Practicing without the pedal

Posted by: pianoloverus

Practicing without the pedal - 11/13/12 06:48 PM

When you are learning a piece do you sometimes/often practice it without pedal at first even if the piece will eventually use a lot of pedal?

What do you think are the advantages/disadvantages of practicing this way?
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/13/12 06:55 PM

I can't think of any disadvantages. It's important to make the distinction between practising something without pedal and playing something legato. Why we practice without pedal is often about legato, but not always. A very high percentage of my practice happens without pedal, it's quite a strong part of my training.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/13/12 07:05 PM

I thought this was standard.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/13/12 07:06 PM

You'd be surprised. Even at music college there lots of people who don't do it anywhere near as much as they should.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/13/12 07:45 PM

I assumed some posters would mention legato playing as a reason for practice without the pedal. But if the idea is that one should not be cheating by using the pedal to get a legato sound or cover up for a bad finger legato, I don't find this argument convincing.

Isn't the test how it sounds? So why should I care if the legato is achieved with the fingers, with the pedal, or some combination of the two as long as it sounds the way I want? Of course, I'm not saying that one should use the pedal where it would not be appropriate to try and cover up for poor finger legato. But in passages where one intends to use the pedal, whether to achieve a legato sound or to enhance the sound by allowing all the strings to vibrate, why not practice it that way from the beginning?
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/13/12 07:55 PM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
It's important to make the distinction between practising something without pedal and playing something legato.
Can you explain this more fully? I don't understand what you're getting at.

Originally Posted By: debrucey
Why we practice without pedal is often about legato, but not always.
In passages where one intends to use the pedal(for whatever reason a long as it's not to cover up a lack of finger legato and pedal where it's musically inappropriate), why not practice it that way from the beginning?
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/13/12 08:15 PM

Look at the left hand of this.

http://practisingthepiano.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Screen-Shot-2012-02-25-at-15.44.41.jpg

If you saw me practising it without pedal, would you think it was because I wanted it to be legato? Pedal obscures more than just a lack of finger legato (actually it often doesn't anyway).

I'm not really sure I can explain this very well without demonstrating at a piano.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/13/12 08:36 PM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
Look at the left hand of this.

http://practisingthepiano.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Screen-Shot-2012-02-25-at-15.44.41.jpg

If you saw me practising it without pedal, would you think it was because I wanted it to be legato? Pedal obscures more than just a lack of finger legato (actually it often doesn't anyway).

I'm not really sure I can explain this very well without demonstrating at a piano.
If I was practicing the left hand in that passage, I could imagine doing it without pedal because I think I could better hear if I was playing all the notes in each chord perfectly together. But I have no idea whether you're thinking of something like this or something completely different.
Posted by: Damon

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/13/12 08:42 PM

I almost always start off without pedal. The advantage for me is that I hear it more clearly and I often prefer the sound of finger legato to pedal when feasible. I don't stick with it long. Things that need to be legato but can't be without pedal, I introduce in the early stages.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/13/12 08:50 PM

That's certainly one reason yes. Another is that the physically connecting the chords with the movement of your arm is important, and if you use pedal to allow yourself more time to find each chord, this movement is not as refined as it should be. Each group of three chord is one movement of the forearm, not three.
Posted by: Derulux

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 12:26 AM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
That's certainly one reason yes. Another is that the physically connecting the chords with the movement of your arm is important, and if you use pedal to allow yourself more time to find each chord, this movement is not as refined as it should be. Each group of three chord is one movement of the forearm, not three.

To tag onto this comment, the pedal allows a distinct "cheat" in technique. Very minor movements can be "wrong" and covered up by a pedal (particular during a heavily pedaled section). Practicing without the pedal allows you to hear this, particularly if you have trouble feeling it. The more minor the movement/error, the harder it is to pick up, and the more likely you will need multiple senses to discover the source of the issue (ie- ear picks up an error that would have been missed using the pedal, and that was too small/fast for you to 'feel' it).

Minor errors don't sound like much, but as repertoire gets increasingly difficult, they can become a disaster waiting to happen. This is also particularly true when transitioning from practice to performance--the added stress/anxiety can make a minor error explode on stage.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 05:45 AM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus


Isn't the test how it sounds? So why should I care if the legato is achieved with the fingers, with the pedal, or some combination of the two as long as it sounds the way I want? Of course, I'm not saying that one should use the pedal where it would not be appropriate to try and cover up for poor finger legato. But in passages where one intends to use the pedal, whether to achieve a legato sound or to enhance the sound by allowing all the strings to vibrate, why not practice it that way from the beginning?


I think the bigger reason for starting off without pedal is to perfect getting the passage even, not necessarily perfect legato. Like in the E major arpeggio section of scherzo 2. It can be tricky to get even and can come out choppy if you don't perfect getting the arpeggios even, etc. If you just skip this step and rush the learning process it will most likely show.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 05:53 AM

Learning a piece that doesn't make sense unless the pedal is used, without pedal, will just cause ingraining of bad technique as you strive to join up the melodies as much as possible with finger contortions which you then have to unlearn in order to make progress. There is a lot of music that falls into this category, not just the obvious contenders like Debussy and Ravel.

Many well-known concert pianists don't even bother to attempt finger legato even in early Romantic music like Schubert - I recently watched a familiar name playing Schubert's Impromptu in G flat D899/3: he lifted up his little finger well before he needed to play the next note in the melody (most of whose notes he played with the RH's pinky without making any finger substitution), relying totally on pedal to join up the notes.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 07:44 AM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
Learning a piece that doesn't make sense unless the pedal is used, without pedal, will just cause ingraining of bad technique as you strive to join up the melodies as much as possible with finger contortions which you then have to unlearn in order to make progress. There is a lot of music that falls into this category, not just the obvious contenders like Debussy and Ravel.

Many well-known concert pianists don't even bother to attempt finger legato even in early Romantic music like Schubert - I recently watched a familiar name playing Schubert's Impromptu in G flat D899/3: he lifted up his little finger well before he needed to play the next note in the melody (most of whose notes he played with the RH's pinky without making any finger substitution), relying totally on pedal to join up the notes.


This is just a misunderstanding of the point of practice without pedal.
I said before that finger legato is not always the point. I couldn't even conceive of learning Debussy or Ravel without abstaining from using the pedal a lot of the time.

Of course if you practice without pedal in the wrong way it will result in bad technique, but if you practice anything in the wrong way it will result in bad technique.
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 12:04 PM

Originally Posted By: debrucey

This is just a misunderstanding of the point of practice without pedal.
I said before that finger legato is not always the point. I couldn't even conceive of learning Debussy or Ravel without abstaining from using the pedal a lot of the time.

Of course if you practice without pedal in the wrong way it will result in bad technique, but if you practice anything in the wrong way it will result in bad technique.


But why would you want to practise, say, the whole of Ravel's Ondine without pedal (try it for yourself and hear the results) before putting pedal in? If you want to make sure a particular passage is clear and even, then you'd just isolate that passage and practise it by itself without pedal until you're satisfied - and that's what I often do, but that's working purely on the technical aspect of certain passages, rather than the music -, but to learn the whole piece without pedal will just cause you to (subconsciously) play in a certain way, which you'd then have to completely overhaul when you start using pedal after learning all the notes as you conceived it without pedal. This particular example has nothing to do with finger legato, BTW, but everything to do with learning the piece properly and whole, the pedal being a vital part of Ravel's conception.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 12:15 PM

Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe

I think the bigger reason for starting off without pedal is to perfect getting the passage even, not necessarily perfect legato. Like in the E major arpeggio section of scherzo 2. It can be tricky to get even and can come out choppy if you don't perfect getting the arpeggios even, etc. If you just skip this step and rush the learning process it will most likely show.
"Even" usually refers rhythm. "Choppy" usually refers to legato as in not smooth. So it's not at all clear what you're trying to say here.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 12:27 PM

Originally Posted By: bennevis
[quote=debrucey]
to learn the whole piece without pedal will just cause you to (subconsciously) play in a certain way, which you'd then have to completely overhaul when you start using pedal after learning all the notes as you conceived it without pedal.


No it won't. Not if you approach it in the right way.
Btw, I said nothing about learning a whole piece without pedal then putting it all in afterwards. We're talking about practising without pedal and how useful it is. If I was learning Ondine I would do it a very lot, but it would still be alongside all the other ways of practising, not before.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 12:28 PM

Define the words however you'd like. What I was saying is that in my example (E major arpeggios, scherzo 2) it is important to get the arpeggios seamless before washing it with pedal. As in, the jumps from each broken chord to the next shouldn't be noticed. So it's not really a matter of perfecting the finger legato, just getting the transitions seamless. (which is best to perfect with no pedal)
Posted by: GeorgeB

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 12:29 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe

I think the bigger reason for starting off without pedal is to perfect getting the passage even, not necessarily perfect legato. Like in the E major arpeggio section of scherzo 2. It can be tricky to get even and can come out choppy if you don't perfect getting the arpeggios even, etc. If you just skip this step and rush the learning process it will most likely show.
"Even" usually refers rhythm. "Choppy" usually refers to legato as in not smooth. So it's not at all clear what you're trying to say here.


Even can refer to how the notes don't all sound the same.
Someone doing a c major arpegio who bangs the thumb every time, it could be described as an uneven sound
Posted by: bennevis

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 12:36 PM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
Originally Posted By: bennevis
[quote=debrucey]
to learn the whole piece without pedal will just cause you to (subconsciously) play in a certain way, which you'd then have to completely overhaul when you start using pedal after learning all the notes as you conceived it without pedal.


No it won't. Not if you approach it in the right way.
Btw, I said nothing about learning a whole piece without pedal then putting it all in afterwards. We're talking about practising without pedal and how useful it is. If I was learning Ondine I would do it a very lot, but it would still be alongside all the other ways of practising, not before.


From the OP's post, he was talking about practising the whole piece without pedal before putting it in afterwards, and I assumed that's what you also meant. For me, taking out passages in isolation to work on them specifically to get the technique in shape isn't actually playing the piece; it's just working on the technical aspects of difficult passages, when the mindset is completely different to working on the piece itself. When I start putting the piece together, I use pedal as the composer requests, otherwise I lose sight of the musical aspect, and it turns into a series of technical exercises.

At least, that's the way I see it....
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 01:56 PM

Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe
Define the words however you'd like. What I was saying is that in my example (E major arpeggios, scherzo 2) it is important to get the arpeggios seamless before washing it with pedal. As in, the jumps from each broken chord to the next shouldn't be noticed. So it's not really a matter of perfecting the finger legato, just getting the transitions seamless. (which is best to perfect with no pedal)
If one is using the pedal on the arpeggios then the only important thing is how they sound with the pedal. Trying to learn perfect finger legato for those passages is not particularly useful.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 02:49 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe
Define the words however you'd like. What I was saying is that in my example (E major arpeggios, scherzo 2) it is important to get the arpeggios seamless before washing it with pedal. As in, the jumps from each broken chord to the next shouldn't be noticed. So it's not really a matter of perfecting the finger legato, just getting the transitions seamless. (which is best to perfect with no pedal)
If one is using the pedal on the arpeggios then the only important thing is how they sound with the pedal. Trying to learn perfect finger legato for those passages is not particularly useful.


Disagree disagree disagree.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 03:11 PM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe
Define the words however you'd like. What I was saying is that in my example (E major arpeggios, scherzo 2) it is important to get the arpeggios seamless before washing it with pedal. As in, the jumps from each broken chord to the next shouldn't be noticed. So it's not really a matter of perfecting the finger legato, just getting the transitions seamless. (which is best to perfect with no pedal)
If one is using the pedal on the arpeggios then the only important thing is how they sound with the pedal. Trying to learn perfect finger legato for those passages is not particularly useful.


Disagree disagree disagree.
But what is your thinking about this? Can the passage not sound perfectly legato with the pedal even if one plays it in a the would not sound perfectly legato without the pedal?
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 03:17 PM

A. its not all about legato, B. its not all about sound. Yes sound is important, but so is how you move to create that sound. Just because it sounds right doesn't mean you're achieving it in the best way.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 05:26 PM

Originally Posted By: debrucey
A. its not all about legato, B. its not all about sound. Yes sound is important, but so is how you move to create that sound. Just because it sounds right doesn't mean you're achieving it in the best way.
OK, but then the next question would be... how does playing without the pedal tell you more about if you're achieving the sound in the best way then playing with the pedal? (I know you're a lot busier with obligations than me, so I don't intend to endless followup questions)
--------------------------------------------------------------
I'm hoping to get more comments from other posters because this method of practicing seems very important, at least to some.
Posted by: dolce sfogato

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 05:31 PM

the longer I play/practise/perform, the less pedal I seem to use, depending on the size of venues/instrument/accoustics, but I just played some Schubert, and didn't use the pedal in the last 2 mov. of 960 at all, it worked.
Posted by: debrucey

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 05:52 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: debrucey
A. its not all about legato, B. its not all about sound. Yes sound is important, but so is how you move to create that sound. Just because it sounds right doesn't mean you're achieving it in the best way.
OK, but then the next question would be... how does playing without the pedal tell you more about if you're achieving the sound in the best way then playing with the pedal? (I know you're a lot busier with obligations than me, so I don't intend to endless followup questions)
--------------------------------------------------------------
I'm hoping to get more comments from other posters because this method of practicing seems very important, at least to some.


Because the pedal obscures things, and makes certain things easier, or at least feel easier. It's really hard to explain in this way, so wonder piano teachers can charge so much money lol
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 06:39 PM

Originally Posted By: GeorgeB
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe

I think the bigger reason for starting off without pedal is to perfect getting the passage even, not necessarily perfect legato. Like in the E major arpeggio section of scherzo 2. It can be tricky to get even and can come out choppy if you don't perfect getting the arpeggios even, etc. If you just skip this step and rush the learning process it will most likely show.
"Even" usually refers rhythm. "Choppy" usually refers to legato as in not smooth. So it's not at all clear what you're trying to say here.


Even can refer to how the notes don't all sound the same.
Someone doing a c major arpegio who bangs the thumb every time, it could be described as an uneven sound


Exactly.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 06:42 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe
Define the words however you'd like. What I was saying is that in my example (E major arpeggios, scherzo 2) it is important to get the arpeggios seamless before washing it with pedal. As in, the jumps from each broken chord to the next shouldn't be noticed. So it's not really a matter of perfecting the finger legato, just getting the transitions seamless. (which is best to perfect with no pedal)
If one is using the pedal on the arpeggios then the only important thing is how they sound with the pedal. Trying to learn perfect finger legato for those passages is not particularly useful.


I don't know why you're telling me this, since I basically said it in the paragraph you replied to.

"So it's not really a matter of perfecting the finger legato[...]"
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 06:47 PM

Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe
Define the words however you'd like. What I was saying is that in my example (E major arpeggios, scherzo 2) it is important to get the arpeggios seamless before washing it with pedal. As in, the jumps from each broken chord to the next shouldn't be noticed. So it's not really a matter of perfecting the finger legato, just getting the transitions seamless. (which is best to perfect with no pedal)
If one is using the pedal on the arpeggios then the only important thing is how they sound with the pedal. Trying to learn perfect finger legato for those passages is not particularly useful.


I don't know why you're telling me this, since I basically said it in the paragraph you replied to.

"So it's not really a matter of perfecting the finger legato[...]"
You said the jumps shouldn't sound broken, but that's only true in regards to the sound with the pedal. The trouble with your posts is that you seem to contradict yourself.

You said it's easier to get the passage to sound even(whether rhythmically or tonally)by practicing without the pedal, but you give no reason for this.
Posted by: JoelW

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 07:08 PM

Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe
Originally Posted By: pianoloverus
Originally Posted By: mazurkajoe
Define the words however you'd like. What I was saying is that in my example (E major arpeggios, scherzo 2) it is important to get the arpeggios seamless before washing it with pedal. As in, the jumps from each broken chord to the next shouldn't be noticed. So it's not really a matter of perfecting the finger legato, just getting the transitions seamless. (which is best to perfect with no pedal)
If one is using the pedal on the arpeggios then the only important thing is how they sound with the pedal. Trying to learn perfect finger legato for those passages is not particularly useful.


I don't know why you're telling me this, since I basically said it in the paragraph you replied to.

"So it's not really a matter of perfecting the finger legato[...]"
You said the jumps shouldn't sound broken, but that's only true in regards to the sound with the pedal. The trouble with your posts is that you seem to contradict yourself.

You said it's easier to get the passage to sound even(whether rhythmically or tonally)by practicing without the pedal, but you give no reason for this.


Oh yeah, contradictions left and right. My bad!

I didn't say it was "easier" to practice without pedal. If anything it's more difficult. I said that it's better to perfect seamless arpeggio transitions with no pedal before washing over it with pedal. Seamless arpeggios usually deals with not accenting any notes. It has nothing to do with perfect legato. GeorgeB summed it up better than I did.

I think where I'm confusing you is that you probably think it's useless to practice without pedal if the intent isn't perfecting legato, which is understandable. But my reason for doing so is that I find it much easier to detect and correct bad arpeggiation when I'm not using pedal.

Posted by: celegorma

Re: Practicing without the pedal - 11/14/12 07:52 PM

Laugh if you must, but I often do the opposite. I start out with pedal and I reduce it bit by bit over time. In the end product, I often use as little pedal as possible.