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Thread: New Organist - Coordinating Right and Pedal Easier Than Left and Pedal

  1. #1
    pp Pianissimo Steve Freides's Avatar
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    New Organist - Coordinating Right and Pedal Easier Than Left and Pedal

    I am practicing at home on a 1987 Allen with two manuals that's in very good working order, and I am trying to bring my pedals skills up. Pedaling is my subject here. I'm using Flor Peeters "Little Organ Book" and am currently working on Page 50, Section VII, Two-Part Manual and Pedal Playing.

    A quick background: I am a second year organist, playing a Gallanti Praeludium on which only the Great works - the Swell and the Choir/Positive are routed through blown speakers, and only half the pedal make any sound. (We've discussed this organ at some length - no need to rehash here.) In my second year, having grown up Jewish, I am much more comfortable with the church service and hymn playing in general, and I feel I do my job adequately, although I am, of course, interested in being the best I can be and continue to work on both my piano and organ skills at home through practice. I play at a small UMC church in northern NJ.

    Back to pedals: Exercise No. 1 is simple enough and is marked for the right hand plus the feet. I have been trying to play it as suggested and also using my left hand instead, and I find it much more difficult to coordinate my left hand with my feet than my right hand - and I'm wondering if that's common or particular to me. (In playing any pieces I've tried that use pedal, e.g., playing a hymn with the bass on the pedals only and the top three parts in my finger, I've noticed the same thing - certain things between left hand and feet feel quite challenging, while the same thing with my right hand is simple for me.)

    Just a curiosity question, really - I know I need to be able to manage all combination of things and intend to practice all the one-hand-plus-feet exercises with first one hand and then the other to be sure I am bringing my weak links up to speed.

    Thanks in advance for your replies.

    -S-

  2. #2
    Moderator myorgan's Avatar
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    Steve,

    Would you consider yourself right- or left-brained? Because the hemispheres of the brain handle the opposite sides of the body, that might provide an explanation. Right-brained people tend to be better at art, music, and other things in the affective domain (purchase items by picture or color); while left-brained people tend to be better at math, chemistry, making lists, and logical/sequential tasks (purchase items from a list).

    There are exercises which will help to break the interdependence between hands and feet, and will help you develop whatever needs developing.

    I hope I haven't confused you, but if you're curious, just search online for a "brain hemisphere test", and you'll have several options to quickly tell which side you favor. In my case, I'm usually no-brained; but that's just because I've deliberately developed both sides over time.

    I hope you find this helpful.

    Michael

    P.S. One of the sites would be: http://personality-testing.info/tests/OHBDS/

    Michael
    Way too many organs to list, but I do have 4 Allens:
    • MOS-2 Model 505-B / ADC-4300-DK / ADC-5400 / ADC-6000 (Symphony)
    • Lowrey Heritage (DSO-1)
    • 9 Pump Organs, 1 Pipe Organ & 4 Pianos

  3. #3
    pp Pianissimo Steve Freides's Avatar
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    Michael, I haven't tried that web site yet, but I've been both a math whiz and a musician my life. Ambidexterity runs in the family - I can use a scissors with either hand, and would write on the blackboard with either hand when I taught college. I think it'd be best to say I'm confused. But I am right-handed, just not quite a much as some people.

    I grew up a guitarist, so different things going on in each hand but they both did what they needed.

    -S-

    - - - Updated - - -

    Screen Shot 2017-03-20 at 4.47.38 PM.png

    That's what I got.

    -S-

  4. #4
    mf Mezzo-Forte Leisesturm's Avatar
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    I think it is safe to say that most... the vast majority of organists, find left hand/pedal issues more troubling vs right hand/pedal issues. However, the vast majority of experienced musicians are much closer to the kind of ambidexterity alluded to by both Steve and Michael than to the usual right hand dominance of ... 90%(?) of normal (heh) people. So it is safe to extrapolate that regardless of how much left handedness or ambi-dexterity someone possesses, playing organ pedals causes nearly everyone coordination problems when using the left hand with the pedals. Especially left hand and right hand together with pedals. I played organ for at least 15 years without being able to manage an English Style chorale prelude with the cantus firmus in the left hand. There is normal left hand/pedal independence and then there is the ability to play English Organ music. Only a few thousand individuals that were not born in France can play French Organ music.

  5. #5
    pp Pianissimo Steve Freides's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Leisesturm View Post
    I think it is safe to say that most... the vast majority of organists, find left hand/pedal issues more troubling vs right hand/pedal issues.
    Thank you - the rest of your message is interesting, too, of course, but that was my main concern. I think my solution is going to be to play the soprano and alto parts with my right hand, the bass with my feet, and since I'm a tenor, just sing the d@#$ tenor part.

    -S-

  6. #6
    pp Pianissimo Piperdane's Avatar
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    1 members found this post helpful.
    To help with coordination my organ teacher would have me play the left hand with pedals alone, then the right hand with pedals alone, then the pedals alone with both hands on the keyboards with no stops drawn hearing then only the pedal notes being played.

    Another technique he used was to affix a large towel to the choir manual and attach that to me waist. This prevented me from looking down for the right notes, and I learned by feel and to this day (without looking) while situated at the console I can play any note on the pedalboard that is called out to me. It's like driving a car - the seat must be adjusted properly to reach the pedals (I use three pedals to drive by the way) in both height and distance.

    You might also check out the Gleason method book ... the Stainer one is also another great resource for pedal technique.

    But the bottom line is: practice, practice, practice ... then practice some more ... and when you think you are done practicing, nope, you practice even more. The pedal light on my church console is only there so that others can watch my feet in action as I never ever look down for a note to be played. I will look down occasionally for a pedal piston though.

  7. #7
    mf Mezzo-Forte Leisesturm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Piperdane View Post
    I can play any note on the pedalboard that is called out to me.
    That's awesome. I'm pretty ok playing close intervals and melodic passages. Large skips bother me, especially downward ones for some reason. Picking a random note called out to me would be very difficult. I'd probably get five out of ten. More practice?

  8. #8
    pp Pianissimo Steve Freides's Avatar
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    @piperdane, not looking is a skill for those at a certain level to work on - I'm not there yet. I don't need to look much as it is, but this isn't going to be my focus - playing the right notes, any which way I can, is where it's at for me right now. I am a rank beginner at pedaling.

    -S-

  9. #9
    mf Mezzo-Forte Leisesturm's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Steve Freides View Post
    @piperdane, not looking is a skill for those at a certain level to work on -
    Actually... no. I don't know of any organist, regardless of age or ability, who was advised to learn pedaling by looking. Not even a little peek now and then (shhh, I peek now and then, but I just got religion from post #6, you did too, no peeking). You just make your mistakes and let your ear correct you. You'll be on the honor system, since you don't have a teacher to stretch a towel between you and the console but the idea is the same. You train yourself to work by using your ears and muscle memory and one day you get to piperdane's level, or not, but if you only got to say... my level, that would be pretty awesome right there <grin> and you would be ahead of quite a large number of other people that also play organ, some of whom that do not play the pedals at all.

  10. #10
    p Piano andijah's Avatar
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    2 members found this post helpful.
    Well, the goal should be to play your pedals without looking, but from my experience, it's not a major offence to have a quick visual check every now and then. You just shouldn't make it a habit. Your ears should indeed be telling you whether you're right or wrong with your feet, but this takes practice, too.

    As to the question of coordination, when I started proper organ playing, I found playing the melody in the pedals much more difficult than playing the melody in the left hand, but people are different, so I wouldn't think of this as an unsolvable problem.

    Unfortunately, I don't own the Flor Peeters books so can't comment on the exercises you play, but from my experience, things that seem to make no sense at the beginning and give you the feeling that your poor brain will explode any minute will still get better over time. You just need to make sure to practice in a slow tempo and not run away.

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