Buying performance shoes is fun, or is it? Shoes matter, they often are on eye level with the front rows of the audience, since most stages are elevated. So, yes, they matter.
Well, you might say, then simply go and buy a nice pair of heels, right? But it is not that simple. Heels can pose a problem for pianists, especially for tall performers. The height of a piano from floor to bottom of the keyboard is about 2 feet. The distance from the floor to top of my knees is about 1 foot 10 inches. So there is space. However with some heel height, my knees easily touch the bottom of the keyboard, which means, they have to be wedged under the piano without much room to spare. This makes the use of pedal difficult, which makes playing the piano overall a problem. Mind you, a two or three inch heel is by no means excessively high.
Heels can induce instant 'gamba position', as a pianist friend of mine calls it. The viola da gamba is a string instrument that looks somewhat like a cello. Here you can see it in action in 1770. It is cradled between the knees, and it rests on the floor. All of that looks quite nice and comfortable. So where is the problem? Pianist seem to use only their fingers, maybe the arms. Who cares about the knees? Well, I have played entire recitals in that ‘gamba position’, and it is no fun.
Besides not being able to use the pedal easily, there is also an issue with the playing power and strength of sound, which comes from the back, and from the legs. This flow of power is gone, when playing in ‘gamba position’. The feet can no longer support the body, because they are less grounded, and that is not good. So when buying shoes for a performance it is ironically exactly that distance between floor and bottom of keyboard one should consider. The math is easy: distance from floor to keyboard minus distance from floor to knees. For me that boils down to no more than 2 inches of heel height. Luckily the internet makes all of this possible.
The things pianists have to think about…!