Play the Piano – Pedaling

    Published: 06-16-2009
    Views: 19,703
    Professional pianist Alex Wasserman demonstrates pedaling on the piano.

    Alex Wasserman

    Alexander Wasserman is a professional pianist and pedagogue whose performances include Suburban Symphony Orchestra, Cleveland, “Pianofest” , Peabody Institute, Los Angeles. He is on the faculty at the International School of Music (ISM) in Bethesda, where he teaches piano to all ages, levels, and styles. With a distinguished faculty of 55 teachers, ISM provides students with a rich music education experience. The ISM faculty’s friendly personalities, insightful approaches, and individually tailored teaching methods have helped students become complete and versatile musicians. ISM provides an atmosphere that is warm and supportive so every student can achieve his/her best.

    Alexander Wasserman: My name is Alex Wasserman and we are talking about piano basics. Now I would like to talk about pedaling. On most pianos there are three pedals. The pedal on the very right lists the dampers on the strings so that each string can resonate. Notice how when I play this note, with the right pedal down, the sound is allowed to resonate in the piano until I lift the pedal when the dampers come back down. The left pedal softens the sound. This is what the piano sounds like with the left pedal down. If I were to release the left pedal, you would hear that it is slightly louder. The middle pedal is hardly ever used. The middle pedal acts essentially like the right pedal and that it lifts the dampers on the strings. However, it only lifts the dampers on the bottom half of the piano so that it is possible to sustain a bottom note while playing the top part of the piano without that ringing, sustaining sound. Here is an example of playing a piece with the pedal down. This is the Knock turn and D-Flat major by Frdric Chopin. Notice how the blending of the sonorities sounded very nice in that note. Let's try the same example without the pedal. You can hear that this music calls for that blending of sonorities with the pedal. Now on the other hand, some music is much better suited to being played without the pedal. Let's take the example of the Mozart Piano Sonata in C major. Now with the pedal. You can hear that blending of sonorities did not quite work in that piece. Different pieces are suited to different types of pedaling. Typically, classical music and Baroque music uses less pedal, while romantic and impressionistic music uses the most pedal. Next, we will be talking about performance.