Vidas: Hi guys, this is Vidas!
Ausra: And Ausra!
V: Let’s start episode 408 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Sally, and she writes:
I worked on registration for my prelude this weekend and practiced one of the Hymns. I also worked on the Beginning Pedal studies, Day 5, and reviewed Days 1 through 4. These are a struggle for me because I am trying to following the pedal markings and am not comfortable with thirds. I don't usually want to do them with the same foot (either toe/heel or heel/toe) as I am not very accurate. The pedal studies are forcing me to work on that technique. I also tend to not use my left foot on the upper right side of the pedal board, so I am working on this as well.
V: Sally is our Total Organist student, and this question, I asked at the end of the day what she was working on, and she apparently is struggling with playing thirds with the same foot on the pedals. What do you think, Ausra?
A: I think many of us share this same struggle. Is it easy for you to play thirds with one foot?
V: If I play without my shoes, yes, it’s very difficult, because you need heels. Right?
A: Yes, but I think that, of course, you need shoes, I couldn’t agree more, but it also depends on how long your foot is. You have a longer foot, longer feet in general, so I think it’s probably easier for you. I don’t have such a long foot, and sometimes I struggle with playing thirds, too, because how will you extend your foot? It’s impossible, unless you buy bigger shoes, but then you might lose them on the organ bench.
V: Exactly. A basketball player might easily play a fifth on the organ, with his size. Right?
A: Well, true, but I think he or she would have another problem, and would hit, probably, a few keys at the same time.
V: And probably the bench will be too low for him.
A: So, all of us are different, and we all have to adjust to the organ.
V: But what I liked about Sally’s report is that she doesn’t give up easily, and if something doesn’t come easily, she practices repeatedly, and I think one more issue with why playing in thirds is more difficult than playing in seconds is because you have to move your ankle even more with thirds. Right?
A: That’s true, ankle flexibility is a problem for some people.
V: And with practice, flexibility improves! Which means that it should come easier with time for Sally and others who are struggling with this.
A: Yes! I thought about a funny thing when you said that flexibility will improve with practice. I thought, “What would happen if you would break your ankle, if you would try to practice too hard?”
V: It’s the same as with stretching in the morning or in the evening. If someone does any kind of stretching, like Pilates or Yoga. If you try too hard, then it’s unhealthy.
A: Yes, and I think that it is always harder to practice in the morning, the same as to do physical exercises in the morning, because on the one hand you are all fresh, but your body is very stiff in the morning.
V: Right. Physical activity tends to go easier in the afternoon. That’s why singers don’t like to sing their pieces in a public setting in the morning.
A: It’s because the voice is still sleeping for a few hours after you wake up.
V: You might even notice my voice today. It’s sleeping, still!
A: Well, it’s okay. It sounds okay for me. Well, I wanted to discuss another issue about this question about pedal exercises. Do you think they need to be polished, like 100%, each of them?
V: Maybe, let’s say, 70% is quite enough, not 100%. Because, it’s technical exercise. Right? It’s not like a finished organ composition which you can play in public, or to yourself with satisfaction, an artistically pleasing manner. No, it’s just an exercise which leads to a better technique. And I always think that technique exists for person and not the other way around—the person doesn’t exist for the technique. And if something is really really uncomfortable and feels unhealthy, you have to either adapt it, or just skip.
A: Yes, that’s what I thought, too, because these are not repertoire pieces, these are just technical exercises to help you to improve your technique, and even when you choose the repertoire for yourself, you need to sightread it through and see if it’s possible for you to do, that it does not have some goals that you cannot reach yet.
V: Because for some people, their palm flexibility, or reach, is greater than others, and they could reach more than an octave, easily, and for some, they barely reach an octave! And if such piece has wide intervals or double thirds, double sixths, then thick texture makes playing very difficult for small hands.
A: True, so you always have to check things.
V: But maybe early music is your strength, and maybe trio sonatas would sound wonderful for you, because each hand only takes just one voice!
A: Well, and there are later compositions that need such a playful technique, sort of small technique.
V: True. Okay, guys, we hope this was useful to you. Please send us your wonderful 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.
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.