Help! I am trying to learn to use the organ pedals. Where do I start?

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Step one is to get a pair of organ shoes. This is non-negotiable. Pedaling without shoes is like playing baseball without mitt. Try eBay. You can often find a pair of organmasters for around $40.

Step two is to learn the basics: Organ Tutor is great, but if you don’t have it try, lessons 6 and 7.

Step three is to practice. I made a rule where I had to play pedals on one hymn each Sunday I played. I didn’t always get the pedals good enough to actually play them on Sunday at first, but I’d practice them all week. Eventually I got to where I could play them on one hymn, and then I worked up to two hymns each Sunday, etc.

Pick a phrase, maybe 4 measures, and set a metronome really slow. Start with the right hand and get that down, then add the pedal to that and get that down. Then start the left hand alone and get to where you can play that, then add then add the pedal to the left hand. Then put everything together. Then add 5 beats to the metronome and try again.

To paraphrase the great organist Winston Churchill, “never, never, never give up.”

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I find that when I’m accountable to someone (like needing to figure out a pedal part for an upcoming hymn or preparing exercises for my next organ lesson) I do better at actually practicing the pedals. I, too, have used the OrganTutor lessons and find them very helpful. Make sure your bench is the correct height for the length of your legs (OrganTutor covers that point) and you might just try practicing scales. Having a pair of organ shoes is a must!

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I had to spend a lot more time practicing with just my left hand and my feet together. My right hand did just fine when I played the pedals, but the left hand needed a little more practice time to learn to ‘disconnect’ from my feet.

Also, the Pedal section in OrganTutor (by Don Cook) is great! I highly recommend it.

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I think the OrganTutor workbook and tutorial are wonderful tools.

They are available at

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Our new organ has a bass coupler for the hymns, haven’t tried it for Prelude or postlude.

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To learn pedals, practice the hymn over and over with pedals only (bass notes), then add the LH (tenor notes) + pedals, and lastly add the RH (alto/soprano)

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3 thoughts on “Pedals

  1. My problem in trying to learn to play the pedals is that when I practice during the week I”m wearing pants, but I realized when I play on Sunday in a skirt, I can’t see the pedals very well. I need to look occasionally because I’m still learning, but the skirt gets in the way. Any suggestions?

    • You’re not alone in this! Some ideas that helped me include: wear a skirt during practice time; do not wear long, flowing skirts; wear tailored knee-length (or shorter) skirts; if you wear a skirt with lots of fabric, gather it up and tuck it between your knees (this also helps to remain in proper position of knees together while playing); wear opaque leggings under skirt so you can slide the skirt up under you without the risk of indecency; keep practicing without looking at feet; be patient with yourself as you gradually gain comfort and confidence.

  2. On Pedals. I’ve played the pedals with and without shoes. I also have a large shoe size, 15. I’ve always practiced at home without shoes, reason being I don’t wear them in the house. I’ve been to formal concerts where someone will be in their nylons! Most wear shoes, some of us don’t. Keep on peddling.

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