pedal keyboard

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The 30-note pedalboard of a Rieger organ with expression pedal and coupler switches.

A pedalboard (also called a pedal keyboard, pedal clavier, or bass pedalboard) is a musical keyboard that is played with the feet, and which is usually used to produce low-pitched basslines. Pedalboards are found at the base of most pipe organ consoles beginning in the 1200s and 1300s to the present, and at the base of many 1950s and 1960s electronic and Hammond organs. Standalone pedalboards such as the 1970s-era Moog Taurus bass pedals are occasionally used in progressive rock and fusion music. In rare cases, pedalboards are provided beneath a harpsichord or piano.

Pedalboards resemble a manual keyboard, with long pedals for the natural notes of the Western musical scale, and shorter raised pedals for the sharps and flats. The arrangement of the pedals can be either radial (converging toward the player) or parallel, and the pedals may be either concave (with the pedals near the center lower than those at either end) or level (also called "flat").

The pedal keyboard is commonly used to play the bass line of a piece, usually with a 16′stop drawn. The 16′pedal notes, which sound an octave below the written pitch, give organ music its powerful bass foundation. As well, since the use of the pedals frees the left hand from having to play the bass line, it allows the left hand to be used to play "inner voice" parts. The pedals can also play the cantus firmus of a chorale prelude, which is more often played using an 8′ stop. On pipe organs with a divided pedal 'coupler' that allow the player to control which ranks of pipes are played by the pedals a separate line can be played with each foot. This allows the hands to play more intricate music on the manuals. On an electronic organ or standalone pedalboard, the pedals may produce an even wider variety of sounds, such as high 2′ melodic notes. |


The first use of pedals on a pipe organ grew out of the need to hold bass notes uninterruptedly in order to support polyphony. These pedals were simply pins placed at height of the feet which made it possible to actuate the lowest notes of the keyboard via a coupler mechanism (most likely a pulldown, a simple cord strung between the pin and the level of the keyboard). This mechanism is found in organs dating to the thirteenth century. Separate pedal divisions appeared for the first time in the fifteenth century, though without couplers, for reasons of mechanical complexity.

Until the beginning of the nineteenth century, the pedals on French organs were composed of small pieces of wood projecting out of the floor. These pedalboards could be either flat or tilted. Due to this construction, organists were unable to play anything but simple bass lines or chorale melodies on the pedals. In Germany, pedalboards featured longer pedals, allowing the organist to actuate them either with the toe of the foot or with the heel. This facilitated more complex pedal lines, giving rise to the dramatic pedal solos found in German organ works of this period. At the beginning of seventeenth century, pedalboards on large organs encompassed twenty-eight to thirty notes.

Throughout its history, pedalboards had been generally parallel and flat (even when tilted, the surface was still flat). In the nineteenth century, the French organ builder Aristide Cavaillé-Coll designed pedalboards with accidentals that were longer and taller at the outer edges of the pedalboard than in the center. The naturals were uniform throughout the compass. This design made it easier to play at the extreme ranges of the keyboard. At the beginning of the twentieth century, the American organ builder Ernest M. Skinner used a pedalboard whose naturals were concave in the same fashion as the accidentals of Cavaillé-Coll's pedalboard. He mounted the pedals so that they would radiate away from the organist. This design bears great resemblance to the AGO pedalboard, which was standardized later in the century (see below).


Pedalboards range in size from 13 notes (an octave, conventionally C2-C3) to 32 notes (two and a half octaves, C2-G4). It is common to find 30-note pedalboards (which stop at F4) on pipe organs and 25-note pedalboards for Hammond and Kawai organs (which stop at C4), which can cause problems playing the Baroque and Classical repertoire that require higher notes. Smaller pedalboards, typically 13 to 20 notes, are usually found on small spinet organs or electronic bass pedal units, and usually feature short, parallel pedals. On an organ, such pedals are often positioned to the left side of the player; the right foot in this case covers expression pedals, such as the swell pedal. The short, parallel pedals on these small electronic organs are mainly used for playing sustained bass notes, because their design is not suitable for playing more complex passages.

Larger pedalboards are centred with respect to the playing position, to facilitate two-footed pedalling, and usually incorporate long pedals which extend beneath the player. Twenty-five-note pedalboards are found on medium-sized electronic organs; 30- and 32-note boards are the province of pipe organs and high-end electronic console organs. The current industry standard for large organs in the US is specified by the American Guild of Organists (AGO) which requires a 32-note (C-g') concave and radial board. Also specified are the dimensions of the pedals. In Great Britain, the Royal College of Organists (RCO) promulgates a similar design. The German Bund Deutscher Orgelbaumeister (BDO) has both radial standard and a parallel standard designs.

Concave, radial (AGO)

Concave, standard (BDO parallel)

Concave, long-radial (BDO straight)

Because the pedals on a full-length pedalboard extend beneath the player, such a board requires a wide bench, typically a purpose-built organ bench. Though some organ benches are adjustable in height, most require tall organists (those about six feet and over) to use wooden blocks to elevate the bench to a height that allows their legs to move freely. Otherwise, such organists would be cramped and have to lift their legs excessively. Tall organists can also have a problem in which the lowest keyboard (manual) is too low for the player to fit their knees comfortably under the console.

Other controls are often located near the pedalboard; these can include expression pedals and toe studs (pistons) for changing registration swiftly. On electronic stand-alone pedalboards, there may also be foot-activated MIDI switches that allow the player to transpose the pitches of the pedalboard or switch between different playing modes (e.g., one note only at a time mode versus a polyphonic mode which allows the player to perform chords).


As its name indicates, the pedalboard is a keyboard designed to be played with the feet. It thus requires a specific technique which belongs to the training of the organist. There are essentially two types of pedal technique: toe-only and heel-and-toe. Modern organ teaching uses both techniques. The first is used for baroque music, that of Bach and the old French composers, while heel-and-toe is used for more modern pedal work.

A "toe-only" technique was used to play the early pedalboards. Musicologists argue that toe-only technique was used by Johann Sebastian Bach and his contemporaries. The majority of the large pedal solos of Bach can be played using only the toes (c.f. toccatas BWV 540, BWV 564 and BWV 566).

Using only the toes is quite simple and natural, because the organist can use the articulation of the ankle to control the depression and release of the keys. The only way to control the depression and release of the heel is through the thigh, which has a lower degree of accuracy and greater inertia. Moreover the "sharps" (the raised or black keys) are inaccessible to the heels.

The heel-and-toe technique moves and rotates the ankle to use the toe or the heel to press the keys. This facilitates smooth, legato playing using just one foot. In works written for the organ starting from the end of the 1800s, composers required more virtuosity on the pedals, such as rapid scalar passages and polyphonic material. Organ music by Maurice Duruflé, Marcel Dupre and Jean Langlais, for example, asks players to perform chords of three or four notes with the pedals, and successions of thirds, fourths or fifths, which are difficult if not impossible to realize with the toes alone.

In non-Classical music

Electronic and Jazz organ

After Jimmy Smith popularized the Hammond organ in jazz, many jazz pianists “...who thought that getting organ-ized would be a snap...” realized that the Hammond “... B-3 required not only a strong left hand, but killer coordination on those [bass] foot pedals to really get the bass groove percolating."[1] In the 1950s, the organist Wild Bill Davis told the then-aspiring organist Smith that it could take over a decade just to learn the bass pedals. Jazz organists such as Jimmy Smith developed the ability to perform fluent walking-bass lines on the bass pedals, on ballad tempo tunes mostly. He played up-tempo bass lines with his left hand, augmented by occasional taps in the bass. Currently, jazz organists such as Ken Clark and Barbara Dennerlein are able to perform fast-moving basslines on the bass pedalboard.

Many jazz organists from the 1950s/1960s era and from more recent decades perform the bassline with their left hand on the lower manual. Organists who play the bassline on the lower manual may do short taps on the bass pedals-often on the tonic of a tune's key-to simulate the low, resonant sound of a plucked upright bass string. Playing basslines on the manuals may make the bass lines more light and fluid than if they are played on the bass pedals, especially for uptempo tunes.

In popular music, the pedalling style can be more varied and idiosyncratic, in part because jazz or pop organists may be self-taught. As well, the pedalling styles may differ due to the design of electromechanical organs, many of which have shorter pedalboards that are designed to be played primarily with the left foot. These organs have an expression (volume) pedal which is played with the right foot. With these organs, the player often greatly restricts or entirely omits the use of the heel, and plays the pedals with light touches of the toes.

Even on a larger pedalboard designed for playing with both feet, the organist may confine the right foot to the expression pedal or pedals.[ Although most classical organists wear special organ shoes, some jazz organists play shoeless, such as jazz organist Rhoda Scott, the Hammond organ’s “Barefoot Contessa”. The standard number of pedals on a Hammond B-3 is 25 (two octaves from C2 to C4); Hammond also sells an AGO pedalboard for organists who wish to play classical repertoire.
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A woman playing a 25-note pedalboard on a Hammond Organ. While it is playable with both feet, this organist is using only her left foot to play the pedalboard while operating the expression pedal with her right foot in order to control the volume.

Rock and fusion

Some progressive rock and fusion bands use standalone bass pedals (pedal keyboards) to produce sounds in the bass range. Standalone bass pedals are an electronic musical instrument consisting of a pedalboard and tone generation circuitry such as a synthesizer module. They are most commonly used by keyboard players as an adjunct to their manual keyboards, but can be played in combination with other instruments, or by themselves.

A well-known bass pedal device was the Moog Taurus, a five-octave instrument referred to as a "Pedal Synthesizer" in their literature [1]. Even though the Taurus could be used to play a huge range of music, including mid-range or high-register melodies, most players used them for bass lines, and the nickname bass pedals stuck. Although the Taurus pedals are no longer being made, they are prized as vintage instruments.

Several progressive rock groups such as Yes and Genesis) and the pop group The Police used bass pedals. Often, the group's bass guitarist would play in a standing position, meaning that they could only use one foot at a time to play, rather than play sitting down with both feet, as organists traditionally had. Bass guitarists who used the Taurus bass pedals could use the Taurus to hold down sustained, low-pitched pedal points while they performed high-register melodic lines or percussive parts on the bass guitar.

2000-era electronic pedalboards

2000-era standalone electronic pedalboards are MIDI controllers, and do not perform any tone generation themselves. The pedalboards have to be connected to an electronic keyboard or rack-mounted synthesizer to produce musical tones. Despite the fact that they can control any kind of MIDI device, and produce a huge range of sounds such as high-register melodies, these are still often referred to as "bass pedals". Hammond, Roland, and Fatar produce electronic pedalboards which are designed for use underneath a keyboard or organ.

The Roland PK-5 Dynamic MIDI Pedal bass note pedalboard uses bass pedals with 13 different levels of velocity-sensitivity, which allows for dynamic changes. A MIDI switch allows that the pitches to be transposed over a nine-octave range. The PK-5 has several different modes: a Bass Mode plays instrumental bass notes one at a time; a Poly Mode allows two or more bass pedals to be sounded simultaneously; a Drum Mode can play drum and percussion sounds; and a Sound Effects Mode can play sound effects. The PK-5 measures 425(W) x 560(D) x 120(H) mm (16 _” x 22 1/16” x 4-3/4), and weighs 8kg (17 lb 10 oz). The PK-5 is a MIDI controller, which means that the pedalboard itself does not produce any sounds; it has to be connected to a MIDI keyboard or sound module.

Fatar produces a 13-note and a 17-note pedalboard. The 13-note pedalboard, the MP-113 “Dynamic Pedal Board Controller” can control any MIDI keyboard or module. Its pedals are velocity-sensitive pedals with wood tips. The pedalboard can control program, bank, channel, and transposition. It measures 24" x 16.5" x 5.9" and weighs 14.3 lb. The 17-Note Dynamic Pedal Board Controller, the MP-117, has the same features, except that it has four more notes. It measures 29" x 16.5" x 5.9" and weighs 16.5 lb. Both the MP-113 and the MP-117 are MIDI controllers, which means that the pedalboards themselves do not produce any sounds; the pedalboards have to be connected to a MIDI keyboard or sound module.


1. ^ Tom Vickers. Organ Grinder Swing. Available at: [2]
musical keyboard.]] A musical keyboard is the set of adjacent depressible levers on a musical instrument which cause the instrument to produce sounds.

Keyboards almost all share the common layout shown.
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A bassline (also spelled bass line) is the term used in many styles of popular music, jazz, blues, trance and funk for the low-pitched instrumental part or line played by a rhythm section instrument such as the electric bass, double bass or keyboard (piano, Hammond organ,
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pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by forcing pressurized air (referred to as wind) through a series of pipes. The size of pipe organs varies greatly: the smallest portable organs may have only a few dozen pipes, while the largest organs may feature
..... Click the link for more information.
An electronic organ is an electronic keyboard instrument originally designed to imitate the sound of a pipe organ. It has developed today into two forms of the instrument, the imitation pipe organ as used in churches, and the Hammond organ-style instrument used in more popular
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The Hammond organ is an electric organ which was designed and built by Laurens Hammond in 1934. While the Hammond organ was originally sold to churches as a lower-cost alternative to the pipe organ, it came to be used for jazz, blues, and then to a greater extent in rock music (in
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Taurus II by Moog Music
Synthesis type: Analog subtractive
Polyphony: Monophonic

Keyboard: 18 pedals
Left hand control: pitch bend and mod wheels
Velocity sensitive:
External control: CV/Gate outputs
Memory: none
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Bass pedals are an electronic musical instrument consisting of a pedalboard and tone generation circuitry packaged together as a unit. They serve the same function as the pedalboard on an organ, and usually produce sounds in the bass range.
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Progressive rock, sometimes shortened to "prog" or "prog rock", is a form of rock music that evolved in the late 1960s and early 1970s, principally from psychedelic rock, blues rock, folk rock, hard rock, classical music, and jazz fusion, but also from a wide-ranging
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Jazz fusion (or "jazz-rock fusion" or "fusion") is a musical genre that merges elements of jazz with other styles of music, particularly pop, rock, folk, reggae, funk, metal, country, R&B, hip hop, electronic music and world music.
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A harpsichord is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It produces sound by plucking a string when each key is depressed.

As well as the large instrument currently called a harpsichord, the harpsichord family also includes the smaller virginals, the
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pedal piano is a kind of piano that includes a pedalboard, enabling bass register notes to be played with the feet, as is standard on the organ.

There are two types of pedal piano: the pedal board may be an integral part of the instrument, using the same strings and
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A manual is a keyboard designed to be played with the hands on a pipe organ, harpsichord, clavichord, electronic organ, or synthesizer. The term "manual" is used with regard to any hand keyboard on these instruments to distinguish it from the pedalboard, which is a keyboard that
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In music, a scale is a collection of musical notes that provides material for part or all of a musical work. Scales are ordered in pitch or pitch class, with their ordering providing a measure of musical distance.
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In music, sharp means higher in pitch. More specifically, in musical notation, sharp means "higher in pitch by a semitone (half step)," and has an associated symbol (
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In music, flat means "lower in pitch." More specifically, in music notation, flat means "lower in pitch by a semitone (half step)," and has an associated symbol (
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In music, a cantus firmus ("fixed song") is a pre-existing melody forming the basis of a polyphonic composition.

The plural of this Latin term is cantus firmi, though one occasionally sees the corrupt form canti firmi.
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In music, a chorale prelude is a short liturgical composition for organ using a chorale tune as its basis. It was a predominant form of the German Baroque era and reached its culmination in the works of J.S.
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pipe organ is a musical instrument that produces sound by forcing pressurized air (referred to as wind) through a series of pipes. The size of pipe organs varies greatly: the smallest portable organs may have only a few dozen pipes, while the largest organs may feature
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polyphony is a texture consisting of two or more independent melodic voices, as opposed to music with just one voice (monophony) or music with one dominant melodic voice accompanied by chords (homophony).
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As a means of recording the passage of time, the 13th century was that century which lasted from 1201 to 1300. In the history of European culture, this period is considered part of the High Middle Ages, and after its conquests in Asia the Mongol Empire stretched from Korea to
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15th century was that century which lasted from 1401 to 1500.


  • 1402: Ottoman and Timurid Empires fight at the Battle of Ankara resulting in Timur's capture of Bayezid I.
  • 1402: The conquest of the Canary Islands signals the beginning of the Spanish Empire.

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The 19th Century (also written XIX century) lasted from 1801 through 1900 in the Gregorian calendar. It is often referred to as the "1800s.
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chorale was originally a hymn of the Lutheran church sung by the entire congregation. In casual modern usage, the term also includes classical settings of such hymns and works of a similar character.
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As a means of recording the passage of time, the 17th Century was that century which lasted from 1601-1700 in the Gregorian calendar.

The 17th Century falls into the Early Modern period of Europe and was characterized by the Baroque cultural movement and the beginning of
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Aristide Cavaillé-Coll (February 4, 1811–October 13, 1899) was a French organ builder. He is considered by many to be the greatest organ builder of the 19th century.
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twentieth century of the Common Era began on January 1, 1901 and ended on December 31, 2000, according to the Gregorian calendar. Some historians consider the era from about 1914 to 1991 to be the Short Twentieth Century.
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Ernest M. Skinner (1866 in Clarion, Pennsylvania – 1960) was an American organ builder known for producing a prestigious, luxury product.

Early years

Skinner began his life-long career at the Taunton, Massachusetts shop of George Ryder in 1886.
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pedalboard (also called a pedal keyboard, pedal clavier, or bass pedalboard) is a musical keyboard that is played with the feet, and which is usually used to produce low-pitched basslines.
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Hammond is a family name, a place name, and a type of organ.


Some notable people with the surname Hammond include:
  • A. B. Hammond (1848-1934), American lumberman
  • Abram A.

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Kawai Musical Instruments Manufacturing Co. Ltd. (河合楽器製作所 Kawai Gakki Seisakusho) TYO: 7952 of Japan is best known for its pianos, electronic keyboards & electronic synthesizers. The headquarters is in Hamamatsu, Shizuoka.
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