Organist wear shoes designed for playing the organ. Many are surprised to learn this fact. Here are some more questions and answers:
What are organ shoes?
Organ shoes are special shoes designed to be worn by organist when they are playing the organ.
You may encounter organists that do not wear organ shoes. They may just be wearing their socks or pantyhose. Michael says not wearing organ shoes is bad technique! I have heeded this advice and wear my organ shoes every time I practice. Most organists wear organ shoes when playing the organ.
What makes an organ shoe an organ shoe? The bottom of the shoe is thin and usually made of suede. The suede is smooth creating very little friction between shoe and pedal. This allows for the organist to glide their feet across the pedals. They can also feel the pedals through the thin sole. An organ shoe has a heel. The heel can be ordered in various heights with 1 and 1/4 inch being the most common. An organ shoe is narrower than a regular shoe. Less material means the organist can hold their feet close together when playing adjacent notes.
Why do organ shoes have a heel? It’s not just for looks! The heel makes it easier to play the flat pedals. This is known as heel-toe technique. Also, the heel is sturdy and the organist can use it to play two pedals notes at the same time and still be in position to play a flat key.
Why not wear regular dress shoes? An organist can wear dress shoes if they so choose to and the are comfortable in them. I have not tried this myself but the sole of a regular dress shoe may not be as thin. Also, the bottom of a regular dress shoe will not be made of suede. It the dress shoe has a smooth bottom it may work just as well. It is a personal preference.
What is the problem with tennis shoes? Tennis shoes or other fashionable shoes usually have tread on their soles. The purpose of the tread is to give traction and prevent slipping. This is opposite of what the organist needs! Also, their width could create difficulty in positioning feet next to each other on adjacent pedals.
Why are organ shoes only worn at the organ? Dirt is the enemy of organ shoes. Only wearing the organ shoes at the organ prevents the shoes from picking up dirt. Dirt can scratch the pedals. Dirt can also hinder the sliding of the feet across the pedals. Dirt is no good! Also, the shoes will last longer if only worn for their intended purpose.
Are there different styles of organ shoes? Organ shoes come in different styles for men and women. The men’s version are considered unisex and are sometimes worn by woman if they prefer. The men’s version will look very similar to a regular men’s dress shoe. So similar that you may not be able to tell the difference unless you look at the sole.
Where are organ shoes sold? I purchased my organ shoes from OrganMaster Shoes and wear the Mary Jane style. Allegro Music sells OrganMaster shoes in the UK. Tic Tac Toes also sells organist shoes and I see that they offer many colors. Perhaps my next pair should be purple! Local music stores may also be able to order them.
How long do organ shoes last? I think this depends on how much the organists plays! I have been wearing the same pair since I began taking lessons four years ago. They are still in very good shape, although I admit that they have attracted some cat hair.
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21 thoughts on “9 Questions about organ shoes answered”
Thanks Heidi for this great thread! I am a jazz organist and play Hammond organs and unlike most jazz organists who primarily play left hand bass, I try to use the pedals, toe/heel technique as much as possible so that both hands are free to improvise on both manuals. My friend who is a classical organist told me about the Organ Master shoes and how it changed his way of playing altogether so I have them on order currently and can’t wait to try them out! It makes a lot of sense, especially with a pedalboard that is flat and is not AGO compliant. I had been stretching my heel down a lot to get the naturals and it makes so much harder to move across the pedal board. Glad to have seen this thread!
I just bought a new practice organ for my home and I’m dismayed that the bench (non-adjustable) is about 1″ higher than I require. So for the first time I am considering using street shoes with a 2-1/4″ heel instead of my standard Organmaster shoes with the 1-1/4″ heel. I have never played in anything but Organmasters so this will be interesting. 🙂 If the higher heel feels comfortable I’ll want to attach some suede to the the bottoms of the shoes. The other option is to cut the bench down but I hate doing that to a brand new bench!
Whats your opinion about tic tac toes speciality organ shoes without a shank?
I have only worn Organ Masters shoes, so I am not able to comment about tic tac toes. Hopefully, someone else will come along and be able to answer your question.
Can I buy organ shoes in Rome? Because if I would buy them online, I am afraid that they will not fit me.
Sure.. as a concept-probably doomed to fail in practice, sorry..
Someone posted in this thread that playing the organ pedals with stocking feet was “bad technique .” Can someone explain why it is bad technique or how it is detrimental to either the health of the feet or to the actual pedaling of the organ pedals. I can understand why playing the pedals with bare feet would not be acceptable (bare skin doesn’t slide easily from one pedal to another, possible risk of splinters or slivers, etc.)
I think it’s because organ shoes allow for better heel/toe technique. Hopefully, someone with more knowledge than me will come along and reply. My teacher told me to wear the shoes, so I do!
I can tell you from my own personal experience that it’s very helpful to have the empty space between the organ shoe heel and toe, which your bare foot does not have. Many times you need one of your feet to skip a pedal, e.g., transition from an A to an F pedal. It’s much easier to do in a heeled shoe. And the suede on the bottom of the shoe provides just the right middle ground between grip and slip,
Another possible reason people might find shoes better than bare feet is that the extra height at the heel (i.e., the heel of the shoe) means you can position the bench a little bit higher which is helpful for correct positioning at the manuals, especially helpful you are dealing with 3 or more manuals and you need to be able to reach the top one comfortably.
How does a ballroom shoe with a suede sole and heel compare?
I’ve only worn Organmaster organ shoes while playing. A good place to ask your question is this organist Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/organists/.
Help, I didn’t know that there were special shoes to play the organ, but I am a beginner and I really could use some help. Since I am a beginner, I wont be looking for organ shoes any thine soon. I took my 1st level of learning how to play the organ and I really enjoyed it. However, I rented a student organ from Keyboard World which I liked a lot. Now I would like to get my own organ, however, I don’t have room for your standard beginers organ which i could buy cheap. So I decided to look for an organ key board and I have no clue an my instructor wants me to buy and organ from them since I am taking my lessons there, and I would but they don have what i can afford and I dont have space for what they do have. I am learning to play on the Lowery organ. Is there a portable organ keyboard out there that I could purchase? I really need some help here, The Lowery way of playing is with the one finger easy touch? If anyone can guide me or put me in touch with someone who had knowledge or the organ, I would be so very happy. I have talked to a lot of people and now I am confused. I sure hope someone reaches out to me to guide me in the right direction,. Send me an email, please, with the word ORGAN in the subject line. Thank you so kindly.
Emma I hope you come back to visit this comment section. If you are learning to play classical organ music I highly recommend that you get an organ that is very similar to a church organ. There are several manufacturers of digital organs that would work well for you. I just bought a Viscount Chorum organ that I like very much. I recommend that you get an organ with 2 or 3 manuals, because just 1 manual will be too limiting. I also recommend that the organ pedalboard be AGO compliant. Viscount has a line called Cantorum of individual components so you can build an organ. You could start with two manuals and add a 3rd later.
Great blog!! Very interesting…I had absolutely no idea that an organist wears special shoes!!! I have never seen an organist wear them either…they usually played with street shoes on. I shouldn’t say that though because they may have changed into organ shoes after getting to the organ. I’ve only heard the organ played in churches and usually the organ was in the balcony, so what the organist did once in the balcony is beyond me!!! I really love the name of those shoes though!
Hi Mary Jane,
Some organists, in particular those that have a church organist position, may keep their organ shoes next to the console.
I thought of you when I was writing this post due to the name of my shoe style!
Very interesting Heidi. Had no idea there was so much to know about organ shoes.
I know you wear them and have a special bag to keep them in.
Thanks for reading!
I do use my purple bag to transport my shoes. I also store them in the box they came at home to limit the cat hair!
I was surprised to find out about organ shoes. I did not know that it was something that was needed.
I was surprised too when I was instructed to buy organ shoes prior to my first lesson!