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Thread: Learning to play the pipe organ

  1. #1
    p Piano Eddy67716's Avatar
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    Learning to play the pipe organ

    I have recently started to try out a pipe organ every week or so. It is a two manual organ with a decent stoplist. (Except that the trumpet and horn reeds drown out the diapason chorus) The main thing I feel like I need to learn is how to play the pedals. I know you use the inner parts of the ball and heel of both feet to play, but I need to familiarize myself with the pedelboard. What are some tips and good exercise books to help me learn the pedals.

    I also have heard that swell expression is also a difficult thing to learn.

    Any other tips?

  2. #2
    pp Pianissimo lcid's Avatar
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    There are several threads dealing with pedaling. Just do a search and one is very recent; just a few days ago. Good luck in your studies and I'm sure you will enjoy advancing your technics and organ playing skills. Being able to play with both feet is really the best recommendation I can offer. You can also do a search for my posts and read what books I have suggested: Harold Gleason and John Stainer.
    Last edited by lcid; 10-09-2018 at 11:55 PM.
    Lloyd

    Happily retired organist/pianist from the Church of the Brethren...Allen ADC-4300-DK.
    Primary occupation structural and civil engineering.
    Home...Wurlitzer (ES) Orgatron Series 20 Serial #11608 (retrofitted with MIDI and VPO-Hauptwerk) with Leslie 44.
    Hammond BC Serial #5070 with Leslie 31A tallboy tone cabinet
    A.L. Swan antique pump organ (C.1852) Cherry Valley NY
    Member of the Lutheran Church (LCMS): traditional worship.

  3. #3
    mp Mezzo-Piano VaPipeorgantuner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eddy67716 View Post
    I have recently started to try out a pipe organ every week or so. It is a two manual organ with a decent stoplist. (Except that the trumpet and horn reeds drown out the diapason chorus) The main thing I feel like I need to learn is how to play the pedals. I know you use the inner parts of the ball and heel of both feet to play, but I need to familiarize myself with the pedelboard. What are some tips and good exercise books to help me learn the pedals.

    I also have heard that swell expression is also a difficult thing to learn.

    Any other tips?
    best possible advice: find a GOOD teacher. Suggestions on a public forum will get you info that is all over the map in terms of good/bad. There are a half-dozen pedal technique books available at various price points, and all those books have good points to be made, but having a good teacher is going to help you to avoid developing bad habits which self-tutoring will often produce. That said, these days the two most popular books are the Harold Gleason book and the Roger David "the Organist's Manual" both of which are used by many teachers. Additionally there is a book by Joyce Jones, a book by Nillson (which is all exercises, no repertoire), a book by Marcel Dupre' (written in french but available in an english translation) Wm. Carl "Master Studies for Organ", a book by Kimberly Marshal, and probably a few more.

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    mp Mezzo-Piano samibe's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by VaPipeorgantuner View Post
    best possible advice: find a GOOD teacher.
    Agreed! I've done okay on my own, but I definitely have some things I'm having to unlearn now that I know better.
    You might check and contact local college/university music faculty to try and find someone who also teaches private lessons. If nobody at the university teaches organ, they might know of someone else who still teaches. Also see if any local church organists also teach on the side.
    The teacher I found used to teach at one of the local universities. He has since retired from that job but he still plays for a local Lutheran congregation and teaches private lessons occasionally.
    Good luck.
    Sam

    Home: Yamaha P22 and a modified Allen ADC-4500 ... for now.
    Church: Allen MDS-5
    Files: Allen Tone Card (TC) Database, TC Info, TC Converter, Chorus/Mixture TC Generator, ADC TC Soundfont, and MOS TC Soundfont

  5. #5
    p Piano Eddy67716's Avatar
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    The organist at the church teaches me stuff but I might need to find a proper teacher.

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    mp Mezzo-Piano KC9UDX's Avatar
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    "every week or so" is part of the problem.

    Half an hour 6 days a week would be best. Teacher or no teacher, nothing works without practise, practise, and tedious repetition.

  7. #7
    mf Mezzo-Forte Leisesturm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Eddy67716 View Post
    I have recently started to try out a pipe organ every week or so. It is a two manual organ with a decent stoplist. (Except that the trumpet and horn reeds drown out the diapason chorus)
    What is the stoplist? Organ Registration is the art and science of using the stoplist of a given organ into effective (and pleasing) 'combinations'. Your churches organist maybe could advise you how to use the Reed stops. There is massive 'Festival Trumpet' on the organ that I play and it definitely could "drown out the Diapason Chorus") but that is no problem because I never use it for anything other than solo lines. Single notes of even a very powerful Reed should not overwhelm full chords played on another keyboard.


    Quote Originally Posted by Eddy67716 View Post
    The main thing I feel like I need to learn is how to play the pedals.
    Well, the pedals are there, so it is natural to feel like you have to play them. But do you? One of the churches I play for likes to keep a large roster of organists in a rotation. One of them does not play the pedals at all. She doesn't even try. Her manuals only work is first rate though. She never makes a mistake. You haven't said how old you are but it matters. What you can reasonably expect to attain at 13 is (should be) different from what you might reasonably expect at 30. Or 50. To have a chance at all you need easy, near daily, access to an organ with pedals. In your home if possible. It does NOT have to be (but that would be best) a full 32 note, concave and radiating AGO compliant pedalboard. The 25 note, flat, but radiating, pedalboards on some home electronic organs are much better than nothing.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eddy67716 View Post
    I know you use the inner parts of the ball and heel of both feet to play,
    Hmmm. Maybe. But I don't know that it is wrong to deviate from that. Were I you, I would try to forget what I think I know about playing pedals, and just play them. Get proper footwear generally acknowledged to be good for organ playing. It is better IMO to play pedals barefoot (in socks) than to learn to play them in Docksiders.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eddy67716 View Post
    What are some tips and good exercise books to help me learn the pedals.
    You would be shocked to realize how little of any good organ technique book will focus on just the pedals. It would be sad to spend all that money for the Gleason book just to learn pedals. I have owned every major organ instruction book written and have never read any of them. The best and possibly only organ instruction book you really need is your church's hymnal! For free you have YEARS of instructional material in scads of different key centers, time signatures and tempi. You can learn left hand and pedal independence by scrupulously avoiding the duplication of the lowest notes of the harmony by the left hand.

    Quote Originally Posted by Eddy67716 View Post
    I also have heard that swell expression is also a difficult thing to learn.
    Cross that bridge when you come to it. The pedal notes get priority. If the organ piece is well written, having a foot free to open or close the Swell will be evident. Sometimes the addition or subtraction of stops is how you change the expression. You will need to learn when to use which technique to properly express the meaning of the composer.

  8. #8
    p Piano Eddy67716's Avatar
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    The registration is:
    Great: Open Diapason 8, Viol 8, Stopped Diapason 8, Salicional 8,
    Principal 4, Wald Flute 4, Fifteenth 2, Mixture III 19, 22, 26
    Clarinet 8, (Trumpet 16, Trumpet 8, Clarion 4) unified reed rank
    Swell to great at 16, 8 and 4;
    Swell: Bourdon 16, Open Diapason 8, Stopped Diapason 8,
    Viol De Orchestre 8, Celeste 8 (All 61 notes),
    Octave 4, Flute 4, Nazard 2 2/3 (Sounds more like a Diapason than a Flute)
    Harmonic Piccolo 2, Mixture III 26, 29, 33
    Horn 8, Oboe 8,
    Tremulant, Sub and Octave couplers, Unison Off;
    Pedal: Open Wood 16, Sub Bass 16, Bourdon 16 (from swell)
    Quint 10 2/3 (from swell Bourdon 16)
    Principal 8, Flute 8 (Extends Sub Bass 16),
    Fifteenth 4, Octave 2 (Both extend Principal 8)
    Orchestral Oboe 8, (Trombone 16, Trumpet 8, Clarion 4) From Great Ensemble Reeds,
    Swell to Pedal, Great to pedal.

    I'm 20 by the way. I've been trying to find and purchase an organ with a Proper pedalboard like a Baldwin Cinema 2 or even one with 25 pedals but I haven't had luck yet. I use a small spinet organ to practice at home.
    Not often do good organs become available in Australia that I know of.

  9. #9
    p Piano Eddy67716's Avatar
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    This is a small snippet of what I did on the Pipe organ Withe the Clarinet 8 and the mixture:

    https://www.facebook.com/edward.jenk...5975343094048/

  10. #10
    pp Pianissimo lcid's Avatar
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    Smile teacher

    At your age of twenty, you can progress quickly and I also recommend finding a good teacher as soon as possible! It's very encouraging to know you are wanting to study the pipe organ! I took lessons on the guitar at age 12 and at sixteen I began learning on a spinet organ on my own basically transferring guitar chords and melody to the organ. I added swing bass with my left foot and played a black gospel style of music on the organ until age 43. It was more like playing from a lead sheet. At that point, I was totally tired of my limited style of playing and began taking serious classical pipe organ studies with a professional teacher learning to play with both feet and play hymns in four-part harmony SATB.

    I only regret that I waited 27 years to begin formal organ lessons. At age 43 it was very difficult for me to begin making changes. However, between the ages of 20 and age 43, I did take classical piano for a total of about seven years which made me learn to read the bass clef and develop my left hand. If you are interested in service playing for your church, you will find it very rewarding, challenging and worth all the work, time and discipline of practicing.
    Lloyd

    Happily retired organist/pianist from the Church of the Brethren...Allen ADC-4300-DK.
    Primary occupation structural and civil engineering.
    Home...Wurlitzer (ES) Orgatron Series 20 Serial #11608 (retrofitted with MIDI and VPO-Hauptwerk) with Leslie 44.
    Hammond BC Serial #5070 with Leslie 31A tallboy tone cabinet
    A.L. Swan antique pump organ (C.1852) Cherry Valley NY
    Member of the Lutheran Church (LCMS): traditional worship.

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