The soul of the piano

Oh the gaps!

It was one of those moments. I was reading a book on pedal technique and a 150-Watt light bulb came on. How could I not have known?

I knew that pedal was more than just a means of sustaining sound – it was primarily for colour and phrasing. But had no one ever told me that pedal is linked to dynamics? Did a teacher mention it somewhere along the way when I was zoning out? Or did I not understand? Or forget?

And how is it that I hadn’t read or heard or figured it out along the way? I pedaled instinctively but kind of fudged it with my advanced students – writing in what I would do or telling them to “Pedal with your ear” but never actually articulating what it was that their ears should be telling them.

I kind of operated under the “No pedal is better than bad pedaling” banner. My first clue about how little I knew came at the Festival when one my advanced students was playing in an Impressionist class. The adjudicator suggested she use the pedal to help with the crescendo. I think I shook my head in one of those “What?” moments. Serious self-doubt arose here – was I the only teacher in town that did not know this? That began my quest to learn more.

I read Kathleen Faricy’s Artistic Pedal Technique (Frederick Harris Music, 2004) and was blown away. It’s so simple (and yet not, of course). Pedal deeper for a stronger, louder, richer sound and shallower for a lighter, clearer, more slender sound. This assumes absolute control of the pedal – and this book starts out with a number of exercises to gain control, and – just as importantly – information about what to listen for and how to pedal depending on the piece, composer, and style. All the standard pedal techniques are covered as well as a number of techniques that were completely new to me.  Clearly I did not take enough piano lessons myself.

So if you’re remotely as confused and uncertain about pedal as I was, run, don’t walk, to your nearest music store and pick up a copy. I still have that 300-page tome on pedaling by Joseph Banowetz sitting on my bookshelf. At some point I will get to it.

As always, there is nothing to disclose. I get nothing for promoting any particular book or material, I paid full price for this book some time back, and I have chosen not to monetize this blog. Just sharin’…

Image credit: Tumblr

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About LaDona's Music Studio

Musician, pianist, teacher, blogger.
This entry was posted in Books about Music, Performance, Piano pedagogy, Practice Tips and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The soul of the piano

  1. Rami Bar-Niv says:

    Re pedaling, what you didn’t mention is that pedal is also a tool of phrasing.
    Best,
    Rami

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