Wednesday, September 26, 2018

What Is the Secret to a Good ORGAN PEDAL Technique?

English: A 30-note pedalboard of a Rieger organ.
A 30-note pedalboard of a Rieger organ. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Playing organ pedals can be a challenging task. All these fast-moving passages with our feet can give the organist much trouble and it can be frustrating to learn difficult pedal lines. However, there is one secret to overcome challenging pedal parts and develop a superb pedal technique.

Perhaps the most famous organist of the 20th century, the Frenchman Marcel Dupre once wrote that the secret to the perfect pedal technique is the flexibility of an ankle. Here I would like to tell you a little story about Dupre when he was a teenager. This story is, of course, related to pedal technique, as you will see.

In his youth, Dupre used to practice a lot on the piano. In fact, the very first piano pieces that he learned was a collection called "Musical ABC". It consisted of as many little pieces as there are letters in the alphabet. So Dupre learned them all during one summer.

When he started to play the organ, one time he cut one of his wrists on the broken glass. The cut was quite dangerous - only millimeters away from the main nerves of the hand. So for some months, he could not play the organ with his hands. Did he give it up? No, he started practicing the pedal playing. In fact, he was so furious that he could not play with his hands and as he wrote later, he started playing the pedals with vengeance.

By the way, all these months he practiced pedal scales and arpeggios. He became so good at them that he could play any musical passage with his feet on the pedals. Later in his life, he even published a collection of all major and minor scales and arpeggios as a help for organists to perfect their pedal technique.

Of course, we all know about how good are scales and arpeggios for our finger technique. Some people practice them regularly. However, pedal scales are underused, and not too many organists know their real value: they help to achieve the flexibility of an ankle.

No wonder why organists of the French school develop an unbeatable pedal technique. We all have heard of French women organists playing with an incredibly high heels unbelievably hard pedal line with ease and elegance. This is how they achieve that level of mastery: they practice pedal scales.
So this is the secret how to achieve a perfect pedal technique: practice pedal scales and arpeggios regularly and you will have no difficulty with your challenging pedal parts.

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