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This is my telling of an internal monologue I've been having with myself about pedaling that I decided to share with the group, in case it resonates with other beginners and experienced pianists alike. I'd love to hear your thoughts on this.

More recently, I've been working on pieces that have a lot of pedaling (and pedal refreshes) throughout. And, because they're slow and have many p and pp parts, it's important to keep the LH quiet and not too wet. So my teacher has been telling me (and showing me) about half, and sometimes, way less than half, pedaling. Press the pedal just enough so that you get some amount of sustain. And when a pedal refresh comes (say a new chord or new bar), lift it all the way and come down by only that same epsilon amount.

This is still very hard for me to do consistently. I either don't lift it all the way (in fear that I won't be able to come back down in time) or, when I press it back down, it goes down too far. I understand it takes practice and time, so I'm determined to keep at it until I learn it properly.

Then I noticed something interesting. It makes a huge difference if I'm playing barefoot (or with socks) versus when I'm playing with shoes on. The reason being that, without a shoe, you feel the pedal pressure on the sole of your foot and that feedback helps you feel the pedal position a bit better. Then I had an epiphany: when I was learning to drive, I recall wanting to use only a very specific shoe I had back then with *very* thin soles. That's because I wanted to feel the accelerator pedal under my right foot so that I wouldn't over accelerate or under accelerate. I distinctly recall thinking this made a huge difference, especially when I drove with other shoes (say when I had to if I were going to a fancy party).

However, and this is the big learning moment for me (I think). When I became an experienced driver, the particular shoe started to make no difference. Why? (I asked myself.) And I think the answer is "Because you're not supposed to feel the pedal; you're supposed to feel the car!" So I was like: "Holy cow! I'm not supposed to rely on feeling the pedal! I need to feel THE PIANO!"

What does it mean to "feel the piano"? This is a question I'm still trying to answer properly for myself. I'm sure it has to do with "listen carefully to the sound and adjust as you go." But at least now I think I'm looking at my issue from the correct point of view (rather than over focusing on my foot), which will hopefully help me arrive at the answer (and better playing) more quickly.


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Yes, every experienced pianist will tell you to "pedal with your ears". It's just like phrasing. You don't calculate the velocity of every key based on the previous one. You use your imagination and your hearing. It's the same with pedaling.

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I think your teacher is making a big mistake by introducing half pedaling at your level. A good teacher teachers what's appropriate for the student's level, and I certainly don't think half pedaling is appropriate probably even for an intermediate level pianist. I have attended at least 100 master classes where the pianists were all top conservatory students. The master class teachers typically discussed pedaling quite a bit but almost never mentioned half pedaling even for these super advanced pianists. In entire books devoted to pedaling, which are also not appropriate for beginners except for the earliest chapters, there is also only usually a small amount of material on half pedaling.

I also think that in the beginning you probably should be focusing on your foot, specifically exactly when you press and release the pedal. And just like you should mark the score with fingering, you can mark pedaling and especially pedaling that's not "obvious". Many editions of even the most advanced pieces have an editor's suggested pedaling.

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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think your teacher is making a big mistake by introducing half pedaling at your level. A good teacher teachers what's appropriate for the student's level, and I certainly don't think half pedaling is appropriate probably even for an intermediate level pianist. I have attended at least 100 master classes where the pianists were all top conservatory students. The master class teachers typically discussed pedaling quite a bit but almost never mentioned half pedaling even for these super advanced pianists. In entire books devoted to pedaling, which are also not appropriate for beginners except for the earliest chapters, there is also only usually a small amount of material on half pedaling.

I also think that in the beginning you probably should be focusing on your foot, specifically exactly when you press and release the pedal. And just like you should mark the score with fingering, you can mark pedaling and especially pedaling that's not "obvious". Many editions of even the most advanced pieces have an editor's suggested pedaling.

I see your point. It wasn't really my teacher who introduced it. It was really me asking. When I'm learning a new piece and he sometimes demonstrates a passage to show me something, I pay close attention to how he plays and sometimes ask "how did you manage to make it sound like that?" Indeed, we've gone into many things that I can tell (or that he tells me) are way above my head. I realize that and keep them in the back of my mind as "ok, eventually, this is where I need to get to, but not for a while."

Half pedaling came out of one of these interactions. I never stopped to ask him if he thinks it's too early for me to worry about half pedaling. The times in the past when I asked him about stuff like this, he was honest and told me "yeah, wait on that" or "I think you can do it." I'll ask what he thinks next time. My feeling is that he thinks it's not too early given where I am, but I may be wrong. I'll confirm during our next lesson.


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Originally Posted by Talão
. . .

What does it mean to "feel the piano"? This is a question I'm still trying to answer properly for myself. I'm sure it has to do with "listen carefully to the sound and adjust as you go." But at least now I think I'm looking at my issue from the correct point of view (rather than over focusing on my foot), which will hopefully help me arrive at the answer (and better playing) more quickly.

Thank you -- that gives me a different way to think about the problem.


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think your teacher is making a big mistake by introducing half pedaling at your level. A good teacher teachers what's appropriate for the student's level, and I certainly don't think half pedaling is appropriate probably even for an intermediate level pianist. I have attended at least 100 master classes where the pianists were all top conservatory students. The master class teachers typically discussed pedaling quite a bit but almost never mentioned half pedaling even for these super advanced pianists. In entire books devoted to pedaling, which are also not appropriate for beginners except for the earliest chapters, there is also only usually a small amount of material on half pedaling.
I find that quite strange because I don't think half-pedaling is a very difficult or advanced subject. It's just "keep your foot close to the pedal release point and adjust according to what you hear". Several Youtube teachers including Josh Wright, Graham Fitch and Antune mentioned this technique in their videos and they are not teaching super advanced pieces. Maybe the professors didn't dwelve on this subject because they assumed that this is how one would normally pedal at an advanced level.

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Should what is taught in a masterclass be a formula for what should be taught? Great idea! I no longer need to worry about working out fingering, since that is not discussed in masterclasses, either.

Half- pedaling can be introduced to new pianists— so long as they can handle another item to the elements of playing: notes, rhythm, dynamics, phrasing, articulation. It is something new— but takes listening to learn and do well.

When to learn is not a fixed formula for everyone,

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Originally Posted by Qazsedcft
Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think your teacher is making a big mistake by introducing half pedaling at your level. A good teacher teachers what's appropriate for the student's level, and I certainly don't think half pedaling is appropriate probably even for an intermediate level pianist. I have attended at least 100 master classes where the pianists were all top conservatory students. The master class teachers typically discussed pedaling quite a bit but almost never mentioned half pedaling even for these super advanced pianists. In entire books devoted to pedaling, which are also not appropriate for beginners except for the earliest chapters, there is also only usually a small amount of material on half pedaling.
I find that quite strange because I don't think half-pedaling is a very difficult or advanced subject. It's just "keep your foot close to the pedal release point and adjust according to what you hear". Several Youtube teachers including Josh Wright, Graham Fitch and Antune mentioned this technique in their videos and they are not teaching super advanced pieces. Maybe the professors didn't dwelve on this subject because they assumed that this is how one would normally pedal at an advanced level.
They didn't dwell on half pedaling but did dwell on much more basic pedaling aspects that even these top conservatory students were making. IMO half pedaling is almost absurdly inappropriate for beginners which is how the OP describes himself.

Antune's videos are excellent but he sometimes discusses technically fairly easy pieces (like the Chopin Prelude in E minor) in great detail, and much of what he includes is far beyond what a student who typically first learns a that piece would be able to do or should be thinking about. It's meant IMO for more advanced students playing the piece.

There are many threads and posts on PW that I think "Miss the forest for the trees" and this thread is one of them.

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Should what is taught in a masterclass be a formula for what should be taught? Great idea! I no longer need to worry about working out fingering, since that is not discussed in masterclasses, either.

Half- pedaling can be introduced to new pianists— so long as they can handle another item to the elements of playing: notes, rhythm, dynamics, phrasing, articulation. It is something new— but takes listening to learn and do well.

When to learn is not a fixed formula for everyone,
I have seen fingering discussed in master classes although obviously not to a great extent. If a student has technical difficulty with a passage the teacher sometimes suggests a different fingering.

But I think you missed my point. In master classes I've seen quite a bit of discussion about more basic elements of pedaling than half pedaling. IOW even the advanced conservatory students sometimes make more basic errors in pedaling and these are much more important than any consideration of half pedaling. Very few, if any, beginners have learned well the pedaling techniques that are much more basic than half pedaling, and that's why I think starting to learn half pedaling is not appropriate. In your list of what a pianist should be able to handle before going on to half pedaling you left out "basic pedaling technique". I think worrying about half pedaling at the beginner level is like trying to learn calculus before one has mastered algebra.

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Plover, your opinion is quite clear but I don’t agree, the timing to learn should depend on the student.


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think your teacher is making a big mistake by introducing half pedaling at your level.
I was just going to post this. Beginners have enough to go on with. There's a time and a place for everything.


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Not to add fuel to the fire, but in my experience, the biggest problem non-advanced students have is clean legato pedalling when that is required, and listening to themselves while adjusting their pedalling automatically.

Mastery of legato pedalling is such a fundamental part of playing music from the Romantic era onwards, that when teaching, I never cloud the issue by talking about half-pedalling, flutter pedalling etc.......which frankly is surplus to requirements, until the student is playing very rapid and technically advanced music such as you might find in Chopin's Scherzi and Schumann's Kreisleriana.

Get the basics right, and not just "adequate", but the perfect synchronization of full pedal depression & full release with the notes at precisely the right moment allied to the aural feedback, such that the student doesn't have to think about it, and adjusts his timing automatically. You are talking months and months of playing lots of different pieces that require pedalling, and which rely on pedalling to 'work' - and not just straightforward pedalling with harmonic change on the first beat of every bar. And I am talking about giving a student a piece he's never seen or heard before, with no pedal markings indicated, and - while sight-reading it - using the pedal judiciously and correctly as appropriate for the piece and its style, without having to consciously think about pedalling. (BTW, students are expected to be able to do this in sight-reading tests in later grades.)

Just like someone driving a new car with a stick (normal for Europeans, very unusual for Americans): he doesn't have to think about how to use the three pedals (with his two feet) and synchronizing gear change (using his hand) with pedals whenever needed. But ask someone who's never driven a manual car, and - no matter how experienced a driver he is - he has to think about every step: when the gear needs to be changed up or down (listening to the engine and feeling its response which tells him it's time to change gear), the steps he needs to go through with each change, and 'performing' the whole caboodle smoothly without lurching or jerking the car smirk .

But hey, as a teacher, I'm a stickler for mastering the basics thoroughly before anything fancy, i.e. never running before you can walk briskly and easily, and stride over obstacles without having to 'stutter' (like those inexperienced hurdlers in athletics), and stop abruptly if needed (- just like all my four teachers taught me when I was a kid), so feel free to carry on if you disagree....... whistle


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Originally Posted by bennevis
Not to add fuel to the fire, but in my experience, the biggest problem non-advanced students have is clean legato pedalling when that is required, and listening to themselves while adjusting their pedalling automatically.

Mastery of legato pedalling is such a fundamental part of playing music from the Romantic era onwards, that when teaching, I never cloud the issue by talking about half-pedalling, flutter pedalling etc.......which frankly is surplus to requirements, until the student is playing very rapid and technically advanced music such as you might find in Chopin's Scherzi and Schumann's Kreisleriana.

Get the basics right, and not just "adequate", but the perfect synchronization of full pedal depression & full release with the notes at precisely the right moment allied to the aural feedback, such that the student doesn't have to think about it, and adjusts his timing automatically. You are talking months and months of playing lots of different pieces that require pedalling, and which rely on pedalling to 'work' - and not just straightforward pedalling with harmonic change on the first beat of every bar. And I am talking about giving a student a piece he's never seen or heard before, with no pedal markings indicated, and - while sight-reading it - using the pedal judiciously and correctly as appropriate for the piece and its style, without having to consciously think about pedalling. (BTW, students are expected to be able to do this in sight-reading tests in later grades.)

Just like someone driving a new car with a stick (normal for Europeans, very unusual for Americans): he doesn't have to think about how to use the three pedals (with his two feet) and synchronizing gear change (using his hand) with pedals whenever needed. But ask someone who's never driven a manual car, and - no matter how experienced a driver he is - he has to think about every step: when the gear needs to be changed up or down (listening to the engine and feeling its response which tells him it's time to change gear), the steps he needs to go through with each change, and 'performing' the whole caboodle smoothly without lurching or jerking the car smirk .

But hey, as a teacher, I'm a stickler for mastering the basics thoroughly before anything fancy, i.e. never running before you can walk briskly and easily, and stride over obstacles without having to 'stutter' (like those inexperienced hurdlers in athletics), and stop abruptly if needed (- just like all my four teachers taught me when I was a kid), so feel free to carry on if you disagree....... whistle
Agree completely. I can't imagine that a beginner is anywhere near just OK with basic pedaling. Any discussion or concern with half pedaling should be many years down the road.

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Thank you all for the input. I am also of the opinion that walking needs to come before running. Perhaps I didn’t think it was a big deal because I was conceptualizing half pedaling as normal pedaling, except that you press the pedal less. But it seems there’s a lot more to it.

This discussion got me interested in studying pedaling more deeply.

pianoloverus: you mentioned books that talk about pedaling. Would you mind sharing the names of the books (or the authors) here, please?

bennevis: you said “You are talking months and months of playing lots of different pieces that require pedalling, and which rely on pedalling to 'work' - and not just straightforward pedalling with harmonic change on the first beat of every bar.”

If you could please give some examples of pieces that would fit this description (to practice full pedaling in non-straightforward ways), that would be great.


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Talao
There are many detailed books about pedaling. I would recommend that you start with this one: pedal preludes

https://www.amazon.com/Selections-Pedal-Preludes-Belwin-Masters/dp/0769298508/ref=nodl_

A series of short melodic pieces, followed by pedal exercises so that you are exposed and hear the difference varied pedaling can make

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Originally Posted by Talão
pianoloverus: you mentioned books that talk about pedaling. Would you mind sharing the names of the books (or the authors) here, please?
I have two books on pedaling, and I think both are far too advanced for beginners. Even most intermediates would only find the first ten percent of the book of any value. Much of the material is too advanced for me and I've played piano for more than six decades. Much better to use the book with pedaling marked mentioned by dogperson or use editions with pedaling marked that you can discuss with your teacher.

This is the easier of the two books I have. If you look inside you'll see most of the examples use very advanced music so even the beginning of the book may not be helpful.
https://www.amazon.com/Art-Piano-Pe...mp;qid=1634740803&s=books&sr=1-1

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Originally Posted by dogperson
Talao
There are many detailed books about pedaling. I would recommend that you start with this one: pedal preludes

https://www.amazon.com/Selections-Pedal-Preludes-Belwin-Masters/dp/0769298508/ref=nodl_

A series of short melodic pieces, followed by pedal exercises so that you are exposed and hear the difference varied pedaling can make

Awesome! Thank you!


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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
Originally Posted by Talão
pianoloverus: you mentioned books that talk about pedaling. Would you mind sharing the names of the books (or the authors) here, please?
I have two books on pedaling, and I think both are far too advanced for beginners. Even most intermediates would only find the first ten percent of the book of any value. Much of the material is too advanced for me and I've played piano for more than six decades. Much better to use the book with pedaling marked mentioned by dogperson or use editions with pedaling marked that you can discuss with your teacher.

This is the easier of the two books I have. If you look inside you'll see most of the examples use very advanced music so even the beginning of the book may not be helpful.
https://www.amazon.com/Art-Piano-Pe...mp;qid=1634740803&s=books&sr=1-1

Understood and thank you anyway. I'll save it for future reference (once I'm advanced enough to play the pieces in it).


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