Wiki: Keyboard/Organ Technique

Huilin Shen

  • Hand position

    On the organ, the player adjusts the height of the bench for comfortably playing the pedal clavier. In as much as most organs have multiple manuals, resulting in a different position of the arm for playing each different manual, the organist normally positions the bench so that playing the Great manual is most comfortable.


    “To begin, the rules (regarding the organist’s position at the instrument) are founded on definite principles, the first of which demands that the organist seat himself so that he will be in the center o f the keyboard; the second that he does not make bodily movements but should keep himself erect and graceful, head and body. Third, he must remember that the arm guides the hand, and that the hand always remains straight in respect to the arm, so that the hand shall not be higher than the arm. The wrist should be very slightly raised, so that the hand and arm are on an even plane. What I say for one hand applies to the other. Fourth, the fingers should be placed evenly on the keys, and somewhat curved; moreover, the hand must rest lightly on the keyboard, and in a relaxed manner, otherwise the fingers will not be able to move with agility. And finally, the fingers should press the key and not strike it. “  


  • Fingering                 
  • Legato Touch

    The organist has at his disposal an instrument that can produce a tone that never has to end. As a result, legato Is perhaps too easy to accomplish on the organ, as it is very easy for blurring to occur. Therefore, it is critical that the organist develop finger independence and a clean legato technique so that the line in music is always apparent. Indeed, so much of the organist’s repertoire is contrapuntal, where clarity of voice leading is vital and dependent on a solid technique. Equally important to touch on the organ is the release of a note. Otherwise, the resulting sound is muddled and unclear, and the essence of the music is lost.



  • “Playing repeated notes on most instruments presents no particular problem, but on the organ, repeated notes require special attention. The pianist, with the aid of the damper pedal, can repeat a note even while the first one is still sounding; the brass or woodwind player, by tonguing a repeated note, can obtain varying degrees of note separation and accent; and the string player need only change the direction of the bow or make slight stops in one direction to repeat a note. In each of these instances there is the element of initial attack together with the possibility of diminuendo on each note. While there is a slight accent in the initial speech of an organ pipe, it continues sounding at a constant intensity once the key is down. If the key is quickly struck again in the same way a piano key is struck, the interruption of sound would be so slight that it would probably go unnoticed, especially in an acoustically live room. Therefore, in order to make repeated notes apparent to the listener, the organist must deliberately separate them with rests of definite rhythmic value.”





    Dickens, Theodore Pierce. 2001. “A Brief Overview of Keyboard Technique as Applied to Playing the Harpsichord, the Piano, and the Organ.” Order No. 3008526, The University of Alabama.


Anastasia Rege

I really enjoyed this resource:

Jingyi Xu

Organ techiniques

Generally, organ techniques are devided into several aspects: footwork/pedal technique, articulation, fingering, and legato techniques.

1. Footwork/pedal technique
(1.) keeping knees and heels together

For organists, their feet should move together as a unit, but this isn’t feasible for everyone, so, keeping the heels together with the knees will help to find the most efficient ways of pedaling.

(2.) focus on playing legato

In order to make a smmoth voice transitions from one note to another, organists should not make any breaks in between the notes. It’s easy to complete such a work through fingers but not feet.

(3.) toe-toe-heel-heel technique

toe-toe-heel-heel is the most efficient way to pedal, which means, play the first note with the left toe, then second with the right, third with the left heel, an fourth with the right heel. Mastering this pattern will help you keep the heels and knees together.

(4.) adjust your pedaling when needed

organists can’t play sharp keys with their heels, but their are a few scales that require them to start play with heels, in this situation, thwy should start pedaling from the middle of the scale and go downwards from there.

(5.) steady work and progress
2. Articulation
(1.) the ordinary touch
Writers in Baroque period use a term "organic touch" to decribe a general tradition touch---articulated legato. The authors of Baroque period called this touch "ordinary" because it was widely accepted and 
there was no need to indicated it into the music scores. For this reason, we will rarely see any articulation markings in early music. This touch also has many similarites to the tonguing of wind instruments
 and bowing of the strings. Although there are small distance between notes, we may not even be aware of them. The ordinary touch can be easily tested by playing a scale with only one finger but as 
connected as possible, then try to to copy the same sound with the usual finger.


(2.) emphasize the meter

Except the ordinary touch, we also need something elso to make the music alive, emphasizing the meter and strong or soft beat can help with that.  There are three primary ways to make accents in organ playing: first, making the strong beats longer which will have impression of accent on the listener; second, making the weak beat shorter which will have the oppsite effect; third, coming in allitle late on strong beat which will make it even accent.

Qianqian Xie


Keyboard Techniques

Most organs will have two keyboards controlled by the stops the organist has pre-configured. These keyboards do not respond in the same way as a piano. The piano is a touch-sensitive instrument, meaning that each note produces volume in relation to how hard the pianist strikes the key. With the organ, this is not the case and the notes will immediately stop when the organist lifts his finger. To create a connected texture on the organ, the organist must develop a legato playing technique in which each note releases immediately before another is depressed. It is also possible to increase and decrease the intensity of the instrument by playing more than one keyboard at a time. This technique often appears in church music to indicate downbeats and new musical sections.

On the organ, once you move your fingers from the keys the notes stop sounding instantly – with no sustain pedal to cover your poor legato technique either! So the biggest difference you’ll find is that you’ll probably end up doing a lot more finger-substituions to keep the note sounding whilst adjusting your hands to move to the next passage.

The flip side of this is that the note sounds for as long as you hold down the note – and won’t die away as it would on a piano – so any fingers that rest on the key for a little too long will be equally conspicuous.


Your wrists should also be raised higher than they would normally be on a piano but at the very least they certainly shouldn’t sag down.

If you are playing a mechanical (‘tracker’) organ – where the keys physically move the valves to let air flow through the pipe – you will find that as you add more stops, the action will become very very heavy. In other words, pressing the keys down will be a lot harder to do than on the piano and you may find finger strength to be an issue at first.

On the other hand, you may have an electrical action where the keys stay uniformly weighted and will actually be easier to depress than a piano’s.

Whilst no one listening will notice, you should also get out of the habit of using any ‘percussive’ style of attacking the keys – the organ doesn’t care how hard or soft you press them, so concentrate on keeping things fluid and uniform. That’s not to say you play staccato and legato in exactly the same manner, but there should be very little need to be lifting your hands completely off the keyboard; try and do as much as possible through your fingers.


As far as pedalling goes, this will be entirely new to you and so you shouldn’t have learned any ‘bad habits’ as yet. This is a topic in itself and probably best left until you are comfortable using your hands.

However, a few tips:

When using the ‘toe’ of your foot (the other option being the ‘heel’), try to use the ball of your foot rather than the toes alone. You’ll probably do this naturally, but this will feel more stable and also make swivelling your heel a lot easier.

When you get on to more ‘involved’ pedal parts, you’ll also notice that you have to physically balance yourself to prevent the pushing of your legs from moving your upper body. When playing the pedal by itself you’ll often find yourself grabbing hold of the organ bench to steady yourself and offset the force of pushing down especially on the outer ranges of the pedals. When playing with manual and pedal, you’ll be using your hands on the keys to steady yourself – sounds awkward but will happen naturally.


Whatever your preference, you can’t play in trainers. The majority of organists will advise you to get a good pair of purpose-made organ shoes. These are similar to ballet shoes, disguised as formal suit shoes – thin but with solid heels and toes.


Yingying Xia


Not lift your hands completely on organ keyboard. Always connect with your left hand or right hand someway.

About how to do slide on Organ.

Watch Video

How to do Slides on the Hammond Organ!
Duration: 7:22 User: n/a – Added: 8/31/21