Women organists often have to play the organ with the shoes which have rather high heels. At first they seem to be very uncomfortable because there is a danger to slip on the pedalboard and hit the wrong notes all the time. Is it possible to make the playing with such shoes more comfortable and secure?
It's difficult for me to tell for sure because I don't use such shoes but from what I have observed when some of my organ students play is that it gets easier with time.
One student recently came to the lesson with a new pair of shoes. I asked her how she felt (she was playing chorale prelude "Wir glauben all an einen Gott" by J.L.Krebs with double pedals). She performed it with some pedal mistakes, more than usual, actually.
The next week her pedal playing was better and the week after that - almost without mistakes. So I think it takes about 3 weeks of daily practice to adjust to new heels and new shoes in general. She confirmed this idea.
There are some women organists who play organ with extremely high heels flawlessly. How do they achieve such perfection even playing pieces which have passages of pedal scales and arpeggios?
The answer might have some variables but generally, pedal preparation always helps to make the pedal technique automatic and mistake-free. It takes about 80 repetitions of the same passage to make it second nature over the number of days.
Have you experienced problems playing organ with organist shoes? Is it easier for your to play with socks on? In this article, I will give you tips and advice on how to overcome this challenge.
It seems to me the following issue is making the difficulty in playing with the shoes the pedals for you.
You are used to playing without shoes. Socks are more sensitive and therefore you might think it is better without shoes but when it comes to playing with heels, you really need shoes.
Although the sole of the organist shoes is not thick but comparing to the socks, you still run into problems feeling the surface of the pedalboard. In other words, when you have to press the pedal, it is actually easier to feel it without the shoes on.
However, organ pedal technique consists of using both toes and heels (at least in modern legato organ school). Therefore, using heels is a lot easier by playing with organist shoes.
Technically speaking, the higher the heel of the shoe, the less motion you have to do from your ankles. I have seen great French ladies organists play impeccably on the pedals with high heels.
Of course, the accuracy comes from correct practice but for most people the heels should be around 3 centimeters or 1.2 inches.
If you are experiencing problems playing with organist shoes, start practicing with your organ shoes on any organ regularly (at home, on your teacher's organ or at church). Don't worry at all about the mistakes. They have to occur since you are not used to playing with shoes.
Be persistent and you will discover gradual improvement over time. When you make a mistake, go back a few measures, correct it and play fluently at least 3 times in a row very slowly. Also make use of pedal preparation technique which will automate your pedal playing.
By the way, do you want to learn my special powerful techniques which help me to master any piece of organ music up to 10 times faster? If so, download my free Organ Practice Guide.
Or if you really want to learn to play any organ composition at sight fluently and without mistakes while working only 15 minutes a day, check out my systematic master course in Organ Sight-Reading.
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Drs. Vidas Pinkevicius and Ausra Motuzaite-Pinkeviciene
Organists of Vilnius University , creators of Secrets of Organ Playing.
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