Q&A: Playing organ pedals in stocking feet

b/w line art drawing of a console
Image via Wikipedia

One word:  don’t!

Here’s why…

  • you’ll slip off the pedals
  • or, you’ll waste concentration and energy making sure you don’t slip
  • you’ll stretch the back of your heel too far
  • playing a third will be impossible (C and E, say, with toe and heel at the same time ~ your instep will play the D in between the notes you want ~ you need a shoe with a heel)

Organ shoes rock!  If you use them only to play the organ (i.e. don’t even wear them outside), they will last for years.  You’ll be glad you took the plunge.

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  1. 1
    Mark Niemela Says:

    Hey, Gretchen, Didn’t know you were a “double threat.” In my former living area there was a distinguished pianist who took the job of organist. Was criticized for inadequate knowledge of the pedals. Great that you’re “into it.” (And the Bach pieces -I believe they are chorale preludes are amazing) When I was a kid I heard Brahms’ organ chor prelude “Es ist ein Rose Entsprungen”. The melody is almost undetectable. A grreat and amazing piece.

    • 2

      Hey Mark,

      Oh, yes. I majored in organ early in college and have had several church jobs.

      I agree, the chorale preludes are amazing! There are preludes and fugues and toccatas for organ as well. I love the Brahms, too!

      Thanks for your comments.


  2. My mom and I were given organ lessons when I was in 7th grade in exchange for playing Masses at our church. (We were both pianists at that time.) We got an organ for our home and my mom practiced the pedals diligently and extensively in her little “ugly” (to a 7th grader) organ shoes, while I practiced less diligently and patiently in my socks.

    My mom got really good at the pedals, but I gave up, and eventually only threw in a bass note here and a bass note there as part of my “organ” playing.

    Years have passed and now I’m so into barefoot running and I’ve built up these really great soles on my feet. I wonder how bare feet would work on the pedals?

    • 4

      Hi Frances!

      That’s amazing that you can run barefoot. I can’t imagine.

      Bare feet on the pedals work considerably less well than feet with pedal shoes. You really need the heel for 2 reasons: to avoid straining the back of your leg; and to skip the pedals you don’t want to play ~ you would otherwise play them with your instep.

      Try it!

      Thanks for your comments.


  3. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Gretchen Saathoff. Gretchen Saathoff said: BLOG POST: Q&A: Playing organ pedals in stocking feet http://wp.me/pE5t8-1SF or, Why you need organ shoes [...]

  4. 7
    Rick Says:

    hi Gretchen,

    You will shoot me………, but I really like it better to play the organ pedals with bare feet! Music has always been my passion. I started early with piano lessons. Since than I have been discovering many different styles: rock, jazz, latin, classical and church music.
    Four years ago I had the chance to play on a church organ for the first time of my life. I had my piano experience, but this was something completely different. Nevertheless, it was a such a great experience that I wanted to come back. I met the organist of the church, a very nice lady with a professional background in music. She became my organ teacher.
    Being new to playing the pedals, she came up with a lot of pedal exercises for me. It was very hard in the beginning. But also fun to discover a new dimension in music. She told me to use some thin soled shoes for playing the pedals. I tried several pairs of shoes but I was not satisfied. Until I tried to play barefoot. Now I could really feel the pedals and play more accurate.
    My teacher had some doubts first about playing barefoot. But after she noticed the fast progression of my pedal skills she was o.k. with it. She was even surprised that I managed to play heel-to-toe with bare feet. Too bad I had to give up lessons when she got another job.
    I can play with shoes when I have to. But I’d rather try to avoid them on the organ pedals.

  5. 9
    Rick Says:

    hi Gretchen!

    Yes, I think of looking for a new teacher very often. Although music is my passion, it´s not my profession. My job demands a lot time. And my girl friend is even more important. I also play in a band which I don’t want to give up. But I hope I will have more time soon to find a new teacher and continue with organ lessons!

  6. 11
    Michelle Says:

    I have played the organ for about 10 years and almost always remove my shoes and play in my stocking feet.

    Never really had any issues and practically never slip. Totally bare feet do not glide on the pedals so well and difficult to play glissandos.

    Prefer stockings or pantyhose rather than socks do to the thinness which gives me the maximum feel of what I am doing.

    • 12

      Hi Michelle!

      Thanks for your comments.

      I’m happy to hear that pedalling in stocking feet works for you. When I tried that, I slipped too much.

      I agree that the thinness of the soles is important in order to feel the pedals.

      Thanks for stopping by!


    • 13
      Rick Says:

      hi Michelle,

      You may visit this blog again, therefore a reply.
      Interesting to hear you play pedal glissandos. I have not done that yet. But with 10 years of playing the organ your pedal skills will be much more advanced than mine. I can imagine that you need more slip for glissandos, so your choise for pantyhose makes sense. You will still have the best pedal feeling. Do you have any examples of pieces which contain pedal glissando’s ?


  7. [...] Q&A: Playing organ pedals in stocking feet (gretchenspianos.wordpress.com) [...]

  8. 15
    Socrates Says:

    Hi, I’m a (rather advanced) amateur organist playing with socks only. I play most of Bach’s top works, including the big fugues and trio-sonatas. I’m not using the heel at all, but instead I rely on crossing feet, pseudo-glissando and other tricks that allows me to play comfortably and with very good accuracy. I’m not slipping at all. I can easily play a third (and even a fourth) with a single foot (I’ve a 42.5 European size). I played on modern instruments as well on historical ones, including baroque pedalboards with an extremely heavy action (like the one in Amsterdam’s Oude Kerk). No problem at all. I think it’s just a matter of personal taste and training. One can be extremely fast and at ease either way, with or without shoes. Several top organists are also playing in socks, like Lorenzo Ghielmi and Benjamin Righetti (look on youtube/google for their videos). Righetti is also playing with bi-colored socks: very original!

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