Practice at Home— is a full-size organ necessary?

From a reader:

My wife has been taking lessons to play congregational hymns. She is just starting to learn pedals. We live 12 miles from church so she wants an organ for home so she can learn the pedals. Our home really can’t accommodate a console with 32 pedals. We are looking at a Roland C-200 with their 25 pedal option. Well intended people keep insisting that she has to have an AOG 32 pedal. I don’t understand why the 25 pedal will not work since she is only interested in playing the hymns and it does not appear that you need three octaves of bass pedals to do that.

If she uses the 25 pedal at home will that prevent her from playing 32 pedal at church?


My response:

In a perfect world our practice instrument would be the same as our performance instrument. As you know, we do not live in a perfect world. 🙂 If you cannot accommodate 32 pedals (physically, financially, mentally, or whatever) then you can’t. Do what you can and it will be okay. I have known people who tape paper ‘pedals’ to the floor under their piano so they could practice the pedals at home. It was less than ideal, but it was what they could do. And they made it work.

I would like to point out that your observation regarding most hymns not requiring the full 32 pedals is correct if the organist chooses to play the hymns exactly as they are written. Since the music in our hymnals is ‘voice’ and not ‘instrumental’ music, technically a ward organist does not have to play the hymns note for note as written. I don’t know your wife’s musical abilities or style. If she’s an extensively trained musician who learns quickly and loves to improvise, in time the smaller pedalboard would probably seem restrictive or inadequate. However, if she’s more of a leisurely paced learner and/or a play-it-as-it’s-written musician, she may never even notice those missing upper pedals.

Bottom Line:  Since most beginning organists do not use the full range of pedals, I think that a 25-note pedalboard could be a good option for a beginning practice instrument. It should be understood that she will still need to spend practice time at the church because of the difference between the home and church instruments. Having an organ at home will be great for learning fingering and pedaling technique. But registration (choosing the organ sounds), articulation (the ‘touch’ of the instrument), using more than one manual (keyboard) and generally finding her way around the instrument, will need to be learned at the church.

What are your thoughts?


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