Tips for Playing Organ Pedals – Dr Robert Boughen OBE

…unless playing the organ pedals, and that my young friend, is what you are now about.  Sure, your finger technique is quite good but be not daunted by all those wooden keys below for, in truth, they are easy to master and much easier to play than the twelve sticks at the port side of wee spinet organs.  You ask for advice, so…..

Get a GOOD teacher, or if none is available, a good instruction manual.

1:  Pedals are easy to play but one needs to get the knack of co-coordinating hands AND feet.  This is not a musical task as much as a muscular one, akin to patting your head while rubbing your tummy.  Be patient and work from the beginning and resist the urge to jump ahead prematurely.

2:  All organ benches should have their height adjustable.  Unpleasant back pain results from a stool either too low, or too high.  If yours is too high, then get a carpenter (better still an organ builder) to cut down the legs.  This can easily be raised by the insertion of thin pieces of wood for those with longer legs
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3:  Sit on top of middle D#, and while looking, see how your left toe can feel the gaps between bottom D# and F#, A# and C# and the right toe an octave higher.  Have a good look and feel, then DON’T LOOK AT THE PEDALS AGAIN: be content to grope around in terra incognito.  (A wag has dubbed the top octave as virgin territory for no one has yet trodden thereon!).

4:  These three variables are important.  (a) How close? So that the arm can comfortably reach the uppermost manual.  (b) How much body on the seat? So that the leg can freely swing sideways: if too close to the front, one might fall over the edge of the cliff, if too far back, then there is too much drag of the lower thigh.  (c) How High? See all the above remembering that the height difference of half an inch (oops, 1.2cm) can make a big difference to the angles involved.

5: Even in hot weather, wear long pants as bare skin will drag even on polished benches & inhibit movement

6:  Shoes……Stilettos are out (for the gals) and most male type shoes are too wide, counting the welt, so better to buy a special pair, NOT for walking.  Google Organ Master Shoes who make especially for us, both guys and gals.  These are good especially for playing with heels.  Current price c US$60.

7:  Think of an axle going through the ankle: remember Fred Astaire tap dancing, or Happy Feet, and never but never pound the leg up and down as if riding in the Tour de France, even when playing French music!  Cuddle the pedals gently with the feet, and play, ideally, with the leather actually on the key before pressing down smartly without clatter.  When the toe is depressed, the heel will rise slightly and so, to a small extent, does the knee.

A prayer for those of you who are still privileged to preach from the console:

Take my hands, and let them move at the impulse of Thy love,

Take my feet, and let them be swift and beautiful for Thee.