The Art of Pedaling on the Piano Part 1 – The Damper Pedal (Right Pedal)

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Welcome to an ongoing series about how to use the pedals on the piano. Today we are going to be covering the right pedal, commonly referred to as the damper or sustain pedal. This is the pedal you will be using most of the time while playing the piano and it’s a great place to start.

The question I get asked the most is when to use the pedal. While there are no absolutes, there are some general guidelines that you can follow. A basic rule that applies to nearly any type of music is that when the harmonies change, you must clear the pedal. If you don’t do this you will get clashing dissonance.

While the pedal shouldn’t be overused, it is a great way to enhance the tone of your music. We know that you should clear the pedal when there are new harmonies, but there is a wrong way and a right way to do this. When the harmonies change, you should release the pedal upwards – don’t push it down. This is very counterintuitive because you are probably used to tapping your foot and tapping down on the downbeat. The opposite is true for the damper pedal, you will want to bring your foot up and clear the pedal on the downbeats when harmonies change and put it right back down.

Another technique you should practice is to not push the pedal down before you begin. Pushing the pedal down before playing a note will result in an echoing sound. You should push the pedal down right after you play the note, but before your fingers are released. If you push the pedal down after you release your fingers it will not hold the notes.

These are the basic principles of pedaling and how you should be using the damper pedal. Practice these techniques and make sure that you are releasing the pedal on the downbeat of changing harmonies and push it down immediately after but before you release your fingers.

Thanks again for joining me and be on the lookout for future videos about the art of pedaling on the piano. Robert Estrin Robert@LivingPianos.com (949) 244-3729