a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling

Posted by: Brandon_W_T

a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/10/10 10:22 PM

The proper way to play an organ, or harpsichord (or any non finger weight volume changing instruments) There are a few rules to follow.


First we can talk about pianists. We have the freedom to use the pedal to make leaps, and lift our hands off the keyboard, and still play connected. Thats a pretty good freedom.

But for us organist, and harpsichordists, we dont obviously. Once you lift your hand on an organ, unless you break a connection, or a key gets stuck, the sound is stopped dead.

Organists usually have a bigger advantage that the organs of yesteryear are in fairly large reverberant rooms. They can lift and hit a note (still fairly short period of time) and it will sound not so much disconnected.
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But as a beginning organist I was taught to keep your fingers close to the keys at all times. No lifts off the keyboard.

Use little wrist movement. All in your fingertips. This is how you achieve "finger pedaling". Your notes will be closer and smoother connected. No big gaps.

Dont flip positions of the hand, rather use crossovers, and finger substitutions, and you will get a good smooth connected organ piece, or harpsichord piece, playable on the piano without pedal blurring!



smile Hope this shines a bit of light.
Posted by: gooddog

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/10/10 10:25 PM

Originally Posted By: Brandon_W_T
Dont flip positions of the hand, rather use crossovers, and finger substitutions, and you will get a good smooth connected organ piece, or harpsichord piece, playable on the piano without pedal blurring!.
Interesting post. The part I quoted is pretty much how I play Bach on a piano. To get all the notes and sustain the right ones, this is exactly what you have to do. Nicely put.

Edit: I should add that accomplishing this requires, (for me anyway), hours of working out the fingering and drilling it in. Often what seems natural doesn't work and I find myself running out of fingers. Practice time is very satisfying but my hands, brain and pencil get quite a workout.
Posted by: Brandon_W_T

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/10/10 10:44 PM

yes. Fingering really is VERY important to playing bach!


His much was so perfectly incredibly organized, that having a fingering issue can throw the whole thing off! Watch out for those fingerings!

Getting the fingerings down is the hard part, but once that is done, it makes so much more sense.


I never thought I could play the Passacaglia in C minor on the organ. But after learning the fingerings, it is really starting to come to me!

Now with an organ to play on, this will be even easier!
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/10/10 10:44 PM

I also do this on a modern piano. That is why playing Bach's music can help so much with increasing one's flexibility. You really have to be flexible to play some of that awkward stuff!
Posted by: Mattardo

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/10/10 11:27 PM

I find it easier to play on such instruments, mainly because of the key-weight difference - they seem to benefit in several areas:

1- A more natural fingering of certain scales, accompaniments, voicing. Example: instead of playing a certain measure in the left hand with 5, 4, 3, 1, 2, 1 that requires a crossing of the thumb and second finger - as long as one is aware of the span of notes involved, it's much easier to just lay your hands naturally over the keys and play. Weight will not force you to redistribute notes in some strange, bizarre fashion. Sight-reading vastly improves with these instruments. With practice, this same facility can be taken over to the piano. For instance, the Chopin Valse Opus 64, No 2, becinning in measure 33 (piu mosso) has seen an endless variation of weird fingerings to compensate for weak fingers, when using 4 for the note at the beginning of each measure is the most natural and sensible solution. It just requires practice on the piano, but on the harpsichord and organ it comes very easily!

2- More bizarre fingerings! I know - the exact opposite! The lighter, quicker keys accomodate finger-walking techniques for scales and runs - which Bach was very fond of using. Difficult to do at first, but becomes easier with practice.
Other strange figurations become much easier on these keyboards, and can sometimes make much more sense than a standard piano figuration. In my opinion, one of the best methods to train fingers to play such music is to constantly sight-read this music, and let your fingers do what they will. Many people would be surprised at how quickly they learn to overcome difficulties once sweated over when anticipated.

Thanks for the good tips, Brandon! Bach fingerings tend to scare many people - his fugues especially. I never thought it was the fugues, themselves, that scared people - just the editor's fingerings!!! Some of them are so bizarre, they make the piece more difficult than it should be. I try not to forget that many of the great masters back then were incredible sight-readers, improvisers - so they would never have been comfortable with (or even used in their wildest dreams) some of the strange, editorial fingerings we see today.
Posted by: sandalholme

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/11/10 08:25 AM

If by finger walking you mean crossing fingers across each other, then one fingering I regularly used when a harpsichordist was, particularly in the LH, to cross the 4th finger over the 5th when descending to the last note, rather than working out a fingering to end the descent on the 5th. Easy on the harpsichord and still possible on the piano when dynamics is not an issue. Finger substitution is essential on the organ but is also an important skill on the piano. Brandon is right - it all comes from the last inch of your fingers. (The same method is used for rapid trills on any keyboard instrument)
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/11/10 08:50 AM

In terms of "finger pedalling" on the piano, I think the term is usually used in reference to holding down some notes in Alberti basses(that aren't indicated to be held down. Bartok's edition of the Mozart Sonatas has endless indications to play this way. I don't know how popular it is in practice today.

I think the OP's post was about finger legato as opposed to finger pedalling. It goes without saying that to play legato on the piano without using pedal one must not lift the fingers high off the keys, use finger substitutions, and cross the thumb under/over.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/11/10 09:01 AM

Originally Posted By: Brandon_W_T
Getting the fingerings down is the hard part, but once that is done, it makes so much more sense.
That's why I think for playing Bach, except perhaps in the case of a Bach specialist or professional, using an edition with good fingering(for at least a starting point)can save tons of time. I think this applies even to non Bach works but more so to Bach.
Posted by: Brandon_W_T

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/11/10 10:03 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

I think the OP's post was about finger legato as opposed to finger pedalling. It goes without saying that to play legato on the piano without using pedal one must not lift the fingers high off the keys, use finger substitutions, and cross the thumb under/over.


Yes I think that is a better title for it, but the general idea was how to replace the sustain pedal, and get as close effect with your fingers... therefor a "finger- pedal" smile
Posted by: gooddog

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/11/10 10:15 AM

pianoloverus I really don't know which term captures the idea better. I was referring sustaining certain notes while playing others thus giving a pedalled effect. Perhaps I'm using the wrong term. In Bach, I was taught to limit legato and use a "Bach touch" which is akin to Portato.

I find good editing does help with fingering but I still have to spent a ton of time customizing it. Some suggestions don't work well for me.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/11/10 11:17 AM

Finger pedalling is usually used to mean sustaining notes that are not indicated to be sustained in the score. Usually used in Alberti basses where a richer sound is wanted but use of the pedal would cause blurring.

Sustaining notes that are indicated to be sustained while others are being played is just following the scores markings.
Posted by: wr

Re: a tip on how to "pedal" bach- finger pedaling - 06/12/10 07:18 AM

Originally Posted By: Brandon_W_T
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus

I think the OP's post was about finger legato as opposed to finger pedalling. It goes without saying that to play legato on the piano without using pedal one must not lift the fingers high off the keys, use finger substitutions, and cross the thumb under/over.


Yes I think that is a better title for it, but the general idea was how to replace the sustain pedal, and get as close effect with your fingers... therefor a "finger- pedal" smile


Yes, that's it, but I would add that it often is the sostenuto pedal, since just one single note may be held while other stuff is going on.

One of the more interesting finger pedaling exercises is to play through the Mendelssohn Songs Without Words with no pedal except finger pedaling. Almost every single one can sound pretty good with only finger pedaling and no sustain pedal at all. Plus, it's great for finger independence.