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I only get about an hour-and-a-half's access per week to practice on a 'real' organ.

Needless to say, my progress at pedalling is painfully slow.

Are there any ways to practice pedalling without the pedals (I used to practice touch-typing by shutting my eyes and just imaging)? And if not, is there a way to make my practice sessions more productive?

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6 Answers 6

Don't know where you live, but here in U.K. the old style of organ (2 manuals, pedals), come along on occasions for little money. I bought one for £10 sterling, just for the pedalboard (although the 2 12" speakers were a nice bonus). If you can find room, this is a good option, as pretending won't tell you when you've hit a wrong note. There may only be one octave of pedals, rather than two, and they'll be parallel, not radial, but that's got to be better than none. To practise an instrument and improve, every day is the way to go.Even if it goes in the garage, bedroom, whatever, it's better than the once a week you're doing.

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Haven't got much room, but I admit I turned down an old electric organ recently because it only had one octave and parallel pedals, as you say. Interesting that you think it's better than nothing, and yes, every day would be good... – Benjol Mar 6 '14 at 9:58
How can it be anything except better than nothing ? The facility is there, and even parallel pedals will get your feet relatively accurate. – Tim Mar 6 '14 at 10:13

I find that moving my feet as if there were a pedal board, when practicing on a piano, for example, helps. It engages the learning centre of the brain - not as much as if you had the real thing, but better than not.

Playing the Organ is hard - it will take a long time to get proficiant. Have you got pedal exercises to do? working through them will teach your legs different pedaling techniques, and increase your accuracy.

Are there any other churches/organs in the area that you can get some practice at? Many churches are more than happy to let people practice on the organ.

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Yes, I've tried doing the moving my feet thing too, I guess that helps for the coordination, which is maybe the hardest bit. But it doesn't tell you if you've hit the wrong note :) – Benjol Mar 6 '14 at 10:56

The cheapest solution.

Take a cardboard. Draw the keys on it (of the original size). At least, You can be confident with coordination.

I used this method (however, for hands), when I needed practicing piano pieces written for the grand piano on my upright piano (which doesn't have some keys at the top). That's enough for studying a piece on the first stages, but anyway You have to practice in the real environment, especially the closer the concert / competition is to take place. Actually that is sufficient even to become a laureate of the competition, if You really desire (written from my personal experience).

Just a side note: Sergei Rachmaninoff used "silent" keyboard ("немая" клавиатура) during traveling.

The Cardboard Piano:

Perkins's "cardboard piano" derives from an incident (...) about the celebrated composer Sergei Rachmaninoff who practiced on a silent piano while crossing the Atlantic.

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buy a flexible midi pedal board from china. It can be folded and you do not need space.Just spread it on the floor when needed and connect it . You will need a midi adapter to usb and of course a computer with sound output connected to speakers.Definately midi software.lots out there.

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Play the manual parts on piano or keyboard while you sing the pedal part (fixed-do solfege can be useful here) and move your feet on an imaginary pedal board.

I have learned relatively easy pieces this way and performed them without having had much time with an actual organ. Even for a Bach fugue, though, if you can sing the pedal part while playing the hands it will be much easier to add the actual foot action.

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I would often just picture the foot pedals in my mind and move my feet to an approximate point on the floor. The mental effort of coordinating the foot movement along with everything else is worth it even if you don't have access to a real foot pedal.

Keep in mind that pedal distances are not the same from one organ to the next even if they're the same type (radial vs parallel) so the "muscle memory" required is different than for the hands.

Eventually, you should get to a point where you can sit at any organ and spend no more than 5 minutes getting familiar with the foot pedals then you're good to go.

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This seems more like a comment than an answer. It's a good thing for the asker to keep in mind, but doesn't address the question of how to practice without a set of pedals available. – Todd Wilcox Nov 18 at 19:01
I agree. However, I don't have enough reputation points to comment on the original question yet. Edited my response tho. – chabzjo Nov 18 at 22:43
Good enough for me. My teacher has also suggested clapping (or tapping - for both hands) the rhythm of the hands while stepping the feet as you say. – Benjol Nov 19 at 12:32

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