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#1223761 - 06/27/09 10:59 PM Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips?
quodlibet Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/09
Posts: 68
Loc: Seattle, WA
Hi, everyone. I had my first piano lesson last week, and my teacher wants to familiarize me with using the sustain pedal. I had organ lessons as a kid (and rarely used those pedals then, which of course are different from piano pedals anyway...), and am coming to the piano thirty+ years later (with great excitement!). My teacher wants me to do an exercise where I play a C major scale with one finger while using the pedal. I can do that all right, without having too many gaps or mashed-together notes (probably a better term for that, I'd guess...). But when it comes to using the pedal in a piece of music, I feel clumsy and inept. When to press the pedal? When to release it? I admit, I felt really clueless when my teacher played a simple piece for me with pedal and I sat there blinking and squinting at the music for a while, until I said, "Uh, where are the markings for the pedal so I'd know when to use it?" Color me surprised that it doesn't work that way!

So, does anyone have tips for a total pedal newbie? I can kind of play the Bach Prelude in C major from WTC 1. Is that something I could try pedal with? And if so, what is the effect one is after by using it? I get that it can make single notes played consecutively sound like chords, but beyond that...???

Thanks,
Quodlibet


Edited by quodlibet (06/27/09 11:00 PM)

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#1223953 - 06/28/09 11:27 AM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: quodlibet]
Rickster Offline


Registered: 03/25/06
Posts: 8583
Loc: Georgia, USA
Hi Quodlibet,

Let me say first that I am more or less untrained and self taught, and I have a tendency to ride the sustain pedal too much; but, with that said, I’ve been told to always “pump” the sustain pedal at a minimum so the different notes and cords don’t sound dissonant or harsh. You want the music to "blend" smoothly. Some pieces don’t even require any sustain pedal at all.

I think your new teacher wants you to become familiar with the use of the pedal and be able to read the music and work the pedal at the same time.

In order to play a piano, you have be able to do more than one thing at the same time, like chew chewing gum and pat yourself on the head at the same time, or is it chew chewing gum and rub your stomach at the same time, or is it rub your stomach and pat youself on the head at the same time? grin Anyway, playing the piano is a real workout regarding “left-brain, right-brain independence!

Hope this helps.

Rick


Edited by Rickster (06/28/09 11:27 AM)
_________________________
Piano enthusiast and amateur musician: "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". Yamaha C7. YouTube Channel

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#1224072 - 06/28/09 03:07 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: Rickster]
J_N Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/03/09
Posts: 59
Loc: Newcastle, UK
1. there are pieces with pedal markings (but there are probably more without them...)

2. Bach didn't have a sustain pedal (Harpsichords are plucked)... so it really depends on your interpretation whether or not you want to use it... personally with the C Major Prelude, pedaling bar by bar or on the count of 1 and 3 might sound quite nice...

3. if there's a lot of melody going on in the left hand or very frequent chord changes (etc.), it is (in my limited experience) not a good idea to pedal as everything gets mashed together...

4. my teacher had me use the pedal from the first lesson (now THAT's a challenge...) and she told me that as a general rule you can usually pedal bar by bar... however, you don't start exactly on the first beat but very, very slightly delayed in order to not mix up the sounds from the earlier bar...

5. trial and error... smile you will hear when it starts to sound wrong for you... go through the piece slowly and try it out... or simply ask your teacher for some advice... smile
_________________________
“The piano has been drinking, not me.”

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#1224103 - 06/28/09 04:25 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: J_N]
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4533
In early pieces there might be pedal marks, which are
typically down at the start of a measure and then
up and down at the start of the next measure,
and so forth. This "default" type pedaling can
be used in even advanced pieces, and is mainly to
get you used to using the damper pedal. After a time,
the student disregards printed pedal marks and pedals
by ear for the best effect. This is what your teacher is
doing, which is why you couldn't follow what he was doing
with the pedal.

When you pedal by ear, what you actually do will vary
depending on your technical ability, the passage you're
playing, the instrument you're playing on, the effect
you're trying to create, your interpretation of the music,
the audience you're playing for, etc. And it can be
anything: from no pedal at all, to flooring it and leaving
it down, to pedaling on each note, etc.

Bach, is usually played without pedal, but you might
experiment with the pedal on the C maj. Prelude, since
it's a piece you can play well.

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#1224115 - 06/28/09 04:43 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: Gyro]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
Originally Posted By: Gyro
In early pieces there might be pedal marks, which are
typically down at the start of a measure and then
up and down at the start of the next measure,
and so forth. This "default" type pedaling can
be used in even advanced pieces, and is mainly to
get you used to using the damper pedal. After a time,
the student disregards printed pedal marks and pedals
by ear for the best effect.

In the most advanced music, too, there are typically pedal marks. Were they universally disregarded, there would be no need. And were pedaling done exclusively "by ear for the best effect," there would be no need for treatises and even books to be written on the subject. An excellent one is The Pianist's Guide to Pedaling by Joseph Banowetz, published by Indiana University Press and available online here:

http://www.iupress.indiana.edu/iol/

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#1224207 - 06/28/09 09:48 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: sotto voce]
quodlibet Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/02/09
Posts: 68
Loc: Seattle, WA
Thank you, all. Really, this is quite helpful. I have been experimenting a little with the pedal in a piece of music, and it's clear to me it will take some getting used to. It still sounds too blurry (for lack of a better word) when I use pedal, but I imagine I'll become more lightfooted and capable with time.

Also, I appreciate the remarks about pedal markings. I did see some in my John Thompson book (grade 2), and will be on the lookout for more so I know what they look like.

Thanks again,
Q.

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#1224320 - 06/29/09 05:01 AM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: quodlibet]
HomeInMyShoes Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/17/09
Posts: 495
Woohoo, another organ lesson starter. smile

Pedaling does just take time. Also try pedaling in the middle of the notes as opposed to directly before or after them. There are many different effects that are possible and try to think in terms of phrases. You're already aware of muddling/blurriness so that's a guide to show you that there needed to be another pedal in the bar or phrase.

The good news is your feet are probably already a bit used to doing something. I find pedaling on the piano much easier than pedaling on the organ ever was.

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#1224323 - 06/29/09 05:13 AM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: HomeInMyShoes]
J_N Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/03/09
Posts: 59
Loc: Newcastle, UK
Pedal markings:

Ped. (depress)

* (release)




__/\___________/\__ the peak indicates a release of the pedal followed by a reengaging smile

_________________________
“The piano has been drinking, not me.”

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#1224442 - 06/29/09 12:12 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: quodlibet]
dannylux Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/15/06
Posts: 1820
Loc: Connecticut
"A Pedal Method For The Piano" by Albert F. Venino:

http://www.mediafire.com/?f2cmn5imbyd


Maybe more than you want to know about the pedal. wink


Mel
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My Recordings

"Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get — only what you are expecting to give — which is everything. What you will receive in return varies. But it really has no connection with what you give. You give because you love and cannot help giving." Katharine Hepburn

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#1224443 - 06/29/09 12:15 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: J_N]
rodmichael Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/08/08
Posts: 334
Loc: Maryland
I am a beginner (about 17 months at it) and I have had 2 instructors (Mr. Bruce Potterton at SummerKeys and my weekly instructor) tell me the same thing.

That is that for whatever notes or measure I intend to use the sustain pedal to depress the pedal just after the first note. In Bruce's word to "catch" the first note and then to release the pedal after the last note at the end of the measure and before the first note at the beginning of the next.

My other instructor can (and will) always tell me when I have pedaled too early and I can always hear when I have not released soon enough (the dissonance is obvious even to someone whose hearing is as bad as mine).

Maybe that can help you.
_________________________
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Mason & Hamlin AA, SN 93018
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#1224472 - 06/29/09 01:18 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: rodmichael]
Stephen Hazel Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/27/06
Posts: 734
Loc: Seattle-ish, WA
I was scared to death of the pedal at first.
And it does take some getting used to.
But it's not SO tough in the end.

The trick is to pay attention to when you LIFT the pedal.
The things stays down almost all the time.
But you want to CHOP the sustain usually between measures (or chord changes, or just whereever musically "useful")

So I just hold the dang thing down and RIGHT at the END of the bar (or whenever) let the dang thing UP then stomp it back down.

My teacher just could NOT explain that to me, by the way.
She gave me the oooold "you just feel it" line.
(I =DESPISE= that line:)

So it's when you let it up. Kinda the opposite from keys smile
_________________________
...Steve
http://PianoCheetah.com - writing my own piano practice program ...yeah, I'm crazy like that

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#1224492 - 06/29/09 01:53 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: Stephen Hazel]
Dr. J Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/08/09
Posts: 134
Loc: Oregon
Lots of great ideas here - the main thing is to LISTEN to the sounds you are making - are they pleasing and articulate or mushed together with no integrity for each chord or line. If the sounds are not pleasing make sure you are using good pedal technique as frequently described is this thread. And again, practicing with a critical ear is vitally important.

Dr. J - The More You Play The Better Your Day
_________________________
Dr. Jordan is a professional piano teacher and performer,
offering creative online piano tutorials to adult beginners.

Dr. Js blog http://playpianotodaywithdrj.wordpress.com/

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#1224520 - 06/29/09 02:22 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: Dr. J]
sotto voce Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/15/06
Posts: 6163
Loc: Briarcliff Manor, NY, USA
One of the most common uses of the damper pedal is to maintain legato. In this example (Chopin's Prelude Op. 28 No. 20), the pedal is released and reapplied with each successive chord:



Unfortunately, the traditional pedal notation doesn't accurately reflect exactly when the pedal should be released (i.e., "changed" or "cleared"). The asterisk is particularly misleading: legato is achieved not by releasing the pedal before each new chord and reapplying it when the new chord is played, as the notation suggests. When played in that manner, the sound will be choppy and there will be gaps between each chord.

Instead, the pedal is to be held right up until each new chord is played. Then, at the moment the keys are played, the pedal is raised and immediately depressed anew:



When the OP's teacher suggested playing the notes of a scale with one finger while pedaling each note, this is the exact technique that was intended. As each note is played, the pedal is simultaneously raised and lowered again. Though the scale is played by one finger, precise legato pedaling makes it sound as smooth as if it were played with normal scale fingering but without pedal.

Steven
_________________________

"There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats."
—Albert Schweitzer

Chopin: Allegro de Concert Op. 46
Schumann: Toccata Op. 7
Fauré: Ballade Op. 19

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#2234326 - 02/19/14 03:10 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: J_N]
briansaddleback Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/14
Posts: 220
Loc: Irvine CA
Originally Posted By: J_N
Pedal markings:

Ped. (depress)

* (release)




__/\___________/\__ the peak indicates a release of the pedal followed by a reengaging smile




Sorry for re-engaging an old thread but this is for my research for my recital!

The asterisk means to release but my question is

release after you play that set of notes denoted above the asterisk
OR
release the pedal BEFORE playing that set above the asterisk?
thanks
_________________________

Cloches a travers les feuilles
Minstrels

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#2234677 - 02/20/14 04:44 AM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: briansaddleback]
dire tonic Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 07/17/11
Posts: 1462
Loc: uk south
release on the 4th beat of the bar if the music demands some space before the beginning of the next - or perhaps at the very end of the bar, even the beginning of the following bar if there's to be no space.

I see only rests above the asterisk. Maybe I'm missing something...

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#2234848 - 02/20/14 12:47 PM Re: Clueless about how to use sustain pedal...Tips? [Re: quodlibet]
briansaddleback Offline
Full Member

Registered: 01/27/14
Posts: 220
Loc: Irvine CA
THanks. Yea I dont know why there are rests there for the sustain notation may be just the fact the piece was lined with sustain and they just automatically put it there, but I was referring to in general purposes.
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Cloches a travers les feuilles
Minstrels

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