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  • Newbie Question on Bass Foot Pedal Technique

    Ok, so as a newbie to organ playing, I just got my Conn organ working well, and I've started on Bach's
    Prelude and Fugue in F Major:
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    So my question on where the bass pedals begin is: The
    F note will be played by the left foot, but can the Bb be played
    with the left foot too? I'm gonna assume most people
    will be more disciplined, and say I should play the Bb with the
    right foot, which encourages alternate playing with the left and
    right foot, which makes legato playing easier.

    However, in this case, there is an 1/8th note pause between the
    bass notes, so it doesn't seem like the end of the world to use
    the left foot for two notes in a row. Also, it seems to be easier
    for me to do this, because my legs are on the shorter side, and
    it's just easier to play the Bb with the left foot too.

    Any advice greatly appreciated!
    Attached Files

  • #2
    I would recommend playing the Bb with the right foot. This piece, and many other Bach pieces have a frequently recurring leaps. The idea is you shouldn’t have to move your feet or legs more than necessary.

    Comment


    • #3
      I agree with Larason2. As you point out, in this instance you could use your left foot for both notes, however, there will be many instances in other pieces where that will not be possible. If you learn good habits now you will not have to unlearn them later.
      Bill

      My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

      Comment


      • #4
        Ok, thanks for the feedback. That's pretty much what I expected.

        How about this passage from Bach's BWV 731, going from the D to G:
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        Left foot for the D, and right foot for the G? Surely there is a
        limit to what the right foot is recommended to play, when moving
        to the left side of the pedal board?

        It would seem that playing two consecutive notes, with the same foot,
        is generally discouraged? Aren't there situations where it cannot be
        avoided?

        Lordy, it was bad enough wanting bigger hands for the piano.....now
        I want longer legs too!
        Attached Files

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Paul789 View Post
          However, in this case, there is an 1/8th note pause between the bass notes, so it doesn't seem like the end of the world to use the left foot for two notes in a row. Also, it seems to be easier for me to do this, because my legs are on the shorter side, and it's just easier to play the Bb with the left foot too.
          Paul,

          Specifically, I would use left toe, right toe, left toe, etc. as the piece progresses. Use your heels to guide your toes to the correct pedals. Even though these Preludes & Fugues aren't necessarily written by Bach, there has been a recent (brief) discussion about playing Bach's music using toes only because of how the organs of his time were constructed. That is (arguably) a correct way to perform Bach's music.

          You correctly observed the 8th rest in each of the pedal parts. They should be observed as closely as possible. It also allows you to move your toes around on the pedals without having to make the jump too fast.

          You have chosen a good piece to begin with. Just be careful of the timing in the Prelude at the end of each phrase. At first it doesn't feel right, but when you get used to the "feel" you'll see the phrase endings fit.

          Michael
          Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
          • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
          • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
          • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by Paul789 View Post
            How about this passage from Bach's BWV 731, going from the D to G: Left foot for the D, and right foot for the G? Surely there is a limit to what the right foot is recommended to play, when moving to the left side of the pedal board?
            That is correct for the pedals. Yes, it is difficult to play the right foot on the left extreme of the pedalboard and vice versa. Don't just use the excuse of short legs to keep from pushing yourself to extremes.

            Michael
            Way too many organs to list, but I do have 5 Allens:
            • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony) / ADC-8000DKC
            • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
            • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 6 Pianos

            Comment


            • #7
              Agree with Michael above. Do not put yourself in the mindset of avoiding certain things because they occur at the extremes of the pedalboard. Get acquainted now using your right foot at the bass end and your left foot at the treble end. Play exercises such as alternating the feet using intervals of 2nds, 3rds, 4ths and 5ths at the extremes so you get used to how it feels in that range.

              With regards to the Bach, there are several schools of thought. Some prefer the mostly toes, as that is what was likely done in Bach's time. Others prefer modern technique with heels and toes. My approach is play according to what suits the instrument. If on a historical instrument with short pedals, use toes. If on a modern instrument play with modern pedal technique. This thought might make certain period performers uneasy, but I don't think we all have to play the same piece the same way every time.

              Comment


              • #8
                You only have two feet to manage 32 (or 30, or some other number of) pedals. At some point, you will discover all kinds of arrangements of left and right foot to manage what the score asks for.

                The more you practice and play, the more comfortable your feet will be, expanding their range both higher and lower.

                A couple general principles:
                - When there are only two notes, the RF (Right Foot) takes the higher one, the LF (Left Foot) the lower one.
                - In some music, and in good acoustics, a "perfect legato" is not always desirable or necessary. Learn to play the notes detached in such a way that they still sound like a continuous line. You can practice this be reading any sentence, one word at a time (with spaces in between words), but still making it sound like a complete thought. It is challenging, but it is possible.
                - Stick with one or two styles of music for a while, so you can get a feel for how the pedal is used. Different styles can have different expectations. Once those feel comfortable, move on to other styles.

                Other OrganForum members will be better able to explain this next comment - search this forum for other threads on "pedalling." You might search "toe heel" or "pedal technique" to narrow down the possibilities. A lot has been said about shoes, posture, approach, studies/exercises, etc. Reading some of those posts in their own context could be very helpful to you.

                Good luck. It's fun to notice improvements in our own playing as we strive to be better than we were before.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Paul789, it sounds like you are learning on your own without a teacher. I recommend that you get the excellent book Johann Sebastian Bach, 49 Organ Works by Hans Fagius. I learned of this work from another forum member Dutchy.

                  There is a text volume with background information and suggestions for interpretation. The companion is a pedagogical edition with fingerings, pedalings and illustrations of ornament execution. Fagius has recorded the complete organ works of Bach on three separate occasions. He is aware of recent Bach research and presents the material clearly. I have learned a great deal from this book. After mastering the material in this edition you will have a much clearer idea of how to approach other works of Bach that are not included.

                  Fagius also has a two-volume handbook to the complete organ works of Bach. I have seriously considered purchasing it, but, unfortunately, it is in Swedish.
                  Last edited by voet; 10-16-2020, 03:31 PM.
                  Bill

                  My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

                  Comment


                  • Dutchy
                    Dutchy commented
                    Editing a comment
                    I can wholeheartedly confirm voet's recommendation: I have learned a lot of it too, although I had organ lessons for more than 10 years from a renowned Dutch organist.

                • #10
                  I found trying to play a somewhat fast paced melody I have memorized on the pedals helpful in speeding up the development of my technique and familiarity with the pedals. Memorizing something helps in the sense that you can look at the pedals and not sheet music, so it is easier to learn. Not that you want to learn to only play pedals by looking at them, learning to not look early on can speed up the development of muscle memory and the reliance on it. Anyway you could even try playing the left and right hand parts of BWV 556 on the pedals just for extra practice material., Don't expect to play them at full speed, as any speed is a tall enough order for a beginner, but it will start to come together and smooth out. Then common pedal parts will seem extremely simple.

                  I happened to start with the windows 3D pinball theme on pedals. It's a fun challenge I thought. I never came close to full speed or mastering it though, but I got pretty good with the beginning (repeated 4x) as seen below. There were some jumps in the middle of the tune.
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                  Allen 530A

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    You DO need to be able to play at the bottom of the pedalboard with your right foot. You need to swing on the bench to reach the low notes. (Same at the top end, for the left foot, of course).

                    The attached scan (if it works) is from one the the easier Bach Preludes and Fugues (BWV 549 in C minor), which most learning organists, at least in the UK, will tackle early on. Both feet need to be down at the bottom end.

                    Certainly, practise pedal exercises: there are plenty of tutors - including this one by Stainer (which I learnt from). It's old-fashioned, but you can download it free! https://archive.org/stream/organ00stai#page/30/mode/2up Click image for larger version

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                    Attached Files

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      For serious students of the organ, I suggest investing in some good method book. In addition to learning at the beginning of your studies, they can be helpful references throughout your career. Personally, I would not choose something just because it is free. My first organ teacher used an older method, but when I got to college I had to use another.
                      Here is a list of the major method books for the organ written in the last 150 years:

                      John Stainer The Organ 1877
                      Clarence Dickenson The Technique & Art of Organ Playing 1922
                      Marcel Dupré Method for the Organ 1927
                      Harold Gleason Method of Organ Playing 1937
                      Flor Peeters Little Organ Book 1957
                      C. H. Trevor The Oxford Organ Method 1971
                      Roger Davis The Organist's Manual 1985
                      Geo. Ritchie & Geo. Stauffer Organ Technique: Modern & Early 1992
                      There has been a great deal of research in recent years particularly into the technique for performing the works of Bach and his contemporaries. Ritchie and Stauffer address the differences in technique required for music before 1750, technique for music written after 1750. They also have a section on new techniques of late 20th century organ music. This would be the work I would recommend for an organ student who is interested in the classical organ tradition.
                      Bill

                      My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

                      Comment


                      • myorgan
                        myorgan commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Bill,

                        Have you ever used/seen Oswald Ragatz's organ method? I'm curious about your review of that method.

                        Michael

                      • voet
                        voet commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Michael, I am not familiar with his method. I notice it was published by Indiana University Press in 1980. Indiana has a good organ program. Did Ragatz teach there? I have a copy of Roger Davis's The Organist's Manual which was published 5 years later. Unfortunately, his book does not cover technique for repertoire before 1750. Davis taught at Hope College where Huw Lewis currently teaches.

                      • myorgan
                        myorgan commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Bill,

                        I have a couple copies of his method (bought the spare by accident), but never learned or taught from it. I believe he was the organ professor there at one time in his career, but I can't remember which years.

                        Michael

                    • #13
                      Yes, Voet, good point about not just using a tutor because it's free!

                      However I don't think basic pedal technique has changed much since Stainer's tutor was published and the pedal exercises in it could be helpful in exploring the pedalboard and building a solid pedal technique - it's the book I learnt with, though that's not necessarily a good recommendation! Better than no exercises at all!

                      To add to your list (UK tutors), there's also Percy Buck's excellent tutor which has been very popular for over 100 years:
                      https://www.musicroom.com/product/st...the-organ.aspx

                      Flor Peeters "Ars Organi" was used a lot in this country but I suppose The Little Organ Book" takes the best bits from it?
                      https://www.prestomusic.com/sheet-mu...s-organi-vol-1

                      David Sanger's Tutor was aimed at those who were not already pianists of a high standard: https://www.musicroom.com/product/mu...r-s-tutor.aspx

                      There's now a New Oxford Organ Method (just published) which looks very interesting. Ann Marsden Thomas is a very well-known teacher over here and has produced many very useful anthologies. This tutor does include teaching about "historically-informed interpretation". Since I'm now retired from teaching I haven't seen it but I'd certainly consider using it. However it is designed to be used by those who have limited keyboard experience:
                      https://sheetorganmusic.co.uk/produc...-organ-method/

                      Comment


                      • #14
                        Of the resources you add, Peterboroughdiapason, New Oxford Organ Method by Ann Marsden Thomas and Frederick Stocken looks excellent. The excerpted pages on the OUP website introduce students to both non-legato touch for repertoire prior to 1800 and legato touch which became standard during the Romantic period. This method uses a piece of literature for teaching the concepts and addresses interpretation as well as technique. This approach would be helpful to persons who are learning on their own.

                        Actually, some things have changed in the 143 years since Stainer published his method. While most instructors agree his directive that students should not look at their feet to get their bearings on the pedal board, most would disagree with Stainer's method of feeling gaps between sharps with your toes to find your place.

                        Further, Stainer was well-versed in the legato style of his time, but the research into the non-legato style of previous centuries was unknown to him. That can also be said of most of the references in my previous post, which is why I recommended Organ Technique: Modern and Early by Ritchie and Stuffer, also published by Oxford University Press. And now, it appears, there may also be another good option to consider with the publication of the New Oxford Organ Method.
                        Bill

                        My home organ: Content M5800 as a midi controller for Hauptwerk

                        Comment


                        • #15
                          Originally posted by voet View Post

                          Actually, some things have changed in the 143 years since Stainer published his method. While most instructors agree his directive that students should not look at their feet to get their bearings on the pedal board, most would disagree with Stainer's method of feeling gaps between sharps with your toes to find your place.
                          Gosh! That's news to me, I must say. An organist has to be prepared to play on organs with very different pedal boards. Even when it's strictly AGO (RCO here) the height of the seat affects how far you have to stretch - and organ benches are often not adjustable. I would feel very insecure if I wasn't able to orientate myself by feeling the gaps. How do you know your feet are in the right place? If you're playing the organ you play regularly you probably won't need to, of course and certainly organists do look at their feet, but to me it's essential that you don't have to. You can't sight-read and look at your feet. Do others agree with you in what you say about teachers today?

                          I only linked to the Stainer tutor for pedal exercises - though I'm sorry that I didn't make that clear. I certainly wouldn't recommend the Stainer for someone to teach themselves from - but have used it often in the past with pupils who are very good pianists. It gives them a very good and secure technique, probably much more quickly than some of the later tutors. I think it's the secure technique that allows pupils to play in different styles later. In my experience a good pianist can play baroque music in a stylistically aware fashion on the organ once they have understood the basic between playing the two instruments. Historic fingering can only come when you can play with modern fingering in my view.

                          I haven't seen the New Oxford Organ Method and now that I'm not teaching I probably never will. However ideally I think you should be a pretty advanced pianist before starting the organ and I think this book might be a bit elementary for some. I could be wrong, though.

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