How to Use the Pedal on the Piano

Piano Lessons / piano playing techniques / How to Use the Pedal on the Piano

Welcome to, I’m Robert Estrin. The subject today is about how to use the pedal on the piano. This is such a deep subject. I have other videos on the finer points about pedaling, how it imparts changes in tone, when to use it, when not to use it, and how to use the sustain pedal in conjunction with the soft pedal. But today I will cover the fundamentals. If you’ve ever wondered how the pedal works, you’ve come to the right place!

The interesting thing about the pedal is that it does not go down rhythmically.

If you’ve just started using the pedal the hardest thing about it is that it is not used rhythmically, because you want to tap your foot on the beat. It’s the most natural thing in the world! Yet that doesn’t work on the piano. It doesn’t work because if you push the pedal down when a note plays, you will capture the harmonies of the previous notes that were down. It’s a mess. Why is that? The fact of the matter is, when you push the pedal down, whatever notes are held down are going to continue holding down. When you play a note, you’re still holding down the previous notes to some extent, particularly if something is slurred.

How do you create a slur on the piano?

A slur is a glide between notes. A singer or a French horn player does it very naturally and the notes between the slur are all there. On the piano, you can’t do that. So you tend to overlap notes, and that’s the way you create the illusion of a slur. But what happens when you pedal on the beat is the previously played notes are going to be held. If I play middle C and then a C sharp and I pedal at the same moment as I play the C sharp, you’re going to hear the C and the C sharp together. You will hear dissonance. The pedal must go down right after notes plays.

But here’s some good news for you, the pedal comes up exactly on the beat!

The pedal goes up exactly when you play a note. But the pedal goes down right after the note, arrhythmically. It’s important that you understand that, otherwise, you’re going to hear dissonance. It’s the nature of the pedal.

There’s so much more to the pedal. As a matter of fact, I will put links in the description of some other videos I have on pedaling. Decades ago, I made 50 hour-long presentations live on the internet, for a company in Irvine. My show was called Keyboard Kaleidoscope. One episode is an hour long show on the pedal that I will share with you in the notes below, in the description, and on! I hope this is helpful for you. Thanks so much for joining me, Robert Estrin here at, Your Online Piano Resource.

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4 thoughts on “How to Use the Pedal on the Piano”

  1. I was hoping you would play Claire de Lune with proper pedaling to show the difference!

    I learned how to use the pedal properly when I was a child, and it never posed a problem for me, and in fact, I don’t think I could use it wrong if I tried! It sure helps when you can learn something when you are still a kid. So for me, putting the pedal down off the beat is just the way I do it, and i don’t even think about it. It’s sort of like driving a car. When I first started, I didn’t have a bit of instinct, and even in a wide parking lot, I still ran into a curb. After half a million miles of driving, everything I do is automatic, programmed into my muscles, and happens even before the brain begins to process what I am doing.

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