Showing posts with label Church Organ. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Church Organ. Show all posts

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.

Friday, May 4, 2018


Small church organ
Pipe Organ - Photo by quinet 
The organ is one of the oldest instruments in European classical music with many heralding it as the grandest musical instrument in terms of both its size and range. The most common type of organ is the pipe organ so called because the sound is produced from groups of pipes the sets of which are called ranks. Organs are the mainstay of many large venues pipe organs are found most often in Churches, Synagogues, Concert Halls and Theatres to name the most common ones.

A pipe organ produces sound by driving pressurized air through pipes that they player of the instrument selects via the keyboard of which there are sometimes one or two. Referencing back to the sets of pipes on the organ which are in sets called racks, each pipe produces a certain pitch. The groups or racks as they are known all offer a different sound in terms of how loud, the pitch and the timbre. The racks are operated via the stops which are the controls of the organ and you can opt to play the pipes singly or as part of a combination. As I said before a pipe organ has either one or two keyboards which are obviously played by the hands and there is a pedal board which is operated by the player's feet.

One main difference or advantage to a pipe organ is that the pipes can sustain a note for as long as the player has the corresponding key pressed, unlike the piano where the sound dissipates off. The other well-known type of organ is the electric organ which you may have heard of before, especially the Hammond organ which was used prolifically by many bands in the sixties.

Church organs were first recorded as early as the 7th century and Pope Vitalian has been recorded as the one who introduced the organ to religious services. It has also been recorded that even earlier or in some other religious sects that organs or indeed musical instruments did not exist in churches as they were viewed to be secular (which means with no religious or spiritual basis). Pipe organs are not only found in Christian churches but also in Jewish Synagogues and all throughout Europe, America and Australasia.

Throughout the United Kingdom in many churches, the organ one of the main focusses in the building. The organ traditionally is incorporated in many different types of services throughout the church including Christenings and weddings.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

ORGAN PEDAL Playing: Is It Better To Play With Organist Shoes Or With Socks?

Church Organ Pedal - Photo: Pixabay
Have you experienced problems playing the organ with organist shoes? Is it easier for you to play with socks on? In this article, I will give you tips and advice on how to overcome this challenge.

It seems to me the following issue is making the difficulty in playing with the shoes the pedals for you.

You are used to playing without shoes. Socks are more sensitive and therefore you might think it is better without shoes but when it comes to playing with heels, you really need shoes.

Although the sole of the organist shoes is not thick but comparing to the socks, you still run into problems feeling the surface of the pedalboard. In other words, when you have to press the pedal, it is actually easier to feel it without the shoes on.

However, organ pedal technique consists of using both toes and heels (at least in modern legato organ school). Therefore, using heels is a lot easier by playing with organist shoes.

Technically speaking, the higher the heel of the shoe, the less motion you have to do from your ankles. I have seen great French ladies organists play impeccably on the pedals with high heels.

Of course, the accuracy comes from correct practice but for most people, the heels should be around 3 centimetres or 1.2 inches.

If you are experiencing problems playing with organist shoes, start practising with your organ shoes on any organ regularly (at home, on your teacher's organ or at church). Don't worry at all about the mistakes. They have to occur since you are not used to playing with shoes.

Be persistent and you will discover gradual improvement over time. When you make a mistake, go back a few measures, correct it and play fluently at least 3 times in a row very slowly. Also, make use of pedal preparation technique which will automate your pedal playing.

    By Vidas Pinkevicius

    By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my free Organ Practice Guide.

    Or if you really want to learn to play any organ composition at sight fluently and without mistakes while working only 15 minutes a day, check out my systematic master course in Organ Sight-Reading.

    Article Source: EzineArticles

Wednesday, February 7, 2018

ORGAN MUSIC: About Toccata and Fugue in F Major, BWV 540 by JS BACH

A portrait which may show Bach in 1750
A portrait which may show Bach in 1750 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Although the most popular of all organ toccatas by Johann Sebastian Bach is the legendary Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, perhaps even more masterful is the splendid and brilliant Toccata and Fugue in F Major, BWV 540. This composition might have been created in Weimar when the true compositional style of a master composer was formed. Virtuosic Toccata and Fugue in F Major usually is a true technical and mental challenge for many skilled organists. If performed well, it is a real treat for every organ music lover and listener. Otherwise, it has the potential to create a sense boredom.

The Toccata leaves the impression of a chase between voices and begins with a prolonged and playful two-voice canon over a long tonic pedal point (Idea A). After this canon, Bach writes another virtuosic episode - a pedal solo in the tonic key which leads to a cadence in the Dominant - C major. Now the voice parts switch places and the canon begins all over again, only this time in the Dominant key (C major). These two sections serve to establish both the Tonic and the Dominant keys and have a function, similar to the North German Passaggio in a Praeludium.

After this episode, the chase stops but all voices begin a long and tiring journey (for the performer, that is) through various related keys in descending and ascending sequences (Idea B based on arpeggio figure). Through the course of this Toccata, canonic idea A and sequential idea B alternate and create an intriguing structural balance. In developing the idea A, Bach evidently shows his mastery of a double and sometimes even triple invertible counterpoint at the interval of an octave. This basically is a technique allowing voice switching. It only works if the composer uses the suitable intervals (most of the time thirds and sixths, avoiding fifths which in inversion become a forbidden fourth). Suspensions of a second and seventh are welcomed in this technique, too.

Because of repeating two musical ideas, this Toccata shows the influence of the Italian Ritornello form. Bach learned to use this form in Weimar from transcribing for the keyboard the concertos of Vivaldi and his contemporaries.

The fugue, on the other hand, provides a welcomed relaxation for the organist from the technical point of view. However, Bach provides another challenge, e.g. old-fashioned "Palestrina" style fugue with alla breve meter (cut-time) in Style antico (the old style). This is a double fugue, which means that a composer has to develop two musical themes. Both of the themes must work in invertible counterpoint with each other. In the exposition and counter-exposition of the first theme, Bach develops the solemn, slow, and vocal musical idea in all four voices.

The second theme appears to be playful, dance-like, which reminds of a Baroque dance Gavotte. During this section, the pedal part remains silent and waits for its entrance until the powerful combination of both themes towards the close of a fugue. While listening to the fugue in this wonderful video, feel free to count the number of appearances of the first theme.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring - BACH's Most Loved Work

Even non-musicians around the world are undoubtedly familiar with one of Johann Sebastian Bach's more famous compositions, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring. Usually, this song is played in a slow, almost reverent style during weddings or in religious and liturgical services. However, many music lovers aren't aware that this recognizable tune was actually intended to be played in a much more upbeat manner.

The song was originally composed for accompaniment of voices, as well as traditional orchestral instruments, particularly woodwinds, strings, and brass. Today though, it is more often performed on piano and organ. It's difficult to say whether or not Bach might be rolling over in his grave every time the slower version of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring graces someone's nuptial ceremony. Nevertheless this piece has won the affections of both aficionados and non-musicians alike. In fact, of all of Bach's compositions, this one is his most recognized.

The German-born composer originally wrote his composition in the early 1700's. It was performed publically for the first time on July2, 1723 as part of Bach's cantata: "Herz und Mund Tat und Leben" ("Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life"). What is perhaps less known about this fondly-loved composition is that the underlying choral melody was actually composed by violinist Johan Schop.

Schop was something of a pioneer in the music world during the early 1700's. Considered to be a virtuoso, his technical ability was largely unsurpassed by his contemporaries, and certainly unequalled by his predecessors. Despite his immense talent, Schop has since faded into the background. Today, Bach himself is attributed most of the credit for Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring.

The piano arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring that is most familiar to listeners in the 21st century was actually transcribed by British pianist Myra Hess, well over 100 years after its composition. It is this adaptation that has stood the test of time as far as popular recognition goes, and is how the song is most often publicly performed today. When it does happen to be accompanied by English-speaking voices, it is sung to the words that were translated from the original German to English by the prominent 18th century English poet Robert Bridges. The English version, though, diverts somewhat from the original German. Bridges obviously did what poets do best, creating a poem that still echoes the sentiments of the original work, but contains flowing rhyme which is easy to sing in its translated English.

Since its first public performance nearly three centuries ago, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring has been adapted and performed by hundreds of other musicians and artists. Even modern artists, such as Josh Groban, continue to make this song one of classical music's most renowned and adored tunes.

Even though Bach did not consider this piece his favorite or best work, it is probably the most widely recognized of all of his compositions. Because of its mainstream popularity, this song will undoubtedly continue to surface at weddings and other public performances for hundreds more years.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

6 Steps in Arranging Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by Bach for the ORGAN in 4 Parts

Have you tried to make an organ arrangement of a popular aria or a choral work? If not, it is worth giving it a try because not only you will have a lot of fun in the process, will be able to create a new organ piece that you will love to play but also you will learn a lot about the composition itself. In this article, I will describe how to make a 4 part arrangement of the famous Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring by Bach for the organ in 6 easy steps.

1. Take a music staff paper and write the treble clef for the right hand, the bass clef for the left hand, and the bass clef for the pedals. Connect the 3 staves into a system.

2. Add a key signature (F sharp) and a meter signature (3/4).

3. Write the Violin I part in the right hand with the stems up in triplets.

4. Write the Violin II part in the right hand with the stems down. Be aware, that according to the usual practice in Bach's time, in the original score this part is notated using dotted eight notes and sixteenths which should be played together with the last note of each group of three notes in the top voice. When you transcribe it in the right hand part, you can use groups of quarter and eighth notes in triplets.

5. Write the Soprano part in the left hand one octave lower. This way the chorale tune will sound in a tenor range. The chorale tune will sound well on a solo registration, such as a soft reed.

6. Write the Cello part in the pedals which will be played using soft 16' and 8' stops.

The Violin II part will fit nicely to the right hand part. Although there are some voice crossings between the two violins, in general, the right hand can play these two voices very easily. You can play this part using flutes 8' and 4'.

Because in this arrangement you have to play 2 voices in the right hand, for some people who have little proper organ training experience it might not be as easy as it may seem. If you are at the beginning stages of organ playing, I recommend the 3 part version which will also sound very well. Just omit the step 4.

After the process of arranging this fantastic piece for the organ you will know how the piece is put together on a much deeper level than before which will also help you to advance in the field of music theory.

You can play your arrangement from the written down version on paper or you can use your favorite music notation software to transcribe it. Choose whatever is more comfortable for you but do not forget to treat your arrangement as a genuine organ composition while you play and practice it.

    By the way, do you want to learn to play the King of Instruments - the pipe organ? If so, download my FREE video guide "How to Master Any Organ Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music.

    Article Source: EzineArticles

Monday, March 6, 2017

Organ Practice: Problems of ELECTRONIC ORGANS With Short Pedal Compass

Some organists have electronic organs with one octave pedal board at home which they use for practice. While this idea is very practical, such organists have to face several difficulties with this kind of instrument. In this article, I will discuss what problems arise when an organist has an electronic organ for practice purposes and how these difficulties might be overcome.

エレクトーンSTAGEA ELS-01
STAGEA ELS-01 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
One octave pedal board may be the cause of the back pain, if used incorrectly. It might arise from playing with the right foot in the bottom of the pedal board of such organ. This kind of instrument is mean to be played with the left foot most of the time. And of course not that kind of music with the independent pedal part like most of classical polyphonic organ music. Incidentally, the right foot usually is busy operating the swell pedal and pressing the toe studs where available.

Originally, the electronic organs with the short pedal board were intended either for playing classical transcriptions from popular works or the arrangements of tunes from pop music. In both cases, the texture is rather homophonic with the melody in one hand (usually in the right) and chordal accompaniment in another.

The pedal part in such music is mostly the bass voice which only supports the chords and serves as harmonic foundation. Very seldom it is required to play an independent melodic line in the pedal part of such arrangements. Therefore, one can easily use only the pitches of the available one octave to play the harmonic foundation with or without some rhythmical syncopation.

Contrary to such arrangements, in classical organ music the pedal part is very often independent. The organist is required to use the entire compass of the two-octave pedal board, often playing the higher notes up to treble F. Naturally, performance of most of organ music on electronic organs with one octave pedal board is quite challenging.

The solution for this problem is rather simple. The organist could try to extend the short pedal board by attaching a wooden board with similar dimensions as the pedal board. One can go even further and draw the rest of the notes on this wooden board. This way it is possible to pretend and imagine the full pedal board very easily (and avoid dangerous tension in the back).

Some organists try to compensate the short compass of the pedal board by lowering the pedal part in various places of the music score. This is a possible solution to the problem but is rather inconvenient and might cause some frustration. Instead, it is probably better to extend the pedals with a wooden board.

If you will continue playing pedals on your electronic organ, it is best if you avoid playing with the right foot on the extreme left side of the pedal board while practicing. This may mean adjusting the pedaling when necessary. In addition, use the idea of extending your pedals. Otherwise, you could try to get some practice time in churches that have organs with pedals of at least two octaves in compass in your area.

    By Vidas Pinkevicius
    By the way, do you want to learn to play the King of Instruments - the pipe organ? If so, download my FREE video guide "How to Master Any Organ Composition" in which I will show you my EXACT steps, techniques, and methods that I use to practice, learn and master any piece of organ music.
    Article Source: EzineArticles