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#2081845 - 05/13/13 11:19 AM How to teach pedal?
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
This has probably been discussed on here before, but my apologies since I can't seem to find anything.

How do you teach students how to properly use the sustain pedal?

This seems to me to be one of the most difficult things to explain and and for them to learn.

I think the difficulty is that it is the opposite of what seems natural. They want to make the foot and the finger do the "up-down" motion at the same time, but of course that leaves a gap in the sound which is exactly what we are trying to avoid.

When a student has trouble with this, one idea I have tried is to teach it in dramatic slow-motion ("ok, RH plays a C, push pedal down, now change smoothly change RH to a D, NOW quickly pedal up-down... Now let's practice pedaling even closer to when the RH changes notes..") This usually results in the student having a very jerky/awkward pedal "up-down" technique. They know they're supposed to do it "fast," but they can't quite grasp when.

Other ideas?

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#2081884 - 05/13/13 12:34 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
ezpiano.org Offline
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Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
Hand press C--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot
--hand press D--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot
--hand press E--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot.....
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#2081887 - 05/13/13 12:43 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
keystring Online   content
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This may seem an odd suggestion, but over on the ABF a number of ideas and resources on ideas have been flowing in on just that subject. http://www.pianoworld.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/2081000/Pedaling.html#Post2081000

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#2082032 - 05/13/13 06:08 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: ezpiano.org]
AZNpiano Online   happy
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Registered: 08/07/07
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Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Hand press C--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot
--hand press D--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot
--hand press E--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot.....

This works? Seriously?
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#2082042 - 05/13/13 06:41 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
musicpassion Offline
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Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1082
Loc: California, USA
For teaching legato pedaling, I do have the student work slowly at first, as I think you are describing. I think it is important that the music (or exercise) they are first using their pedaling on is very easy for them. The music must be easy enough or well learned enough so they have the brain power to focus on the pedaling.

I show them how it should be done more than verbally describing it.

However when I do describe it,I describe it as lifting the pedal as the keys fall for the next notes. Most students also need coaching in making their pedal movements efficient - using no more than required motion and keeping the heel planted.
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#2082043 - 05/13/13 06:43 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: AZNpiano]
musicpassion Offline
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Registered: 12/30/12
Posts: 1082
Loc: California, USA
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Hand press C--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot
--hand press D--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot
--hand press E--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot.....

This works? Seriously?


It sounds confusing to me too. Is this is an exercise EZ's students use?
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#2082091 - 05/13/13 08:16 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
ezpiano.org Offline
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Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
Yes it works.
If you are not teaching in this way doesn't means other teachers cannot teach in this way and it also doesn't mean it won't work for other teachers.
If you doubt about if it works or not, the best thing you can do is to try out with one of your student then come back to tell me that it won't work on your students.
If after you try out with your student and it doesn't work, it just means that it won't work for you or for your student, it doesn't mean it won't work on MY teaching and MY students.
So, in conclusion, your comment is dispensable in this thread.
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#2082105 - 05/13/13 08:38 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: musicpassion]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: musicpassion
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Hand press C--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot
--hand press D--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot
--hand press E--hold on finger--foot go up down--hold on foot.....

This works? Seriously?


It sounds confusing to me too. Is this is an exercise EZ's students use?

I think you're way reading into this the wrong way. This is simply a slowed-down description of how anyone is supposed to properly pedal...

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#2082138 - 05/13/13 09:52 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
AZNpiano Online   happy
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: PianoStudent88
PA has you play whole notes in a scale. First pedal on beat 2. Then after you have that, pedal on the & of beat 1. Then progress to syncopated pedaling. I found that it helped me get the coordination of hand/finger/key and foot/pedal movement.

That.
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#2082140 - 05/13/13 09:56 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
Beth_Frances Offline
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Registered: 02/14/12
Posts: 200
Loc: Brisbane, Australia
I always use the exercise in book 2B of piano adventures. I had no idea how to teach it before I found that! It helps that the first piece after the exercise is "Beach Party" which kids love to play.

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#2082143 - 05/13/13 10:03 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7407
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
The great romantic pianist, Anton Rubinstein, said that the pedal is the soul of the piano. That was an understatement if there ever was one!

Let's see: there's syncopated (legato) pedaling (with many timing variations), metric (on the beat) pedaling. Then there's full, half, quarter pedaling. Oh, and butterfly pedaling. And that's just with the damper pedal. Then we need to teach use of the sostenuto pedal and the una corda pedal.

You'd probably need a short book to cover all the teaching aspects of pedaling. FWIW, it's an on going project for most students. As they advance with their playing technique, we constantly work on improving the pedal technique.
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#2082173 - 05/13/13 11:03 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
So here's my take on teaching very elementary damper pedal technique.

First, I teach proper foot placement. Heel on the floor, never elevated; ball of foot over the end (wide) part of the pedal. Use a gentle down and up motion, pivoting at the ankle. Under no circumstances should you allow the student to raise the heel off the floor.

I generally start them off with syncopated pedaling. Play the note, then press the pedal. Release the note, then release the pedal. This permits a legato sound and is generally enough for the first few years or so. But as soon as the student can handle it, I teach them to sense where the pedal picks up the dampers and the point where further depression of the pedal becomes wasted motion. There is no sense to "over pedal" and if you're repeating pedal motion, you should learn how far up to raise the pedal and then go no further. I don't know if this makes sense or not, but the range of the damper pedal is about double the actual distance required just to begin lifting the dampers to the point that the dampers are fully lifted off of the strings.

The technique can then be transferred to other pedal timings, which follow as the student advances.
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#2082594 - 05/14/13 06:03 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
AZNpiano Online   happy
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
And every piano's damper pedal has different depths. One needs to listen attentively in order to adjust to the instrument's pedal and to the acoustics of the room. Earlier this year I was evaluating CM in a small room with a Steinway that has the shallowest pedals I've ever seen. Every single kid struggled with it; notes got cut off, and I heard some of the driest chord progressions.

On the subject of the soft pedal (una corda), I have a few students who are doing gradations of soft pedal. It's one of those fascinating ideas, extremely helpful for playing Debussy.
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#2082783 - 05/14/13 10:43 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
Peter K. Mose Offline
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Registered: 01/06/12
Posts: 1374
Loc: Toronto, Ontario
AZN, maybe I'm misunderstanding your anecdote, but if you say a piano has a *shallow* damper pedal, I would think this means that one's foot only has to depress it slightly for it to function. In other words, the dampers would lift off the strings almost as soon as the foot contacts the pedal.

Why would that make for struggle, or chopped-off notes, or dry chords for kids? I'm confused.

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#2082844 - 05/15/13 01:05 AM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: Peter K. Mose]
AZNpiano Online   happy
5000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
AZN, maybe I'm misunderstanding your anecdote, but if you say a piano has a *shallow* damper pedal, I would think this means that one's foot only has to depress it slightly for it to function. In other words, the dampers would lift off the strings almost as soon as the foot contacts the pedal.

Why would that make for struggle, or chopped-off notes, or dry chords for kids? I'm confused.

Because most pianos' pedal have a certain depth to allow for gradations of pedaling. When kids are confronted with a shallow pedal, they don't know what to do. There was hardly any gradation; half- or quarter-pedal was nearly impossible. It was all or nothing.

That's why I tell all of my students to test the pedal before playing.
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#2083490 - 05/16/13 03:32 AM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: AZNpiano]
Gary D. Online   content
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/30/08
Posts: 4814
Loc: South Florida
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Originally Posted By: Peter K. Mose
AZN, maybe I'm misunderstanding your anecdote, but if you say a piano has a *shallow* damper pedal, I would think this means that one's foot only has to depress it slightly for it to function. In other words, the dampers would lift off the strings almost as soon as the foot contacts the pedal.

Why would that make for struggle, or chopped-off notes, or dry chords for kids? I'm confused.

Because most pianos' pedal have a certain depth to allow for gradations of pedaling. When kids are confronted with a shallow pedal, they don't know what to do. There was hardly any gradation; half- or quarter-pedal was nearly impossible. It was all or nothing.

That's why I tell all of my students to test the pedal before playing.

Usually - not always - the pedal is out of adjustment. There should always a bit of "play" at the "top", and it needs to be there. You would not want the pedal to begin lifting the dampers when it is depressed a tiny fraction of an inch.

But the big problem usually happens when the pedal has to be depressed too FAR before it begins to "engage". And if the adjustment is that wacky, there will be other problems. Probably the dampers will not lift uniformly or "cleanly" so you will have to be especially careful about lifting the pedal far enough to get a clean "clear".

With the low pedal setting the attempt to go high enough to get a clear change will be too much - because the pedal is set so low. Then you have to remember to re-depress the pedal way down or the sustained notes will bleed away as IF they are half pedaled.

And that totally wipes out the feel for real half pedaling.

It also makes it very hard to do the light "flutter" or "butterfly" pedal, because there is no feel.
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#2083553 - 05/16/13 07:57 AM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: Gary D.]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7407
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
And, Gary, as your point well illustrates, regular piano maintenance by students and TEACHERS is critical to good education.
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"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2083989 - 05/17/13 04:23 AM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
Kevin K Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/13/13
Posts: 31
This is one of the things I talked about with Dr. Kolar in Part 2 of our interview.

You can check it out here: http://www.irvinepianostudio.com/2/post/...itzi-kolar.html

She shares a couple ways to teach syncopated pedaling around the 19:00 mark. Like what ezpiano mentioned, your mileage may vary depending on the student. That's what makes teaching piano so fun! Coming up with different ways to teach different students. HAHA.

I have also found that talking about the PURPOSE of syncopated pedaling--to connect one note to the next using the FOOT(pedal)--and focusing on listening helps a lot. When the student understands the purpose, it fixes the "opposite of what seems natural" thing you talk about.

Also, musicpassion is right about the exercise being super easy when learning to pedal. Pedagogically, whenever you introduce a new concept/skill, you want to make sure the student isn't bogged down with any other technical difficulties. Makes sense right? smile
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#2084911 - 05/18/13 08:10 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
pianopaws Offline
Full Member

Registered: 03/18/13
Posts: 71
Loc: North Carolina, USA
One exercise I have found that works well with my students is to have them play a scale slowly, saying the word "up" as they play each note. Then have them say "up" as they play each note and "down" after they play the note. Finally, add the pedal and have the foot match the words the student is saying. This seems to help those students who can't quite coordinate the foot and hand movements.

Oh, and don't forget to remind them about keeping the heel down! I like to demonstrate for my students how silly it looks to lift your whole foot off the floor when you pedal. We get a good laugh from that!
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#2084929 - 05/18/13 08:41 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: pianopaws]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7407
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Your comments reminded me of something my students probably laugh at - I tell them to "tie a string from their fingers to their foot, so when they raise their fingers from the keys, they are pulling up their foot at the same time." That mental picture helps quite a few students.
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"Those who dare to teach must never cease to learn." -- Richard Henry Dann
Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2084934 - 05/18/13 08:51 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
ezpiano.org Offline
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Registered: 05/10/11
Posts: 1027
Loc: Irvine, CA
Originally Posted By: John
tie a string from their fingers to their foot, so when they raise their fingers from the keys, they are pulling up their foot at the same time.


Maybe I am wrong, I thought the hand foot motion are not at the same time? Almost the same time, but not exactly the same time?
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#2084935 - 05/18/13 08:55 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: ezpiano.org]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
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Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Depends on the kind of pedaling you're doing. This obviously doesn't work for syncopated pedaling.
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Full-time Private Piano Teacher offering Piano Lessons in Olympia, WA. www.mypianoteacher.com
Certified by the American College of Musicians; member NGPT, MTNA, WSMTA, OMTA

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#2085221 - 05/19/13 01:44 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: ezpiano.org]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Originally Posted By: John
tie a string from their fingers to their foot, so when they raise their fingers from the keys, they are pulling up their foot at the same time.


Maybe I am wrong, I thought the hand foot motion are not at the same time? Almost the same time, but not exactly the same time?

Hmm...yeah. This is exactly the kind of problem/motion that I'm trying to avoid.

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#2085243 - 05/19/13 02:19 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
keystring Online   content
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It's been pointed out to me that since it takes time for the dampers to fall after you release the pedal, therefore if the hand - foot motion is at the same time, the damper still responds after the key mechanism responds, therefore "same time" becomes "later" for the pedal - it works out.

An oddity: In on-line pedal instructions, a lot of the female teachers seem to wear rather high, high heels. Is this functional or aesthetic? It's going to hugely affect how the foot moves at the heel.

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#2085281 - 05/19/13 03:34 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7407
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: red-rose
Originally Posted By: ezpiano.org
Originally Posted By: John
tie a string from their fingers to their foot, so when they raise their fingers from the keys, they are pulling up their foot at the same time.


Maybe I am wrong, I thought the hand foot motion are not at the same time? Almost the same time, but not exactly the same time?

Hmm...yeah. This is exactly the kind of problem/motion that I'm trying to avoid.

And why do you want to avoid on-the-beat pedaling? It is used a lot in music.

Well, you might want to read a short little book, about 40 pages, on pedaling by Karl Ulrich Schnabel. Modern Technique of the Pedal. He, incidentally, is the son of Arthur Schnabel.

At any rate, I should have prefaced my remark by saying that this example is generally for slower releases on the beat or for the end of piece (primarily) or end of a major section. After all, there is nothing more confusing for an audience member to see a student end the piece, hands off the keys, and yet the piano is still playing. Or even worse, to be half standing while the piano is still singing.
_________________________
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#2085318 - 05/19/13 04:33 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
red-rose Offline
Full Member

Registered: 04/20/13
Posts: 177
Loc: Cleveland, OH
Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook

And why do you want to avoid on-the-beat pedaling? It is used a lot in music.

Because, like I said in my original question, I'm trying to teach pedal to avoid "gaps in the sound." I'm rather confused about what teaching "finger up and foot up" has to do with this issue.

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#2085390 - 05/19/13 08:01 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
AZNpiano Online   happy
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Registered: 08/07/07
Posts: 5550
Loc: Orange County, CA
I think John is trying to explain an advanced technique, while the rest of the teachers are still dealing Piano Adventures 2B.
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#2085408 - 05/19/13 09:02 PM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: keystring]
John v.d.Brook Offline
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Registered: 03/18/06
Posts: 7407
Loc: Olympia, Washington, USA
Originally Posted By: keystring
An oddity: In on-line pedal instructions, a lot of the female teachers seem to wear rather high, high heels. Is this functional or aesthetic? It's going to hugely affect how the foot moves at the heel.

Keystring, I'm sorry to learn this. It's challenging enough to pedal with the control required for masterful playing, but to add this albatross seems foolish. I recommend my female students restrict their heal size so they don't lose control.
_________________________
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#2085600 - 05/20/13 07:17 AM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: John v.d.Brook]
Morodiene Offline
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Originally Posted By: John v.d.Brook
Originally Posted By: keystring
An oddity: In on-line pedal instructions, a lot of the female teachers seem to wear rather high, high heels. Is this functional or aesthetic? It's going to hugely affect how the foot moves at the heel.

Keystring, I'm sorry to learn this. It's challenging enough to pedal with the control required for masterful playing, but to add this albatross seems foolish. I recommend my female students restrict their heal size so they don't lose control.
The only instance where this is helpful is if the piano is on a dolly. Otherwise, it's usually awkward, but can be overcome if you practice in the heels. A bigger concern would be the heels that are chunky on the front end (lifts?) as your foot will contact with the pedal sooner than expected. Again, practice will help, but it's not something that one should worry about when learning to pedal, for sure.
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#2085614 - 05/20/13 07:53 AM Re: How to teach pedal? [Re: red-rose]
keystring Online   content
Yikes! 10000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/11/07
Posts: 11800
Loc: Canada
I am rather curious why these teachers demonstrate pedal in heels. I looked to see if any male teachers had some type of elevation in the heel of their shoes. I am thinking that if they are not trying to look pretty, that it may be a problem with lifting the foot because that can be done the wrong way. Or maybe if you wear heels all the time, certain ligaments are shortened. It's when the majority of on-line female teachers seemed to be in heels, that I started to get quite curious.

John v.d. Brooke mentioned in passing that the foot raises at the ankle. That is a very important point, because that is the actual point of movement rather than the heel. Apparently knowing this can fix a lot of discomfort that some people have. This simple act of raising and lowering the foot over and over can cause back discomfort which can creep into the shoulders and arms. Knowing all this is why the heels caught my attention.

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