Organ foot pedal technique can be one of the most difficult aspects of learning to play the organ. Even for those with experience playing the piano or keyboard, it may take some time to adjust to using the legs and feet to play pedal keyboard patterns. Proper positioning of the body and feet is the basis of proper organ pedal technique.
Positioning the Body
When preparing to play the organ, adjust the bench height so that your heels are at the same height as the pedals, with the feet roughly parallel to the keys. The feet should graze the white pedals as you move your feet around under the organ. You should have to lift your toes up off of the pedal board in order to reposition the feet, not stretch to press the foot pedals. Adjust the bench position forward or backward until both feet are just shy of the black pedals. When playing, keep the ankle and knee in line, and allow the knees to move right and left to follow the foot and ankle, but do not let the knee bob up and down.
Positioning the Feet
Most organ players place the right foot slightly ahead of the left foot, although you can play with the left foot ahead of the right and still maintain good organ pedal technique. Position the right heel next to the left arch, with feet forming a V that varies in size depending on the interval you are playing. When you need to change foot position, pivot the foot on the heel, repositioning the toes to play the next note. If you need to cross the feet to play additional notes, cross the right foot in front of the left to avoid one foot getting in the way of the other. When playing the black organ foot pedals, do not cover more than half of the key with your foot.
Playing Organ Foot Pedals
Economy of motion is the most important organ pedal technique, and using only slight movements will help you avoid wrong notes and missteps. During rests, reposition the feet and hold the toe over the next note to be played. Press the organ foot pedals with all of the toes, but don’t play with a flat foot. Keep the ankle flexible, like the wrist in keyboard technique, and roll the foot to the left or right to play the black organ foot pedals. When you need to play multiple notes, use the inside edge of the foot. Practice the foot position of different intervals until you get used to the motion of adjusting your feet and can judge where to place your foot based on the contact between your right heel and left arch. Practice both pressing and releasing notes cleanly, and keeping the feet from pressing any pedals unintentionally.
Pump Organ Foot Pedals
Pump organ foot pedals function differently, and instead of playing notes, they operate the air bellows that produce the organ’s sound. Pump organ pedal technique simply requires that you alternate pressing down the left and right pedals, and that you avoid pumping the pedals too hard. The force applied to the pump organ foot pedals can control the volume of the organ sound, but too much force can damage the bellows mechanism.