Introducing the Pedal Technique
Found in: Musicality, Pedaling, Technique
Stephen R., California
I’m wondering when other teachers are introducing overlapping pedal technique with the right (damper) pedal. I know this can vary from student to student and tends to be age related. My teen students tend to grasp the concept quickly, but I find it seems to be overwhelming for younger students, since it really is adding in a multi-thought process along with playing. If students are not grasping the concept, should they leave out the pedal? I would rather students achieve a clean sound, for example with Night Storm, than leave the pedal down throughout. Also, how deeply should I go into arrangements, for example the Dreams arrangements, if they don’t have pedaling down? I would appreciate any feedback. Thanks!
Victoria S., California
I handle the pedal by having it be another layer to add to their piece. They can put it in when they feel comfortable with the song, for example, first RH, then LH, then BH, then words, then pedal.
If they are having more trouble adding in the words, I have them add in the pedal first, and then the words. It is different depending on each student, but if you follow the TTM for the pedal workshop, you will find it flows fairly easily.
Cindy B., Illinois
Using the pedal can be a wonderful new tool for the student to use in self expression. I have no problem with the students using it from day 1 to please themselves, and I still introduce the “correct” technique at level 3 or so. I teach all arrangements up until then with no regard for pedaling – though I will often point out that the right pedal might make the song sound more like what the student wants. Some do, some don’t. Don’t let your own preferences for what songs ‘should’ sound like interfere with the discovery process of the students!
Rob L., Washington
You bring up a good question about pedaling, and I agree with Cindy that the earlier you introduce it the better. If my students are doing very well with their beginning level 1 pieces, I introduce pedaling as early as “Honey Dew”. If I discern the student needs more time to learn some basics with those earlier songs, then I wait until either “Amazing Grace” level 1, or I wait until I start the accompaniment program. There is a fabulous segment in the teacher training done by Neil Moore entitled “about pedaling”, and I believe it can be found either in the level 3 or 4 training materials. I’ve used his explanation time and time again as it’s one of the best ones out there to obtain the best results with a clean sound, and the students really grasp and understand it relatively quickly.
Terri P., Michigan
I have found that introducing the pedal at “I’ll be There,” the first song in Level two is successful. Students have time to think about it. We then apply it to the foundation songs/arrangements in Level 1. Until then, they just hold the pedal down in the appropriate songs, as Neil instructs them to do in the SHM video.
Barbara M., New Jersey
I have been introducing “overlapping” pedal as recommended on the TTP Pedaling Audio Recording. It is done by Samali from Australia, I believe. She talks about a rainbow, so I now call it rainbow pedaling. SM recommends keeping the pedal down as the default, then learning later on when to release it. The traditional way says default is no pedal, then learn how to apply. The traditional method is MUCH more difficult to master, in my experience. If introduced too soon, the student may take a long and frustrating time trying to learn pedaling.
Fiona H., Australia
I agree with you – I like a ‘clean’ sound when new students are starting. From the 2nd lesson, I introduce concepts surrounding musicality & expression, so early on they have a good basis of learning the pieces, but also developing an ear and listening to themselves. This musicality focus means they play with a focus on the sound/effect they make and helps with their direct relationship with the piano – and to me is important to establish without the pedal brining another factor in the equation. For me, if they do this with arrangements, the absence of pedal isn’t noticed (they don’t know they could use it at this stage)- they play according to the mood of the piece. After I introduce pedal, I put it on the arrangements they have learnt – and they really enjoy ‘rediscovering’ the beauty of the pieces with the effect of the pedal.
I take the single thought process way – to me there is plenty of variety and excitement in Level 1 & 2 foundation/arrangements that the pedal isn’t a factor. Some students I introduce it at the endish of L2, Others I wait until L3 (depending on age etc).
I use the method outlined in the TW Audio Recording Pedaling Workshop – I also found Forum transcripts written by Neil’s son etc in the library which was really helpful. Neil himself speaks about it on the L4 TTP videos.
I always demonstrate physically the inside of the piano, and how all pedals work – before I get them to touch it. I find that this cognitive understanding establishes a good base for students to understand WHAT they are doing when the pedal/s are engaged. They are usually entranced with this because often teachers go into the doing of it without providing context.
Then, I go through some physical set up, then hand-foot etc as per the training program. First week might be 5 Steps Sound with Pedal each step (RH, LH sep then BH). The week after, I show them how to pedal Sleeping (pedal phrases which is much easier but now they discover how to use it with an actual song!). Then, NS Arr1 because we pedal with RH (which is a good experience), or Honey Dew (pedal chord changes) – to me these are essential skills (pedal RH, pedal chord changes) which is why I use these songs.
Lyndel K., Australia
I really like Neil’s philosophy; ‘on’ unless otherwise. Was that from a symposium, or from his TTM’s?
Some of my little students are too little to reach my pedal, so I sit with them and play the pedal for them. This way they are hearing the benefit of this important part of their instrument. I encourage coaches to do the same at home whenever they can. I’m amazed at how even these little students find ways to stretch so that they can reach it ‘by themselves!’. I think it’s because they are highly motivated by the ‘life’ that the pedal infuses into the music.