Organ legato for small hands
  • I'm looking for some kind of method book or guide for handling post-Classical organ legato if you don't have Franck's hand span. The Stainer book was less helpful than I hoped, and the exercises/fingered pieces in Peeters' Little Organ Book assume a hand span much larger than mine and are frequently unplayable without injury. I don't want to spend $200+ on the Gleason if it has the same problem.

    Most of these books (and the repertoire) seem to assume you can span a tenth or greater without issues, and information on the Internet is much scarcer than it is for pianoforte technique. I don't like writing off an enormous portion of the repertoire so easily, but seemingly simple pieces are challenging at best and unplayable/injurious at worst. I find this extremely frustrating and my attempts to find solutions myself have been fruitless. Pedaling is not an issue with these works, so I don't need a book that focuses heavily on it.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,518
    I have, with a couple of Bach works, kept the same registration on two manuals and raised a finger to the top manual picking up notes I couldn't get on the primary manual. Those couplers and 16' stops are really handy for playing those difficult notes in a higher octave. There have been occasions when I coupled the manual down to pedal and picked up the hard to reach notes on the pedal. I play lots of French and English music written for manuals only so fudging a bit is the norm. BTW, I don't have small hands and can easily reach tenths. Some of those composers - Bach, Franck, etc. - just had enormous hands. I think most of us tend to figure out ways to get around some of those excessive reaches. All's fair in love, war and playing organ.
  • Honestly, I doubt a method book will do much good. You need to finagle and figure out what works for your own hands. The main thing is to keep the melody (or top note, as the case may be) smooth and lift fingers on inner voices. Use 4-5-4-5 crawling if you need to on chords whilst lifting your thumb. You can hide an awful lot if the top notes stay smooth. It may also simply be a fact of life that you may need to roll some chords or even drop a few notes. I know loads of professional accompanists who drop notes left and right. It’s a calculated move. They choose which are the best to drop to make a part more playable more quickly. Any note that is doubled in a chord is a candidate to be dropped, unless there’s a very peculiar voicing that requires all octaves doubled.
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