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Newbie Question on Bass Foot Pedal Technique

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  • #16
    Originally posted by Peterboroughdiapason View Post

    I would feel very insecure if I wasn't able to orientate myself by feeling the gaps... Do others agree with you in what you say about teachers today?
    Certainly for someone who learned pedal technique from Stainer's The Organ I am not suggesting that they learn a new approach. My comments are offered to someone learning to play the organ today.

    Here is what Joyce Jones says in her book Pedal Mastery for Organ about feeling for the open spaces between the black keys of the pedalboard:
    This method can be helpful for getting acquainted with the pedalboard, but should not be used as the final basis for one's technique. In playing rapid passages, there is no time to feel for spaces. Ones feet must simply KNOW the location of the keys.

    Jones approach comports with Gleason and Davis.

    Bill

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

    Comment


    • #17
      It appears everyone plays Bach's Prelude and Fugue in F Major in their own way:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j1asKWYg6Tk

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pfQ-oGjV_1I

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5-qpQnUKCQY

      Comment


      • Nutball
        Nutball commented
        Editing a comment
        That seems to be the case with a lot of Bach's compositions and likely many others too. The choice of stops and emotion or dynamics and such can be the difference between an excellent and not so stellar performance. Learn a piece as it is written to try to understand what the composer's intention might have been, then improve on that. I try to decide if I want to interpret a piece literally or use it just as a guide.

    • #18
      Originally posted by Paul789 View Post
      It appears everyone plays Bach's Prelude and Fugue in F Major in their own way
      Yes, that's part of the fun

      A lot depends on the organ and the room, and you might also hear whether someone is a beginner or has more experience.

      When I start working (in earnest) on a new piece, I first try to figure out how I would play it and play around a bit. Then I might listen to recordings that others made to see how they interpret the piece. But I don't do this as a rule, and sometimes recordings aren't even available.

      For the aforementioned prelude and fugue I can say that I play them much slower on "my" larger organ than on "my" small organ because the larger instrument tends to be a bit slow and doesn't always react well to fast playing. I once wanted to play a toccata in a high tempo and it sounded a bit like swing that's not quite right. But when you know your instrument well, you can choose the right tempo easily. And when I play elsewhere and don't have a lot of time to get to know the organ, I don't choose pieces from the top range of my abilities but something less challenging.

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      • Admin
        Admin commented
        Editing a comment
        Excellent point on how the instrument you're playing influences the performance.

    • #19
      Originally posted by voet View Post

      Certainly for someone who learned pedal technique from Stainer's The Organ I am not suggesting that they learn a new approach. My comments are offered to someone learning to play the organ today.

      Here is what Joyce Jones says in her book Pedal Mastery for Organ about feeling for the open spaces between the black keys of the pedalboard:
      This method can be helpful for getting acquainted with the pedalboard, but should not be used as the final basis for one's technique. In playing rapid passages, there is no time to feel for spaces. Ones feet must simply KNOW the location of the keys.


      Jones approach comports with Gleason and Davis.
      I'm not sure we're so far apart. Joyce Jones does say that "this method can be helpful for getting acquainted with the pedalboard". Stainer starts with exercises in finding any note on the pedalboard by feeling the gaps, but then immediately goes on to exercises which will "accustom him to the measurement of intervals on the pedals". Yes, of course that's how you play the pedals, not by feeling for them all. Mainly just the first note of a phrase after rests. However I would still maintain that to be able to find any note by feeling with the feet is an essential basic technique. As I said earlier, I often orientate myself by touching the side of a black note. Not as "the final basis for one's technique".

      In my case, I have retired to a small village in the country and the organ I play there, (built in 1865) has a straight pedalboard with 'sticks' for pedals. The distances between the ends of the pedalboard are not standard. The Allen organ I have at home had the "Princess" keyboard and, though I have had that changed, it is still not quite standard. Until Covid-19 (and, I hope after it) I played for many weddings and funerals in churches in the area, and there are many varieties of pedalboard. The most awkward ones are the most likely to have no pedal light. By the end of the service I am probably getting used to the spacing of the pedals, but sometimes the notes may not be perfectly aligned with the manual ones. Organists have to be prepared for everything.

      N.B. See tip 2 from the AGO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R-tH4g6U3R4
      Last edited by Peterboroughdiapason; 10-21-2020, 08:39 AM.

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      • #20
        Originally posted by Peterboroughdiapason View Post
        The most awkward ones are the most likely to have no pedal light.
        Oh yes, that's so annoying! I usually have a very simple pair of battery powered music stand lights (to be clipped on, and with flexible "arms") in my rucksack when I go subbing so that I have light for the sheet music if need be, but not having any light for the pedals is rather uncomfortable.
        However, I remember one Christmas eve service where I played at an unfamiliar church, and for "Silent night", all lights in church were switched off - all I had was the light for the pedalboard. Of course I hadn't known that and didn't have my music stand lights ready, so had to play the hymn in semi-darkness. Good that it was one of the most common and thus familiar Christmas songs!

        Comment


        • #21
          Originally posted by andijah View Post
          Good that it was one of the most common and thus familiar Christmas songs
          When it comes to this kind of just-not-disastrous situations.....

          It was Ascencion day, church fully crowded. I accompanied Psalm 47 from a Dutch chorale book and all was going well. But.....half way the Psalm something went wrong: the melody didn't fit anymore and the singing congregation hesitated!
          In a second I realized what was going wrong: I went from the left page to the right page at that point and obviously one or more pages were missing so on the right page was not the second half of Psalm 47 but psalm 48 (or 49, I don't remember).
          Luckily I knew te melody well enough to play on without music - so after only two or three wrong notes I went on correctly and the congretion,kept singing.

          PS: Sorry for being off-topic but I thought it's a nice add to andijah's story.😉

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          • #22
            Ok, I have found a great chorale in my "First Lessons on the Organ" book, by Gordon Nevin:

            Click image for larger version

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            Harmonized by none other than Bach himself. And this is my first time reading a piece of organ music,
            with pedal indications! This is significant, because there is no question as to how your feet should be
            playing the pedals. And this seems to be a good piece for a beginner like me, with a good introduction
            for how to play with the heels as well as the toes, and with good examples of when you should cross
            under the opposing foot.

            I'm still getting used to using my new organ shoes. Your feet are slightly wider with shoes on, so it's easier
            to accidentally depress an adjacent note. And it's harder to feel the pedals, so this requires an adjustment
            as well.

            Also, let me quote Mr. Nevin on page 18: "Do not use the spaces between the black keys to find your
            notes! This is an antiquated and worthless method, taught by very few teachers and used by none
            of the best players."
            Attached Files

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            • #23
              Paul789,

              Yes, the piece you reference has pedaling very clearly marked, however, I would not play the first 2 measures that way. You'll also find other contradictions between identical passages in the piece. To get another take on the pedaling in the first 2 measures, look at various instructional books (Ragatz, Gleason, Stainer, Davis, Dupré, etc.) to see how they would recommend playing a descending scale passage like this one. I daresay few will have the same pedal markings.

              Bottom line–we're all put together differently, so I would hold that playing a well-thought-out pedal scale will probably be different for everyone. That said, however, there are only a handful of appropriate pedalings for such a passage, so the options will soon begin duplicating each other in about 3-4 distinct patterns.

              Take a look at this video and ask whether the girl in question should follow the fingering provided in most piano editions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MU2Y--nfFI. Yes, this video is an extreme example, but illustrates my point when it comes to the length of a person's legs, etc. Pedaling suggestions will vary. Just approach it in a thoughtful way.

              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


              • #24
                Originally posted by myorgan View Post
                Paul789,

                Yes, the piece you reference has pedaling very clearly marked, however, I would not play the first 2 measures that way. You'll also find other contradictions between identical passages in the piece. To get another take on the pedaling in the first 2 measures, look at various instructional books (Ragatz, Gleason, Stainer, Davis, Dupré, etc.) to see how they would recommend playing a descending scale passage like this one. I daresay few will have the same pedal markings.

                Bottom line–we're all put together differently, so I would hold that playing a well-thought-out pedal scale will probably be different for everyone. That said, however, there are only a handful of appropriate pedalings for such a passage, so the options will soon begin duplicating each other in about 3-4 distinct patterns.

                Take a look at this video and ask whether the girl in question should follow the fingering provided in most piano editions: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8MU2Y--nfFI. Yes, this video is an extreme example, but illustrates my point when it comes to the length of a person's legs, etc. Pedaling suggestions will vary. Just approach it in a thoughtful way.

                Michael
                Thanks for the feedback, Mike.

                I didn't mean to imply that the pedal indications are set in stone. I learned a long time ago, that for the piano, I pretty
                much ignore fingering indications, except maybe for the first time through a piece. This is because most of the time,
                I find there is an alternate fingering that works better for ME. I'm sure organ pedaling works the same way.

                Nevertheless, it's nice for a total beginner like me, to get pedaling suggestions on some pieces, just to get
                an idea of how other people approach their pedaling techniques. But yes, if I find a better way for me, I'll certainly
                pencil it in!

                Comment


                • myorgan
                  myorgan commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Paul,

                  I wasn't implying stone either–stones tend to break things. That said, however, my organ instructor used to require me to use the fingering or pedaling written in a particular piece before he ever allowed me to use my own fingering. In so doing, it forced me to be open to other fingerings or other pedalings before immediately discounting them.

                  Moral of the story–try all reasonable approaches before discounting them, then make your best choice and move on. In this case, I think perhaps you could find other copies of the piece on IMSLP (imslp.org), and you could download them for comparison purposes. It's a lot of work, but it could be eye-opening.

                  Michael

              • #25
                Paul789. Modern organ technique is commonly credited to Jaak Nikolaas Lemmens who published his method in 1862. Nearly every organ technique published since then uses his methods. This is the still the standard used for organ literature since the 19th century. Nevin is in this camp.

                However, during the 20th century a great deal of research has been done into the instruments and technique for organ music of Bach, his contemporaries and predecessors. Due to this research, we now know that their organ playing was different from modern technique. Their “ordinary touch” was an articulated style that grew out of their understanding of their music. Their fingering and pedal technique reinforced their approach, Serious students of the organ today should be knowledgeable and able to execute this technique for early music.

                One of the best sources for learning about this is Organ Technique Modern and Early by George H. Ritchie and George B. Stauffer. Their book was written for organ students. It covers both modern and early technique. In addition, it includes examples from organ literature that illustrate their methods. It is very comprehensive and will serve as a continuing reference even after one has completed their formal training.

                Bill

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

                Comment


                • SchnarrHorn
                  SchnarrHorn commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Larrytow - there most definitely is a written record. There were keyboard methods and instructions written way back when and there are extant manuscripts with fingering written in. Original organs also give an indication of the pedal method given the construction of the pedal board and/or height of the bench. These are a few things that come to mind.

                • Larason2
                  Larason2 commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I’m not an expert in musical history, but I have read a bit about it. Modern musical scholarship uses all records from the time, including first hand accounts in letters, average height of the people at the time, and the height of organists, the size of existing organ key desks, paintings of organists and musicians, extant footwear, original scores, and writings on musical pedagogy to try and arrive at the right answer, and it is my understanding that in general they all point to a toe based technique for most pieces in the baroque period. There are still some organists today that can only use their toes to use the pedalboard, such as Dorien Schouten in the Netherlands. As I said before though, I prefer a composite approach, especially since I’m tall! I believe I’ve seen a painting of a baroque organist using their toes on the pedalboard as well. That only makes sense in the context of other evidence, however.

                • Larrytow
                  Larrytow commented
                  Editing a comment
                  I'm not really disputing any of the points either of you make. I just find it strange to refer to those things as being found out by "modern" research. Seems to me that I was aware back in the 1960s that Bach himself probably played the pedals in work-boots most of the time. Toes only would certainly make sense if that is true. I suppose that in terms of music history, the 1960s are "modern". To me, that was a Long time ago !

              • #26
                Paul 789, I feel like the pedal markings as written on the score you posted are reasonable, but I agree with others that many prefer "toes only" interpretation for Bach. Personally, I do a bit of both, depending on the piece. If I think a piece sounds better with a lot of detached, "toes only" notes, for pedal, then I go with that. For more melodical pedal lines, or runs, I prefer more modern “heel-toe” technique, even for Bach. I don’t think either is wrong, and it does depend on your setup and body mechanics. When I sit down to learn a piece, I usually work through it in my head, and write them on the page, and then as I practice I make revisions. Usually by the time the piece is ready, I have a fingering/pedal technique that fits my body and the piece. I think that is the goal, and everybody’s journey there is personal.

                Comment


                • #27
                  Paul789, lots of good advice posted. You may also want to browse through the list of 30 not-too-long videos from the AGO specifically intended for pianists transitioning to the organ. There are a few dedicated to pedaling. Dr. Hohman is very pleasant and doesn't talk down to the viewer. The first video and play list are here:
                   

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                  • #28
                    Also, if you need motivation or inspiration
                     

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                    • #29
                      The piece mentioned in post #22 is not an organ piece. It is a 4-part vocal setting of a chorale. Yes, it's by Bach, but it's choral music, provided in a teaching manual. If an organist were accompanying this, as part of an orchestra, they would be playing a one-manual continuo organ. It wouldn't have a pedalboard at all.

                      This is the editor's way of including a work that is short, and from Bach's hand, but that's about it. It does provide a challenging pedal line while the hands are relatively still.

                      If the purpose of the fingering/pedaling is to teach you some basic skills, feel free to learn them unless they seem quite absurd (there are some poor ones out there). It never hurts to have a few good, logical patterns that you can choose from. If you pay attention, you will also realize which ones work best for you. As has been said, we are not all built the same. What works best for one person might not work so well for the next.

                      Comment


                      • myorgan
                        myorgan commented
                        Editing a comment
                        Great points, all, Regeron! I nearly mentioned something about various editions being more (or less) accurate depending on the editor. The information you shared is right on target!

                        Michael

                    • #30
                      Originally posted by Paul789 View Post
                      Ok, I have found a great chorale in my "First Lessons on the Organ" book, by Gordon Nevin:

                      Also, let me quote Mr. Nevin on page 18: "Do not use the spaces between the black keys to find your
                      notes! This is an antiquated and worthless method, taught by very few teachers and used by none
                      of the best players."
                      I wonder who "rattled his cage"! As I've posted before, I think to be able to find notes without looking is essential, especially the first pedal note in a new phrase after rests.

                      In his next paragraph he says: "So, on the pedals, when preparing for a leap of a fifth or over, bring the heels together first and then quickly make the necessary leap". "This", he says, "is an absolutely scientific piece of advice".

                      I'm not sure about this, myself. Certainly. in the Bach chorale Paul789 posted, to find the first pedal note of the penultimate bar I'd just bring my right foot up 4 notes from the the D it would just have played rather than bring heels together.

                      As I've said before, on an organ one knows well your feet can find the notes easily but it's different if you're playing an organ with a pedalboard of different dimensions - e.g. a straight continental one, on an organ with no pedal light? Of course, Nevin was writing in 1923! There probably wouldn't have been many continental pedalboards around.

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