Ed Ackermann: Photo of members of Fort worth Chapter of the American Guild of Organists, March 15, 2014, in front of the grand Richards, Fowkes & Company (located in Tennessee, USA) organ at Church of Transfiguration (Episcopal) Church in Dallas, Texas, USA. As part of our individual practice sessions, I organized an organ crawl to several large tracker organs in Dallas for our Fort Worth members to play and experience the difference in playing a score on a tracker rather than the non-tracker pipe organs that are abundant in Fort Worth. Most had never played a tracker and were amazed at the difference in various aspects of playing a score.
Pedal trills are quite difficult to execute with one foot - the ankle tenses and the motion becomes jerky. Master French organist and composer Marcel Dupre is known to have said that the secret of the perfect pedal technique is the flexibility of an ankle. This remark is also valid for the trills on the pedals.
So how do you develop this flexibility? Of course, practicing pedal scales and arpeggios in all keys over one and two octaves. Also today's exercise in sight-reading will help you do that.
That's Etude No. 1 from 12 Etudes for Solo Pedals (ca. 1865) by the Romantic French composer Charles-Valentine Alkan (1813-1888). Besides the trills, in this etude you will find ascending and descending arpeggio figures. For the sake of safety, please wear organ shoes with heels while playing it. Take an extremely slow tempo and aim for the nice legato touch.
Don't forget to change position in extreme edges of the pedal board by pushing off the opposite foot. Curiously, the pedal part in the fourth line descends to low B. On modern organs, play measures 2 and 3 of this line one octave higher.
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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.