When to begin teaching students pedaling?

Posted by: John v.d.Brook

When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 11:26 AM

As noted in many previous posts, I teach students to use the damper pedal at lesson #1; I introduce use of the una chorda pedal roughly in year 3 of lessons, and the sostenuto pedal in year 4.

The reason I teach pedaling right from the first lesson is two fold: it sounds great and students love it, and it helps with the learning to listen[/b] concepts I want to impress on students.

Using the damper pedal requires a fair amount of coordination. But first, there is proper foot placement. The heel must be firmly on the floor, and the ball of the foot placed on the pedal.

Students are taught that you don't pump[/b] the pedal, but rather, press it, much like your fingers do on the keys. They have to learn that the pedal isn't pushed all the way down, nor is it totally released, unless there are long stretches of non legato playing ahead.

We don't go into advanced pedaling technique until the repertoire demands it. But we do emphasize the listening[/b] aspect. Does the music require syncopated pedaling or blending pedaling, or on the beat pedaling. Each has it's place, and it's part and parcel of the learning to play the piano process.

I nearly forgot - when do you being teaching pedaling and why?
Posted by: Morodiene

Re: When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 11:43 AM

I explain how each of the pedals work on day 1 of lessons. Many of the beginner pieces in the method books I use also have them use the damper pedal quite early on. Since many of them are quite small when they start lessons, it is not possible for them to play the pedal correctly however (I don't have a pedal extender and I'm not sure how good they actually work). As soon as they are tall enough, though, I explain the proper technique with the heel on the floor. This usually gets addressed when they start to learn syncopated pedaling in their repertoire.
Posted by: Fraggle

Re: When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 11:53 AM

edit: wrong thread
Posted by: Betty Patnude

Re: When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 12:42 PM

I don't teach pedal until there is a need for one. Until then finger legato takes care of the smoothness and connectedness of a piece.

To me, pedal requires having some harmony, phrasing, and expression indications and pedal would be the last thing added to learning a piece, after the notes, fingering, tempo and details were seen, planned for, and checked out.

Pedal is a minimal thing and an art by itself, so I don't want to add the 3rd limb, until the music is well under construction and on the way to being completed.

Pedal study is quite involved, I think, and needs separate application of when, where and how much to pedal, it's a decision mostly based on what the student is hearing from his pedaling efforts.

Determining readiness for pedal is a combination of the music requires it, the student is tall enough to reach the pedals naturally, the students foot has been trained as to how to use the pedal (the details), and the student has space in his or her brain to add this element of thinking and planning so that it does not upset the apple cart of what is already in place.

Adding one new idea can make the previously established good playing fall totally apart.

Piano study is like adding one new layer in making "baklava" - separation and layers of learning - all contributing to the outcome of a tasty dessert.

Betty
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 01:23 PM

Maybe not the first lesson, but definitely within the first year. It's important to get kids to hear the different sonorities that a piano can produce. Teaching pedals is a form of ear training.
Posted by: Sal_

Re: When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 02:23 PM

I teach ABOUT the pedal when they ask (they all do,) but, like Betty, I don't see need to go into depth about how/when to use it until needed--too much other stuff going on. Coincidentally, none of my students are to that point yet.
Posted by: icklechick

Re: When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 02:26 PM

Remember when I was learning, and I was very short (I still am!) and I couldn't reach the pedal for about 3 years...it really held me back, but by time I did grade 4 I was able to reach it - and I passed everything with distinction so it never really disadvantaged me in exams, not being able to reach.
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 02:31 PM

There are several things I want them to know.

First, I want them to realize that when notes are played legato, depressing the sustain pedal always "catches" the note before. So if they play C, E, G in the bass, depressing on the E will catch the C. We all know this. They don't.

Then I tell them that lifting the pedal is a bit like "erasing sound". I explain the dampers, and how it all works. I explain that lifting the pedal makes the old sounds go away, but I explain that they have to give it enough time. It's not instantaneous.

Then I explain that by depressing the pedal again, so that it is in a gentle "up down" movement, you can "chain it all together". I have them play triads, moving up and down, learning how to connect the chords together with the pedal so that there is no overlap or no burp.

I'm very specific about where we do and don't pedal until they have mastered this technique and feel very comfortable with it.

The problem with not teaching it is that they will use it anyway, and if they are not taught correctly, they will use it wrong.
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 03:56 PM

When 15 year old students begin to drive, those who are not pianists, at least, it's a nightmare of acceleration/deceleration. Their control of the ankle and foot is abysmal. It often takes a year or more of driving before they smooth out. Sometimes years!

First, I have a very excellent pedal extender that I use for the very short, but as soon as they can lean against the bench with their foot on the pedal, heel on the floor, they do so without the pedal extender.

 Quote:
The problem with not teaching it is that they will use it anyway, and if they are not taught correctly, they will use it wrong.
Is it harder to correct misuse or to teach proper use from the beginning? I don't have high expectations from first year students, but they can certainly pedal without pumping or slapping the pedal.
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 04:19 PM

 Quote:
Originally posted by John v.d.Brook:
Is it harder to correct misuse or to teach proper use from the beginning? I don't have high expectations from first year students, but they can certainly pedal without pumping or slapping the pedal.
You talked about driving. I think of the pedal as much like a clutch. At first, people who are learning to drive with a stick shift will either release the clutch and the accelerator at the same time (stalling the car) or will press both in, and we all know what that sounds like.

Once you coordinate the two, you get a feel for the idea that the work in opposite directions.

Millions of people used to learn to drive with a clutch. All of them were awkward with it in the beginning, then it became second nature.

The sustain pedal is not exactly like that, but it is similar.

I use a pedal exercise that treats the pedal is if "down" is the default position. This is what I do myself when playing something like a slow Chopin waltz, or beginning a nocturne. I don't put the pedal down after starting. I press it down before the first note.

Using this idea, I teach students to time the foot (toe) so that it lifts just as the fingers cause the sound to start, about the time the fingers have finished depressing keys and then to depress the pedal again. I do this with ascending triads in the LH. I ask them to count to four, then repeat the chord three more times, keeping the pedal down, then move to the new chord. Up down. It's like a rhythm.

I won't use the pedal in any other way until this has been absorbed. This usually takes a couple weeks or more. Then I apply the principle to a few simple pieces that I have written for no other reason than to introduce how the pedal is used in music.

Soon it becomes a "feel" and becomes internalized. I don't think it's a difficult skill to teach or learn.

The sustain pedal is nearly half of what makes the piano unique. "Touch sensitivity" and sustain together explain most of the difference between the harpsichord and the first piano (pianoforte).
Posted by: John v.d.Brook

Re: When to begin teaching students pedaling? - 11/18/08 06:05 PM

Excellent idea, Gary! Thanks.