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organ bench height, etc


New member
Hello all,

...nice to find this forum... noticed a great many detailed and informative posts here...

...In re-studying Baroque organ technique (I've got lots of harpsichord experience) I'm coming to grips with two items related to pedaling those oh-so-typical Bach 16th note parts:

Suggested Bench height is higher than I thought it would be... been doing lots of experimentation at church with this (a non-adjustable bench, so doing the books and 2x4's route)... I will say that the pedal solo in Toccata in F, for example, is WAY easier!!!

Trouble is getting the optimum height... I viewed a few YouTube videos that were simply excellent in showing really good baroque toes playing... just what I'm looking to do... I find I can play most of the typical figures encountered in Bach with not too much trouble, but the real killer is when a sequence keeps descending... Can anyone offer any advice on how to shift one's weight for that type of thing? I'm familiar with doing this using modern pedaling technique, but it's new territory for me with the increased bench height, etc...

Anyway, looking forward to any correspondance on this topic!

many thanks, jgirv


Staff member
Hi jgirv,

Welcome to MIMF, from a fellow organist who also shares some of your plights in bench height. Being 6' 5" in height myself, the standard bench height is too low for me to play the pedals comfortably, so I have 3/4" blocks that I use at my church.

The only rule about bench height is what really works best for you. Most all organ consoles in the US are built to A.G.O. (American Guild of Organists) specifications which also includes standardized bench height. Distance of the bench from the console also becomes a contributing factor in proper pedaling technique. In the days of my organ instruction, I was taught to place my left foot between A sharp and C sharp, and my right foot between D sharp and F sharp, then adjust the bench forward or backwards until there was a 45° angle between the upper and lower leg parts. The foot placement also aligns your body up correctly for playing at the console.

Height adjustment should allow you to play comfortably without having to raise the upper legs off the bench in order to pedal the notes. All the pivoting of note playing should be done with the ankles as much as possible. Also try as much as you can to keep your knees together - this helps both feet work more closely as a unit and will aid to better and faster pedaling.

Shifting ones weight ... try a torso pivot instead. I use that technique, for instance when playing the 1st Sonata of Mendelssohn with its chromatic runs in both directions in the 1st and 4th movements. The curve of some organ benches encourages this practice of pivoting.

Also, try sitting more forward on the bench ... don't sit on the bench in the same fashion that you would in a living room chair ... being closer to the edge affords lots more mobility (and less friction) in the upper leg parts.

I would avoid using hymnbooks for raising bench height ... books are somewhat flexible and as such do not give the played a solid foundation on which to sit. I routinely carry varying sizes of blocks (in pairs, of course) as I have encountered many benches that are not at A.G.O. spec, meaning that they have been "altered" and/or tailored to specific organists.

Beware though, that getting the bench too high will have a great effect on manual playing technique, and/or being able to see couplers and other controls on the vertical stop rail.

One interesting bit of trivia: The organ at Riverside church in NYC has no provision for bench height adjustment ... the pedal board is on a little elevator instead and can be adjusted by each organist. I guess we can all dream about having that option added to our church organs ... :rolleyes:.


New member
...many thanks for your informative and quick reply... I will read and re-read it while trying the suggestions and advice... thanks for addressing also the distance from console as well as height... wow, imagine the pedalboard being movable... (that cost less than an adjustable bench?!) thanks again, and I'll post something interesting in return, I hope... best, jgirv


Staff member
You're welcome, :tiphat: jgirv.

I think the main reason for the movable pedalboard at Riverside was taking into consideration that the console has 5 manuals. If the bench height got too high, the organist knees would constantly hit the bottom of the Choir manual.


New member
...that does make sense when you think about it... looks like I'll be headed to the lumber yard to pick up wood to make blocks! ... best, jgirv


New member
One of the churches in our town had two wooden blocks attached to the bench with hinges, to raise the bench you just lifted the end so the block tilts down and under the bench foot, to lower you simply swung the block up again. Unfortuanetly the wooden blocks are just slightly larger than the bench foot and at some stage the screws on the hinges came undone making for a very unstable perch.

In our church we also went for the off-cuts, not as attractive, but a lot more stable as they are about three times the width of the bench foot and run from the console to the wall behind the bench so we can slide the bench forward or back without fear of the foot falling of the blocks.
I think the main reason for the movable pedalboard at Riverside was taking into consideration that the console has 5 manuals. If the bench height got too high, the organist knees would constantly hit the bottom of the Choir manual. !