The Importance of Playing Piano without the Pedal

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This is a topic that is very important to anyone wanting to develop a refined technique on the piano. It is very important to practice the piano without using the pedal – the pedal should be something that enhances your music and not simply a crutch for making mediocre playing sound better.

Pedals on the piano are actually a modern development. When the piano was fist invented it didn’t have pedals, so connecting notes had to be accomplished with the fingers. Believe it or not, Johannes Brahms didn’t even have a sustain pedal on his practice piano!

The sustain pedal does just as its name implies – it holds (sustains) all the notes. When you hold the pedal down, the dampers stay hovering over the strings, when you release the pedal the dampers fall back onto the strings and dampen the sound.

The pedal is not just a tool for connecting notes; it’s capable of adding expressive elements to your music. The real challenge of the pedal is knowing when and how to use it. The only way to accomplish this is to practice your music without the pedal.

In the video included with this article I demonstrate how depending upon the pedal to connect notes instead of using your fingers can lead to sloppy playing and bad technique. But how can you avoid this?

The secret to connecting notes without the pedal is to develop a legato technique with both hands – not just with the melody but even repeated chords in the left hand. But why is this important?

If you can learn how to connect your notes just using your hands, you will be able to use the pedal to enhance your music tonally and make your melodies sing – you will find the best fingerings for passages, and rely on the pedal not as a crutch, and most of all, you will improve as a pianist.

Thanks again for joining me Robert Estrin (949) 244-3729

5 thoughts on “The Importance of Playing Piano without the Pedal”


  1. Couldn’t agree more! People remark about how Sokolov rarely uses the sustain pedal, like it’s an oddity, but his control over the tone is unparalleled. I once had a teacher threaten to tie my foot under the bench to get me to stop defaulting to the sustain pedal! It clued me in to just let the fingers do the work.

    (By the way, it’s called the “damper” pedal, but I always thought it should be the “UN-damper,” because that’s what it does – un-dampen the strings.)

  2. One of my early teachers called the pedal “an escape” which captured what I had been doing with it. But it takes so long to develop the right tastes to know where and when to use it. One reason to have a teacher.

    1. In the early stages of working with the pedal on the piano, having a teacher’s guidance can be invaluable by writing in precisely where the pedal is to be used. This helps students to understand how the pedal is utilized in piano playing.

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