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#982229 - 06/25/05 01:10 PM My stupid foot !
Linda in PA Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 767
Loc: PA - USA
Oh, boy, am I ever having pedaling woes!

I can't seem to gracefully release the pedal - the dampers just go thunk! My teacher said that I'm releasing too quickly, but I don't understand how to do this more slowly while sticking to the tempo or without ending up with a muddy mess. Sigh.

Has anyone else experienced this problem? Any suggestions on how to overcome this curse?

Thanks . . . Leadfoot Linda

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#982230 - 06/25/05 01:41 PM Re: My stupid foot !
Gyro Offline
4000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/24/05
Posts: 4534
All those elaborate pedal markings are not
meant to be taken literally. In fact, pedal
markings are really only for beginners
just learning the instrument. Pedalling
beyond the beginner's stage is essentially
all ad lib--that is, you pedal in whatever
way that gives the best effect, and this can
vary greatly with the individual due to differences
in technique. It be anything from stepping on
it and leaving it down, to light taps here
and there. Your problem may be that
you are trying to follow some set pedal
pattern, which just complicates things
unnecessarily. Just pedal by ear. This
will simplify things immensely and improve
your playing as well.

#982231 - 06/25/05 02:22 PM Re: My stupid foot !
chiaying Offline
Junior Member

Registered: 05/26/05
Posts: 8
I agree with Gryo for most part - you don't always have to follow the pedal markings religiously (though many pianist composers are actually very very specific with how they want the piece pedaled).

One thing you might want to think about for quick changes of pedal is the amount which you release the pedal. From the way the pedalling mechanism is constructed, you actually do not have to release the pedal fully for the dampers to touch and stop the strings. If you have a good grand piano, you can do a little experiment: look into the piano while depressing the pedal - the dampers should be up. Then gradually release the pedal until the dampers barely just touch the strings and stop any sustained notes. That is the precise amount that you need to release the pedal when you do quick pedal changes. Since it is a way shorter distance than a complete release, it allows for faster and more efficient pedal changes.

-- To play Bach one needs a fleet foot

#982232 - 06/25/05 02:31 PM Re: My stupid foot !
Steve Ramirez Online   content
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/08/01
Posts: 1106
Loc: El Cajon, California
Originally posted by Linda in PA:
Has anyone else experienced this problem? Any suggestions on how to overcome this curse?
Every once in a while I take off the music desk so I can see the dampers move. Seeing how far you have to move the pedal to raise and lower the dampers might help you to calibrate your pedal movement.

#982233 - 06/25/05 02:49 PM Re: My stupid foot !
ipgrunt Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/06/05
Posts: 419
Loc: Western US
Originally posted by Linda in PA:
Oh, boy, am I ever having pedaling woes!

I can't seem to gracefully release the pedal - the dampers just go thunk! My teacher said that I'm releasing too quickly, but I don't understand how to do this more slowly while sticking to the tempo or without ending up with a muddy mess. Sigh.

Has anyone else experienced this problem? Any suggestions on how to overcome this curse?

Thanks . . . Leadfoot Linda [/b]

I could be your shoes. Try playing with relatively small heels.

Also, a pedal should be adjusted properly. It must have enough give so a pianist can effectively half and quarter pedal. I find that when the pedal engages around 1/3 of the way down, I have adequate control for more delicate pedaling.

Perhaps a good tech might help the next time the piano is tuned? I might also suggest this is an adjustment you can make yourself on many instruments if you are mechanically inclined. (shhh....don't tell the techs!)

With a proper pedal linkage adjustment, they just might be calling you "Lightfoot Linda".
-- ipgrunt
Amateur pianist, Son of a Pro

#982234 - 06/25/05 04:35 PM Re: My stupid foot !
Bob Muir Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/01/03
Posts: 2653
Loc: Lakewood, WA, USA
Try practicing a piece using only the left hand and the pedal. That way you can really focus on how the pedal is sounding without the distraction of playing with the right hand and all the melody/harmony notes thrown in.

Practice keeping pressure on the pedal. In other words, when you let up on the pedal, you don't want to lift your foot off of it. When you do that, it causes a thunk. You want to pedal with finesse.

#982235 - 06/25/05 04:43 PM Re: My stupid foot !
signa Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/06/04
Posts: 8483
Loc: Ohio, USA
pedaling in some pieces is essential though, such as etudes. i'm not that good at it, but i know i need to do it. so, i play Chopin's etude op.10.9 and follow strictly its pedal marking to learn to make it sound right. it does take a lot of practice to get it right and you just need to listen carefully how it sounds at the time you press or release pedal. timing of pressing/releasing pedal is essential, and too late or too soon at fraction of a second would make music sound like crap.

#982236 - 06/25/05 07:34 PM Re: My stupid foot !
ShiroKuro Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 12/26/04
Posts: 3564
Loc: not in Japan anymore
Linda, can you hear the thunk that your teacher is commenting on? If you yourself can hear it, than you will eventually be able to fix it. Do you ever half-pedal, or half-release? These kinds of pedaling tend to be very quiet. Also, remember that the timing of the pedal is not necessarily the same as the timing of the music, the left hand etc. For ex, if you released the pedal in time with your LH, you'd likely get a clipped sound.

But yes, to answer your question, I have loads of pedal-problems! Sometimes I'm sloppy about it and I get that thunking sound, more often on the lesson piano (a grand) than on my upright at home, so it might be a difference in the pianos. But I tend to think it's just my own sloppiness. Especially since I find my pedaling better on non-classical pieces. And I tend to rely too much on the pedal, allowing my fingers to be lazy.

Every now and again though, my teacher will compliment my pedaling on a piece, that's always nice.
Started piano June 1999. My recordings at Box.Net:

#982237 - 06/26/05 04:50 AM Re: My stupid foot !
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
I find when I'm first learning a piece I'm lousy with the pedaling and tend to "thunk" a little. It's because I'm trying so hard to get the hands right I forget my feet and when I get that "muddy" sound I'll release too quickly. Once I've got the piece learned, the pedaling tends to smooth itself out a little. I often play minus the pedal just to make sure I'm not cheating on the legato..... :rolleyes:
It's the journey not the destination..

#982238 - 06/26/05 07:06 AM Re: My stupid foot !
Linda in PA Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/02
Posts: 767
Loc: PA - USA
Thank you, everyone!

Lots of good adivce. I have been using full pedal and coming off completely. I'm going to practice partial pedaling with my shoes off so that I get a better feel for things. Think I'll use a piece that I already know so that I can concentrate on the pedal. Removing the music desk and watching the mechanism will also be good reinforcement.

I have a bit of an easier time with the pedaling on my piano, but its a different story on my teacher's piano. We both use the same technician, so I'll ask him about the pedals on the two pianos when I see him again. I'm fairly certain, however, that my lack of technique is the issue.

Thanks, again, everyone. I'm feeling hopeful now that I have your great suggestions!!!!

. . . Linda

#982239 - 06/26/05 10:53 AM Re: My stupid foot !
barganax Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/11/04
Posts: 200
Loc: Oakland/Santa Fe
Two things:
(1) As you've already noticed, different pianos have different degrees of "thunking." In your case, it sounds like you can get away less pedal technique on your home piano than on your teacher's.
(2) Be careful if you take your shoe off entirely. That will put a lot of strain on your calf. You can experiment with shoes having different sized heels, or, if you take your shoe off, try putting books of various thickness underneath the heel of your foot.

#982240 - 06/26/05 05:49 PM Re: My stupid foot !
Rodolpho Portamento Fritzweil Offline
Full Member

Registered: 02/15/04
Posts: 340

#982241 - 06/26/05 06:59 PM Re: My stupid foot !
SAnnM AB-2001 Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/20/04
Posts: 2022
Loc: Canada
Oooops.... Pedaling should be the LAST thing to apply to a well learned piece ! Applying pedal when learning a piece might help you to "cheat" a lot,
Don't worry, my teacher catches me if I "cheat" - he misses NOTHING!! But he still prefers that I don't wait until a piece is "well learned" before adding pedal. We eliminate often to concentrate on proper technique and legato etc. And I always practice sometimes without, but I usually start to pedal soon after beginning a piece. I think it helps to get the proper feel for a piece if pedaling is added early - keeping in mind what you mention above - but before it is totally memorized.
It's the journey not the destination..

#982242 - 06/27/05 06:29 AM Re: My stupid foot !
pianocliff Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/05/05
Posts: 398
Loc: Washington, DC Metro
If you have driven a car with a manual transmission you have a good analogy to what the pedal is like on a piano. I used to try to push it "all the way down" and let it release "completely" between phrases and couldn't understand why everything I played sounded like a muddy mess. You have to find the right "range" of pedal pressure that will achieve the desired effect. Here's some sugggestions that helped me.

1. Start by playing chord transitions in left hand
only with pedal until they are clean.

2. Add the melody and adjust the pedal as
necessary, for instance if you are getting a
muddy sound you might need to release and
reapply the pedal.

3. Don't feel that you must make the pedal go
all the way down or all the way up. Feel the
pressure in your foot and listen to the sounds
you make. Pedal is like spice, you have to
adjust it to taste.

Rememeber that the pedal is not like a note that must be hit at the exact spot in the music. It's more like a "breath" that you control according to your specific musical phrasing. Experiment with different pedal points before, during and after hitting a note. I've found that when you change chords it's best to apply the pedal right after you hit the next chord, although I don't know if this is a "rule" or anything because, when it comes to pedaling the "rules" depend on what sounds you are trying to make.



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