Author Topic: No__54___Pedals  (Read 723 times)

Hugh Wallington

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #15 on: September 09, 2013, 02:26:50 PM »
If you have persevered this far with the discussion on playing the bass pedals you may wish to take a look at my comments on the 'bass line' in a piece you are playing.

http://www.ar-group.org/smforum/index.php?topic=2124.msg6799#msg6799

I have specifically illustrated some of the points made by Bev earlier in this topic.

Hugh
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #16 on: September 13, 2013, 04:39:20 PM »
Seating Position

When I first started playing the organ, I read somewhere about how to position the organ bench and I pass this on, as it very much helped me.

Stand up straight in front of your AR so that you are brushing up against the keyboard and spread each hand out to grasp the two wooden sides of your instrument.   This ensures that you are central to the AR.
Now pull the bench forward to touch the back of your legs when you stand upright, in such a way that the front feet of the bench are very slightly off the ground.   (I wish I had a movie camera there, while some of you perform this contortion!)
When you sit down, without moving the stool’s position, you should find that your left foot will, for most of us, be naturally over the G pedal.   Therefore it is helpful to regard the G pedal as the home key.
Ideally your heels should be about the same height as your pedal keys.
When playing, your knee and ankle should be more or less in line so that you move your knee from side to side and not make it bob up and down.

Let me repeat, when playing, keep the ankle and knee in line, and allow your knee to move right and left to follow the foot and ankle, but do not let the knee bob up and down.  Your left foot should naturally drop onto its home key, which is the G.

An important point for AR users.
When I first brought my AR home, I realised that the Yamaha AR organ stool was too low for me.  (The AR stool was 2 inches lower than my previous Technics U90 one, and my Yamaha HS 8 had already been cleverly converted by its previous owner.)  I am 5ft 10in, which I reckon is about average, but I cannot position myself correctly on the basic AR stool to play the pedals comfortably.   A few weeks later I noticed on the ar-group that many others considered the stool was too low for them as well, and they had invested in several ways of solving the problem.   I think I had already found the perfect manner to solve the problem and it took less than 10 minutes and cost next to nothing.

If you want to see how I did it, click this link:

http://www.ar-group.org/smforum/index.php?topic=667.0

and scroll down to Reply No 7, posted by Hugh.   
(I confess that I still haven’t stained the wood blocks yet.)

Peter

Hugh Wallington

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #17 on: September 19, 2013, 12:26:15 AM »
Playing the pedals.

When I had my first organ (the Farfisa Balmoral) the young man who sold it to me was an ex pupil of mine.  Knowing I was a pianist, he had one or two hints about playing the pedals.

He pointed out that an electronic 'home organ' was not like a pipe organ in a church, where the pedals ran right under your seat.  So his first comment was, "You can't 'toe and heel', so don't even try to do that.  The technique is different".

Secondly, he pointed out that a church organist had two feet to play the pedals.  We would normally have our right foot on the 'expression pedal' (to give expression to our music) so would play the pedals with just the left foot.

His recommendation was not to try to play as the church organist would do, moving from the ball of the foot when playing to the left, to the 'flat' foot when playing in the middle, to using the outside left part of the foot when moving to the right.  For starters, our organ pedals are not as wide apart as those on a church organ, so playing with a 'flat' foot is more than likely to press on two pedals at the same time .. and as our organs are 'monophonic' in the bass, only one of the two notes would sound.  Probably the wrong one.

His suggestion was always to play the pedals with the ball of the foot, so as you go up the notes the foot is in the same position all the time, but the knee moves across to the right ahead of the foot.  And this is what I have always done.  No trouble playing fast notes.  Admittedly, my Farfisa had only eight 'white' notes in the pedals, whereas our AR has twelve, so that makes it a little more difficult.

He had been to music school in London, and was the top salesperson in the shop, selling organs, so he knew what he was talking about (I felt).

I know that some remove their shoes when playing the pedals, in order not to inadvertantly press two pedals at the same time.  As for me, I am ok playing them with hobnailed boots on!  It makes no difference.

Hugh
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #18 on: September 20, 2013, 06:09:19 PM »
The most important technique in playing organ pedals is economy of motion, which means using only slight movement of your feet.   This actually helps you to avoid wrong notes.

The best advisers all declare, “Do not play in stocking feet!”    It is not just because they are trying to get you to spend upwards of £40 on ‘organ shoes’, it is because, surprisingly, you do have more control with ‘leather’ shoes.   You will find that with practice you will ‘feel’ the notes much better in shoes and they are actually, far less prone to slipping than stocking feet.

You will definitely play the pedals more accurately.   There is a tendency to catch adjacent notes with your instep in stocking feet.   
You don’t believe me?   Then try it.

As a result, you will also waste energy, by having to concentrate more on being accurate.
Furthermore, the shoe gives your foot support and playing without them produces unnecessary strain, particularly at the back of your leg.

Organ shoes have softer, thinner leather on the soles and are not used for everyday walking about.   So Doc Martins are not a suitable choice, but you should find something suitable in your wardrobe.

Because heel and toe is common on large organs, special organ shoes also tend to have higher heels.

For a bit of fun take a look at this quite humorous site about organ shoes:

http://www.bachorgan.com/Shoes.html

You need to keep your ankle flexible just like maintaining flexibility in your wrist.   Just as Hugh's ex-pupil pianist told him, try to play each note with the ball of your foot, not the flat of your foot, without lifting your thigh off the bench.   Always aim to play the pedal in the centre of the ball of your foot. 

Ideally, when playing the ‘black’ notes, aim for the front of the key (i.e. the end nearer to you).   You can play the ‘white’ notes with either the ball of your foot, (or the heel on larger organs), when interspersed with sharps and flats, which will enable you to hit the notes more smoothly.   As the AR pedals are short it is virtually impossible to heel and toe efficiently on our ‘white’ pedals.
Because we have more than just one octave of foot pedals, be prepared to play those above C# with your right foot, which doesn’t have to be permanently occupied on the expression pedal, by the way.

Since our pedals are not polyphonic (i.e. only the highest one pressed will actually sound), there is no point in us playing 2 together, but remember only the highest one pressed will sound.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #19 on: October 19, 2013, 02:56:14 PM »
It might be useful to briefly summarise where we have got to.

For playing the pedals, it is important to be sitting comfortably.

Wear suitable shoes - you will actually feel the keys better than in bare or stocking feet.

Try to keep your feet close to the pedals, in a similar way to your fingers hovering over the keyboard.

Use the ball of your foot to press the pedals, (the same part that you feel the car pedals with).

Play the organ pedals gently - almost caressing them.   There is no need to press them strongly.   Watch the professionals.

In the following postings, I recommend some simple exercises for you to practise.

Peter

Hugh Wallington

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #20 on: October 19, 2013, 03:34:03 PM »
Peter,

As a pianist, the action of using feet as well to play 'pedals' was completely alien to me.  So when I first had my AR, I put headphones on (so as not to drive Bronwyn up the wall) and with a basic F chord (F, A and C) in my left hand (and voice Grand Piano) 'vamped' the bass notes with the chord (ie. bass note then chord, bass note then chord).  The bass notes I played with this chord were F, and then the C below it.  Did that several times, then went up to G.  G (bass note) G chord (G, B and D); D (bass note) G chord.  Then a C chord (G, C and the E above it) with C and G alternating in the bass.

Did this whenever I had a moment to spare.  For days!  It would have driven Bronwyn up the wall had she had to listen to me.  It drove me up the wall!

But then, like your car pedals, I found I was hitting the right notes without even thinking about it.  And was no longer looking at the pedals.  I always reckon that with the organ, doing something over and over eventually makes what you are doing become second nature.

Up to a point ...

I find that no matter how often I practise the melody of an eightsome reel it is too fast for my fingers to cope with.  Similarly with Winifred Atwell style 12th Street Rag.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5AtCA9jblsk

I know what you'll say ... this will come if I practise my 'scales'!

Hugh
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Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #21 on: October 25, 2013, 05:18:59 PM »
Here are some Simple Exercises to help you play the bass pedals.
Make sure you start slowly.   The point of them is to help you learn the distances between the pedals.   So it is more important to be slow and accurate right from the beginning.   Greater speed will come later.   Try playing with a specific regular beat in mind, even starting by holding each note for 4 beats, then 3, then 2, and then 1.  Eventually you might be ready to tackle ½ beats as well.

As you perform these exercises, practice both pressing and releasing the notes cleanly, and keep the feet from pressing any pedals unintentionally.
I recommend that you plan for a two week minimum period in the development of each of these exercises with practice periods at least every other day.   More if you can manage it.

1   Play a C scale with your left foot, starting with the bottom C pedal, and playing up to the top C and down again.  If you can manage to heel toe, then do so.

2   Play the following sequence of notes on your pedal board.
Bottom C, G, top C, G, bottom C and repeat the sequence at least ten times.
Try other octaves with the 5th in between.

3   Play this sequence of notes C, E, D, F, E, G, F, A, G, B, A, B, C.
Again repeat it at least ten times.

4   Play a chromatic scale starting with C, up and then down the pedal board.
Again repeat this at least ten times.

5   Play a chromatic scale, but this time with chords and the bass pedals together, both up and down the scale.
Now you know what to do, yes, repeat it at least ten times.

With all these, initially you may look at the pedals while you are playing. After a few weeks practice, (yes it will take some diligence) you will find that you will be able to play the pedal board without looking at it all.
If you can drive a car, you will realise that when you drive you never look at the pedals … excuse the approaching pun, but operating the car’s pedals has become automatic!   So persevere, you will get used to it.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2013, 03:14:18 PM »
There really is no substitute for steady and regular practice, in order to perfect any task, so the exercises in the previous posting are a basic start in the use of the pedals.   As I stated before, if you persevere you will succeed.

It occurred to me that for those who haven't attempted to play pedals seriously before, and for those who possibly don't read music, here is a simple idea to try out.

Sit at your organ, with it switched on of course, and play any key (at random) on either keyboard.  Then try to match the note by playing it on the pedals.
It is best to use an organ voice for your keyboards, but select a string bass voice, from either the Contra Bass or Elec Bass buttons in either Pedal Voice 1 or 2, for your pedal sound.  Don't forget to switch on the appropriate ENSEMBLE buttons.

Always play the notes with a definite rhythm, counting 1, 2, 3, 4... or 1, 2 ,3.  etc. and with a specific beat in mind.   Don't worry if this is slow to start with.   Playing steadily and in time is important and you can increase the speed over a period of time.   Accuracy is more important at this stage and as you get faster, your accuracy will still be there.

The other reason for this registration, is that the pedals sound with a distinct note, that fades away, and this will help you to be precise and accurate with your feet.  This, of course is helpful for all of us.

Just like driving the car, try not to look at your feet or your pedals, as you do this.  You will be surprised how quickly you can master this simple exercise, and it will soon become second nature.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #23 on: November 28, 2013, 05:13:39 PM »
I wonder how your practice is progressing.
Remember, to become proficient you need to keep practising.

Here's a tip, mainly for those who don't read music, and want to master pedals ...
play a note on one of your manuals - then immediately play the same note on your pedal board.   This will help you become familiar with the pedals and also improve your accuracy.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #24 on: December 04, 2013, 12:00:48 PM »
Along with freedom and relaxation must be a sense of control, which the pedal exercises in the previous postings, will help you to develop through good concentration.
Just as the wrist should be free and sufficiently relaxed for the hands and fingers to do the manual playing, the ankle must be free and sufficiently relaxed for the feet to do their playing.

The following ideas are important for all pedal exercises:

1.   Practice each exercise for one minute continuously (you may have to build gradually to that goal) or repeat them continuously for at least 10 times.
2.   By ear, concentrate on a very steady and controlled flow of sound. Always play keeping to a precise rhythm
3.   Don't play too heavily, but at the same time go for a firm feeling.
4.   Most of the work should be done by the ankle, not the whole leg.
5.   Plan for a two week minimum period in the development of these exercises with practice periods at least every other day.   More if you can manage it.
6.   Be aware that you could exercise the ankles while sitting and watching a TV programme – always try to concentrate on steadiness of movement.  (I'd love to be a fly on your wall!)
7.   Begin with a comfortable tempo. Use the rhythm feature as a guide.  A future and good next step goal is to increase the length to 3 minutes.  Also increase the tempo to a possible goal of about 70 beats per minute.
8.   Do not hesitate to exaggerate your ankle movement.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #25 on: February 27, 2015, 04:31:03 PM »
You may have noticed gifted or professional organists, allow their feet to alternate over the pedals, rather than just holding a bass note for the entire bar, thus creating variation, which becomes far more interesting.

One simple technique is to play alternating bass notes, by picking out the Fifth.  This means, rather than holding a single bass note for the entire bar, first play the root note for the chord, and then switch to the fifth above it.   For example in a piece with 4 beats in a bar, play the root note on the first beat and its fifth on the third beat of the bar.

Now, how do I quickly find the fifth, without having to count up each time?  When you are doing so much else, this can be a chore.   This is where the Circle of Fifths can help us.   If you have memorized it, then simply proceed one step in a clockwise direction from your root note, and you have the answer.

To go directly to the Circle Of Fifths, click this link:

http://www.ar-group.org/smforum/index.php?topic=954.0

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #26 on: October 04, 2017, 03:04:38 PM »
For some ideas about varying your bass pedal selection, take a look at this posting, which provides some simple ideas for bass runs and fills,

Click this link to open the topic in a new window:

http://www.ar-group.org/smforum/index.php?topic=2883.0

In these postings you can click to view or print some example scores.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #27 on: January 16, 2018, 10:39:17 AM »
At the start of another of Peters Pearls,

(You can open it in a new window by clicking this link:

http://www.ar-group.org/smforum/index.php?topic=2976.0 )

back in January 2018, John Bridgett posted the following.

I got saddled with playing our local church organ which I did for about 8 years. I'm not good and did all of the usual errors to start with - play too few versus, play too many, weddings were something totally new.

The one thing that astounded me, we had a visiting organist for one wedding, and she played all of the usual wedding music while I was bell ringing.   When the bride entered the church the traditional wedding march was played and the bass notes were so low you could only feel some them rather than hear them.

I knew the organ very well and no stops would produce sound like she achieved.    So I went to have a chat afterwards and the notes were achieved by playing two bass pedals together, and the resultant beat frequency was the low note we were feeling.    I couldn't master the technique, nor do I remember how she worked out the notes, it was an incredible effect though.



I admitted that this was fascinating, but although I didn't profess to know anything about this intricate accomplishment, I was determined to find out more, and first recorded my findings in that particular Pearl.  I reproduce that posting in this topic.


So here is further information on this subject:

First:   I give a brief summary of the technique, which appears to be called Resultant Bass

Basically if you play a bass C pedal together with the G a fifth higher you can get a resultant sound 1 octave below the original bass C.   
So if you use a 16’ pedal stop you can effectively generate a 32’ pedal stop. 
Some use the technique very occasionally, but it is very dependent on the sound quality of the original 16’ stop, and generally the resultant sound is very ‘muddy’ and unconvincing.
I don’t think we can create this effect on the AR as our pedals are not polyphonic.



Second:  here is a link that I found which may add some extra information for you.

http://www.organstops.org/r/Resultant.html

Perhaps some members who have other organs with polyphonic pedals might like to experiment and advise us of the results.

Peter


Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #28 on: January 16, 2018, 03:57:26 PM »
Depends on how good your ears are, but try this.

With a single Flute/Tibia registered to your Lower Manual, play C and the G above it, at various points along the keyboard.    Release each note in turn and repress them.    You can distinguish the harmonics of the C below and the C above the ones you are playing. 
Check them out by continuing to hold the C and G pair you have chosen and briefly touch the C below, then above to know what harmonic you are looking for.
The lower C is more defined with the lower notes and the higher C more so with the higher notes.

Fascinating!

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__54___Pedals
« Reply #29 on: January 16, 2018, 06:34:03 PM »
Cameron Carpenter plays 4 versions of Stars and Stripes Forever, but the second one about 3 minutes 45 seconds in, he does so on a grand piano with pedals.




All 4 are well worth watching, though.

Peter