Sustain Pedal

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Posts: 38

Post by st5555 »

As a new user with a new keyboard, I haven't figured out when to use the sustain pedal.
Is there a general rule of thumb, or are there notations later on indicating that it's time to press the pedal?

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Post by Nicholas »

This probably won't be very satisfying, but the pedal is used mostly to convey personal stylistic choices. This topic has some nice historical quotes about the pedal and its use. The short version is that you can use it to make your playing sound better to you, for any definition of "better" that you like. :D

There are a few YouTube videos that tackle suggestions on what "better" might sound like, but at the end of the day it's essentially up to you.
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Post by jimhenry »

Some music lends itself to holding the sustain pedal down except for brief up/down movements as needed to keep things from sounding bad. You could try playing a piece all the way through with the pedal held down. Then start finding the places where it sounds better to do a quick up/down to damp out things.
Jim Henry
Author of the Miditzer, a free virtual theatre pipe organ
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Post by cmplays »

Definitely search on YouTube for how to use the sustain pedal. There are a few videos that lay it out in detail. It's something that is very easy to understand theoretically, but requires quite a bit of practice to develop correct coordination.

As to when to use the pedal, I think it's mostly when you have a lot of hand movement in the piece you're playing. When your hand spends a lot of time in the air rather than pressing a key, it creates a jerky broken sound, as if you're playing a harp. The pedal helps a lot. Most advanced arrangements of pop songs have either wide arpeggios or bass/chord movements in the left hand, requiring a lot of jumping around, so the pedal helps there too. Actually, watching people play pop on YouTube, I think pretty much everyone uses the pedal non-stop.

I think the sustain pedal is so ubiquitous that piano doesn't sound like piano without it. Before I got the pedal, I was wondering what was wrong with my piano, why the sound seemed so different from what I thought it should be.

But I guess like with everything else in music, whatever it is you're playing, learn it without the pedal first, record it, then try it with the pedal, record it, and see which sound you like best.
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Post by offrhodes »

Most people first think of holding the played notes after releasing the key. That's correct but it's not everything:
It also unlocks all the other strings for sympathetic resonance.

As an experiment, punch in some two-handed powerchords (e.g. C-G-C) in quarters. Then do the same but push the pedal exactly in parallel with the keys.
The difference in sound can be significant, even though the dampers on the played keys are doing the same movement (but the dampers on the other keys are up).

This experiment requires an acoustic piano, or a fairly modern (or old and very expensive) digital piano.
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