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.
I hope I have always been true to my students and my readers here.
Frankly I think I have.
But there were certainly times i doubted if it was the way I was supposed to be, if I were being truly authentic, perhaps to myself more than to anyone else.
I didn’t want to be too straightforward or outspoken at times because people might not like what i write and i would be ridiculed and criticised for that. Or i simply didn’t write it.
I didn’t want to write in a too serious or philosophical or academic or deep, meaningful or spiritual way that people might not understand what I was trying to say and think I am being pretentious or cheesy.
Well, sometimes I can’t help myself but just write it still. But I do know I had reservations.
I think it’s time to just write what I want to write and say what I have to say, and there’s no better time than now.
It’s like playing the piano or getting your practice done: there’s simply no better time than now.
Or anything else you want to do in life really.
There’s no time to waste or miss out on things you really want to do. Or even to have fun!
I love teaching, but I don’t love teaching people who don’t want to learn and practice (and keep saying it’s hard and there’s no time), who don’t want to do the heavy lifting but want the result straight away.
I love playing, but I don’t love playing music I don’t want to play, no matter how popular a song is to everyone in the world.
I love writing, and frankly I don’t really care if there’s a lot of people reading this (it turns out to be quite a lot of you do so THANK YOU!). But I certainly hope those who do would find this blog helpful in the past few years: I have certainly spent loads of time and effort maintaining this and hope it would reach out to more people because I genuinely think I have great resources here.
I love to mentor others, but I don’t love mentoring those who are lazy and don’t put their heart and soul in their teaching and their career, those who just want to do the minimum in the most ridiculously imprecise and inaccurate way and ask me for the reward thinking that’s the way to do things. I say no to that and them.
I love precision, dedication, and passion. And there’s no other way to live and do things.
I love integrity. That’s the only way to be.
So there you go.
I hope you have a wonderful week ahead. Today is a brand new day for a brand new week! Enjoy!
Choosing a right programme for your piano diploma exam sets the right path for ultimate success.
How do you choose your programme then? And how do you know if the programme is right for you and the exam purpose?
1. READ THE SYLLABUS
Follow the guidelines strictly is the first and foremost key to success in your piano exam.
You must read the syllabus carefully.
If you are the teacher, read the syllabus!
If you are the candidate, read the syllabus too! Do not rely on your teacher to do the work. There are so many details in the syllabus that your teacher just cannot explain everything to you in your lessons (although of course the teacher is equally responsible here).
The details include the prerequisites to enter each diploma exam, the time limit and choices of the recital programme, the word count and format of the programme notes etc etc. Always refer to the syllabus for clarification. And you get get a physical copy from the board itself – they will mail it to you upon request.
2. CHOOSE AN APPROPRIATE RECITAL PROGRAMME
Some candidates may choose to play all of the pieces from all four different musical periods, while others three out of the four, depending on timing as well as one’s preference, musicality and technicality. So if the programme has three pieces, it is typically (but not confined to) Baroque- Classical-Romantic or Classical-Romantic- 20th-century.
You should bear in mind that it is not only the period that differentiates one piece from the other. It also depends on the genre and the style of the piece. Generally, you would want to include a bigger sonata piece as the centre piece of the programme (it is not compulsory but common choice). Then from there you think about how to balance it with pieces of other styles/periods/varieties.
3. CHOOSE THE PIECES ACCORDING TO YOUR ABILITY
In order to achieve the best result in the exam, you must choose the pieces that shows different spectrum and the best of your technicality and musicality.
Do not just choose some pieces because they are “easy” to handle so you can practice less, or “difficult” only to show how fast you can move your hands. The programme must show your best ability in delivering substance and variety of skills and understanding in the playing and music.
How do I choose for my students then?
I always like to choose for my students a lighter shorter piece to start the whole programme, something with separate sections/movements that stops in between, to gently ease themselves into the recital process. If the student is of higher level of technicality, I would choose a more technical and fun short piece at the end to show off their virtuosity. If the student is more musically expressive, I make sure s/he has a piece to showcase that side of playing ability as well.
The choice is limitless. But you must choose accordingly.
I welcome any questions regarding the piano diploma exams.