Author Topic: No__88___Pedal Exercises  (Read 410 times)

Peter Anderson

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No__88___Pedal Exercises
« on: April 27, 2018, 04:30:27 PM »
Pedal Exercises

Let me start this topic, with a short account of the development of Organ Pedals.

A pedalboard is a keyboard played with the feet that is usually used to produce the low-pitched bass line of a piece of music.   It normally has long, narrow lever-style keys laid out in the same semitone scalar pattern as a manual keyboard, with longer keys for C, D, E, F, G, A and B, and shorter, higher keys for C♯, D♯, F♯, G♯ and A♯.

Pedalboards are found at the base of the console of most pipe, theatre and electronic organs.

The first use of pedals on a pipe organ grew out of the need to hold bass drone notes, to support the polyphonic musical styles that predominated in the Renaissance Era.

Indeed, the term pedal point, which refers to a prolonged bass tone under changing upper harmonies, derives from the use of the organ pedalboard to hold sustained bass notes. These earliest pedals were wooden stubs nicknamed mushrooms, which were placed at the height of the feet.    These pedals, which used simple pull-downs connected directly to the manual keys, are found in organs dating from the 13th century.   The pedals on French organs were composed of short stubs of wood projecting out of the floor, which were mounted in pedalboards that could be either flat or tilted.    Organists were unable to play anything but simple bass lines or slow-moving plainsong melodies on these short stub-type pedals.

There were two approaches used for the accidental notes (colloquially referred to as the "black" notes).   The first approach can be seen in the 1361 Halberstadt organ, which uses shorter black keys placed above the white keys. Other organs positioned the black keys on the same level and depth as the white keys.   

The first pedal keyboards only had three or four notes.     Eventually, organ designers augmented this range by using eight notes, an approach now called a "short octave" keyboard, because it does not include accidental notes such as C♯, D♯, F♯, G♯, and A♯.  The 17th-century north German organ builder Arp Schnitger used an F♯ and G♯ in the lowest octave of the manuals and pedal keyboards, but not a C♯ and D♯. From the 16th to 18th centuries, short octave keyboards were also used in the lowest octave of upper manual keyboards.

By the 14th century, organ designers were building separate windchests for the pedal division, to supply the pipes with the large amount of wind that bass notes need to speak, because these pipes were much larger.     These windchests were often built into tall structures called "organ towers".     Until the 15th century, most pedal keyboards only triggered the existing Hauptwerk pipes already used by the upper manual keyboards.     Beginning in the 15th century, some organ designers began giving pedal keyboards their own set of pipes and stops.    In the 15th and 16th centuries, the pedal division usually consisted of a few 8′ ranks and a single 16′ rank.    By the early 17th century, pedal divisions became more complex, with a richer variety of pipes and tones.    Nevertheless, the pedal division was usually inconsistent from one country to another.

By the beginning of the 17th century, organ designers began to give pedalboards on big organs a larger range, encompassing twenty-eight to thirty notes.   As well, German organ designers began to use longer, narrower pedals, with a wider space between the pedals.    By this point, most pedals were given a smoother lever-action by including a fulcrum at the back of each pedal. These design changes allowed performers to play more complex, fast-moving pedal lines.    This gave rise to the dramatic pedal solos found in German organ works from composers from the Lutheran Organ School, such as J.S. Bach. In Bach's organ music the cantus firmus melody, which is usually a hymn tune, is often performed in the pedal, using a reed stop to make it stand out.

Several other sources claim that the pedalboard design improvements of the 17th century allowed the organist to actuate the pedals either with the toe of the foot or with the heel.  However, it is reckoned that in Bach's day toe and heel pedalling was not yet known, as is evident from his organ works, in which all the pedal parts can be played with the toe.    Interestingly, what evolved as "German" pedal technique in the late 18th and early 19th century promoted heel-and-toe pedaling, while the "French" style was predicated on "toe only" pedal technique.

In the 17th and 18th century, pedalboards were rare in England.    A critic for the New York Times in 1895 argued that this may explain why Handel's published organ works are generally lighter-sounding than those of J.S. Bach.     In the 17th and 18th centuries, the pedal part of organ music was rarely given its own staff.     Instead, the organ part would be put into two staves, which were mostly used for the upper and lower manual parts.    When the composer wanted a part played with the pedal keyboard, they marked Pedal, Ped., or simply P.   
Often, composers omitted these signs, and the player had to decide if the range of all the parts or the lowest part was appropriate for the pedal keyboard.   

In the late 1820s, the pedalboard was still fairly unfamiliar in the UK.    
In the organ at the Church of St James at Bermondsey in 1829, "a finger [or manual] keyboard was added for those unable to play with their feet."    If an organist was performing a piece with a pedal part, an assistant was needed to play the bottom line of the finger keyboard, offset on the bass side of the console.   

In 1855 in England, Henry Willis patented a concave design for the pedalboard that also radiated the keyboard outward toward the organ thus bringing the keys closer together, under the feet of the performer.     This design became common in the UK and in the US in the late 19th century, and by 1903, the American Guild of Organists (AGO) adopted it as their standard.

In the 19th century and early 20th century, the pedal division itself also underwent changes.   The pedal divisions of the Baroque era often included a small number of higher-pitched stops, which allowed performers to perform higher melodies on the pedalboard. In the 19th century and early 20th century, organ designers omitted most of these higher-pitched stops, and used pedal divisions which were dominated by 8′ and 16′ stops.    This design change, which coincided with the musical trend for music with a deep, rich bass part, meant that players used the pedalboard mainly for bass parts.

By the mid-19th century, the pedal part of organ music was increasingly given its own staff, which meant that composers and transcribers began writing organ music in three-stave systems (upper manual, lower manual, and pedal keyboard).    Whereas early organ composers left the way that pedal keyboard lines were played to the player's discretion, in the later 19th century, composers began to indicate specific foot actions.
In addition to telling the organist whether to use the left or right foot, symbols indicate whether they should use the toe or heel.      A "^" symbol indicates the toe, and a "u" or "o" indicates the heel.     Symbols below notes indicate the left foot, and above notes indicates the right foot.

In the 1990s, standalone electronic MIDI controller pedalboards became widely available on the market. MIDI pedalboards do not produce any tones by themselves, and so they must be connected to a MIDI-compatible electronic keyboard or MIDI sound module and an amplified loudspeaker to produce musical tones.

The feature that identifies the organ is its pedalboard, which effectively gives the player an extra keyboard.

It, therefore, seems a pity that we have this facility on our Yamaha AR organs, but some do not use them, or if they do so, only occasionally.

My intention in this Pearl is to encourage us all to use the pedals regularly, and for those who do so, to improve their skill and accuracy

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2018, 09:43:56 AM »
Before we go any farther, you may wish to read through Peters Pearls No 54 - Pedals which you can open in a new window by clicking this link:

http://www.ar-group.org/smforum/index.php?topic=2114.0

This separate series of posts is to help you to play the bass pedals better.

What follows is only my opinion and you may prefer otherís views or even have your own preference, but extract anything from the following that you find useful.

On the Yamaha AR we do not have a full pedal board, nor do we have long pedals that are found on pipe and cinema organs, so we cannot play our pedals with the heel and toe method.   That method helps you to Ďfeelí your way around the pedals.    Suggestions given below reflect this limitation.

 Neither does our pedal board have polyphonic sound.   This means that the highest pedal you strike is the only one that you will hear sound.


For most of us, we will play the pedals with our left foot, and keep our right foot (the whole of our foot, including your heel, by the way) on the expression pedal.
 
You may, however, wish to play the pedals above the higher C, with your right foot, if you use those particular notes.    But you should definitely get used to playing the lower octave (which most home organs have) up to and including the high C, with your left foot.

First of all, as I have said elsewhere on the AR-Group, consider your seating position of vital importance.     Not just when you first sit down on your bench, but all the while you are playing your organ.

Your left foot will be very close to the G pedal.

Regard this G as your home or starting key.

In the next Reply, we look at the position of our leg.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #2 on: May 09, 2018, 11:34:31 AM »
So, seated correctly at your AR,  with your left foot very close to the G pedal, and regarding this G note as your home or starting key,  place your left foot on this G pedal, using the ball of your foot, but lifting your ankle so that so that the heel is higher than your toes.

You may want to think about your stool height.

If your bench is too low, you want to look at this simple modification, which is posted in the next Reply.

As you play and release that G note, your knee should not rise and fall, and as you progress to play other notes, so your knee will not move sideways.  Your thigh should not pivot, but your lower leg should swing in a pendulum motion, with the gentle rise and fall of your foot to strike the pedals.

You should play every pedal with the ball of your foot.

For greater accuracy, I recommend that you always play with suitable footwear.     Never play in stocking feet, although some prefer to.     This causes you to curl your toes and foot around the pedal, so your technique becomes distorted, resulting in inaccuracy and an inability to play the notes fast.

Furthermore, when the music suggests it, you will not be able to hit the pedals with that attack and sharpness, enabling your foot to effectively bounce off the pedal.

In the next Reply, after a reference to the stool height, we will begin with very simple pedal exercises.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #3 on: May 09, 2018, 11:37:55 AM »
This was first presented to the AR-Group in 2008 - Wow that is 10 years ago!

I don't know if this is of any interest to any one else, but I find the height of the AR organ stool a little low, for comfort.    I am about 5ft 10in tall.    My previous Technics' organ stools were a couple of inches taller than Yamaha.   My last organ was a Yamaha HS7, and someone had increased the height of the stool by enlarging the book box under the seat itself, and stained it black to match.    It looked quite good actually, and I sold it that way.    This seemed to be a bit beyond me for the AR version.

So all I have done is get a couple of planed 3" x 2" pieces of wood, 34cm long, drilled 2 - 4mm holes in the correct place and tapped 2 - 4" nails through each one.    These nails simply locate in holes already in the bottom of the legs.     The whole job took me less than 10 minutes, but I accept I haven't stained the new wood yet!

Even 10 years on, I still haven't stained the wood!

If you have a shorter visitor who wants to play your AR and use the pedals, simply lift the stool off the blocks!

I have attached some photos to show what I mean.   Easy way to increase the height, if any one feels the same as me, and the thickness of the 'blocks' determines the amount of height increase.

All the best,








Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2018, 01:52:09 PM »
Now play that G pedal note and following the instructions above, raise your foot and making your left knee the pivot point, swing you lower leg to the F pedal.

Then go back to the home note of G, which should feel natural and easy.

Practise going back and forth between these two notes.   Be sure to hit the pedal cleanly, smack in the middle of the pedal bar.   Try not to use the edge of your foot, nor the flat of your foot, but the ball of your foot.

Go from G to F and back again as many times as you want, to gain confidence and it becomes second nature.

Now add E to that of G and F, then when you are competent add the D and the bottom C.

Every time, play the notes alternately with that home pedal of G
.

As you go farther down the pedal board towards that low C, you will start to hit the pedals nearer to the big toe side of your foot, but still aim to hit the pedal with the ball of your foot.

Vary which note you want to strike next, always returning to that home G pedal.    Think which note you want to play, aim for it, and listen to the sound, so that you are learning to play to the sound and not looking at the pedals!

Yes, that's right, Don't look at your feet or the pedals.   This is very important, and you will learn to play the pedals efficiently and very quickly.

When you're satisfied that you can cope with all these lower notes, with ease, then go back to that home key of G and repeat the process of adding the higher range of notes into your practice, starting with A, followed by B and the high C.

Again, always play the new note and return to that home pedal of G.

Throughout this exercise, your thigh should not move at all.   Your left leg should not go up and down or your thigh move sideways on the organ bench.   It is only your lower leg which should swing like a pendulum from the knee.

The high C causes us some trouble, but do practice hitting this note as well as the bottom C, and be prepared to use it quite often.

In the next Reply we look at reading the bass clef.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #5 on: May 21, 2018, 02:49:53 PM »
Pedal Exercises


In subsequent posts, you will find many pedal exercises, given in the form of a music score, so it is helpful for you to be familiar with reading and playing the bass clef.

There are only 8 notes to learn (plus sharps and flats, I appreciate)  but it really isnít too difficult to master this.

Here are the 8 white notes that are found on the standard 13 note pedal board of most home organs, that are written in the bass clef, together with the note names.    The Yamaha AR has 20 pedals, of course.



So here is your first exercise, and you can print out this score as a pdf, by clicking on this link, if you would like to:

Pedal Notes Bass Clef Scale
 


Do not try to play it too fast, as it is better to play at a steady, even rate.

I suggest that you select a pedal sound that is clean and crisp, maybe like an electric bass, to which you may prefer to add a small amount of sustain.

Now choose a suitable rhythm style and set the rate at 60 beats per minute, as this will help you to keep time.   Feel free to vary the speed to suit your level of ability.

If you are still tempted to look at the pedals, then first glance down to establish your starting or home point, which is that pedal G, and then donít look at them again.

Rather use your ears to tell you whether or not you have hit the correct note, or not.    If you canít recognise that, then play the note you are after on your Lower Keyboard and see if the pedal note matches it.

As you practise playing the pedals, your heel should be higher than your toes, and this puts a certain amount of strain on your leg muscles, but do stick at it.   My advice is donít practice for too long in one go, especially at the beginning, so be prepared to get up and walk around every so often.

Remember, what we are aiming for is good technique, coupled with effective practice, so that you will naturally hit the right notes every time.    So practise playing this simple exercise for a few minutes every day.

This basic exercise, where the notes played are adjacent to each other should prove to be quite easy, but we follow this with at least 20 more, which become progressively trickier, because the wider the gap between notes the more difficult it is to hit the right note cleanly.      Surprisingly, we also have trouble hitting the same note consecutively, so we reflect that detail, in some of the following exercises.   We will also add some of those tricky sharps and flats.

In time you should be able to play whole tunes on your pedal board, and the last 2 exercises given in a later Reply, are of well known tunes for you to master on the pedalboard.

In the next Reply you will find a couple of basic pedal exercises to start you off.

Peter 

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #6 on: May 25, 2018, 05:26:42 PM »
Here are a couple of simple pedal exercises to get you started.

Try to master    Exercise 1 A,    before progressing to   Exercise 1 B

Click this link to open the bass score:

Simple Pedal Exercises   Nos  1A  &  1B

In the next Reply these two pedal exercises are reproduced with Pedal Exercises 2a and 2b added in, so you can print out one sheet with all four on.

Peter

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #7 on: May 29, 2018, 04:22:55 PM »
Here are the next pair of simple pedal exercises for you to try.

This pdf has all 4 on the one page, but I suggest that you master No 2A, before you move on to No 2B.

Click this link to open the score in a new window, and you can print the score, if you wish:

Simple Pedal Exercises   Nos  1A,  1B,  2A  &  2B

Peter

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2018, 02:45:03 AM »
Now we need to move away from the safety of that home pedal not of G.   We also need to develop our awareness of the relative distances between all the keys.

But first a comment about how they will appear.

Note to cut down on your printing:   
 
The next 17 pedal exercise scores, in the subsequent Replies, are added one in each separate Reply.   
However, the pdf's have the next score added to them, until the page is full.
So if you print out just

Pedal Score 5
Pedal Score 9
Pedal Score 13
Pedal Score 16
Pedal Score 17

you will have a complete set on 5 pages plus the 2 containing the Simple Pedal Exercises, No 1 A & B, and No 2 A & B, that you can access in the above Reply.

In the meantime you can open them in an iPad or Tablet, or even view them from your computer if it is convenient placed, close to your Yamaha AR.

I hope that is clear.

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #9 on: June 17, 2018, 01:31:29 PM »
May I suggest that before playing any of these exercises on your Pedal Board, you actually play them on your Lower Keyboard.

There are two reasons for this.

1.      It will get you used to reading the bass clef
                          If it helps, pencil in the names of the notes, so that you get used to recognising them.

but more importantly,

2.      You will hear what the pieces are supposed to sound like.   
                         So when you play the exercises on your keyboard, you will listen to the notes
                         and not be tempted to look at your feet or the pedals.

Break the habit of wanting to look down at your pedals

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #10 on: June 27, 2018, 02:29:23 PM »
This Pedal Exercise contains many third intervals.   It is the first of many exercises, that also incorporate that high C pedal, so practice hitting it cleanly.

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

Pedal Exercise  No  3

Peter

Peter Anderson

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #11 on: June 29, 2018, 07:04:09 PM »
This Pedal Exercise has adjacent notes, thirds and fifths to tackle.

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

Pedal Exercise  No  4

You will see it has Pedal Exercises numbers 3 & 4 both on the one page.

Peter

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #12 on: July 02, 2018, 10:33:40 AM »
You will see what we are practising in this Pedal Exercise, but try to play it smoothly and evenly.

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

Pedal Exercise  No  5

This pdf has the Pedal Exercises Nos 3, 4  &  5  on the one A4 page.

Peter

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #13 on: July 04, 2018, 05:17:51 PM »
Note the Key Signature in this Pedal Exercise.

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

Pedal Exercise  No  6

Peter

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Re: No__88___Pedal Exercises
« Reply #14 on: July 07, 2018, 02:42:51 PM »
Having introduced Sharps in No.6 we now tackle Flats, so there is a different Key Signature in this Pedal Exercise.

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

Pedal Exercise  No  7

Peter