The Lady Organist

an online magazine for organists

Pedals-only repertoire

I’m indebted to Michael Wong for this page, and I’ve included some of his comments.  We started this discussion with Joyce Jones’ pedal tutor Pedal Mastery for Organ and the first suggestion is taken from there:

Variations on “O for a Thousand Tongues” from the end of Pedal Mastery for Organ by Joyce Jones

Joyce Jones mentions that this piece was inspired by Ten Pedal Variations by Flor Peeters
Comment from Michael:  Most of the Flor Peeters variations are fairly manageable with the exception of the ones with chromatic scales, ugh!  I found the variation with pedal chords actually easier than the short one found in Mme. Jones’ set of variations.  Mme. Jones wrote two other sets of variations: one is called Variations on “When the Roll is called up yonder” and the other one is Variations on “Amazing Grace”.  The latter can be found in the collection of pieces “Hommage a Jean Langlais”.

Toccata Basse by Robert Leech Bedell
Out of print, but available secondhand, eg from Sheet Music Warehouse

 Epilogue from Hommage a Frescobaldi by Langlais
Michael:  The “Hommage a Frescobaldi” is an organ suite written by famous blind French organist Jean Langlais: the Epilogue is the last movement of this suite which has become a pedal showpiece for organists.  The middle of the piece is a short fugue written for pedals, very interesting.  Like a lot of so-called pedals only pieces, the hands are called upon to play some large chords to end the piece.

Langlais also wrote a set of Seven Concert Etudes for organ pedals 

Variations on a theme by Paganini by George Thalben-Ball
Michael: Often programmed by organists to show off their pedal chops.  (Watch Diane Bish playing this here.)   The last variation is NOT a pedals only piece but is an excellent introduction to French style toccata playing – manual arpeggios going berserk while pedals play the melody.

Pierre Gouin has adapted some movements of Bach’s Cello Suites as pedal studies.  You can download them from IMSLP:

Prelude from Cello Suite No1 in G Major BWV1007

Prelude from Cello Suite No2 in D minor BWV1008

Prelude from Cello Suite No3 in C major BWV1009

Prelude from Cello Suite No4 in E flat major BWV1010

Michael: The main problem with these pieces is they are so long (which demands pedal endurance) and require a lot of musicianship from the feet, which one really need to acquire from shorter pieces.

A good piece to acquire endurance is Wilhelm Middelschulte’s Perpetuum Mobile,  available here
Michael:  Not as difficult as it looks.  Most of the piece follows a very predictable structure and is very easy once it is memorized.  The goal is to repeatedly play this until one can blaze through it in less than 2 & 1/2 minutes.

Finally, even Jeanne Demessieux had to go through Alkan’s difficult Douze etudes pour les pieds for a couple of years (supposedly playing nothing else… though both Michael and I find it difficult to believe someone actually spent two years playing only the pedals). Note that these 12 pedal studies were written for the pedal piano and not the organ, so the pedal compass is actually down to a low A (not the C found on modern organs).  You can download them from IMSLP here.


See also Pedals-only repertoire 2