Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is, “Why Does A Soft Pedal Make No Difference on Some Pianos?” On many pianos, the soft pedal creates a nice tonal change. Other pianos, it doesn’t seem to do anything at all! Are they broken? I’m talking about the una corda pedal. On grand and baby grand pianos, the left pedal shifts the entire action. So, the hammers don’t strike the three strings directly. Una corda, as a matter of fact, means one string. A long time ago, pianos only had two strings for each note. So, shifting the action made the hammers hit only one string. Modern pianos are a little bit different. The hammer doesn’t actually strike only one less string. The entire hammer hits at a different point.

The hammers on a piano that’s been played a lot will have grooves where the strings make contact.

Therefore, the felt is compacted, which gives a more brilliant tone than the softer felt surrounding. So, when you push down the soft pedal, you’ll hear a dramatic change on pianos that are broken in. Of course a piano with brand new hammers will have a minimal difference in tone when using the soft pedal, because the hammers are barely broken in. If there is a tonal change, it is extremely subtle, which is what you would expect.

Play your piano, and the soft pedal will make a bigger difference over time.

After six months or a year of playing a piano, the hammers will get grooved and the tone will brighten up. This is normal on all pianos. However, the soft pedal will engage a part of the hammer that isn’t normally played, and you’ll hear a dramatic difference in tone when depressing it. For example, a couple of months ago I was at a good friend’s house. He has a Yamaha that he plays a good deal. The hammers were pretty hard. So, pushing down the soft pedal sounded like a completely different piano! You wouldn’t believe the difference. The compacted felt of the grooves were bypassed just a fraction of an inch, and the fresh part of the felt hit the strings. That’s why on some pianos you won’t hear much difference with the soft pedal. A certain amount can be voiced or regulated. However, time is your best cure for a soft pedal that doesn’t do much.

‘m Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.
Please feel free to contact us with any piano related questions for future videos!

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Why Does A Soft Pedal Make No Difference on Some Pianos?

Welcome to LivingPianos.com, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is, “Why Does A Soft Pedal Make No Difference on Some Pianos?” On many pianos, the soft pedal creates a nice tonal change. Other pianos, it doesn’t seem to

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin, and this is LivingPianos.com. Today’s topic is, “Do All Piano Pedals Feel The Same?” I’m not talking about if the three pedals on a specific piano feel the same as one another. They might feel different from one another. But the question is, is there a standard way that all pianos’ pedals should feel? Believe it or not, the answer is no!

Pedals can feel drastically different from one piano to another.

Let me give you a great example. Growing up, my father Morton Estrin had several pianos. We had three or four pianos in the house through most of my childhood. Early on, there was a Steinway model S baby grand from the 1930s as well as a Baldwin L which was a more recently produced 6′ 3″ grand piano. Sitting down at the Steinway, if your foot was even leaning on the sustain pedal, it would start to hold notes. It had a very small amount of travel and it was quite hard to push. Comparing that to the Baldwin sustain pedal, which was easy to push and had a lot of travel to it, it responded completely differently! So why isn’t there a standard?

Whatever piano you play becomes your new normal and you compare all other pianos to it.

So, be sure that if you’re ever performing anywhere, try out the pedals to see how hard they are to push. See how much travel they have and at what point in the travel they start to respond. And not just the sustain pedal. The una corda, or soft pedal, for example, may seem like it isn’t even working. You may not notice any perceptible difference in sound. On other pianos, you push the pedal down, and hear a drastic change of tone! That is something that can be regulated to some extent, but there’s a certain amount that has to do with how much the piano’s been played and how it’s been voiced.

The pedals on pianos are all unique and you must be able to adjust.

Anytime you get an opportunity to play pianos, just for fun, try out the pedals so that when you have a performance, you can adjust quickly for a satisfying musical performance.
I hope this is helpful for you. Send your questions to Robert@LivingPianos.com so I can answer them in upcoming videos. See you next time here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store

info@LivingPianos.com
949-244-3729.

Do All Piano Pedals Feel The Same?

Hi, I’m Robert Estrin, and this is LivingPianos.com. Today’s topic is, “Do All Piano Pedals Feel The Same?” I’m not talking about if the three pedals on a specific piano feel the same as one another. They might feel diff

I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com. The question today came from a reader who asks, “How do you know when the pedal markings are written by the composer?” So, the fundamental question is, “Do composers write in pedal markings for the piano?” The simple answer is, the vast majority of the time, no. You might wonder why not? Why do they do it sometimes and not all the time? Here’s the long and short of it.

Pedaling on the piano encompasses so many decisions that are made not only from an artistic and personal expression standpoint, but also the acoustics of the room. For example, let’s say you are performing a concert in a church or a chapel that has very live acoustics. It is almost like putting the pedal down with an echoing effect. In a room such as that in order to not get a muddy sound, you would use much less pedal than in a dry room with carpeting and drapes where there is no natural reverberation.

Pianos also differ. When you play a high note like the third E above middle C on a Mason and Hamlin piano, there is a damper which stops the sound as soon as you release the key. The note ends very quickly. The F right above has no damper and rings on even after you let go of the key. Some pianos have dampers all the way to F sharp and G is the first note that rings on after the release of the key. If you were playing a Steinway or a Baldwin, the E has no damper! So, it rings on long after the key is released.

You have to be able to determine where to use pedaling based upon the specific piano and acoustics of the room.

Where do composers write pedal markings in? If there is a place where you wouldn’t expect the pedal to be used, they may write it in to guide you so you’ll understand the composer’s intentions. However, oftentimes you’ll see pedal markings all over the score.

How do you know if pedal markings are written by the composer?

I recommend getting editions that are referred to as “urtext”. Urtext editions are only what the composers wrote. If there are other markings, they usually will have them in a different typeset. They may be in grey or have footnotes telling you what is original and what the editor has added.

Composers almost never wrote fingerings in. Whenever you see fingerings on your score on your piano, those are written in by the editor, not the composer.

Pedal markings and sometimes expression markings can be added by the editor.

You want to know what the composer actually wrote, which is no easy task. This is why you want to have an authoritative edition that goes through all the old autographed editions and early printed scores. This way you can determine what is actually authentic from the composer.

You have to use your own judgment with pedaling. The guides you see are only editorial suggestions the vast majority of the time. It gets even trickier still. For example, Beethoven sometimes wrote pedal markings in. If you have ever had the opportunity to play a Beethoven era piano, you will hear how drastically different they are from modern pianos.

You may not pedal the same on a Beethoven era piano as you would on a modern piano.

You have to take it all with a grain of salt. A good teacher will guide beginners and intermediate students writing in pedal markings so they will understand the nature of how to deal with pedal changes. It is generally where harmonies change, however, it can get much more complicated in music that has different lines and notes you can’t possibly hold with your fingers.

There is an art to pedaling just as there is to fingering and other aspects of playing the piano. A great teacher and good authoritative editions serve you well. Thanks for the great question! We’ll see you next time here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.

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Do Composers Write in Pedal Markings for the Piano?

I’m Robert Estrin and this is LivingPianos.com. The question today came from a reader who asks, “How do you know when the pedal markings are written by the composer?” So, the fundamental question is, “Do composers write in pedal m

Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store, with a great question. When do you use the soft pedal on the piano? The una corda pedal is the left pedal on grand and baby grand pianos. It is an amazing device for expressive playing because it changes the tone. Those of you who practice on upright pianos, the left pedal does not do what it is supposed to do.

What does “una corda” mean?

Una corda translates from Italian as “one string”. What does this mean? Originally, pianos had two strings for each key. By depressing the una corda pedal, the hammers would only strike one of the two strings giving a softer, delicate tone. Modern pianos have three strings for each note through most of the piano. So, depressing the una corda pedal makes two of the strings hit directly. Depending on how the piano is voiced, it may even hit all three strings with softer parts of the felt of the hammer.

The fundamental thing about soft pedals is that every piano is different.

Think about this: on one piano the hammers may strike two of the strings. On another piano, the hammers may strike all three strings, but a little off-axis. The grooved part of the hammer with the hardened felt does not hit the strings. So, you get a more delicate tone. I’m telling you all this so that you understand how different the impact is on depressing the soft pedal on different pianos.

The answer to the question is: it depends not just upon the music, the performance you are after, or the acoustics of the room, but on the specific piano and the way its soft pedal affects the tone. Naturally, a great deal has to do with how you approach the piano with your hands. In some pianos I’ve played, every time you put the soft pedal down it creates a drastic tonal change.

On other pianos, you depress the una corda pedal and you don’t even notice any difference at all!

On this type of piano, you might use the pedal very liberally. On such a piano, if you want a little change of color, you might as well push the soft pedal just to make it easier to play softly.

Perhaps you’ve worked out all of the places you want to use the soft pedal. Then, as soon as you start playing with the soft pedal, the tone gets swallowed up completely. You may find that you are not going to use the soft pedal except very sparingly, in the most delicate sections on a piano like this.

That’s the long and short of it:

When playing a performance, it’s so important to have an opportunity to try the piano beforehand. Not just for the soft pedal, but all the pedals. It is remarkable how different the pedals respond on various pianos! I would go so far as to say that in trying out a piano for a recital, an audition, or just to play for someone, checking out the pedals is probably the most important thing because they vary more than any other aspect of each piano.

I hope this has been helpful for you. Again, I’m Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store.

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949-244-3729

Secrets of the Soft Pedal on Pianos

Robert Estrin here at LivingPianos.com, Your Online Piano Store, with a great question. When do you use the soft pedal on the piano? The una corda pedal is the left pedal on grand and baby grand pianos. It is an amazing device for expressive playing

When to Add the Pedal in Your Piano Practice

The question today is “When do you add the pedal in your piano practice?” Some of you may be thinking, “Why don’t you use the pedal the whole time?” There are good reasons to practice without the pedal. I have discussed this at great length in many videos. Today, we’re going to talk about when to add the pedal in your piano practice.

Why should you practice without the pedal?

As I’ve talked about before, in order to discover the best fingering to really connect the music with your hands, you want to be able to practice hearing all the notes clearly. The pedal is like the icing on the cake. It makes everything sound better! But, you want to try to achieve a beautiful, smooth performance playing without the pedal. If you do that, then adding the pedal is going to enrich your performance. More than that, you won’t use the pedal as a crutch to connect music that you can connect with your hands. This leaves the pedal as an expressive device to enhance tone instead of merely connecting what you should be able to do with your fingers.

I’m going to take a familiar section of the Chopin Ballade in G minor to show you on the accompanying video what to do when you are practicing this section of this famous piece. I’m going to play as written first with the pedal. Then I will show you when to add the pedal in your practice.

The first thing is to know how to practice to begin with!

As I’ve discussed in the past, it’s really important with solo piano repertoire to break down the music to its most intrinsic elements so that you can absorb all the details. Because if you try to learn too much at a time, there’s only so much you can assimilate at one time. It is necessary to take a small section at a time, hands separately, figuring out the notes, counting out the rhythm, figuring out the best fingering, as well as observing, phrasing, such as staccato and slurs, as well as all the expression marks such as dynamics (the loud and soft indications), accents, and all the rest of the details of the score.

If you are learning a fresh, new piece, you should tackle a small section as demonstrated on the accompanying video. You could take more. But it could take you more than twice as long to learn a phrase that is longer. More than that, if you are practicing a whole afternoon and want to keep practicing productively, it would be really challenging to take 16 major or 32 measure phrases. However, you could knock out smaller phrases very easily and sustain a longer practice.

Next you get the left hand securely memorized so you can play smoothly with comfort. Finally, you put the hands together. I suggest when putting the hands together the first time, challenge yourself by doing it from memory. You may need to go substantially slower at first in order to achieve this. You’ll know right away if your fingering needs work since you will hear things that are not connected. In fact:

One of the most important solutions to most technical problems is finding better fingering.

This transcends just this lesson today about when to add the pedal. I would suggest whenever you run into snags in your playing, investigate alternative fingering to solve problems.

Once you get hands together smoothly and memorized at a reasonable tempo (which is as fast as you can get it up to in one sitting before the point of diminishing returns), you are ready to add the pedal.

Instead of relying upon the pedal to connect notes that can be connected smoothly with your fingers, instead, you utilize the pedal to enhance the tone as well as to connect what you can’t connect with your hands. For example, in this phrase, you can extend the left hand broken chords to sustain longer than your fingers can possibly hold the notes which sounds much more beautiful. I had the good fortune of studying with many brilliant concert pianists, and all of them taught me the importance of practicing without the pedal. It’s an essential practice technique for the piano. So, remember to add the pedal to reward yourself as you master each phrase of music.

Even after you have the whole piece on a high level with the pedal, check your work without the pedal to keep your playing honest.

You piano playing will be on an entirely new level when you stop using the pedal as a crutch and learn how to connect the music with your hands. I hope this tutorial helps your piano practice and your playing. This is Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com Your Online Piano Store 949-244-3729 info@LivingPianos.com

When to Add the Pedal in Your Piano Practice

When to Add the Pedal in Your Piano Practice The question today is “When do you add the pedal in your piano practice?” Some of you may be thinking, “Why don’t you use the pedal the whole time?” There are good reasons to practice without

This is a really interesting question and it brings to mind a video I made years ago demonstrating how the pedals interact with tone and techniques that add sustain to the tone of the piano by utilizing the pedals. If you push down the sustain pedal after you’ve played a note, you can enhance the tone after the initial attack. You can also depress the una corda pedal (soft pedal) which shifts the action so only two of the three strings are struck directly by the hammer for each note which makes the attack softer and creates a more sustained tone. By using these two techniques in conjunction with one another, you can achieve a very sustained tone. But what about just using the soft pedal alone? Is that ever done?

Here’s an interesting fact for you. Way back when the first piano was developed by Bartolomeo Cristofori around 1600, he had sort of a una corda pedal. It wasn’t like a modern type, but indeed he had a mechanism on his early pianos that could provide a softer tone. However, that piano didn’t have a sustain pedal! Later on in Mozart’s era, the early pianos had a lever that could be operated with the knee that did the same thing as the sustain pedal on modern pianos. You could combine changes of registration achieved by engaging felt on the strings, along with the sustain lever, thereby softening and sustaining the tone. This is like on a modern piano combining the sustain pedal along with the soft pedal. For example, in the second movement of the Mozart sonata K330 in C major; I always love to take the una corda pedal in the minor section. I use the sustain pedal along with the una corda pedal to achieve a soft, singing sound.

If you’re playing Baroque music which predated the invention of the piano, composers wrote for various keyboard instruments including the harpsichord, clavichord, virginal as well as others. These instruments had no sustain pedal. Yet there were changes of sound with registrations which engaged different sets of strings. This is why many people believe that you should not use the sustain pedal in Baroque music for the reason that it wasn’t on any of the keyboard instruments of the time that composers like Bach and Scarlatti were writing music for. So this is one instance where there is a good case for using the una corda pedal without using the sustain pedal. You can hear the change of color on the accompanying video which demonstrates engaging the una corda for a change of tone. Indeed it is possible to use just the una corda pedal without necessarily combining it with the sustain pedal as is usually the case.

Thanks for joining me, Robert Estrin at LivingPianos.com Your Online Piano Store info@LivingPianos.com 949-244-3729

Can You Use the Soft Pedal Without the Sustain Pedal?

This is a really interesting question and it brings to mind a video I made years ago demonstrating how the pedals interact with tone and techniques that add sustain to the tone of the piano by utilizing the pedals. If you push down the sustain pedal