Vidas: Let’s start Episode 90 of #AskVidasAndAusra podcast. And today’s question was sent by Sunny. And she writes:
“It would be good to mention the type of shoes you should wear while playing and NOT barefoot like I've gotten in bad habit. My teacher taught me to wear same shoes, with 1/2' heels, carry in bag with my music or keep at the organ.
AND one rule we have in our house: NEVER touch ANY of the 4 keyboards in my home without washing your hands. That’s a big time no no. My grand daughter scolded one of our guests who sat down at our grand piano to play. Too funny, but people don't realize how over time, grime from one’s hands becomes a problem with build up gunk so washing hands should be taught to others for any instrument.”
So first of all, Ausra, let’s discuss: what type of shoes should organists wear while playing the organ?
Ausra: Well, if you live in the United States, then it’s not a problem to get organ shoes, because they have a company that delivers you organ shoes. The only thing you have to do is to submit an obligation--to give them your size, to pay money; and the shoes will come to you.
Vidas: You’re talking about Organmaster® shoes?
Ausra: Yes, that’s what I’m talking about.
Vidas: And you’re wearing those shoes, too, yourself?
Ausra: Yes; and I paid double for them, because we don’t have that treaty between the United States and European Union, so everything that goes above $20, you have to pay extra.
Vida: Yeah, fifteen percent of taxes.
Ausra: Yes. And so now, my last organ shoes are just golden!
Ausra: I paid for them twice!
Vidas: But they are good for you, right?
Ausra: Yes, they are good for me. I’m very glad I have them. But in general, if you cannot access real Organmaster® shoes, you could find similar to what you need for the organ.
Vidas: Something for ball dancing, right?
Ausra: Well...no, no...
Vidas: No? Not the same?
Ausra: No, no, it’s very different. If you mean like folk dancing, then yes, but not ballroom dancing.
Vidas: Mhm, not ballroom.
Ausra: Because they have that very high and narrow heel.
Ausra: Thin heel. So you could not play organ with those shoes. Unless you would be like, a French madam.
Vidas: So probably...an inch would be enough, right, for you?
Ausra: Yes, an inch, maybe an inch and a half.
Ausra: But no more than, probably, two inches. I would say that two inches is the highest heel.
Vidas: Sunny writes that a half inch is a little too small.
Ausra: Yes, definitely, yes.
Vidas: Mhm. Because then you have to twist your ankle a lot when playing heels.
Ausra: Yes. An important thing is that the tip of your organ shoes would be a little bit narrower.
Vidas: The toes?
Ausra: Yes, toes.
Vidas: Mhm. But not too long.
Ausra: Yes, not too long, definitely.
Vidas: So they all should be leather-based shoes--the soles should be leather, right? Not rubber.
Ausra: Yes. Yes, then you could nicely glide through the pedal keys. I think it’s easier for men to find the right organ shoes. But the most important thing is that your organ shoes must be clean, that you would not bring dirt on the organ.
Vidas: For some beginner students, we don’t want to invest, for example, a lot of money for shoes, if they don’t know if they will be playing for a long time, and they just want to try it out. It’s better to just wipe your feet on the carpet (if you have a similar type of shoes). But you want them to be clean: so before playing, have a special carpet next to the organ bench, and clean or wipe your soles, and then you should be ok. For the short term, of course.
Ausra: Yes, for the short term, definitely.
Vidas: What about the second part of the comment, about washing your hands? Have you seen? Remember when we went to some country organs, and we saw some grease on the keyboard, and that means that people really don’t wash…?
Ausra: I know…
Vidas: They maybe eat bacon and then sit down and play.
Ausra: Ooh. That’s disgusting. And I think then rats will just eat those keys! Because they feel some grease on them. Ugh! Sounds very bad. So better wash your hands before playing any type of instrument. But actually, on the other hand, sometimes you can get another problem: for example, I have very dry skin on my fingers. So if I wash my hands each time before sitting down to the organ, I simply will not be able to play. Because the blood will just start to flow from my fingers. I will hurt them. So what I actually must do before playing organ is, I must use some hand cream.
Ausra: Yes, moisturizer. I wasn’t even even able to give my fingerprints when I needed a new passport.
Vidas: So you could be a great bank robber.
Ausra: Yes. They could not scan my fingerprints; and finally they gave me such a very greasy cream to put on my fingers. And after that I was able, finally, to give my fingerprints.
Vidas: I know what you should do. You should break into the Organmaster® shoe company and steal some shoes!
Ausra: Oh yes, but then I would have to go to America, and it would be too expensive! That’s just a joke.
Vidas: You don’t have to explain to people that’s just a joke--it’s not a joke! It could be a real plan, right?
Ausra: Well, you could write a story about that.
Vidas: I may, sometime!
Ausra: It will become a bestseller.
Vidas: At least, in our circle, right?
Vidas: I will have at least one reader.
Vidas: ...And that’s you.
Vidas: Good. So guys, what about playing in your socks? Have you played in your socks?
Ausra: Yes, I did that a few times.
Vidas: Did you like it?
Ausra: Well, it’s okay. It’s better to play in your socks than to play with uncomfortable, unfitting shoes. But definitely if you are playing modern and Romantic music, then you will hurt your ankles so badly, because you will have to turn your feet a lot.
Vidas: I think too much, probably.
Ausra: Yes, too much, and it will be very uncomfortable.
Ausra: But for example, what I experienced when I played in wintertime in an unheated church--when it’s very cold, then it’s better to play in your socks. That way your toes will not freeze so much.
Vidas: Exactly. And your socks could be thick, right?
Ausra: Yes, like wool.
Vidas: And you could add a special leather sole to it, right?
Ausra: Not necessarily. It could be just regular old socks.
Vidas: Uh-huh. Alright, so people can try out what they like, especially in winter. But most importantly, rule number one is: have your shoes or socks or whatever you wear cleaned.
Vidas: Because dust and dirt will definitely damage the action of the organ. Thanks, guys, for listening! And send us more of your questions; we love helping you grow. This was Vidas.
Ausra: And Ausra.
Vidas: And remember, when you practice…
Ausra: Miracles happen.
Would you like to say "Thank You" to us? Buy Us Coffee.
Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
Do you have a unique skill or knowledge related to the organ art? Pitch us your story to become a guest on Secrets of Organ Playing Podcast.
Don't have an organ at home?
Download paper manuals and pedals, print them out, cut the white spaces, tape the sheets together and you'll be ready to practice anywhere where is a desk and floor. Make sure you have a higher chair.