Often students ask me how to use pedal(s) in a piece they are working on. To that I am quite surprised at first, but I understand where they are coming from. They were never taught about the real application of pedaling – just as they were never taught anything about piano technique.
Let’s focus on the right pedal, the so-called “loud” pedal. It’s the sustaining pedal which maintains the resonance of fuller sound produced by keeping the whole set of dampers lifted off the strings when being kept down.
First of all, we rarely step to the very bottom of the sustaining pedal. More often than not, we step half way or at most 3/4 way down of the depth of the pedal. What does that mean?
Watch the video here (it’s in Cantonese for now, will make one in English soonest!)
Imagine you are driving. Once you start the car, you step on the gas pedal, you never really step all the way down because that would be you are going on a fast-and-furious speed you cannot control! It’s just the same as using a pedal at the piano.
In the same theory, you never release the pedal all the way up too, just as you never fully release the gas pedal in order to keep the car going. At the piano, when you have to change the pedaling, you always release until just a bit of leeway before you feel you fully release the whole pedal all the way up. That means you still feel some pressure holding just a little bit of the pedal down. You would of course however release the whole pedal all the way up when you have finished the whole pedaling process, or you are playing the next passage or chord that does not require pedaling, or the chords (e.g. Staccato notes or short block chords) that require very clean separate sound instead of very legato and lyrical one.
Other than pressing the sustaining pedal most of the way down, you can also press half way down, a third or a fourth of the way down, or something we called flutter pedal, which means you only press very little of the pedal and change it very quickly to keep very very clean yet connected sound with more resonance than otherwise.
In the next post, I shall talk about when (the timing) to apply the sustaining pedal.