Advanced Pedal Techniques

Piano Lessons / music performance / Advanced Pedal Techniques

Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. Today’s subject is about advanced pedal techniques. It’s absolutely not what you would expect at all. I guarantee it! I could talk about half pedaling, which sometimes you do to get a certain sonority. I could talk about combining the una corda pedal, the soft pedal, with the sustain pedal. I could talk about engaging the sostenuto pedal, the middle pedal, to hold some notes when maybe you don’t want to blur everything together. Then you can combine that with the sustain pedal. I could talk about using little dashes of pedal to bring out certain notes. There’s a wealth of pedal techniques that you couldn’t possibly even write in, and even if you could, it wouldn’t be that helpful. Because the piano you’re playing on, the acoustics of the room, not to mention the music you’re playing, all enter into these advanced pedal techniques.

What I’m talking about today are next level pedal techniques.

I will use the slow movement from the Mozart K 545 C Major Sonata as an example. I’m talking about the second movement. I know many of you purists out there might say, “Why use pedal in Mozart at all? Mozart’s piano didn’t have a pedal.” This is true. However, there are two reasons why you might consider using at least some pedal in Mozart. Number one, although Mozart’s piano did not have a sustain pedal, it did have a lever operated with your knee that did exactly the same thing as a sustain pedal. So there was a certain amount of sustain that could be achieved, much like with the pedal. Secondly, when you’re playing on a modern piano, it’s so drastically different from a Mozart era piano that it essentially becomes a transcription for modern piano. The sound, the sustain, and the whole quality of the instrument is so different from what Mozart heard out of his piano. Arguably, you’re playing on a whole different instrument! You might as well take advantage of what the modern piano offers you.

What kind of techniques am I talking about?

I’m not talking about any of the pedal techniques I brought up before. So what am I talking about? In pedaling this, you might be tempted to pedal so that the chords in the left hand get blurred together. Why not simply change the pedal whenever the harmonies change? It’s a very simple technique. The problem with that is when you add the right hand, the right hand notes become blurry. You don’t want the right hand to be blurry. But you want the left hand to be sustained, giving that bed that the melody can float on. Well, here’s the technique. It doesn’t involve the pedal. Not at first.

Use your hands to simulate the sound of the pedal!

In the left hand, you want to hold the bass notes longer. When you do this, the left hand is sustained without having to depend upon the pedal for it. Why is this so helpful? Because then you can use little touches of the pedal to articulate certain notes in the melody, to make the melody more sustained. These touches of pedal on the melody are really subjective. They’re not going to be the same for everyone. It depends upon the room, the acoustics, and the piano. By using little dashes of pedal on the melody while playing the accompaniment with this phantom pedal technique, you can capture the long notes on the melody to make them sing longer.

Simply pedal the long notes in the melody so they sustain longer.

With your left hand, use the phantom pedal technique holding the notes that fall on the beat so that you can use the pedal to enhance the melody instead of trying to pedal the chords to make them sound more lush and sustained. This opens up dramatic possibilities for using the pedal in a more subtle fashion to enhance the melody rather than connecting the accompaniment. This isn’t just in Mozart. This goes for a vast array of musical styles. Try it in your playing. You’ll be richly rewarded with a far more musical performance! You will get a sound that’s cleaner because you’re doing more with your hands. You won’t have to depend upon the pedal to connect what you can connect with your left hand. This opens up great expressive possibilities with the pedal in your piano playing. Thanks again for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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