How to use piano pedals : sustain

Tips about how to use the pedal on a piano

The piano pedal can also be used in passages to give a more sustaining quality to the tone, though here care must be taken not to impair distinctness, but a great deal more pedal can be applied without causing any blur if an accent is given on the bass note on which the passage is built. The pedal may be applied in a greater degree in the higher than in the lower registers of the instrument, as the higher tones can stand, and also need, more sustaining than the lower ones, whilst these last possess of themselves a certain sustenance of tone, and therefore blur more quickly. When applying the pedal it should never be banged on, but pressed down gently and gradually.

It is essential to possess a good knowledge of harmony in order to be able to apply the pedal correctly, for it is necessary when using it to understand something about the structure of chords. All blurring over of tone by the pedal produces a most unpleasant impression upon the ear, and must be rigorously guarded against, except when, in some particular passage, a special effect is required. such as in the F minor Ballade of Chopin, in the example given below. But this is only an outlying instance which really appertains to the most elaborate study of tone-color. The general elementary

FIG. 33. Prelude in D flat (Chopin).

How to use the sustain pedal on piano pieces

Example showing the pedal taken in syncopation with the beat. It will be noticed that the pedal is taken directly after the note is struck and not on it, the finger not being released until the pedal is pressed down. The clamp under the bass part indicates the exact duration of holding down the pedal. rule for the student, however, remains that the blurring of tones by the pedal is bad in fact, it is one of the worst faults a pianist can commit. Professional classical and jazz pianists famous use the pedal very much more than amateurs, but it will not be so apparent in their playing. This ‘is because the experienced artist takes his pedal in a correct way

The piano pedal in a Chopin’s ballad

FIG. 34. Example showing special blurring effect of pedal in Chopin‘s F minor Ballade. Here the pedal is taken for two bars instead of being changed at each bar. This is done to obtain an effect of surging water, or the wind whistling through the trees. The clamp under the bass part indicates the exact duration of holding down the pedal. harmonically, so that it blends the tones naturally and does not upset the outlines, while the player who does not possess the understanding or the training neglects to change the pedal with the harmonies, and thereby produces a smudge of sound instead of clear color. The pedal is indeed the essence of life to the pianoforte, and by managing it wisely the pianist will conjure up out of his music the most vivid and satisfying impressions, while to the lovers of beautiful sound there can be no more fascinating study than the many and varied combinations which the pedal is able to obtain by the binding together of different tone-colors.

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