When you’re learning the piano, you’ll quickly discover how important it is to learn to use your hands and fingers independently. It’s a bit of a balancing act, and is quite the challenge at first. And then? You have to worry about the piano pedals, too.
Learning to use the piano pedals requires coordination and focus, and a great music teacher will show you how to master this extra challenge through careful practice and techniques during your piano lessons. As you get started using the piano pedals, here are a few things to know.
As you’re learning to play the piano or taking on a new piece, it’s usually best to learn the piece without using the pedals, first. This offers a few different benefits:
Generally speaking, learning a piece without the piano pedals means that you can focus on learning the piece correctly and instilling good muscle memory in your fingers. Then, you can add in the pedals later, when you don’t have to focus as intently on what your fingers are doing.
If you’re playing a piece with a section that doesn’t work without the use of the pedals, though, then you may need to use those pedals (at least for that section) from the very beginning. You may need the pedals for the following situations:
In these situations, it’s often best to start practicing the passage with the pedals as you learn.
How do the piano pedals work, and why do you need them? Plus, what’s the difference between the pedals?
From left to right, the three piano pedals are:
Let’s take a detailed look at what each of the pedals do, and when you will use them.
The Sustain Pedal is the most commonly used pedal. The pedal lifts up the dampers, which allows the strings to ring out without stopping until you lift the pedal. The Sustain Pedal is particularly important when you’re playing a piece that you want to have a full sound. Mastering the Sustain Pedal involves a lot more than just up and down, so be sure to work on this with your piano teacher.
The Una Corda Pedal is the pedal that’s used secondly most often. This pedal helps to make the piano’s sound softer, but it works in different ways depending on the type of piano that you’re playing.
The Sostenuto Pedal is rarely used, and there are very few pieces that call for its use. If they do call for it, the pedal is marked in the music as “S.P.,” “Sost. Ped.,” or “ThP.”
The pedal has no single defined function, and its use differs depending on the type of piano you’re playing:
French piano builders Alexandre Francois Debain and Claude Montal invented the pedal in 1844, and then Albert Steinway perfected it and patented it in 1874. In the late 19th century the piano became very popular, and it is installed on all Steinway pianos and most other brands, as well.
Mastering the use of the piano pedals will make you a more capable and versatile musician. With a bit of time and some practice, you’ll be able to use the pedals to enhance and enrich your music making.