Vidas: Hi, guys, this is Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 461, of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Guinn, and Guinn writes:
I purchased 10 Day Organ Pedal Playing Challenge last night. I have a flat Baroque 27 note pedal board, normal for Baroque which is what I play. I cannot possibly play those exercises as indicated with toe and heel. Most of them have the incorrect clef marking. Treble clef is marked, this must be an editorial mistake. What must I do? How do you direct students with a normal Baroque pedal board?
V: Well, remember the day that we did this challenge?
A: Yes, I remember it.
V: We took um, do you remember where those exercises were taken from? From ear-training--
A: Yes, I remember that, yes.
V: From French method book. And therefore it’s not a mistake of course. In ear-training, they write everything in treble clef.
A: Yes. And of course it would be original organ piece, you would definitely use the bass clef. But the thing is, what you do with treble clef? You just play it an octave or two octaves lower. And that’s it!
V: Yes. Which means that you could do the opposite—if you encounter something written in the bass clef, you can play an octave or two higher and you could practice with your hands.
A: Yes. It’s not like sight-reading the C clef. That might be challenging for some musicians, but basically to go from bass clef to treble clef, it shouldn’t be a problem I think for any musician, even non-professional.
V: Mmm-hmm. Exactly. So the first advice would be to practice those exercises one octave or two octaves lower than it is written.
A: And another thing; I don’t think these exercises are intended for Baroque organ or Baroque pedalboard. It’s for, intended for more modern instrument.
A: And not for a flat pedalboard. Of course you can do some of those with Baroque pedalboard but I think intention is not to play it on the Baroque instrument.
V: Well, it is written, in Day 1, actually, even when people get Exercise #1 in Day 1 it is written; ‘taken from Solfege Method Books by Frederic Boissiere from 1877, and in the parenthesis I write ‘feel free to practice the exercise in the tenor and or bass octave’. So…
A: So, I guess it just shows how people don’t read instructions.
V: Mmm-hmm. And you even can feel free to sing these exercises which could improve your musical pitch, right, Ausra?
A: True. True.
V: Not only your technique as an organist but also your ability to differentiate different keys and pitch levels. What we do in ear-training classes, we sight read things. And organist would benefit from this skill as well.
A: And this Exercise #1, I think it can be done on the Baroque pedals as well.
V: Except when you have heel written in.
A: Yes. You need to use toes…
V: Toes. Yes.
A: of course if you are playing Baroque pedalboard.
V: Whenever you see heel, you could maybe use toes for that, but there are some delicate instances where you need to change things completely, but I don’t think it’s necessary. You could simply, instead of heel, use the toe. Don’t you think, Ausra?
A: Yes, definitely. Because on the Baroque instrument you wouldn’t use heel…
A: on the pedalboard.
V: And therefore you would actually play not entirely legato, in articulate legato style.
A: Of course.
V: So, I think that would be suggestion for Guinn, who likes to play Baroque, probably music, on the flat Baroque 27-note pedalboard.
A: And actually, I not quite got the last question in his letter, ‘how do you direct students with a normal Baroque pedalboard’? What’s the normal Baroque pedalboard mean. Do you mean that only Baroque pedalboard is normal, or you have Baroque pedal, one that is normal and another that is not normal?
V: I think he, if I understand correctly, I think he maybe implies those exercises suitable for non-Baroque pedalboard but what to do on the Baroque pedalboard, like he has.
A: So I guess you already answered it.
A: That you have to adjust it a little bit.
A: But definitely, if I would need to learn some, or to improve my Baroque technique, on the Baroque instrument, I might choose exercises like J.S. Bach’s Pedal-Exercitium.
A: And things like this.
V: Well exactly. So we hope this was useful to you. Try out this exercise system. It really helps. It’s not a long thing, just ten days. It’s like a mini-course. And in ten days you will certainly feel much improvement.
A: But definitely, I think it’s intended more for modern music, for later music, for romantic and for modern music. Because Baroque music is not so much pedal challenging as later music.
V: Mmm-hmm. Yes.
A: Don’t you think so.
V: Yes. Do you think it’s possible to play with heels on the Baroque pedalboard?
A: I wouldn’t do that. I would not recommend to do that.
V: Do you remember when were in one conference at Eastman School of Music, and somebody told that they had one student who practiced and maybe even mastered Sonata by Reubke on pedal clavichord. You remember it?
A: Yes, I remember that, it is some sort of experiment.
A: It could work, but is it a rule? I don’t think so.
V: And maybe it’s even counter-productive, because if you have this flat pedalboard, and practicing with heels…
A: I’m afraid you might injure your legs, and it’s not good for your feet.
V: But also, if you then switched to real Baroque music, you might start to feel like playing with heels, that kind of music on that pedalboard, which would defeat the purpose, I think.
V: So, for Guinn I would probably switch to toes only technique I think. Could work easily, I think. Alright! Let us know how it goes, and keep sending your wonderful questions in the future. This was Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: I hope you will be able to practice today. We practiced in the morning and we are now feeling that our day was well spent, right, Ausra?
V: 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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