I just read a fascinating article called “Bach’s Incredible Feet,” which was published on Bach’s birthday, a few days ago. Non-organists find it amazing that we play with both feet, and compared to playing the harp, timpani and piano, which use the feet in a secondary role, our feet become extensions of our hands. Organists should be able to play equally well with their feet and hands, including scales, trills, and fast passages. David Yearsley, the author of the article on Bach’s feet, says “It is only at the organ that the feet are given the chance to pursue their musical potential. The most energetic form of musical performance, playing the organ unites dance and music.” (By the way, I highly recommend that you read this article by clicking here.)
I always tell my students that it’s no guessing game as to how to find the pedals without looking. Sit in the same place on the bench. Keep feet in contact with the pedals at all times so you can feel the notes underneath your shoes. Use the gaps between B/C and E/F (where there are no sharps/flats in between) to give you a grounding as to where you are on the pedalboard.
I always say, though, that playing with your feet is a lot easier — after all you have ten fingers but only two feet!
One thing that an organist does a lot every day is change shoes. You see we wear special shoes to play the pedals which allow us to slide over the keys more easily and to play legato. I don’t change shoes as much as I did years ago when I was playing weddings for Japanese tourists seven days a week (one year I wore out five pairs of organ shoes!) but since I play the organ nearly every day, I am constantly taking off and putting on my shoes. Finding the right shoes are a vital component of playing the instrument.
You can find a whole article on the issue of organ shoes by clicking here. By the way, I always keep a couple of pairs of organ shoes in my car!