Vidas: Hello and welcome to Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast!
Ausra: This is a show dedicated to helping you become a better organist.
V: We’re your hosts Vidas Pinkevicius...
A: ...and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene.
V: We have over 25 years of experience of playing the organ
A: ...and we’ve been teaching thousands of organists online from 89 countries since 2011.
V: So now let’s jump in and get started with the podcast for today.
A: We hope you’ll enjoy it!
V: Hi guys! This is Vidas.
A: And Ausra.
V: Let’s start episode 625 of Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast. This question was sent by Luis Garcia, and he writes,
Dear friends: I live in Spain and here there are few organ teachers. Pedal Technique is a mystery here. I need to learn how to play pedals without looking at the pedalboard and with a mind strategy. Some teachers recommend to slide the foot counting the intervals. I think that it may well be in some times but not all the time. Others recommend memorizing the gaps in the pedalboard. And the worst teachers don't recommend anything. Even it is very difficult to see organists with organ shoes. Spain is a bad country to learn how to play the pipe organ.
Remember that I am interested in a romantic technique. I know that you like Baroque music.
Please, try to help me. Thank you.
A: Well I think Spain is a wonderful country for organ, because it has these beautiful chamades that you will not encounter very often in another country; it has a rich and old history of organ music. I think even about Francisco Correa de Arauxo, a famous Cabezón. Well, but what, if we are talking about pedaling technique then I would have to probably agree, but it’s natural because the Spanish organ history developed in that way. Because it’s known as a Catholic, mostly Catholic country. So Catholics didn’t use so much of solo organ music in their liturgy, and in general didn’t use so much organ music. It just served as a servant to the liturgy, and the same case was actually in Italy. Very few organs, historical organs, had pedal, and because what you needed during liturgy was probably to sustain the tonic or dominant chord.
V: Here I want to a little bit explain something. When a person writes such generalization without giving any details, how many and what kind of teachers has he or she encountered, at what level, how long have they studied, it doesn’t say anything about the country or its pedal technique or anything. It just says about his or her experience, personal experience, right? Let’s say if he tried all the teachers in Spain, and everyone was bad at this, then he could say, “Yes, Spain is bad for organ playing - to learn organ playing.” But I highly doubt it, because he would have written some more details about that. So if you go to the conservatory level, university level, professional level, I’m sure you will learn many details about organ playing, including pedal technique, even in Spain, just like anywhere else in a highly culturally sophisticated country like Spain is. So it doesn’t mean that Spain is bad for organ playing - to teaching organ playing. It just means Luis Garcia hasn’t found a suitable teacher for him.
A: You know, when I started to study organ in Lithuanian Academy of Music, nobody taught me specifically how to play the pedal, although I was at the conservatory level already in my general musicianship. But I don’t know, if they didn’t know any specific techniques or whatever. But, and why I’m telling this, because I want to give a little bit support to that worse teacher in this letter. Luis Garcia said that the worst are who says “whatever,” play however you want, and do whatever you want. But there is some truth in it. Because usually, if you know you cannot play the pedals without looking at them or hit the wrong notes, the problem might be that you don't spend enough time, and you don’t spend enough time practicing organ. Because if you will spend enough time on that, you will see that playing the pedals becomes so natural and it doesn’t give you any trouble at all. Because I was told about all these different pedaling techniques for Baroque music and for modern music much later on in life. By that time I had already built my own pedal technique which was quite fine. So what do you think, Vidas, about that?
V: And several well-known organists have complimented your pedal technique in the States.
A: Yes, true.
V: So. Yes, it reminds me of a problem I had early on in improvisation. When I wanted to learn improvisation, but didn’t have either clear path in front of me or good materials, so I was always on the hunt of the best textbook out there about improvisation. I was buying up all the method books and searching online and things like that. But that didn’t give me a clear path, clearer path, or vision where to go from there in my experience. What changed me was just to start improvising and keep improvising. Whenever you feel stuck, you would just keep doing it until you get unstuck on your own. Without any help of method books or teachers or whatever. So if Luis Garcia still looks at the pedalboard, as you say, probably it means that he needs to practice more pedals.
A: Yes, though like lately I read and listened to some podcasts and some books about creativity and inspiration, and one of the general rules that people who create (8:21 not sure) and this is true to musicians, to writers, to painters, you know, if you will wait for inspiration let’s say, to come, it might never come. Because inspiration usually comes to people who work, and work daily, diligently, and are not waiting for inspiration to come. And I think this could be easily applied to developing good organ technique, both manual and pedal. You just need to really to find time, and to practice regularly, daily, and without a lot of philosophy and will not wait for right teacher to come, because you are the best teacher for yourself.
V: Yes. Be the best, all help is self-help, except for surgery.
A: (laughs) Sure.
V: That’s not my word, not my words, but I picked it up from the famous author and blogger and marketer Seth Godin. And he, it’s a joke, basically, for people who always have tried to find some external help. Instead, they should take actionable steps every day to improve themselves, at least one percent every day.
A: True. And you know, in general, I think that everybody is a little bit different. Like the length of legs are different, the length of feet are different. And some things that work for one person might not work as well for another person. But in general if you want to become better in pedal playing, you could try and check Vidas’ course of pedaling.
V: Yeah, it’s called Organ Pedal Virtuoso Master Course. And we have extensive material, training material about pedaling scales, arpeggios, over one octave, over two octaves. Even in double octaves too, with both feet at the same time. So, and this is romantic technique with legato touch. Yes, we do like early music, right? But we do play and of course have a lot of knowledge about any kind of music including romantic and modern music. So it’s just part of our extensive training.
A: Yes. If we would play all of Baroque music, that way we wouldn’t get our doctoral degrees.
V: Yes. We would be masters of early music, not masters of music. Or doctors of musical arts - doctors of early musical arts would be appropriate. But we have everything they teach.
A: And also, if you want to learn more about pedaling technique, then I would also suggest you to buy a book of George Ritchie and George Stauffer which is called Organ Technique Modern and Early, and a good half of that book is devoted to the modern techniques including pedal exercises also, and it gives detailed descriptions of how it should be done.
V: Yes. When we were doing our doctoral degree programs at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, George Ritchie taught us the basics, even though we were already doctoral students after completing second master’s degree a year before that, he still felt that we needed to refresh our basic training and to learn a little bit, not even a little bit, a lot from his own book, which really helped.
A: So it’s really handy, you should really try it.
V: Yes. It’s, you will not use it just once, it’s like extensive review material there about all kinds of organ playing aspects - about even hymn playing and organ building, about all kinds of performance practice issues. It’s really really extensive, like a small encyclopedia of organ playing.
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.
V: This podcast is supported by Total Organist - the most comprehensive organ training program online.
A: It has hundreds of courses, coaching and practice materials for every area of organ playing, thousands of instructional videos and PDF's. You will NOT find more value anywhere else online...
V: Total Organist helps you to master any piece, perfect your technique, develop your sight-reading skills, and improvise or compose your own music and much much more…
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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.