Posted on Apr 07, 2020 by William Canady
I remember the first time I sat behind an organ. I had just started playing the piano, and it was a Hammond B-2 organ, and I looked down and was floored! I was astonished anybody could move both hands, and then try the feet. I thought that playing using your feet was a divine joke, as I could barely incorporate my hands. Little did I know that I would study organ in college for a semester and eventually use this gifting for God's glory.
If you are unfamiliar with the organ, we use our feet. But wait, so do you. We use our feet for walking, dancing, driving, biking, and so many other things. I do not know who decided to incorporate the pedalboard into the organ design, but not every organ has pedalboards. At Salem, our organ is a well-designed American Guild of Organists standard organ. With that, we have a concave organ pedal, which allows for more comfortable playing for the organist.
To play the pedal, you need two feet and a good pair of organ shoes. Yes, this is our secret: organ shoes. Organ shoes are specially designed to help the organist play the pedalboard with the proper heel-toe techniques used to accomplish more technically challenging pieces. They are not like regular shoes, but they have a soft sole, with a 3-4 inch heel that allows us to play with the toe of our shoe as well as the heel. This is what we call heel to toe.
The low, pew-shaking notes I play on Sundays are typically performed with my feet. I am also able to adjust the volume using the expression pedals (they control the sound of the Great and Swell manual), and even change the stops (pipes) all using my feet. Sometimes I feel like I am dancing while I am playing because I have so much going on behind the console of the organ. So, if you see my feet moving on the organ, now you know why.
Salem’s organist has written a series of articles about the organ for Staff Trax this year. This is part 3 of 7.