you will play only pedal exercises you will get bored after a while.
V: Exactly. And the point of this is just to give you enough tools for later practice because when you learn those scales let’s say over two octaves you can easily incorporate those exercises as a warm-up.
V: After you complete the scores, you know to keep the technique flexible because the entire point or the mystery behind the perfect pedal technique as Marcel Dupre said is the flexibility of an ankle. So while doing those tricky exercises you develop flexibility of an ankle.
A: That’s true, yes.
V: But it’s not for everybody for example people who like real music will get bored very quickly while playing those scales and arpeggios, right Ausra?
A: Yes, that’s true.
V: Would you do the scales yourself?
A: Well, it depends.
V: At which point of your development you are.
A: Yes, if I would get this kind of course at the beginning of my career then yes, I would do it. Now, I would probably not.
V: Or if you need to perfect your pedal technique in a you know rather short period of time to play at a symphony of some sort, or a you know french symphonic piece, maybe Franck’s “Grand Piece Symphonique.”
A: Well, talking about Franck I think his pedal part is so easy. I know very few French organ composers who wrote pedal part as easy as Franck did.
V: Or let’s say Reger, if you wanted to do Reger.
A: Oh yes, you would have to do it.
V: Or Durufle probably.
A: Yes and Vierne wrote also some very tricky pedal parts, but not Franck.
V: So investigate your choices and vision in your pedal technique development in the future. What would you like to accomplish? And if you want to get flexible ankles and be able to play those tricky passages with your feet then this course might work for you.
A: Yes, definitely.
V: 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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