SOPP278: I'm glad with the quickly received materials and the bonus for the pedal virtuoso course start
Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 278 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Dineke, and she writes:
Glad with the quickly received materials, and the bonus, for the pedal virtuoso course start. Although most things went automatically, I wish you to say my thanks. Admiring your lots of work and your knowledge in digital ways.
V: Well, Ausra, It’s so nice to receive a message like that.
A: Yes, it’s very nice, although I don’t see that it’s a question, so what will we talk about?
V: Maybe Dineke, we have to know, is a student of later age in life, and she wants to improve her pedal technique, but not only. But, she is our Pedal Virtuoso Master Course student. So, she started studying this course a while ago, and I guess now, she needs to stick to the schedule of playing those pedal scales regularly. What do you think, Ausra?
A: Well, I think it’s sometimes hard to stick to the schedule.
V: Do you have your permanent schedule, Ausra, like, for Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and so on?
A: Well, I have some things that are permanent, and I have some things that vary time to time.
V: Mhm. I have my little notebook where I put the things on my calendar, but they’re not regular. Right? Not like on 10:00 AM everyday, I will do this thing. So, I have to find practice time in each day separately, most of the time. Is that hard, Ausra, for you? Finding practice time?
A: Oh yes. It’s very hard.
V: Now that the school will start soon, it will be even a bigger challenge, right?
V: I guess for Dineke the challenge is to stick to the schedule not only because of a lack of time, but also because of rigorous material, because people who start this course, do not always finish. And those who don’t finish, don’t see the improvement in their pedal technique. But Dineke, hopefully, is a persevering student, right Ausra?
A: Well, I hope so.
V: So, in order to play those scales everyday, rather dry and unmusical exercises with your feet, what kind of motivation would you like to have, Ausra, if you were in Dineke’s shoes?
A: Well, just to know that if you will be able to learn all those scales you can play a nice repertoire, too, and have no problems with the pedals.
V: Sometimes, when you’re in the middle of the challenge like this course, which runs like 3-4 months, it’s hard to see the progress day by day when you practice.
A: Well, so, you never have to work on one thing only. For example, if you will be only exercising pedaling for those three or four months, of course it will get boring, and I don’t think many would have the courage to finish it. But, practice something else, too! You don’t necessarily have to play only pedal scales. Work on some repertoire simultaneously.
V: It would be like a healthy meal with a variety of foods throughout the day, not one kind of food all the time, right?
A: Of course, you don’t have to eat oatmeal only every day three times a day.
V: Unless you are on an oatmeal diet!
A: Unless you are a horse!
V: A horse! Yes! So, do horses complain, Ausra, about this? What’s your idea about this?
A: I don’t think so.
V: Do they say to their master, “Oh give us some pancakes with blueberry?”
A: I don’t think so.
V: So, obviously, Dineke is practicing something else, because she also is studying with her own organ professor, and he gives her material to practice. So, I’m sure she has a variety in her repertoire, and exercises. And our course, Pedal Virtuoso Master Course will supplement that material. That’s very nice. Another thing in this course that is challenging is this flexibility of an ankle. At first, when people do this, the ankle is a weak spot for people to play with their heels and toes, and slide from pedal to pedal smoothly. What are your thoughts on that, Ausra?
A: I think it’s just a matter of adjusting and getting used to it. It shouldn’t be as hard. If you can walk, it means you can play pedals, too.
V: Mhm. Sometimes, your position is not comfortable, right?
V: You have to adjust your bench, sitting position on the bench, and….
A: ...shoes of course, which we have talked about many times before.
V: Shoes, when playing with heels are tremendously important, because, if you have heels, higher heels, about 2 or 3 inches, then you don’t need to move your ankles so much.
A: Yes, it saves time and it saves energy.
V: Right. You can be a little more efficient with playing with your feet. Have you seen organists play with socks and heels?
A: Yes, I have seen those.
V: And I’ve seen them, too, and some of our colleagues do this, and it’s much more energy consuming thing, because you have to constantly bend your ankles in order to play with your heels. Why do you think people stick to socks sometimes?
A: I think maybe they cannot get or find comfortable shoes, or maybe they are just so used to it that they cannot learn to play otherwise. Or maybe they just want to save some money, not buy organ shoes. Well, there could be a variety of reasons why you do it, and maybe another reason would be that you don’t want to carry your organ shoes with you, and you are always wearing socks, so you are always ready to play organ pedals.
V: Right, you don’t know where you will find this organ, right? Maybe the organ is around that corner, or around that corner, so you carry your socks in your pocket and you are ready whenever you go, right?
A: That’s right.
V: And, washing socks is more comfortable than washing shoes, right?
A: Do you wash your shoes?
V: Not regularly, no.
A: I don’t think you should wash your organ shoes.
V: Nice. So, the last thing that is difficult with this course is for people to move their both feet as one unit, basically to keep their heels together, and sometimes the knees if it’s okay with their physique. What do you think, Ausra, with your physique? Do you feel comfortable holding your knees and ankles together?
A: No! I have a hard time, because my legs are short. No. It’s very hard.
V: Why do they say that it’s the right way of playing modern pedals?
A: I have no idea. Maybe you have? You have long legs, so….
V: Maybe those who say this have longer legs!
A: I guess so.
V: I guess maybe this comes from an idea of playing with your feet as the third hand, additional…
A: Because you know, if I am playing in the middle of the pedal board then it’s okay; I can hold everything together—my knees and ankles together. But, if I’m playing on the left side or on the right side of the pedal board, my legs are not long enough that I could keep them both together. That way I would just fall down on the pedal board, and that’s it.
V: And that’s one of those exceptions you can make, if you are playing in the extreme of the pedal board, you can play with one foot.
A: But that’s what happens when you are playing hard repertoire.
V: What do you mean?
A: Well, let’s see… a Vierne Symphony, or Duruflé, or you are playing something where you use double pedal, and what about that? If you are playing double pedal? Let’s say octaves in double pedal. Can you place your knees and ankles together?
V: I think that works only up until perfect fifths. The interval of perfect fifths. Wider than the fifths is breaking your knees, probably.
A: I know. So, you always need to look at your own physique and at the concrete piece, concrete situation, concrete organ.
V: I guess, we should conclude this conversation with an idea: The technique serves the person and not the other way around.
A: That’s right.
V: Not the person serves the technique. If something doesn’t feel right with these exercises, adjust so that it would feel more comfortable to you, right?
A: That’s right.
V: Thanks, guys, for listening, and for practicing, and we haven’t practiced yet this morning. Right? And we will do that later in the day at church, right Ausra?
A: That’s right.
V: That will be very nice to practice organ duets for our upcoming Banchetto Musicale Festival performance. So, we wish you a great day, pleasant practice, 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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