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’…
- Mysteries of the sustain pedal (crosseyedpianist.wordpress.com)