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#1587201 - 12/30/10 01:50 PM sostenuto pedal  
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cardguy Offline
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I learned a lot on the soft pedal discussion. Inspired me to ask about the sostenuto pedal. I've a new grand and I've been playing around with it a bit. I feel a bit like a lousy driver who's gone out and got himself a high end sports car. Nice to have needless to say, but nicer still if I could use it a little more to its potential...

I'm playing some Debussy lately in an attempt to get out of my all-Chopin-all-the-time rut, so there's all sorts of potential for pedaling to good effect.

First thing I discovered, the s. pedal doesn't work unless you depress it *after* hitting the notes you want to sustain. So. That's progress! :>)

Last edited by cardguy; 12/30/10 01:51 PM.
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#1587211 - 12/30/10 02:02 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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One of the good places to learn about the sostenuto pedal is the works of Grainger. He probably marks the specific use/duration of the this pedal more than almost any other composer. Most of his works are at IMSLP.I know a site where all his works are available but can't post it for a few days until I get home and look it up on my favorites.

My personal opinion is that the S.P. is not not very important until one gets extremely advanced, i.e. conservatory level, and even then it's used quite rarely except for contemporary music. I have heard master class teachers make many comments about the sustain pedal but almost never any comments about the una corda or sostenuto pedals.

(Like the top three notes on the piano) I think more than 99% of the piano literature could be played without the S.P.

Last edited by pianoloverus; 12/30/10 02:27 PM.
#1587220 - 12/30/10 02:18 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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Originally Posted by cardguy
[...]
First thing I discovered, the s. pedal doesn't work unless you depress it *after* hitting the notes you want to sustain. So. That's progress! :>)


Yes, progress, indeed! That's the "beauty" (?) of the sostenuto that you can hold selected notes while still operating the damper to both sustain and release other notes. The trick is, particularly in relatively fast passages to deploy the sostenuto in the fraction of time it will take to catch only the notes you want to sustain without catching extraneous ones.

Experimentation is the key - as it were. Be aware, too, when it comes to performing on a different piano, that sostenutos have the curious and unenviable reputation of not being regularly maintained and/or regulated; sometimes they work, sometimes they sort-of work and sometimes they don't work at all.

Regards,


BruceD
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#1587242 - 12/30/10 02:46 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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My piano (Schimmel upright) doesn't have a sostenuto. The middle pedal is an "apartment pedal" which puts a layer of felt between the hammers and the strings to reduce the volume of sound. I've never missed having the sostenuto.

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#1587258 - 12/30/10 03:11 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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I don't have a sostenuto on my grand so I've never learned the purpose of this smile



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#1587306 - 12/30/10 04:18 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: jazzwee]  
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cardguy Offline
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To be perfectly and painfully honest, I didn't even know what the soft pedal was for until the recent p.f. thread. I played around with that for a while yesterday, but I really dislike what it does to my very mellow, non-bright sounding new piano.

I do see the potential in the s.p. though. That might come in handy some day while keeping in mind what Pianol. had to say. I've been trying to work it in on some of those lengthy sustained Debussy chords he's so fond of with an eye, or ear rather, toward trying to discern whether there's an advantage in some cases over the damper pedal..

For good or for ill, it's fun to just play around a bit...

Last edited by cardguy; 12/30/10 04:19 PM.
#1587311 - 12/30/10 04:23 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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Based on what you've been saying in your posts on the forums, you need to concentrate on hitting the right notes in the right time at tempo. Neither the soft nor the sostenuto pedal will help you in any way with that.

#1587314 - 12/30/10 04:29 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: jeffreyjones]  
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Originally Posted by jeffreyjones
My piano (Schimmel upright) doesn't have a sostenuto. The middle pedal is an "apartment pedal" which puts a layer of felt between the hammers and the strings to reduce the volume of sound. I've never missed having the sostenuto.


Many old uprights have sostenuto pedals that act as a sustain pedal for the bass notes. Pretty useless and I imagine most people start on uprights, so don't really notice that it's function on a grand is much more useful.

#1587349 - 12/30/10 05:10 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: Gyro]  
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Originally Posted by Gyro
Based on what you've been saying in your posts on the forums, you need to concentrate on hitting the right notes in the right time at tempo. Neither the soft nor the sostenuto pedal will help you in any way with that.


So I need to spend every single minute of my piano life working on hitting the right notes? I can't take a break? I can't fool around even for a second?
What if I have to go to the bathroom?

#1587431 - 12/30/10 07:15 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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Originally Posted by cardguy
To be perfectly and painfully honest, I didn't even know what the soft pedal was for until the recent p.f. thread. I played around with that for a while yesterday, but I really dislike what it does to my very mellow, non-bright sounding new piano.

I do see the potential in the s.p. though. That might come in handy some day while keeping in mind what Pianol. had to say. I've been trying to work it in on some of those lengthy sustained Debussy chords he's so fond of with an eye, or ear rather, toward trying to discern whether there's an advantage in some cases over the damper pedal..

For good or for ill, it's fun to just play around a bit...


There certainly is. Debussy turned staccato under long sustained chords into an art form. For example, the D-flat major section of Doctor Gradus ad Parnassum is a prime candidate. By using the sostenuto, you can sustain the low A-flat with the sostenuto, then feather the pedal to blur the RH passage just enough, and then also hear the crossed-over LH thirds clearly.

But a similar effect can be had with the regular pedal. It just takes a more careful touch.

#1587486 - 12/30/10 09:43 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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I have recently had great success with the sostanuto pedal.

I first got onto it in the Franck "Prelude, Chorale and Fugue," where I was able to sustain some bass notes, and by using the damper pedal in addition, I was able to keep the harmony clean. At the time, it seemed like a functional way of getting me over a hump. But more recently I've been working on Janacek's "In the Mist," and I found a number of places where it was invaluable, and I feel I was able to create some really magical effects.

What I don't think is generally understood is that it can be used together with the damper pedal, and that's the real beauty of it. You sustain some selected notes, and then sort of feather in a little resonance here and there with the damper pedal in the other voices. And then, if you choose, you back out of the added resonance, all the while sustaining the selected notes. Or you can sustain the bass, and play the treble staccato. The effects can be surprising and quite magical.

Now that I've got the knack of it, and feel comfortable with it, I'm quite sure I'll be using it often in the future.

Although, as I related in the other thread, my teacher was not happy with my use of the soft pedal in "In the Mist," she was quite elated that I discovered the use of the sostanuto on my own. She said she was learning from me.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#1587492 - 12/30/10 09:50 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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I learned the sostenuto pedal back as a teen playing Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C#m.

Its essential for the last section. Since then, I have missed it on pianos that don't have one.

Question: do Sostenuto pedals always have their break point at the same place on the keyboard? Is there a universal place where above that key it stops working, or do individual piano makers have their own break points?


Piano teacher and Blues and Boogie-Woogie pianist.
#1587505 - 12/30/10 10:09 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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I never missed not having one.

Once I 'got' one, I still wasn't sure when to use it. I once heard a jazz player (PW Party) that used it all the time in his playing.

I was jealous.

Until I had to use it while learning Rhapsody in Blue. Yikes! Once more thing to think of. But it was useful in that instance.

Cardguy - is it written in the Debussy?

BTW, you can fool around all you want on your new toy!!!


"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."
#1587509 - 12/30/10 10:19 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: rocket88]  
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Originally Posted by rocket88
Question: do Sostenuto pedals always have their break point at the same place on the keyboard? Is there a universal place where above that key it stops working, or do individual piano makers have their own break points?


On my piano, a Yamaha C2, there is no break point. It works all the way up.

Tomasino


"Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do so with all thy might." Ecclesiastes 9:10

#1587525 - 12/30/10 10:50 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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If a composer wants a sostenuto pedal effect, it is a safe bet that it will be specifically asked for in the score. This is just standard notation practice.

That doesn't mean it shouldn't ever be used unless asked for, but just that one shouldn't make a mistake about what the composer had in mind.


#1587526 - 12/30/10 10:50 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: lilylady]  
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Originally Posted by lilylady
[...]
Cardguy - is it written in the Debussy?

BTW, you can fool around all you want on your new toy!!!


There is no indication of the sostenuto in any of Debussy's piano compositions, unless added by a modern editor; his piano did not have a sostenuto and most pianos of his day did not have a sostenuto.

Regards,


BruceD
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#1587537 - 12/30/10 11:07 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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Earl Wild suggests before playing Funerailles, to silently depress the low C octave and use the sostenuto to hold it through the enter 17 measure introduction.

#1587538 - 12/30/10 11:08 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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Josef Hofmann had his Steinway's middle pedal removed because he was afraid he'd hit it by mistake.

Some manufacturers (e.g. Bechstein) have the sustain (right) pedal adjusted so that the bass dampers are raised before the middle keyboard and treble dampers are, as one increases the amount of pedal depression. (I neglected to test my Bechstein upright to see if it had that effect, before I sold it.)


There is no end of learning. -Robert Schumann Rules for Young Musicians
#1587584 - 12/31/10 01:22 AM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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How exactly does the sostenuto pedal work? My piano just has a middle pedal that sustains all the notes in the bass, so I've never really gotten a chance to play around with one...


But you can call me Brian.
#1587618 - 12/31/10 03:52 AM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: cardguy]  
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The sostenuto pedal holds the dampers on the notes that are held when the pedal is depressed. If the damper pedal is pressed first, it will hold all the dampers up (undesirable, as they will fall with a thump when the sostenuto pedal is released, unless the damper pedal is still held). Using the sostenuto pedal is difficult to time, and some harmonics may resonate when you do not want them to. Still, it can be a very useful pedal, but I have not heard many people use it effectively.

I told a soloist to use it at a show at Grace Cathedral, which has a very long echo, and it worked to keep her solo part from turning into a blurry mush. It can be useful holding a note when other notes should be played non-legato, but few people appreciate non-legato as much as they should, these days. Harold Bauer would use it for the final arpeggio in Chopin's Fantasy, a legitimate use as today's pianos are so much more resonant than Chopin's pianos.


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#1587621 - 12/31/10 04:11 AM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: rocket88]  
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Originally Posted by rocket88
I learned the sostenuto pedal back as a teen playing Rachmaninoff's Prelude in C#m.

Its essential for the last section. Since then, I have missed it on pianos that don't have one.

Question: do Sostenuto pedals always have their break point at the same place on the keyboard? Is there a universal place where above that key it stops working, or do individual piano makers have their own break points?
Because you are asking this question, you do not have a sostenuto pedal at all, but a (bogus) substitute. A regular sostenuto pedal does not work like you are describing.


(I'm a piano teacher.)
#1587664 - 12/31/10 08:45 AM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: Palindrome]  
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Originally Posted by Palindrome
Josef Hofmann had his Steinway's middle pedal removed because he was afraid he'd hit it by mistake.

Some manufacturers (e.g. Bechstein) have the sustain (right) pedal adjusted so that the bass dampers are raised before the middle keyboard and treble dampers are, as one increases the amount of pedal depression. (I neglected to test my Bechstein upright to see if it had that effect, before I sold it.)


I don't quite understand Pal. Could you further explain that?


"Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything."
#1590686 - 01/04/11 08:40 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: BruceD]  
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by lilylady
[...]
Cardguy - is it written in the Debussy?

BTW, you can fool around all you want on your new toy!!!


There is no indication of the sostenuto in any of Debussy's piano compositions, unless added by a modern editor; his piano did not have a sostenuto and most pianos of his day did not have a sostenuto.

Regards,


True, but how are you supposed to play, for example, measure 15 of Clair de Lune without a sostenuto pedal? You hit the low Eb octaves, which are supposed to sustain, then you play a series of chords with both hands in the treble.

#1590694 - 01/04/11 08:44 PM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: EliJ]  
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EliJ, I'm sure it's perfectly fine to use it in that section. smile

#1590882 - 01/05/11 03:32 AM Re: sostenuto pedal [Re: lilylady]  
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Originally Posted by lilylady
Originally Posted by Palindrome
Josef Hofmann had his Steinway's middle pedal removed because he was afraid he'd hit it by mistake.

Some manufacturers (e.g. Bechstein) have the sustain (right) pedal adjusted so that the bass dampers are raised before the middle keyboard and treble dampers are, as one increases the amount of pedal depression. (I neglected to test my Bechstein upright to see if it had that effect, before I sold it.)


I don't quite understand Pal. Could you further explain that?
Having the regular pedal lift unevenly on purpose to give the bass a longer ring time.


(I'm a piano teacher.)

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