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N Jones
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Hi there,

 

This is my first post here, and I apologise that it's not terribly exciting. I am a pianist-turned-organist and am getting to grips with pedalling. It's going well-my biggest problem is footwear. I've tried a number of options including two pairs of dance shoes, and I have thus far avoided Organmasters because of the cost. However, it won't be long before I will have spent more on a few pairs of shoes than the cost of Organmasters!

 

I'm currently using character shoes. The suede soles are good although I can't feel so much through them. The heel, however, is problematic. It is a narrow Cuban heel and kept jamming between pedals. I could simply try to get used to this-what do you think? The alternative is buying a different pair.

 

I hope I'm not too much of a novice to be posting on this forum.

 

:D

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Welcome, traed.

 

I don't know much about character shoes, but personally I would not recommend a narrow heel. Jeanne Demessieux could apparently play in high heels (http://www.musimem.com/demessieux-photos_orgue.htm), so it can be done, but it seems to me to be making life more difficult than it need be.

 

I actually managed for over 40 years using ordinary, everyday shoes, but it was always a problem finding ones suitable for both walking and playing (if the heel is rubber the tread has to be shallow and fine enough to wear smooth fairly quickly and that they have to have minimal or no welt). Fashion changes can be a pain too - something that might be worse for women than men. So not the best option.

 

Frankly, it's far less hassle just to bite the bullet and get Organmasters, which IMO well designed. You get a decent depth of heel (ideally you need 1¼-1½ inches), a snug fit and a sole that allows you to feel the keys.

 

As an alternative these might be worth investigating, though I have no experience of them myself; maybe others could comment? http://www.tictactoes.com/dance/organist_choose.htm

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I had always worn normal shoes, as a rule not buying any that I couldn't play in (Clarke's lace-ups were my favourite). I had to modify this a bit when I moved to Newfoundland because St. John's is the snowiest capital in the world and I needed to keep a pair of organ-friendly shoes in the Song Room for days when I had to wear boots outside.

 

Two weeks ago, however, someone gave me a pair of Organmasters and I'm well on the way to being converted. I can even use the general crescendo pedal (which is separated from the swell pedals by a metal bar) without getting my foot stuck! The heels are a bit slippery but apart from that they feel really good and work well. The only problem is I now have to remember to take them off before going outside, because they're not suitable for outdoor use, even in good weather.

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In general it seems organ shoes have thin soles and often a shiny smooth bottom surface. But you will probably want to try playing in several different types of shoes if you have a variety of pairs - for instance if the leather uppers are too thin you might find yourself stubbing your toes (and I know concert organists who play in trainers) and some prefer rubber soles precisely so they aren't slithering all over the pedals. If you have a pair of slippers they might be worth trying. And a few organists swear by socks, myself included (usually - if does depend a bit on the height of the bench above the pedals) though if you are starting off you might find socks too "easy". I've commented before that it's as easy to move toe-toe between non-accidentals instead of toe-heel.

 

Whatever you decide, the key things I suggest to bear in mind are

 

(i) it really doesn't really matter what you use to play, so long as you play the right notes. JSBach was once asked a similar question and suggested the nose would be perfectly adequate so long as you play the right notes with it;

(ii) it's important to really focus on good pedal technique when starting off on the organ as it's what makes the organ so different from say the piano that you will be familiar with;

(iii) once you've looked at the pedals for the first time there's little point ever looking at them again. Just like the manuals they have seven white notes and five black notes per octave. Getting to the right note is just a matter of spacial awareness and feeling for them.

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A vital consideration is that you need shoes with a good instep, otherwise it will be difficult to move from one pedal to another without playing notes in between (that's my excuse and I'm sticking to it!). George Thalben Ball used to have extra height added to his heels.

 

I never liked leather soles. I found them too slippery and they wore out too fast in the outside world. The Organmasters have sude soles which are very nice for playing, but a complete non-no for outside wear.

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I never liked leather soles. I found them too slippery and they wore out too fast in the outside world. The Organmasters have sude soles which are very nice for playing, but a complete non-no for outside wear.

 

I always found new leather soles similarly impossible, but these were all day shoes and they became OK once the soles had roughened up a bit with daily wear.

 

My Organmasters came with suede soles and shiny, smooth leather heels. I found these heels impossible (I anchor my heels to pivot my toes and with the smooth leather they were skating all over the place), so I had them replaced with smooth rubber ones and this solution has been ideal.

 

Organmaster changed to suede heels a few months later. This morning I noticed that an adult pupil had put sticky tape round the base of the heels of his Organmasters. On enquiring about this he explained that the suede heels had worn so smooth that he had decided to apply to the heels a coating of the finest grade "wet and dry" sandpaper! :o His suede soles had also worn shiny smooth, but, like me, he does not find this a problem.

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