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Thread: Articulate Repeated Pedal Notes? Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, UMC #89, Beethoven 9

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    p Piano Steve Freides's Avatar
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    Articulate Repeated Pedal Notes? Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee, UMC #89, Beethoven 9

    I still don't play pedals much in church, but I continue to look for hymns with easy pedal parts to practice. I'm working on #89 from the UMC hymnal, Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee. The music is the famous theme from the last movement of Beethoven's 9th symphony, freude schöner götterfunken ... You can see the music I'm looking at here: https://hymnary.org/hymn/UMH/89

    There are a lot of repeated notes in the pedal part. From what I gather, many/most organists don't bother to rearticulate them, rather holding them down until they change, which is often once per measure (of 4/4 time in this case).

    I ask for practice advice - obviously, I'd like to be able to do both, and either hold them or rearticulate them with equal ease. My observation is that just flexing my ankles is still unfamiliar and good for me to do, and articulate the repeated notes is the best use of most of my practice time, with a small portion being devoted to holding them until they change.

    (FWIW, either way, I can play this hymn at quarter = 80, much too slow for use in church, but still something of an accomplishment for me given that it requires some pedal skill and also some independence between my left hand and the pedals.)

    Am I thinking about this correctly?

    -S-

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    f Forte regeron's Avatar
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    Beethoven is best known to us now as a composer mainly for piano or orchestra. With that thought, consider who might be playing that line in an orchestra and how they might approach it. It could be double basses and cellos, or bassoons or low brass. It could also be the tympani.

    Don't feel compelled to play the pedal rhythm the same for every verse.

    Here are some of the options I use when playing this hymn on the organ. I don't have access to note symbols on here, so I'm going to use three letters: Q for quarter note (1 beat), H for half note (2 beats), and D for dotted half note (3 beats).
    Q Q Q Q
    H - H -
    H - Q Q
    Q Q H -
    Q H - Q
    Q D - -
    D - - Q

    Depending on your registration and the text of each verse, each of those rhythmic patterns will have a slightly different feel. At this point, you are orchestrating. Start with the simplest and work your way through. You might not like some, some might feel really comfortable under your feet.

    Personally, I like the drive of the Q H - Q as it gives a kind of syncopation against the melody. It also prevents the third beat of the measure from getting too much accent.

    Repeated pedal notes - some teachers advocate placing the foot above the appropriate white pedal note and alternating toe and heel. That can be a good exercise to keep the ankle relaxed and flexible. To contrast, if you played the same note repeatedly with just your toe, a certain kind of muscle tension and/or fatigue would set in sooner than if you use the heel/toe alternation.

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    mp Mezzo-Piano VaPipeorgantuner's Avatar
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    When deciding to play a string of repeated notes (such as you referenced from "Ode to Joy" (Joyful, Joyful) I look at what will give the music the most forward drive. On a line where the notes change upward/downward, (measure 3 for example) I play the notes as written. in the instance of 4 repeated quarter notes, I usually play quarter/half/quarter. This syncopation gives the music 'drive'.

    As far as technique, for this hymn, I tend to use repeated toe strikes. You should strive for the ankle to be >relaxed<, with the feet just off the key top, so that you only need to slightly flex the ankle to play the note. Use only enough force to play the note...you're not stomping grapes, so there should be NO movement from the knee or upper leg, ONLY movement from the ankle.

    Rick in VA

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    Moderator jbird604's Avatar
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    I like the advice given above by both Regeron and Rick in VA. Personally, I don't feel compelled to follow exact "rules" about such things as accents, separating notes, legato playing, etc. Nor do I feel compelled to be consistent from one verse to another, or from one service to another.

    The text itself, the mood of the service, the usage of the hymn within a service, the season -- all these can have a bearing on one's interpretation of the notes.

    So trust your feelings and enjoy your playing!
    John
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    pp Pianissimo crapmaster's Avatar
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    I wouldn't say that organists "don't bother" to rearticulate them, but that we choose not to because the music sounds better that way. I was taught to rearticulate repeated notes in the pedal on strong beats only, as a general rule. (But if the meter is three, then I'd usually articulate the first and last note of each measure.) For this hymn, I pretty much always rearticulate the repeated pedal notes on beats 1 and 3. Playing all four sounds choppy, and only playing one gives an effect like a pedal point that doesn't seem appropriate for this hymn. When I was first studying, I had to plan this out and practice it. Now I usually intuitively play them in a way that makes sense, but I listen carefully and experiment/adjust. Sometimes in a service if the singing is dragging, I'll articulate notes that I would normally have held over. A more detached articulation seems like it can generate a little more energy from the congregation.

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    Moderator myorgan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by regeron View Post
    Personally, I like the drive of the Q H - Q as it gives a kind of syncopation against the melody. It also prevents the third beat of the measure from getting too much accent.
    I'm in this school. This piece can have a tendency to drag on, so using this pattern in the pedals helps move the piece forward--what Regeron calls "drive."

    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 & 4 Pianos

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    p Piano Steve Freides's Avatar
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    Thanks to everyone who replied - great to hear real-world opinions. I played a couple of hymns today with pedals, and just let the proverbial spirit move me as to how to handle the repeated notes. I'm not all too sure of what I did, but it seemed to go pretty well. One thing I didn't ask about, but that I did, was play moving notes where some long notes were written and the ends of phrases in order to keep the rhythm moving over the rest/breath - that worked, and it's something I've done on the manuals in the past, so it seemed to do OK on the pedals, too.

    -S-

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    Moderator myorgan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Freides View Post
    One thing I didn't ask about, but that I did, was play moving notes where some long notes were written and the ends of phrases in order to keep the rhythm moving over the rest/breath - that worked, and it's something I've done on the manuals in the past, so it seemed to do OK on the pedals, too.
    Steve,

    It sounds like you have a good sense for what will work. I actually add passing tones (the technical term) when going from one bass note to another. It helps the congregation know where the harmony is going, and helps them keep up with the music. Great idea!

    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 & 4 Pianos

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