Piano Shoes

Dinu Lipatti
Image via Last.fm ~
Dinu Lipatti

Organists often purchase shoes worn only for organ playing.

You can read about them here:

http://store.organmastershoes.com/

http://www.organ.byu.edu/ORSHOE.html

http://www.tictactoes.com/

http://www.bachorgan.com/Shoes.html This one’s hysterical!  The Organ Shoe Hall of Fame, with pics of the most-used shoes.

A search for “piano shoes,” however, resulted in a link to Keds® sneakers sporting novelty designs.

http://www.zazzle.com/piano+shoes

Of all the pianists I know, none have purchased special shoes, and no one discusses the subject.

Why is footwear important in piano playing?

Being able to feel the pedals is crucial.

The damper pedal sustains at varying degrees depending on how far it is depressed.

Dinu Lipatti talked about employing seven levels of pedalling.  He “stroked” the damper pedal with his right foot, which resulted in always having a hole in his shoe.

Appropriate “piano shoes” need:

  • flexible soles
  • heels
  • streamlined design (sole does not extend beyond upper)
  • secure fit

I prefer a heel because the piano is often on a dolly, raising the pedals off the floor.  Playing in flats means bending your foot at a steep angle, putting stress on the ankle.  In extended rehearsals, audition days, concerts, etc., my ankle gets tired!

A streamlined design allows a pianist to operate two pedals at once (most often una corda and sostenuto) without the soles being in the way.

A secure fit eliminates the possibility of slipping off the pedals (and making a crashing sound when your foot hits the floor).

Shoes I’ve tried that didn’t work for me:

  • clogs ~ inflexible, thick soles crash off pedals.  Don’t get me wrong ~ I love wearing them!
  • flip flops ~ insecure fit, soles too thick
  • some dress boots work, some don’t
  • platform shoes (I’ve never tried them)
  • some sandals work, some don’t ~ I try them out while playing at home before performing in them
  • shoes with lug soles, such as hiking boots or running shoes

Playing barefoot really doesn’t work.  You need your forefoot to operate as a unit.  (And yes, I like to practice barefoot, too, especially in August.)

My piano shoes

This is what I’ve found to be most comfortable:

Capezio character shoes, black, with 2″ heels.  I had the shoe man add thin rubber to the sole and heel.  Some concert venues have carpet, so that way, I don’t slip.

The soles are flexible and thin enough so I can feel the pedals and move when I want to.

The strap keeps the shoes from moving around on my foot (which would be distracting).

And the heels are just right for pianos with or without a dolly.

These are my performance shoes.  I don’t wear them for rehearsals.  Flats are usually fine for that.

Most often, I take the shoes along and change at the venue.

Do you think about the shoes you perform in?  What’s your solution?

Please share your ideas in the comment section below!

Be sure to take advantage of the EXTENDED BOOK SALE!  “Goal-oriented Practice: How to Avoid Traps and Become a Confident Performer ~ make steady progress without getting stuck!  E-book and print versions available now.  Kindle version coming soon.

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10 Comments »

  1. 1
    nrhatch Says:

    I loved playing barefoot so that I could feel the pedals, but it’s tiring.

    This is an excellent post for serious pianists who want to feel the music as they play.

    • 2

      Hi Nancy!

      It is tiring to play barefoot. And if you play organ pedals barefoot, the back of your leg stretches too far.

      Stocking feet slip, no matter which pedals you’re playing.

      I wonder whether “serious” pianists think about shoes. Speaking for myself, I would much rather think about the music. Now that I’ve found shoes that work, that’s what I wear.

      Thanks for your comment!

      Gretchen

  2. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gretchen Saathoff, Gail Fischler. Gail Fischler said: RT @GretchensPianos: NEW BLOG POST: "Piano Shoes" http://wp.me/pE5t8-1ms ~ what do you do? [...]

  3. 5
    mark niemela Says:

    Great post, Gretchen – right away I thought of organists, too.

  4. 7

    … but you know where I heard it!

  5. [...] Previous posts: Piano Shoes [...]

  6. I also have special shoes for playing the organ. I found that the soft velvet like fabric on the soles helped greatly in sliding my foot among the pedals, especially with fast footwork. They are highly recommended! – Theresa


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