A Quick Review
How is your balance at the organ? Your seat and base of legs have to provide your stability at the organ, as your feet must be free to move and play.
First, ensure that the organ bench is properly adjusted, both up/down and forward/backward, and that you are centered on D. Sit up straight, but be relaxed.
Knees and ankles should be in contact through the intervals we covered last time, and knees should remain together through the intervals of an octave. Your feet (heels and soles) should always touch, or practically touch, the surface of the pedals. Ankle motion, not knee motion, should be used when playing the toes. When scissoring out, divide up the angle so that each foot is equally parallel to the keys.
Do not cover more than half of the black, or sharp, key. Play with the ball of the foot, or just forward of the ball of the foot--do not play with the outside of the foot.
When playing on the naturals, play just clear of the black keys: do not play in the gaps between the black keys, but keep the toes very close to the bottom of the sharps.
Do not peek! Just as it is much faster and easier to type without looking at the keyboard, it will be much faster and more accurate to learn to play the pedals without peeking.
When practicing just the pedals, use 8' and 4' principal stops.
You should be very familiar with intervals through a fourth after the last lesson. It's time to practice intervals through an octave.
To play the interval of a fifth, find a fourth, then separate the ankles just enough to play the fifth, keeping the knees together. Bring the ankles back together to play the smaller intervals. Remember to keep your knees and ankles together for intervals through a fourth. Keep your knees together for intervals through an octave.
When playing the far upper or lower pedals, pivot the knees around with the feet. Also, keep the feet reasonably parallel with the keys by rotating your ankles. It will be difficult to play on the inside of the left foot when it's playing the higher pedals and the inside of the right foot when it's playing the lower pedals. If necessary, you my play on the outside of the foot in these circumstances. Never play flat-footed--either play with the ball of the foot (which is preferable) or play with the outside of the foot (only when you cannot play on the ball).
Remember: Organ shoes make playing the organ much easier!
When playing with the toe, the ankle moves, not the knee. Heel playing, of necessity, moves the entire leg, but try to minimize the movement by keeping the heel touching, or very close to, the pedals. Playing with the heel is always secondary to the toe. If the pedal can be played with the toe, the toe should be used.
When playing with the heel, center the heel over the key. Try playing a C with your left heel, a C# with the toe, and a D with the heel. Work on playing smoothly with no silence or overlap between notes. Start with the D and play down to the C.
Switch feet and play D, D#, and E with the right foot. Again, work to play smoothly with no silence of overlap. Change direction starting with the E and playing down to the D.
Now play a B with the left toe, a C with the heel, a D with the toe, the C with the heel again, and the B with the toe again. Work for a legato sound. Play as slowly as necessary to play perfectly.
Play the F with the right toe, the E with the right heel, the D with the right toe, the E with the heel again, and the F with the toe again. Work for a legato sound.
Now play a B with the left toe, a C with the heel, a D with the toe, then substitute the right toe just in front of the left foot (release the left toe but keep it over this pedal), the E with the right heel, and the F with the right toe. Play this sequence in reverse, starting with the F, E, D (substitute the left toe behind the right, release the right but keep it over the pedal), C, B, and back again. Play it as quarter notes, smoothly. The substitution will need to occur quickly but soundlessly.
Play this same 5-note scale but play from C to G back to C. Now play from A to E back to A.
Play the Bb with the left toe, C with the heel (when releasing this note, keep the heel over it), D with the right heel, Eb with the right toe, and F with the right heel and back down.
Feel free to move up and down the keyboard, playing with the toe and heel, always with a smooth legato.
When possible, prelocate upcoming notes with the non-playing foot. We'll discuss this more in a moment.
Releases and Note Value
On the organ, it is very important to be precise. Unlike on the piano, there is no decay of the sound on the organ. There is no sustain pedal to keep the sound going as you play the next note. The technique we'll cover in these lessons is a legato technique.
In Carol Dean's book, turn to hymn 285, "God Moves in a Mysterious Way." We'll only cover the pedal technique of this hymn in this lesson.
In this hymn, the Eb repeats. It is impossible to give a note its full value while lifting and playing it again--no matter how quickly you lift, the first note will be robbed of some value. So instead of trying, today we will cut the value of the note by one beat, or in half, and add a rest for the remaining value. Instead of rehearsing in 3, we will rehearse in 6.
As marked, place your right toe over the Eb. Prelocate the first position of your left foot--the toe over Bb, and gently set your foot in that position. This interval is a fourth, so maintain knee and ankle contact.
Play the first Eb for one beat, rest for one beat, then play for 1/2 beat, rest for 1/2 beat, play, rest, play--then the next note is an F. Since we don't repeat another Eb, this Eb will receive full value. Break ankle contact (keep knee contact) and play the F with the heel for full value, the Eb with the toe for full value (making ankle contact again), and the Bb with the left toe. Hold this Bb for three counts and rest for one, since it repeats. Play it again for one beat and rest for one beat. Play for 1/2 beat, rest, play, rest, play for a beat, rest, play for two beats then smoothly play the Eb with the right toe.
It should sound like this (with the first note on the next line played to show the timing):
Now look at the next line. Do you see the toe glissandos? We covered this marking last lesson:
To play a toe glissando, play the first note with the outer side of the shoe and the second note with the inner side, moving the heel over quickly.
Here is how to play the second line: Begin the same way as the first line, with the left foot pre-located on Bb and with knee and ankle contact maintained. Play the first Eb for one beat, rest for one beat, then play for 1/2 beat, rest, play, rest, play--then the next note is an Bb. Since we don't repeat another Eb, this Eb will receive full value. Play the Bb with the left toe, play the Eb with the right toe while pre-locating the Ab with the left toe. Play the Ab with the outside of the foot, bring the heel over quickly as you play the Bb with the inside of the foot. Play the Eb with the right foot and pre-locate the Ab again. Play the Ab to Bb as outlined above. Rest. Bb to Eb.
It should sound and look like this:
Put the entire hymn together and practice as slowly as necessary in order to play it perfectly each time.
Practice intervals with your toes through an octave throughout the pedal board, remembering when to maintain ankle contact. Keep knee contact at all times. Try to familiarize yourself with the feel of all the intervals, and use ankle motion, not knee motion.
Practice keeping a legato sound when moving from heel to toe.
Practice hymn 285 "God Moves in a Mysterious Way" until you can play the pedal part flawlessly with proper rests at tempo.
Learning to play the pedals can be very challenging. You'll be developing muscles that you probably have not used before. Don't get discouraged! Practice slowly and deliberately. Use a metronome. The examples I played were with the quarter note at 80. You can do it!
Continue on to Lesson 8: The Manuals.