The development of techniques for teaching the various uses of the pedals of the contemporary grand piano


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The development of techniques for teaching the various uses of the pedals of the contemporary grand piano
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Johnson, Mary Ray, 1944-
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Table of Contents
    Title Page
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    Table of Contents
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    List of Tables
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    Chapter 1. Introduction
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    Chapter 2. Review of related research and writings
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    Chapter 3. Pedagogical materials and techniques
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    Chapter 4. Field testing and validation
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    Chapter 5. Summary, results, conclusions and recommendations
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    Appendix A. Cover letter
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    Appendix B. Questionnaire for teachers
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    Appendix C. Validation form for teaching units
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    Appendix D. Validation form for pedagogical sequence
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    Appendix E. Analysis of tapes: Observations
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    Appendix F. Analysis of tapes: Conclusions
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    Biographical sketch
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Full Text







Copyright 1989


Mary Ray Johnson


I wish to extend my gratitude and sincere thanks to Dr.

Charles R. Hoffer, chairman of my committee, who has been

most generous in giving his time, support, and invaluable

knowledge to this project. I wish also to thank my committee

members who read this paper and made helpful comments: Dr.

Russell Robinson, Professor Boaz Sharon, Dr. Linda Lamme,

Dr. William Hedges, and Dr. Donald Avila, who is now de-


For sustaining encouragement I thank my parents, Mr. and

Mrs. Raymond C. Johnson, Jr.




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...................................... ... .. iii

LIST OF TABLES.............................. ... ..... vi

ABSTRACT...... ..................................... vii


1 INTRODUCTION..................... ... .... ..... 1

Lack of Knowledge About Pedaling................ 2
Need for Knowledge of Pedaling............... .... 4
Purpose of the Study. .5..................... 5
Development of the Pedals.................... 7
Stylistic Factors in Pedaling................... 12
Delimitations................................. 17
Definitions of Terminology...................... 17


Research on Teaching Pedaling................... 22
Writings on Teaching Pedaling................... 23
Lack of Systematic Studies on Teaching
Pedaling............ ..... .... 27
Faults in Teaching Pedaling..................... 31
Pedagogical Views on Teaching Pedaling.......... 33
Introducing the Pedals........ .................... 39
Teaching Techniques for the Damper Pedal........ 46
Additional Pedaling Techniques................. 53
Pedal Exercise Books..... .............. ..... 55
Introduction of the Pedals in Piano
Methods Books... ...... .............. ......... 56


Composition of the Units....................... 61
Procedures for Developing the Units............. 64
Teaching Unit 1: Legato Pedaling............... 65
Teaching Unit 2: Legatissimo Pedaling.......... 74
Teaching Unit 3: Pedaling for Rhythmic Effects. 80
Teaching Unit 4: Una Corda Pedaling............ 87

Teaching Unit 5: Pre-Pedaling .................. 99
Teaching Unit 6: Finger Pedaling............... 103
Teaching Unit 7: Staccato Pedaling............. 109
Teaching Unit 8: Portato Pedaling.............. 115
Teaching Unit 9: Pedaling to Enhance Phrasing
and Articulation .............................. 119
Teaching Unit 10: Melodic Pedaling .............. 129
Teaching Unit 11: Half Damping.................. 134
Teaching Unit 12: Pedal Vibrato................. 144
Teaching Unit 13: Pedal Diminuendo.............. 150
Teaching Unit 14: Half Pedaling................. 155
Teaching unit 15: Flutter Pedaling .............. 162
Teaching Unit 16: Pedaling for Dynamic Effects.. 169
Teaching Unit 17: Pedal Blurring for Color
and Special Effects ........................... 178
Teaching Unit 18: Harmonic Pedaling ............. 187
Teaching Unit 19: Pedaling One Hand and Not
the Other ..................................... 194
Teaching Unit 20: Sostenuto Pedaling ............ 198
Teaching Unit 21: Pedagogical Sequence for
Implementing Piano Pedaling Techniques........ 226

4 FIELD TESTING AND VALIDATION .................... 237

Pilot Validation ................................ 237
Validation of Materials........................ 240
Incorporation of the Results.................... 249

RECOMMENDATIONS.............................. 251

Summary............. ............... .. ........ 252
Results of Extensive Validation............... 253
Questionnaire for Teaching Units 1 20......... 260
Validation of Pedagogical Sequence of
Piano Pedaling Techniques..................... 274
Results of Intensive Validation.................. 276
Conclusions....... .................. .......... 285
Recommendations and Application................. 288


A COVER LETTER.............................. ..... 292
B QUESTIONNAIRE FOR TEACHERS..................... 293
F ANALYSIS OF TAPES: CONCLUSIONS.................. 300

REFERENCES ............................................ 302

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.................................... 309


Table page

1 Mean Ratings for the Aspects of Teaching Units
Category 1: Materials .......................... 261

2 Mean Ratings for the Aspects of Teaching Units
Category 2: Objectives ......................... 262

3 Mean Ratings for the Aspects of Teaching Units
Category 3: Student Application................ 263

4 Combined Mean Ratings for the Aspects of
Teaching Units ................................. 264

5 Grand Mean Ratings for Individual
Teaching Units................................. 265

6 Previous Use of Pedaling Technique According to
Percentage of Responses ........................ 267

7 Stage of Development at which a Particular Pedaling
Technique Should be Introduced According to
Percentage of Responses........................ 268

8 Importance of Teaching Individual Pedaling
Techniques According to Percentage
of Responses.................................... 270

9 Agreement with Concepts in Teaching Unit
According to Percentage of Responses ........... 271

10 Ability to Teach Pedaling Techniques Using
Information Provided in Teaching Units
According to Percentage of Responses ........... 273

11 Analysis of Mean Ratings of Observations
of Tapes .................................. ..... 281

12 Analysis of Mean Ratings of Conclusions of
of Tapes...................................... 282

13 Overall Grand Mean Ratings of Tapes.............. 283

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Mary Ray Johnson

December, 1989

Chairman: Dr. Charles R. Hoffer
Major Department: Instruction and Curriculum

The teaching of piano pedaling is one of the most

neglected and misunderstood areas in piano pedagogy. De-

spite its recognized importance, few systematic studies

exist in this area, and, until recently, no comprehensive

source of pedaling techniques had been published.

The purpose of the present study was the systematic

development and validation of pedagogical procedures for

teaching students the correct use of the three pedals of

the contemporary grand piano. Secondary related purposes

included (1) the development of preliminary exercises to

foster prerequisite skills; (2) the classification of

pedaling techniques according to related skills; and (3)

the formulation of a pedagogical sequence for introducing

pedaling techniques in a logical, systematic order.


After identifying the various pedaling techniques, a

series of pedagogical procedures was developed for the

teaching of each technique. Twenty-one teaching units were

formulated that collectively comprise a comprehensive and

systematic program of study of the three pedals. The first

twenty units follow a logical format that includes (1) a

description of the technique; (2) application; (3) teaching

procedures; (4) examples; and (5) appropriate exercises.

In the final unit, the techniques are grouped into cate-

gories and presented in an instructional sequence.

Most of the pedagogical procedures described in the

teaching units have seldom been subjected to research

analysis. Therefore, both extensive and intensive valida-

tion measures were employed to determine the appropriate-

ness of the materials. The validation process solicited

the opinions from a sample of nationally certified teachers

of piano and piano pedagogy of the Music Teachers National

Association, and analyzed the teaching of the units in

actual piano lessons.

Conclusions regarding the main thrust of the study

were drawn in terms of three criteria. Materials and

concepts presented within the study were found to be (1)

systematic, (2) thorough, and (3) appropriate for piano

teachers who might use them.


At each stage of the study the apparent need for this

type of research was reinforced. Results of both aspects

of the validation process were overwhelmingly positive.

The high consistency of the ratings gave further evidence

that the concepts and techniques presented within this

study are pedagogically sound.


Fine piano playing is impossible without the correct

use of the three pedals. Just as finger technique should

be analyzed methodically and mastered during the student's

course of study, the use of the pedals should receive simi-

lar attention. Therefore, a systematic investigation of

pedaling techniques and how best to teach them is warranted

and needed.

Pedaling is a complex subject. Numerous techniques

exist for the use of each pedal, and different applications

can be made within each technique. In order to obtain the

best instructional results, teachers should follow a peda-

gogical sequence for introducing each pedaling technique

that presents the various concepts in a logical, systematic

manner. In addition, they need to know what preliminary

exercises should be included to enable students to know

what they are doing with the pedal before it is introduced

into any piece of music. Teachers who are knowledgeable

about pedaling techniques are much more likely to teach

them effectively.

Lack of Knowledge About Pedaling

Despite its recognized importance, many piano teachers

ignore the teaching of musical and artistic pedaling (Bano-

wetz, 1985). It is a much neglected and misunderstood area

of piano teaching, as well as one of the more controver-

sial. Compared to the other aspects of piano playing, the

teaching of the correct use of the pedals is still in a

disorganized state (Gebhard, 1963; Bernstein, 1981). While

the exact percentage has not been documented, many piano

teachers either do not adequately understand the concepts

of pedaling or do not realize the numerous types of pedal-

ing that can be used. It appears that they were never

taught more than the basic mechanical actions of the damper

pedal: (1) pushing it down and letting it up and (2) pedal-

ing to connect notes.

Other teachers lack sufficient knowledge of how to

teach more than basic pedaling techniques, especially those

for which there are no notated symbols. This lack of a-

wareness, in turn, affects what is taught their students.

Consequently, many students avoid pedaling or pedal largely

by instinct, which usually results in inconsistent and un-

stylistic playing (Bernstein, 1981). To the extent that

the student is not taught to use the pedals skillfully, the

quality of that student's musical understanding and per-

formance is diminished.

Several reasons exist for this present situation.

First of all, very little research has been conducted on

pedaling (Banowetz, 1985; Gebhard, 1963; Wolfram, 1965).

In addition, until recently no single comprehensive source

of piano pedaling techniques had been published. Except

for a few books or articles on this subject, when pedaling

is discussed, it is often in a fragmentary manner. This

situation leaves piano teachers with little to draw on

other than their own personal experience, because they have

no research findings or systematic studies with which to

compare the strengths and weaknesses of a particular peda-

gogical approach to a pedaling technique.

Another reason for the lack of a generally accepted

standard is that pedaling is a highly individual matter,

relying heavily on the musicianship of the particular

performer. A rigid, unvarying concept of pedaling is not

desirable, because the choice of pedaling is affected by a

wide variety of factors.

Many pianists fail to listen carefully to the musical

effects of their pedaling, not only because of a lack of

attention, but also because they use the pedals to mask a

number of technical inaccuracies. This lack of aural

attention is unfortunate, because pianists must rely on

aural perception to compensate for the varying conditions

of performance such as the particular instrument being

played, the acoustics of the hall, additional performers in

the group, and mistakes in performance which may occur, as

well as the performer's choice of tempos, touch, dynamics,

and balance of textures. Each of these conditions requires

a response that is unique to the immediate situation.

Need for Knowledge of Pedaling

When Anton Rubinstein referred to pedaling as the

"soul of piano playing," he expressed a regard for the

pedals that is recognized by every outstanding pianist

(Bernstein, 1981, p. 143). Appropriate pedaling is an art

that conveys not only a thorough grasp of the composer's

intent, but also the artistic intelligence of the perform-

er. As Chopin once stated: "The correct way of using the

pedal remains a study for life" (Banowetz, 1985, p. 179).

A thorough understanding and mastery of the use of

each of the three pedals is essential for anyone who seeks

to play at a high artistic level. Unfortunately, aside

from the confusion surrounding the many functions of the

damper pedal, both the una corda and sostenuto pedals are

frequently misused or misunderstood. The una corda pedal

is sometimes employed as a crutch when finger technique

alone could be more effective, and the sostenuto pedal is

often ignored completely.

In interviews with a cross-section of twelve concert

pianists, Noyle (1987) cites artistic concerns that express

the gamut of piano practice and performance. Several


artists made references to pedaling, including Misha

Dichter, who stated

In my various experiences from teaching master classes
around the country, if I can cite the one single fail-
ing with teaching in this country, it's that the pedal
is really short-changed in the teaching. It seems
almost to be an appendage that is just added after the
student has learned the piece. (Noyle, 1987, p. 51)

While performance situations cannot be duplicated

exactly in the studio, proper training can cultivate an

awareness that will lead to enhanced and improved pedal

techniques. Spontaneous reactions involving the pedal

can even be valuable during a performance, because many

pianists tend to rely heavily on the pedal when they be-

lieve they are in difficulty. Yet, as Lhevinne (1972,

p. 47) indicates, "The best pedal effects in artistic

playing are those in which the audience does not realize

that there is a pedal at all." Pedaling techniques improp-

erly applied without musical awareness only compound or

perpetrate errors. Ultimately, each pianist must let his

or her musical sensibilities be the final guide.

Purpose of the Study

The primary purpose of the study was the systematic

development and validation of pedagogical procedures for

teaching students the correct use of the three pedals on

the contemporary grand piano.

As has been pointed out on the preceding pages, the

knowledge and the use of the pedals and the pedagogical

practices for teaching this facet of piano playing lag far

behind other aspects of piano playing and instruction.

This study sought to deal with this situation in two

phases. One was to compile and synthesize the available

knowledge about the many techniques for the use of the

three pedals. The extant writings and research are pres-

ented in Chapter 2. The procedures that were developed,

which are presented in unit form in Chapter 3, consist of

more than just a compilation of other writings. The re-

searcher also drew on many years of dealing with the topic

as a teacher and professor of piano, as well as systematic

analysis, to expand on and organize the various pedaling


The second purpose of the study was to develop peda-

gogical procedures for the teaching of pedaling. Inter-

estingly, less research and writings are available on the

pedagogical aspects than on the nature of the techniques.

Therefore, a significant amount of the pedagogical pro-

cedures presented in Chapter 3 is the result of systematic

analysis and application of principles and ideas.

Because many of the pedagogical procedures in that

chapter have seldom been available for consideration, some

validation of them was desirable. To accomplish this, both

intensive and extensive procedures were utilized. The

intensive portion of the validation process consisted of

the tape recording of the procedures being taught by

several piano teachers certified as "Master Teachers" by

the Music Teachers National Association. These tapes were

then analyzed by the researcher along with a panel of three

certified piano teachers to verify that the students did in

fact learn the particular pedaling technique. The exten-

sive portion of the validation process consisted of ques-

tionnaires sent to forty-two certified "Master Teachers"

asking for their opinions and suggestions about the units

on pedaling. These validation efforts are described in

detail in Chapter 4.

This study also had some secondary purposes related

to the development of the units. These secondary purposes


(1) the development of preliminary exercises to

foster prerequisite skills prior to teaching pedaling


(2) the classification of pedaling techniques

according to related skills that are employed in executing

each technique; and

(3) the formulation of a pedagogical sequence for

introducing piano pedaling techniques in a logical,

systematic order.

Development of the Pedals

A knowledge of the development of each of the pedals

provides the performer with insight into performance prac-

tices of earlier periods; such knowledge can lead to a more

artistic level of performance through their appropriate


The historical development of the pedals is a compli-

cated evolution that spanned more than 150 years. As the

piano increased in range and size, alterations were desired

to help control the volume and duration of the sound. By

the mid-eighteenth century, when the length of the strings

had become quite long, the excessive reverberations of the

strings created objectionable dissonant notes. This led to

the creation of damper activating mechanisms.

The Damper Pedal

Early pianos had hand stops for controlling the

dampers--pieces of firm felt that prevent the strings from

vibrating when sound is no longer desired. Through the use

of hand stops the performer could raise the dampers in

either the bass or the treble areas. This division of the

damper mechanism into treble and bass groups remained a

common feature of pianos until at least 1820.

Knee levers were introduced in Germany around 1765.

These were less cumbersome than hand stops and allowed the

pianist to maintain uninterrupted hand contact with the


In 1777 a divided pedal was added that controlled both

halves of the damper mechanism separately. Further refine-

ments resulted in a split pedal that enabled the performer

to activate dampers in the treble and bass registers simul-

taneously by depressing both halves of the pedal at the

same time. In the early nineteenth century, a short-lived

divided damper mechanism known as the Kunstpedal divided

the dampers into eight sections controlled by four divided

pedals. Split pedals continued to be built until around

1830, when they were replaced by the single damper pedal

found on today's grand pianos.

The placement of the damper mechanism underwent vari-

ous changes as well. It was placed alternately above and

below the strings, assuming the upper placement on most

grand pianos by the end of the nineteenth century. This

position utilizes gravity to help achieve rapid dampening.

The Pedal Piano

An independent pedal board was added to the piano to

create the pedal piano. A second set of strings was orig-

inally required to activate the mechanism, but in 1815 a

self-contained pedal board was developed. The pedal board

provided a means of expanding the compass of the bass notes

by enabling the pianist to double notes that were played by

the fingers or to sustain bass notes indefinitely. Al-

though the pedal piano is no longer extant, several com-

posers wrote compositions for this instrument, including

Schumann, Alkan, and Gounod.

The Una Corda Pedal

Two basic methods for reducing the dynamic level were

employed on various pianos of the early nineteenth century.

The oldest, the pianozug or feu celeste, was a Celestee

stop" that was first operated by hand and then later acti-

vated by the foot. It consisted of a thin strip of felt or

leather that came between the hammers and the strings to

produce a special soft effect.

The second pedal mechanism, known as the Verschiebung,

was introduced in 1726 by Cristofori and closely resembled

the una corda pedal in use today. When the Verschiebung

was depressed, the entire hammer mechanism shifted to the

right so that the hammers struck from one to three strings

per note, depending upon the depth to which the pedal was

depressed. This enabled pianists of the late eighteenth

and early nineteenth centuries to shift from the three

string (tre corde) position, to two strings (due corde),

and then to only one string (una corda). Many composers,

notably Beethoven, made use of this selective degree of

shifting, which is no longer possible on contemporary grand


The Sostenuto Pedal

The sostenuto pedal is related to several earlier

damper activating mechanisms that allowed the pianist to

selectively sustain tones. It is the most recent of the

three pedals to be added to the piano. Although the first

true sostenuto mechanism appeared in 1844, it was not until

it was patented in 1874 by the American piano firm Steinway

and Sons that the sostenuto pedal began to attract atten-

tion. The sostenuto pedal sustains notes that are played

and held before it is activated.

The sostenuto pedal is not standard equipment on every

piano; many are built without it. European piano manufac-

turers have been reluctant to incorporate the sostenuto

pedal, and many of them include it only on nine-foot grand

pianos. Even American grands that are not built for con-

cert or professional use generally do not have a sostenuto

pedal. Some pianos have a "fake" sostenuto mechanism that

operates unselectively on all the dampers below middle "C."

This action duplicates the function of the damper pedal for

the lower portion of the keyboard, but it makes selective

sustaining of notes impossible. Frequently pianos are

found to have a malfunctioning sostenuto pedal or one that

is improperly regulated, and therefore it does not function

in the capacity of a true sostenuto pedal. Most upright

pianos omit this pedal entirely.

Additional Pedals

Numerous short-lived, bizarre pedal devices for modi-

fying the sound of the piano were developed and eventually

discarded. In the early nineteenth century pianos had as

many as six to eight pedals. Three of the best-known

devices were (1) the Janizary pedal which added rattling

noises and could activate a drumstick, ring bells, shake a

rattle, and create the effect of a cymbal crash; (2) the

"bassoon" pedal that created a buzzing noise through the

use of paper and silk; and (3) a cembalo stop that modified

the sound through the use of leather weights to resemble

the sound of the harpsichord. Other devices included the

crescendo and decrescendo pedals which raised and lowered

the lid of the piano or opened and closed slots in the

sides of the case, and a device that attempted to modify

the tone after the hammers had struck the strings by

forcing air across them.

This number of pedals provided a pianist with a

considerable repertoire of "effects," perhaps of doubtful

musical value. Sonorities could be weakened, strengthened,

or blended together, and sounds could be produced that

ranged from consonant to quite dissonant, depending upon

the artistry of the performer and the quality of the

particular piano.

Stylistic Factors in Pedaling

Pedaling cannot be taught correctly unless one is

aware of historical considerations and also has an under-

standing of performance practices relevant to various

musical styles. To achieve the correct use of the pedals,

a pianist not only must be able to use appropriate pedaling

techniques, but also must possess an understanding of the

composer's idiomatic treatment of the pedals. Without such

understanding, a mastery of pedaling techniques in itself

is of limited value.

Numerous problems exist regarding pedal markings in

the score. Because a composer does not call for pedaling

in the notation is no reason to assume that none should be

used. Indications were not provided in the music for the

knee levers or hand stops which were early means of pedal-

ing. Until the piano reached its full development during

the early part of the nineteenth century, many composers

omitted pedal markings entirely. Yet it is known from

various accounts of piano playing that several composers

used the pedals in performances of their own compositions.

Mozart, for instance, never placed pedal markings in any of

his solo piano works. However, in letters to his father he

described using the damper pedal freely, and mentioned how

he was overjoyed at finding one that was capable of releas-

ing the sounds completely. Haydn indicated the use of the

damper pedal only twice. Neither he nor Mozart provided

markings for the use of the una corda pedal.

The lack of adequate pedaling indications is not

limited to any particular style of music, however. For

example, the clarity of the contrapuntal lines in much

eighteenth century music can be easily obscured through

incorrect pedaling. Although written primarily for harp-

sichord or clavichord, this music requires some pedaling

when played on the piano. Many editions of Classical and

Romantic piano music contain very few or quite inadequate

pedal indications (Gebhard, 1963). An example of this

practice can be illustrated by Liszt's brief note to his

transcription of the Tannhauser Overture in which he

wrote, "VerstAndiger Pedalgebrauch wird vorausgesetz" ("It

is assumed that the pedal will be used with understand-

ing"), after which there is not a single pedal indication

in the music (Neuhaus, 1973, p. 159).

Likewise, relying solely on the printed page for

pedaling creates significant problems for the performer in

the music of Debussy and Ravel, whose scores are almost

devoid of such indications, and whose requirements for the

use of the pedal are made clear by means other than the

traditional pedal markings. While pedaling in twentieth-

century piano music is more varied, it presents fewer

problems in that it is usually marked by the composer.

Whenever pedaling has not been indicated in the music

of a period, both the stylistic practice of the period and

the musical context should be considered in determining how

and where to pedal. Every available technique should be

used by the performer to convey the composer's intent, as

far as it can be ascertained from the score. For example,

although the sostenuto pedal is a more recent invention,

pianists should not be prejudiced against using it in music

that was composed earlier. According to Bacon (1963),

there is no benefit in pushing historical verisimilitude

too far when the contemporary grand piano itself is so far

removed from the historical. For instance, the use of the

sostenuto pedal can enhance the performance of Impression-

istic piano music. However, Debussy did not have a piano

with a sostenuto mechanism and as far as can be determined

was unaware of its existence. Ravel had composed numerous

piano works before he became aware of this pedal. When

introduced to it, he reportedly exclaimed, "Why didn't

someone show me that such effects were possible with the

sustaining pedal? How many more possibilities it would

have suggested to me!" (Chasins, 1962, p. 76).

Even when pedal markings were placed by the composer

in the score, it is not always possible to execute them

accurately on contemporary grand pianos. The evolution of

the pedals enabled pianists to produce effects at one time

that can only be partially duplicated today. In addition,

pedals differed greatly from one instrument to another,

making it impossible to achieve much consistency. The tone

of early pianos was lighter than it is today, and the

ability of the instrument to sustain sounds was much less

than it is on modern instruments.

Composers often marked pedaling in a careless, in-

consistent, or incomplete manner. If followed exactly by

the performer, these markings could lead to confusing re-

sults. As a further complication, some editors have tried

to compensate for omissions of pedal markings, which has

further obscured a composer's intent. Therefore, even when

presented with what appear to be authentic pedal indica-

tions, a pianist is not obligated to follow them exactly.

According to Dumesnil (1958, p. 63), "printed pedal marks

mean practically nothing."

In addition to functions normally associated with

pedaling, some of the dynamic levels indicated in the music

of Beethoven, for example, are possible only through judi-

cious use of the pedal. Because Beethoven was one of the

first composers to indicate pedaling in the music, he is

sometimes referred to as the "father of pedaling." And

he did create new effects by sustaining low bass notes

throughout long passages and holding the damper pedal down

through rapidly articulated chords. Yet, after Beethoven

pedaling became even more complex.

Aside from the fact that numerous pedal markings are

in use today (a problem in itself), the correct use of the

pedals frequently is hindered by the layout of the music.

Notes and leger lines below the bass clef sometimes get in

the way of pedal markings, and when this happens the pedal

is usually moved to one side or another. The full capabil-

ities of the concert grand piano offer an infinite variety

of pedalings, some of which cannot be indicated in notation.


The subject of pedaling is an extensive one. There-

fore, several delimitations were imposed to keep the study

focused on pedagogical matters. These delimitations in-

clude the following: (1) Only standard works representa-

tive of eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth century com-

posers are cited as examples. No attempt has been made to

incorporate a comprehensive representation of all piano

literature. (2) Non-traditional pedaling techniques and

idiosyncratic uses of the pedal are not included. (3) Par-

ticular schools of pedaling are not compared or explained.

(4) Manuscripts or treatises are not examined for histori-

cal relevance or authenticity. (5) A comparison of various

editions of a particular composer's works is not included.

Definitions of Terminology

Unless otherwise stated, the discussion of pedaling

techniques is made in reference to the modern concert grand

piano. The term pedaling will refer to the damper pedal or

right pedal. The middle pedal will be referred to as the

sostenuto pedal. The left pedal will be referred to as the

una corda pedal. These pedals and their actions are

frequently designated by a variety of terms, including the


Damper Pedal

English: damper pedal, loud pedal, open pedal, sustaining

pedal, amplifying pedal

French: avec pedale, la pedale forte, p6dale grande,

gardez la pedale

German: Aushaltepedal, Das Dampferpedal, Das

Dampfungspedal, Fortezug, Grosses Pedal, mit


Italian: col pedale, con pedale, il primo pedale, pedale,

pedale del forte, sempre pedale, senza sordini,

ped. simile

Release of the Damper Pedal

French: sec, sans pedale

German: kein Pedal, ohne Pedal

Italian: con sordini, senza pedale, secco, non ped.

Sostenuto Pedal

English: prolonging pedal, sostenuto pedal, Steinway

pedal, sustaining pedal, S.P., tonal pedal, Ped.

French: Prolongement, Pedale de prolongation, Prol. Ped.

German: Tonhaltepedal

Italian: II pedale tonale

Una Corda Pedal

English: soft pedal, shift pedal, muting pedal

French: une corde, sourdine, la pedale sourde, petite


German: mit Verschiebung, mit einer Saite, mit Dampfung

Italian: sordino, una corda, u.c., sul una corda, poco a

poco una corda

Release of the Una Corda Pedal

French: 3 cordes

German: ohne Verscheibung

Italian: tre corde, poco a poco tre corde, tutte le

corde, t.c., poco a poco tutte le corde, due


Use of the Una Corda and Damper Pedals Simultaneously

English: Ped. 1 and 2

French: Les deux pedales, Tres enveloppe de p6dales

German: Mit beiden Pedalen, Beide Pedale

Italian: con 2 Pedale, 2 ped., due Ped., con sord e Ped.

1 due pedali

In this study the terms for pedaling actions are

employed as follows:

Full pedal refers to the complete retention of sound

accomplished when the dampers are raised fully from the

strings and the pedal descends to its maximum depth.

Partial release of the pedal refers to the partial

release of the damper sound that is determined by how far

above the strings the dampers are raised: (1) a 75 percent

release of sound occurs when the dampers just barely touch

the strings, (2) a 50 percent release of sound occurs when

the dampers rest very lightly on the strings, and (3) a 25

percent release of sound occurs when the dampers rest

almost completely on the strings.

The term catching notes in the pedal is used inter-

changeably with holding notes in the damper pedal.

Other pedal terminology based upon a combination of

full and partial pedaling techniques is defined at appro-

priate places in the teaching units.

The following definitions apply to the terminology

used to describe various components of the teaching units:

Technique is a body of technical skills related to the

use of the pedals on the piano.

Method refers to a systematic plan followed in pres-

enting material for instruction.

Procedure is a series of steps followed in introducing

the various pedaling concepts in an organized manner.

Unit refers to one constituent in a series of twenty-

one teaching segments that collectively comprise a system-

atic, pedagogical study of the three pedals of the piano.


In his recently published book on pedaling, Banowetz


Pedaling has suffered grossly from both ignorance and
neglect. The bibliography . may give the im-
pression that references on pedaling are plentiful,
but that is somewhat misleading, for many entries are
very brief or elementary in content. Only a compara-
tive few show real depth or comprehensiveness.
(Banowetz, 1985, p. ix)

Several books in English have been written that are

entirely devoted to the subject of pedaling. The authors

include Banowetz (1985), Bowen (1936), Carreno (1919),

Ching (1930), Gebhard (1963), Riefling (1962), Schmitt

(1893), Schnabel (1950), and Wolfram (1965). These books

predominantly cover styles and musical considerations in

pedaling rather than pedagogical issues.

Very little space has been devoted to the subject of

pedaling in books on general piano playing. Pedaling, when

it is discussed at all, is generally treated only in a

cursory manner. Even books that contain pictures and

diagrams of the keyboard to illustrate certain pedagogical

problems usually omit the pedals (Lindo, 1922; Seroff,


Research on Teaching Pedaling

After an intensive search, no sizable systematic

research study of the teaching of piano pedaling was un-

covered. Searches of Dissertation Abstracts, the National

Union Catalogue, Eric, and RLIN produced no studies on the

teaching of pedaling. The Eric search and Dissertation

Abstracts Online did locate a few studies on bicycle

pedaling and several on organ pedaling. One thesis on

playing the piano without pedals (Castagnone, 1984) was

also cited.

Ferguson (1969) presents a study of the functions,

uses, and pedagogical methods of the pedals of the piano.

The final chapter of this thesis contains several peda-

gogical exercises derived from a number of sources for

introducing legato pedaling. Sheffet (1987) designed a

questionnaire to conceptualize the pedaling expertise of

ensemble pianists to formulate guidelines for pedaling

string duos, and Harrell (1976) investigates contemporary

non-traditional uses of the piano as an instrument.

Examples are provided of the new notational symbols

composers have developed, including those for pedaling.

Other studies are concerned primarily with historical

and performance situations. In a dissertation on technical

problems in piano performance, Hollis (1981) addresses the

application of the damper pedal in selected piano excerpts.

Hopkins (1980) uses musical examples from Bach's keyboard

Suites to demonstrate full and partial pedaling techniques

in her dissertation. In a dissertation on piano tone color

Brodsky (1985) mentions that the una corda pedal changes

the decay properties of a tone, and thereby significantly

affects the piano's tone quality.

A search was made of Music Index and Education Index

to find relevant articles on the teaching of pedaling.

While numerous writings have appeared on the use and func-

tion of the three pedals, many of these are no longer

available either because they have gone out of print or the

publications in which they appeared are no longer availa-

ble. Many articles and books contain only brief references

to pedaling and focus primarily on musical examples and

literature or historical matters rather than pedagogical


Writings on Teaching Pedaling

In addition to the books and articles entirely devoted

to pedaling, numerous books on the subject of piano teach-

ing were examined during the course of this study. Many

contained no references to pedaling at all. Of those that

did, the following examples are cited to provide insight

into the depth and extent to which the teaching of pedaling

was typically included.

Whiteside (1961) writes only briefly on the subject of

pedaling because she feels that in addition to good edit-

ing, too much has already been written on the subject of

pedaling to make a long discussion profitable in her book.

She acknowledges the damper pedal in six sentences, the una

corda in three, and the sostenuto pedal in one sentence.

After stating that beyond certain elementary require-

ments pedaling becomes merely an individual matter, Bacon

(1963) completes his chapter on pedaling in four and one-

half pages, covering the usage of all three pedals. Seven

sentences are devoted to the sostenuto pedal and four

sentences to the use of the una corda pedal. He provides

basic principles of pedaling regarding the application and

function of the three pedals. He states that because the

piano's normal tone is with the pedal, non-pedaling should

be conceived as a special color.

Newman (1956) covers pedaling in two and one-half

pages, devoting five sentences to the una corda pedal and

two sentences to the sostenuto pedal. He mentions three

techniques for the damper pedal: syncopated pedaling, half

pedaling, and pedal blurring. Newman stresses the impor-

tance of listening to what is being pedaled, and discusses

pedaling in the context of style, color, and performance


Multi-levels of pedaling are discussed by Neuhaus

(1973) in twelve pages devoted to pedaling, including six

sentences related to the use of the una corda pedal, but

nothing regarding the sostenuto pedal. According to

Neuhaus, artistic pedaling is inseparable from tone; a

primary use of the pedal is to remove some of the dryness

from the piano's distinctive tone. Several musical ex-

amples are cited in this book.

Last (1960) devotes a twenty-one page chapter to

pedaling and discusses a number of techniques for the

damper pedal including: legato and staccato pedaling, a

"touch" of pedal, pedaling scales, melodic and harmonic

pedaling, pedaling to enhance phrasing, half pedaling, half

damping, and "tremolo" pedaling. Thirteen sentences cover

the una corda pedal, while four sentences describe the use

of the sostenuto pedal.

Bastien (1977) discusses only the most elementary use

of pedaling in his text on teaching piano and covers the

basics of the damper pedal in two pages; the other pedals

are not mentioned. One exercise is provided for each of

the three types of pedaling that are mentioned: basic,

syncopated, and rhythmic syncopated. Four books on

elementary uses of the pedals are also listed. In a more

recent edition of the same text, Bastien (1988) does not

refer to the term "rhythmic syncopated" pedaling.

Enoch and Lyke (1977) offer two and one-half pages on

pedaling, devoting three sentences to the use of the una

corda pedal, while the sostenuto pedal is not mentioned. A

sequence for introducing pedaling is presented and experi-

mentation in pedaling is encouraged.

In their book on rhythm, dynamics, and pedal, Giese-

king and Leimer (1938) devote a sixteen-page chapter to the

damper pedal, one paragraph to the una corda pedal, and the

following sentence to the sostenuto pedal: "Many grand

pianos have a third (sustenuto) [sic] pedal which serves as

a prolonger of individual tones or chords" (Gieseking and

Leimer, 1938, p. 64). They stress the importance of "time-

treading" as opposed to "post-treading" or syncopated

pedaling. Various applications of pedaling are discussed

and presented along with musical examples.

In his chapter on pedaling, Kentner (1976) discusses

the element of timing in regard to depressing the damper

pedal either before, with, or after the notes are played.

He presents a couple of techniques for the damper pedal.

The chapter concludes with a brief discussion of historical

considerations regarding the una corda pedal and a mention

of the sostenuto pedal.

In his book on teaching, Booth (1971) discusses pedal-

ing in relation to how, when, and for how long the pedal

should be activated. He presents six pedaling exercises

for the damper pedal along with musical illustrations.

Other pedagogical aspects are presented as well.

A scholarly presentation on the use of the three

pedals can be found in the reference book on piano teaching

by Agay (1981) in the chapter on pedaling submitted by


Lack of Systematic Studies on Teaching Pedaling

From the late eighteenth century on, an enormous

amount of teaching guides, materials, and methods were

written for piano teachers. Every important pedagogical

concept was included in detail, except knowledge of and

guidance in the use of the pedals.

In the "Foreword" of his volume on pedaling, Schmitt

(1893) states: "He who has talent will know how to use the

pedal; he who has no talent cannot be taught to use it

correctly." According to Mirovitch (1954), this statement

provides an accurate account of the substance of all pedal

knowledge and teaching prior to the mid-twentieth century.

Although Wells (1914) believed that pedaling had developed

into a fine art, "It would be no exaggeration to state that

there has been no pedal teaching" (Mirovitch, 1954 p. 1).

Schnabel confirms this view on the teaching of

pedaling when he states that

Little has been written, said or taught about the use
of the pedal. So little, that indeed many pianists do
not even realize how they use the pedal themselves. A
few rules, sometimes more harmful that helpful, are
known to them; the rest is guesswork, instinct, or
good--or bad--luck. (Schnabel, 1950, p. 3)

Riefling (1962, p. 1) calls the whole subject of

pedaling "terra incognita," and cites a passage from the

book Music Study in Germany (1881) by the American pianist

Amy Fay. After having studied with the great piano peda-

gogues Tausig, Kullak, and Liszt, Fay admitted to her

teacher Ludwig Deppe that none of her earlier renowned

teachers had taught her anything in particular about pedal-

ing, except to warn her not to use the pedal during runs.

Additional Studies

Very little progress has been made in recent decades,

according to Ferguson (1969), toward rectifying the lack of

systematic studies on the teaching of pedaling. As Kentner


It is remarkable that [pedaling] has been practically
ignored by music teachers except for some vague,
though well meant advice against "over-pedaling." Even
intelligent pianists often limit their comments on the
pedal to an indulgent and humorous admission that it
can hide a multitude of sins. What sins we are not
told. (Kentner, 1976, p. 69)

Gebhard concludes

It is strange that, with this fascinating and exten-
sive field fairly begging for recognition, only a few
fine musical scholars have written about it. The
artistic and tasteful use of the pedal . is an
intrinsic part of interpretation [and] its neglect is
incomprehensible. (Gebhard, 1963, p. viii)

As Fetsch (1966) points out, most of what has appeared

in print concerns the use of the damper pedal. Compara-

tively little has been written on the use of the una corda

pedal, but its technique is less involved than the other

two pedals. Even less has been written on the use of the

sostenuto pedal, and most teachers and students are only

acquainted with the most basic techniques for this pedal.

Fetsch believes that this creates an urgent need for de-

tailed instruction in its use.

Conflicting Theories

The lack of systematic studies on the teaching of

piano pedaling has resulted in confusing and sometimes

conflicting theories about pedaling. Historical comments

that have been recorded on the subject of piano teaching in

past decades provide some insight into this area. Although

many examples can be cited, only a few will be given here.

Lindquist (1966) refers to two distinct schools of

pedaling: one that stresses clarity at all times and the

other that sacrifices clarity for color. This duality in

the teaching and use of the pedals has a long and continu-

ing history. The musicologist Riemann, for instance, be-

came the subject of severe criticism when he stated in his

Dictionary of Music (1882) that in playing the piano the

dampers should not usually remain in contact with the

strings. Martienssen (1930) strongly disputed this view,

saying that such theories about pedaling contributed to the

extraordinarily widespread lack of understanding of the

subject. The famous pedagogues Matthay (1913) and Lesche-

tizsky (Bree, 1902) both recognized this division of pian-

ists into two categories regarding methods of pedaling: the

small number of pianists who used very little pedal and

the great majority who kept the pedal depressed almost

constantly. Leschetizsky, however, believed that no rules

were needed for pedaling other than common sense and a good

ear (Bree, 1902).

A different type of confusion surrounded the manner in

which the damper pedal was depressed. For nearly eighty

years after the invention of the damper pedal, rhythmic

pedaling, or depressing the damper pedal simultaneously

with the notes, was the exclusive recognized form of pedal-

ing. According to Riefling (1962), Czerny (1839) was the

first composer to write fully and instructively about the

use of the pedal, and this was the only form of pedaling he

discussed. Syncopated pedaling, or depressing the pedal

after the notes have been played, is now considered to be

the most common method of pedaling. However, syncopated

pedaling was not used until after 1870 by composers such as

Liszt, Kullak, and Deppe, and it is mentioned in treatises

on the pedal dating from 1875 by both Schmitt and Kohler.

Pre-pedaling, or depressing the pedal before playing

the notes, is first mentioned in writings on the pedal

dating from the early twentieth century by Breithaupt

(1912), Caland (1922), and Kreutzer (1915). However, in

his book The Essence of Piano Technique, which was pub-

lished in 1923, Kreutzer does not mention this form of

pedaling and appears to reject it (Riefling, 1962).

In his treatise on pedaling, Frey (1939) states that

rhythmic pedaling was the most commonly used form of

pedaling. According to Riefling (1962), several renowned

piano teachers and writers pointed out that this was false

information, and that rhythmic pedaling was on the verge of

extinction as a form of recognized pedaling. Von Bulow

commented on the confusing situation surrounding the entire

subject of pedaling by stating that as a rule, pedaling was

"the expedient people employ to annihilate good taste"

(Riefling, 1962, p. 17).

Faults in Teaching Pedaling

The importance of good pedaling has long been recog-

nized, even though the teaching of pedaling has fallen

short. Faults that occur in the teaching of pedaling may

be either of commission or omission (Booth, 1971). Accord-

ing to various writings on the teaching of pedaling, the

most often cited fault is the lack of teaching. Other

pedagogical errors or oversights mentioned include improper

attention to the position of the foot (Bernstein, 1981),

introducing the use of the pedal too late, and neglect in

teaching pedaling with reference to harmony (Ching, 1930).

Results of Poor Teaching

The most commonly cited faults of students in em-

ploying the pedal include failing to change the pedal

frequently enough, too rapid or incomplete pedal releases

that create blurring, pedaling through phrasing and articu-

lation markings, too frequent pedal changes that do not

sustain the harmony, and failing to retain low bass notes

in the pedal (Booth, 1971); failing to change the pedal

quickly enough, and failing to use imperceptible pedal

blurring relative to stylistic playing (Neuhaus, 1973);

regulating the pedal with reference only to the left hand,

and considering the harmonic structure of the piece to the

exclusion of melodic forms of pedaling (Riefling, 1962);

allowing the damper pedal to become an outlet for rhythmic

expression (Whiteside, 1961); pedaling without listening

(Friskin, 1921); pedaling far too violently and noisily

(Last, 1960; Ohlsson, 1982); failing to gauge accurately

the height and depth of the pedal resulting in unclean

pedaling (Last, 1960); and assuming that copious amounts of

pedal will almost automatically create impressionistic

effects (Adams, 1988).

Neuhaus (1973, p. 166) speaks of a "sanitary pedal"

imposed by teachers who demand that the pedal be changed

with every melody note, even though the harmony remains

unchanged. But he states that "no good pianist ever uses

such a pedal." Lhevinne (1972) warns that so much latitude

can be taken in pedaling that the novice uses the pedal

like a brush with which to paint the back fence, rather

than with intelligence and definiteness.

Reasons for Incorrect Pedaling

Newman (1956) suggests several reasons why pedaling is

often cursorily treated by the teacher and seldom noticed

by the student. These include a lack of aural attention by

the student plus inadequate and misleading editorial sug-

gestions provided for pedaling. Ching (1930) cites four

reasons for incorrect pedaling: (1) bad teaching, (2) lack

of teaching, (3) complete lack of musical feeling, and (4)

carelessness. He concludes, however, that incorrect pedal-

ing is almost always due to either the first or second


Pedagogical Views on Teaching Pedaling

As Gieseking (1930) points out, young musicians almost

never understand how difficult it is to play exactly ac-

cording to the wishes of the composer. This perfection is

possible only by a complete mastery of all forms of tech-


Good pedal technique is defined by Ching (1930) as a

knowledge of when and how to use the pedal, as well as the

ability to perform automatically or subconsciously the

necessary pedal movements. Only when the performer has

this skill and knowledge, according to Ching, can the pedal

take its proper place as part of the student's general

technical equipment.

Methods of Instruction

Pedaling is sometimes of great concern to a composer,

but at other times it is hardly notated at all. Collins

(1986) suggests that the best method of instruction is for

the pianist to notice carefully how the composer has used

the pedal marks, and then to decide for himself or herself

how to interpret them. Ohlsson (1982) believes that

students should experiment with some of the more advanced

forms of pedaling (such as half pedaling and pedal vibrato)

on their own for fun and for the pleasure of learning.

But according to Ching (1930), although pedaling as a

form of musical interpretation must ultimately depend upon

musical experience and judgment, the foundations of most

forms of pedaling can be taught by fairly definite rules.

Such rules, he believes, are the surest way to acquire the

necessary experience and judgment for artistic pedaling.

Schnabel (1954) concurs with this view. Good tech-

nique, according to Schnabel, can be acquired by many

different means and methods. Some of these methods are

easy, some difficult, some short, and some are rather long.

But attempting to acquire a good pedal technique by ab-

staining from using the pedal, or by simply guessing and

experimenting with its use, is a long, inadequate, and un-

acceptable "method." The art of pedaling requires profound

study (Riefling, 1962).

Cooke (1976) believes that students should study care-

fully all the rules first, which may then be skillfully

broken to produce artistic effects.

Last (1960) recommends not only the study of pedaling

as a form of technique equal to that of the arms, hands,

and fingers, but also the practice of preliminary exercises

as a teaching tool before various pedaling techniques are

introduced into musical pieces.

Conflicting Views

Not all pedagogues share the same views on the teach-

ing of pedaling, or the relative importance of exercises in

developing good pedal technique. Booth (1971) concludes

that because good pedaling is a result of sound musical

judgment and an educated ear, any advice or pedagogical

exercises can only be regarded as preparatory and elemen-

tary. After a reasonable foundation in pedaling is ac-

quired, the rest should be determined solely by musical

taste. Bacon (1963) expresses a similar belief in stating

that beyond certain elementary requirements pedaling be-

comes an individual matter. Neuhaus (1973, p. 163) be-

lieves that there is no correct pedaling "in general," that

general rules about pedaling "have the same relation to

artistic pedaling as some chapter on syntax to poetic


Pedaling as an Aid to Individual Interpretation

Great piano playing is an individual matter, and most

teachers recognize pedaling as an important aid to express-

ing this individuality. In a nearly identical performance

of the same musical composition by two pianists, quite dif-

ferent results can be produced solely through dissimilar

pedaling (Marsh, 1987; Riefling, 1962). In the opinion of

Marsh (1987), an intelligent early training in the art of

pedaling is an important key to developing an individually

unique sound in interpreting music.

According to Ching, most piano music imposes a limit

upon the freedom of individual interpretation,

but no such tradition [exists] with regard to the
pedal--or virtually none. Here the artist has free
scope, and provided he has the requisite knowledge and
skill he can use this freedom to express his individu-
ality and his art. (Ching, 1930, p. 36)

Difficulty in Teaching Pedaling

Pedaling is sometimes referred to as "the most diffi-

cult branch of higher piano study" (Cooke, 1976). Numerous

articles provide testimonials to this statement. Formsma

(1976, p. 45) writes that the pedagogical problems involved

in teaching pedaling have "provided inspiration for arti-

cles, problems for editors, and disagreement among perform-

ers, students, and teachers."

In his book on pedaling, Gieseking states that ade-

quate instruction in pedaling is very difficult because

the rules upon which we base our support can scarcely
be produced. The exceptions would most likely surpass
the rules. In many cases one could play as well with-
out the pedal as with the pedal, giving sound reasons
for the carrying out of either method. (Gieseking,
1930, p. 49)

According to Everhart (1958, p. 250), other than

achieving the artistic qualities of touch and tone, "there

is no greater challenge to the player than pedal effects."

Importance of Listening

Most writers stress the prime importance of listening

as a requisite to good pedal technique, saying that the ear

must be the ultimate guide in determining when and how much

pedal to use. Enoch (1977) urges teachers to take the time

to establish good pedaling with both the foot and the ear.

Booth (1971) believes that education in the use of the

pedal begins and ends with the ear, since the ear is the

only real medium of control. Everhart (1958) states that

no amount of discussion will result in effective pedaling

since pedaling is done by ear rather than by calculation.

Schnabel (1950), however, warns in his writings on pedaling

that while the ear should always be the final judge, the

ear alone cannot teach the specific methods and means by

which the various forms of pedaling are obtained. Lind-

quist (1968) concurs by stating that the well known cliche

"pedal with the ear, not the foot" is a risky oversimpli-


Gieseking (1930) calls the thorough training of the

ear a prerequisite to rapid progress and states that

listening to one's self is by far the most important factor

in all of music study. Leimer (1930), with whom Gieseking

studied, refers to trained ears that have been developed

through continuous self-hearing as the only way to achieve

self-control. Dilsner (1968) refers to Leschetizky's

belief that good pedaling depends on good listening to

one's own playing, as a summation of the desired goal of

all pedaling technique.

Most students do not hear all the sounds they produce,

creating a tone deafness that makes an intelligent and

convincing performance impossible (Friskin, 1921). Ac-

cording to Ching (1930), the longer a student practices a

certain work, the more intensely he or she must listen to

the pedaling and other effects that are produced, to guard

against complacency in listening.

Newman (1956, p. 70) repeatedly stresses the impor-

tance of careful listening, saying that beyond teaching the

student the basics of syncopated pedaling, the teacher's

best help "can be to remind and re-remind the student to

hear what he plays." Last (1960) shares similar views on

the importance of careful listening. As Grasty-Jones

(1988) points out, effective use of the damper pedal de-

mands aural skills that should be cultivated beginning with

a child's first experiences at the piano. Bacon (1963)

believes that nothing reveals a pianist's capacity to hear

himself more than pedaling. Everything that is played,

according to Friskin (1921), should constitute an exercise

in ear training.

Introducing the Pedals

Several different views exist on when and how to in-

troduce pedaling to students. In the following sections,

some of the prevailing beliefs on this topic are presented.

When to Introduce the Pedals

The teaching of pedaling is frequently withheld until

after the student has acquired a proficient keyboard tech-

nique. Many teachers are afraid of allowing young students

to use the pedal at all because they believe that pedaling

will only create unmusical blurs. According to Marsh

(1987), this is usually because the teachers themselves are

uncertain about the proper training techniques to use to

teach beginning students the correct use of the pedals.

Many writers lament this situation (Anson, 1966;

Bacon, 1963; Bernstein, 1981; Ching, 1930; Marsh, 1987) and

believe that pedaling technique should be taught along with

keyboard technique. If the student learns early to use the

pedals, he or she will learn that there is nothing mysteri-

ous about using them and pedaling will gradually become a

natural habit (Ching, 1930; Marsh, 1987; Riefling, 1962).

As Marsh points out, very young students (whose reflexes

are often quicker than those of older people) usually have

little trouble in learning to pedal. According to Anson

(1966), young pianists should begin using the pedals im-

mediately so that they can become a constantly functioning

part of the player's entire mechanism, along with the eyes,

ears, muscles, heart, and head. The right pedal should be

used at the first lesson, and the others added as soon as


Gieseking (1930, p. 40), however, advises studying

"foot technique with the greatest accuracy" only after the

pianist has acquired enough technique to interpret a compo-

sition fairly well. Ferguson (1969) believes that with the

exception of children and beginners, pedaling should be

practiced form the beginning of the study of a work as an

integral part of the piece, not added later as a separate

ingredient. Beginners are also advised by Riefling (1962)

to avoid using the pedal unless they are sufficiently

musical and gifted, and are capable of listening to them-

selves. Still others believe that pedaling should not

be introduced until after a good finger legato has been


Bastien (1988) states that the correct use of the

pedal may be taught late in the second year or early in the

third year, whenever the child's foot is able to reach the

floor and a correct seated position can be maintained.

Prior to this, he recommends using the pedal at the end of

a piece, with chords, and in hand over hand arpeggios to

satisfy the child's eagerness to pedal. Last (1963) also

believes that pedaling can be introduced when the student

has reached approximately grade two or three, but that no

hard and fast rules can be made.

According to Agay (1981, p. 19), the student should be

able to meet certain physical and musical prerequisites

before being confronted with the challenge of pedaling.

These include the ability to: (1) reach the damper pedal

without sacrificing correct posture, (2) read notes quite

fluently, (3) coordinate hand and foot work, and (4) some

familiarity with basic theory and harmony.

In his chapter on pedaling, Booth (1971, p. 98) con-

cludes that the answer to the question of when pedaling

should be taught is "as early as possible, but as seldom as


Several teachers warn against abusing the una corda

pedal as a crutch, saying that it is preferable to rely on

touch quality created by the fingers rather than the feet

(Sandor, 1981). Whiteside (1961) believes that the una

corda pedal is of very little value when used only for

playing more softly and that it should be used more as a

violinist uses a mute.

Bernstein (1981) speaks of a guilt shared by many

pianists in using the pedals for fear of becoming dependent

upon them in playing legato and playing softly. He recom-

mends using both pedals from the beginning in learning a

new piece, since their use is indispensable in enhancing

skills that have been learned previously and in creating

coloristic effects.

As Grasty-Jones (1988) points out, most students will

have access to a piano with both a damper pedal and an una

corda pedal, but not many students will be fortunate enough

to have grand pianos equipped with sostenuto pedals. In

addition, since the sostenuto pedal often functions im-

properly if it works at all, she suggests that students not

only be taught how to use the sostenuto pedal, but also to

find alternative ways of pedaling that utilize the damper

pedal. Fetsch (1966) concludes that the decision of when

to use this pedal obviously lies with the pianist.

How to Introduce the Pedals

Werder (1978) presents exercises for introducing the

damper pedal that are geared toward students at four

different levels of ability. Since the pedal is rarely

used by young beginning students (because their legs are

often too short), he suggests that students at the most

elementary level depress the pedal only after the final

chord of a piece has been played. Providing that the

student is able to reach the pedals and maintain a correct

seated position and body alignment, depressing the pedal at

this point can be a good introduction to syncopated pedal-

ing. A student at the second level is capable of under-

standing the mechanical side of the damper pedal along with

syncopated pedaling. Werder suggests playing single notes

and counting in duple or triple meter to teach the timing

involved in syncopated pedaling at this level. The pedal

is released as the new note sounds. Third-level students

practice delaying the timing in syncopated pedaling, so

that the pedal is depressed after the new note sounds. At

the fourth level, pedaling is used within musical


Ching (1930) believes that the use of the pedal de-

pends almost entirely upon the harmonic structure of the

music and, therefore, no knowledge of the pedal is of any

practical value without some understanding of the general

principles of harmony and chord formation. He advocates

beginning the study of pedaling with basic principles of

theory and types of chord formations. From there he com-

pares pedaling chord inversions and chord changes, and

refers to different levels of acceptable pedal blurs in

reference to stylistic considerations. The art of pedal-

ing, according to Sandor (1981), hinges on the ability to

blend harmonics with discretion.

Gieseking (1938, p. 48) recommends beginning the study

of pedaling by teaching a correct seated position. Next,

the student can practice "time treading" and syncopated

pedaling by studying suitable passages before working our

the pedal in musical compositions. As a recommended ex-

ercise he suggests depressing the pedal in advance of the

notes that are played.

Seroff (1977) believes that pianists should familiar-

ize themselves first with the piano as an instrument. He

feels that this is the most natural way to begin and that

every other instrumentalist follows this procedure except


The pianist practices and accomplishes, and at the end
of perhaps twenty years finds himself dumfounded at a
child's questions of 'How do you make music on this
box?' . I have yet to meet either pupil or teacher
who devoted his first lesson to these fundamental
questions, which should be the basis of good piano
playing. (Seroff, 1977, p. 2)

Agay (1981) and Enoch (1977) also suggest that the

first lesson in pedal include an examination of the pedal's

damper mechanism. They further suggest that the student be

taught to position the right foot correctly and to operate

the damper pedal silently. According to Agay, pedaling

should be studied at a comfortable and deliberate pace. He

feels that it is not advisable to introduce new aspects of

pedaling at each lesson, or to have the student learn

special pedaling exercises at each consecutive lesson.

Last (1960) suggests demonstrating the vibration of

strings to students by such simple methods as depressing

the pedal and yelling into the piano, a technique that

seems sure to get the students' attention. She also

suggests teaching students to treat the pedal as a very

sensitive mechanism and to learn the feel of the up-down

motions of the foot along with correct placement of the

feet on the pedals. She suggests testing for this feel on

all instruments before any performance.

In her subsequent book on pedaling, Last (1963) recom-

mends that students first understand the function of the

damper pedal and then practice pedaling technique away from

the keyboard. She mentions the correct positioning of the

foot and stresses the importance of listening. Suggested

exercises in pedaling include those in which the teacher

plays while the pupil pedals.

According to Booth (1971), the very first lesson in

the use of the pedal should demonstrate to the student that

the less movement made by the foot (either up or down), the

better the possibility of achieving sensitive results. The

student should also be taught that the sole of the right

foot always rests on the pedal and should never lose con-

tact with it. Booth refers to this manner of pedaling as

"invisible" pedaling (1971, p. 94).

Correct pedaling involves the use of natural tension

in that the resistance offered by the pedal must be met by

contracting the muscles in the leg and foot (Bernstein,

1981). Therefore, Bernstein recommends beginning the study

of pedaling by considering the posture of the feet and the

feel of pedal resistance. He suggests an exercise in which

the student places the right foot on the damper pedal and

the toes of the left foot over the right. A downward pres-

sure from the left toes as the pedal is activated exercises

a braking control and prevents the dampers from slapping

against the strings.

Before any pedal is used Anson (1966) suggests that

the teacher explain its use, demonstrate what happens with

the piano mechanism, and illustrate the sounds which then


Teaching Techniques for the Damper Pedal

The easiest use of the damper pedal involves sustain-

ing the same chord for a period of time. The notes and

pedal are then released simultaneously. Pedaling in this

way is sometimes referred to as "direct pedaling." Ching

(1930) refers to this use of the pedal as a preparation for

legato pedaling.

Until the beginner knows exactly how to coordinate

pedaling, Marsh (1987) believes that it is extremely im-

portant for the teacher to mark precisely even the simplest

pedaling suggestions in everything that is used for pedal

practice. Marsh feels that in the early training years the

student needs the visual help of such markings at all


Activating the Damper Pedal

Several books and articles refer to the manner in

which the damper pedal is depressed and released. The

damper pedal may be depressed either before, with, or after

the notes are played. It may be released either with the

notes or delayed by varying degrees.

As mentioned earlier, rhythmic pedaling, or depressing

the damper pedal simultaneously with the notes that are

played, was originally considered the accepted method of

pedaling. Today simultaneous pedaling is more likely to be

regarded as the exception to the rule. Releasing the dam-

per pedal in an appropriate manner is given more prominent

attention in the various writings, and it is widely con-

sidered to be of more importance than how or when it is

depressed. "The rule 'play first, pedal afterwards' is of

permanent and universal validity, but like all rules, it

has its exceptions" (Kentner, 1976, p. 72). Ching (1930)

provides a series of exercises based on a single chord

followed by musical examples to illustrate this concept.

Hamilton (1927) states that the pedal should always be

depressed to its full extent by a quick downward movement

made from the ankle joint and released by relaxing the

pressure as suddenly as it was applied. According to

Hamilton, it is a safe rule to depress the pedal after

sounding the note except when the note is very short or

stands alone.

The belief that the pedal should be either completely

down or completely up is also shared by Gebhard (1963).

According to Gebhard, the pedal is activated by a relaxed,

noiseless motion from the ankle. It is always pressed

down, and never struck by the foot.

Grasty-Jones (1988) believes students should learn

that pedaling to the floor is unnecessary. Placing only

the big toe on the pedal rather than the entire ball of the

foot helps to control the weight of the foot and eliminate

blurring. She further suggests that as students gain more

control of the damper pedal, they can experiment with

degrees of pedal and find out how little pedal is needed to

sustain tones.

Booth (1971) describes the "why and wherefore" of all

pedal technique as a summation of two basic movements: de-

pressing the pedal and releasing it. He further believes

the point at which the pedal is released is more important

than when or how it is depressed, which is a view also

shared by Last (1960) and Lindquist (1966). Booth gives

six exercises for teaching the student to correctly

activate the damper pedal.

Legato Pedaling

Legato pedaling is one of the most frequent uses of

the pedal and is the one most often introduced first. It

is also the form of pedaling that is frequently taught "to

the total exclusion of every other type" (Booth, 1971,

p. 101). Because legato pedaling involves syncopated

timing between depressing and releasing the keys and ac-

tivating the pedal, preparatory exercises and sometimes

suggested prior to introducing this technique.

Agay (1981) suggests teaching the syncopated element

of timing by having the student play single chords and

depress and release the pedal while counting in a very slow

quadruple meter.

Ching (1930) has the student practice rhythmical foot

movements away from the piano while counting. He then

combines foot movement with arm movements varying the

height that the arm is dropped and the portion of the arm

that is being used. He also provides musical illustrations

of legato pedaling. Ching believes that two things must be

considered in legato pedaling: the pitch or range of the

keyboard in which the passage is played, and the dynamic

level. The louder the tone and the lower the pitch, the

longer the damper pedal must be allowed to dampen the

sounds between the chords. He provides an interesting

exercise comprised of cadence chords played in different

registers and at different dynamic levels to illustrate

this point.

Hamilton (1927) suggests an exercise for developing

legato pedaling that consists of playing a series of as-

cending notes with one finger and coordinating the timing

of the pedal while counting. Pasquet (1981) recommends

playing the C major scale very slowly with one finger while

saying the words "up" and "down" to acquire the element of


After the student has learned a legato pedal technique

in conjunction with playing a series of slow chords, Marsh

(1987) suggests that Hanon exercises be used as a second

step in early pedal training. He believes that Hanon is

useful in training students to create a legato quality in

running passages. To avoid blurring the pedal, Marsh

suggests that the student first be able to play the exer-

cises at a tempo of at least 92 per quarter note. The

procedures he suggests for pedaling the exercises in Hanon

differ according to the meter and tempo of the exercise

that is played.

The exercises in the first book of Hanon (all in 2/4

time), can be pedaled by depressing the pedal immediately

after the first beat and lifting it exactly on the second

beat of the measure. For those exercises in the second

book (all in 4/4 time), the pedal can be depressed

immediately after the first and third beats, and raised

exactly on the second and fourth beats. At a metronome

marking of 120 or above, Marsh suggests that the pedal

should be depressed after the first beat but not raised

until the third beat. At speeds of 152 or above, the pedal

can be depressed for an entire measure, resulting in as

many as sixteen notes in a single pedal.

Pedaling in this manner is one form of accent pedal-

ing, whereby the lift of the pedal produces an automatic

accent. Marsh (1987, p. 50) refers to this type of accent

pedaling as "clipping," because releasing the pedal exactly

as the note is played "clips" the tone and creates a rhyth-

mic pulse.

Seroff (1977) recommends a listening experiment with

the damper pedal to illustrate two distinct tone qualities.

In the first illustration, the student is asked to play a

note and to depress the damper pedal while holding the note

down. Then the student is asked to repeat the process but

to lift the finger from the key as soon as the pedal is

depressed. Although the note is sustained by the pedal in

both examples, if the key is released while the pedal is

held, it allows the hammer to fall all the way back to its

starting position. This creates a wider range of vibration

of the strings and enhances the quality of the tone. When

the key is held down, the hammer only partially returns to

its original position. Seroff believes that this illustra-

tion is useful in indicating to the student that the fin-

gers do not always need to hold on to the notes when using

the damper pedal.

Bernstein (1981) recommends lifting the fingers for

another reason. Freeing the fingers from a finger legato

and connecting instead with the damper pedal enables the

pianist to control the exact dynamic level of each note.

This is useful if strain or discomfort prevents those

pianists with small hands from controlling the contour of

the dynamics. Although he states that some pianists regard

the practice of relying on the pedal for legato instead of

the fingers as an anathema, he points out that some of the

greatest pianists indulge in this practice.

Anson (1966) has the student play scales with the

third finger alone while playing and pedaling in various

meters. He suggests experimenting with the length of time

the pedal remain depressed.

Before the student attempts legato pedaling, Dumesnil

(1958) recommends five preparatory exercises to acquire a

syncopated motion between the hands and foot. These are

done while counting away from the piano.

Farjeon (1923) recommends an exercise to be played

first with finger legato and then with the third finger

alone while the pedal connects the notes. He suggests

varying the tempo and, when playing fast, to pull up

suddenly from the note to assure that the sound is clean.

Additional Pedaling Techniques

A number of writers discuss additional uses of the

damper pedal as well as the sostenuto and una corda pedals

but mostly from the standpoint of musical style. In his

book on pedaling, Banowetz (1985) includes some pedagogical

suggestions for various techniques for the use of the three

pedals and examples of how to pedal specific works of

selected composers. In earlier writings on the subject

Banowetz (1981) also relates pedaling techniques and peda-

gogical suggestions to musical examples and stylistic con-

siderations. Farjeon (1923) provides examples for the

various uses of the pedals, including a number of exercises

and studies.

The only way to distinguish between the various de-

grees of partial pedaling, according to Schnabel (1954),

is through critical listening. He suggests three exercises

or teaching the various positions of the damper pedal in

relation to the degree of released sound. To test whether

a certain position of the pedal produces the effect of a

quarter pedal or 25 percent of released sound, Schnabel

suggests playing a scale with the pedal slightly depressed

and listening to determine that no blurring occurs. To

test for half pedal or 50 percent of released sound,

staccato notes should be played first without the pedal and

then with the pedal depressed slightly so that some blur-

ring occurs. To test for three-quarters pedal or a 75

percent of released sound, a chord should continue to sound

when the pedal is partially depressed. However, the sound

should not be as resonant as when full pedaling is used.

Schnabel also describes three means of partial pedaling to

achieve a decrease in the dynamic level of a sustained


Pedaling for color has been described by some as the

least understood of the uses of the pedal. Slenczynska

(1969) describes several uses of the damper pedal for color

in Prokofieff's Visions Fugitives, Opus 22. Ching (1930)

introduces this technique by explaining sympathetic vibra-

tion through the overtone series and then illustrates its

use through musical examples. He treats staccato pedaling

as a form of pedaling for color, which he introduces by

playing chords and listening to the pedal release. He also

provides an exercise for half pedaling.

A comparison between dry and liquid staccato and dry

and liquid portamento is made by Gebhard (1963) to illus-

trate the difference between notes that are pedaled and

those that are not.

Sostenuto Pedaling

Randlett (1967) describes more advanced means of em-

ploying the sostenuto pedal through a process of control-

ling the level of the dampers of the unwanted tones. He

provides step-by-step procedures to achieve this effect in

musical examples.

Fetsch (1966) provides a sequence of steps that should

be observed when using the sostenuto pedal and illustrates

them through musical examples. He also provides examples

for the simultaneous use of all three pedals.

Una Corda Pedaling

Graham (1963) believes that the teacher should be the

one to show the student when to use the una corda pedal;

consequently, he does not provide markings for this pedal

in his pedal exercise book. Bilson (1982) recommends using

the una corda pedal as a voicing tool for a defense against

a piano with heavy grooves in the hammers. He suggests

depressing this pedal partially to avoid the tinny sound

that sometimes occurs.

Pedal Exercise Books

A few pedal exercise books have been published, some

of which are now out of print. The authors include Anson

(1966); Farjeon (1923); Graham (1963); Last (1963); Miro-

vitch (1954); Styron and Stevens (1964); and Podolsky,

Davison, and Schaub (1966). These books present various

approaches to introducing pedaling to the student. For

instance, in his volume on pedaling, Mirovitch (1954) il-

lustrates the role and function of the damper pedal in

piano repertoire. Graham (1963) employs a series of

original compositions to introduce pedal plans which are

markings for basic legato pedaling. One piece employs the

sostenuto pedal in combination with the damper pedal. Last

(1963) first presents exercises in which the teacher plays

and the pupil listens. After the pupil is able to play and

pedal, she introduces legato pedaling, rhythmic pedaling,

and staccato pedaling.

Anson (1966) states that nothing seems more futile

than the usual preliminary pedaling exercises in which the

student activates the pedal while counting but does not

depress the keys. He introduces legato pedaling, harmonic

and melodic pedaling, and illustrates various uses of the

three pedals through short pieces. Included are pedaling

for color, pedal blurring, accent pedaling, and pedaling

grace notes. One piece is provided for una corda pedaling

and another for sostenuto pedaling.

Introduction of the Pedals in Piano Methods Books

The introduction of pedaling into current piano

methods books, especially those frequently used in the

United States, was examined to provide insight into when

and how pedaling was introduced to students and what types

of pedaling techniques were employed.

The United States has produced more method books than

any other country (Bastien, 1988). When seen on display at

a major music store, the number of methods is overwhelming.

Therefore, only a few of the more frequently used methods

are examined for their treatment of the pedals.

The following charts indicate how and when the damper

pedal and una corda pedals are introduced, whether or not

preliminary exercises are included, and the pedaling tech-

niques that are employed. The various means of introducing

the pedals include: (1) photographs, drawings, illustra-

tions, and markings in the music--none of which contain

explanations, (2) abbreviated descriptions of the three

pedals, (3) brief explanations of pedaling techniques, and

(4) various introductory exercises.

Some methods present the concepts of a pedaling tech-

nique first, without reference to actual playing. Others

indicate the use of the pedal without verbal explanations.

In some, the pedal markings simply appear without prior

introduction. Additional methods were examined as well,

and similar instances were found to apply.

A wide diversity was found to exist in the continuity

of pedaling concepts presented in the various methods. A

divergence was found as well in the consistency with which

pedaling was employed once the concept had been introduced.

In general, the concept of pedaling did not appear to re-

ceive a high priority; neither did pedaling appear to be an

inegral part of the pedagogical sequence of the instruc-

tional materials.

Book Pedal Exercises Technique

Photos 2 Damper



Illus- 1
tration 4








No Syncopated



Damper No

1 Damper
4 "



(No pedal is used)

Very Young

Picture B Damper

Drawing B Damper

No Direct

No Simultaneous

Figure 2-1

Introduction of the Pedals into Piano Methods Books


Look &


Method How

Method How



Ga r row




et al.


In the



In the





Book Pedal

2 Damper

2 Damper


P* Damper &
Una Corda

1 Damper &
2 Una Corda

1 Damper

2 Damper
Una Corda

1-C Damper

Exercises Technique



No Direct

No Direct


No Syncopated



No Direct

Figure 2-1--continued

* Primer level

Book Pedal

2 Damper


1 Damper

B Damper

E Una Corda

2 All 3

3 Una Corda












al notation

No Syncopated

Pedal in


No ex-

In the



No ex-


No Syncopated

Figure 2-1--continued

Most of the methods that were examined did introduce

the damper pedal, some used the una corda pedal either

alone or in combination with the damper pedal, but none

included examples for the use of the sostenuto pedal.

However, these method books are for beginning piano

students, and sostenuto pedaling generally is not required

until more advanced levels have been attained.





In the


The pedals on the piano can be used in numerous ways

and for a variety of musical purposes. For example, in his

treatise on pedaling ("The Pianist's Guide to Pedaling"),

Banowetz (1985) describes twelve distinct techniques for

the damper pedal alone, plus additional techniques for each

of the other two pedals either alone or in combination with

other pedals. This study has developed a pedagogical

approach for each of the techniques discussed by Banowetz.

In addition, it presents four techniques not discussed in

Banowetz's treatise on pedaling.

Composition of the Units


Twenty instructional units were developed, one for

each of the pedaling techniques. Each unit includes a

step-by-step guide to the teaching of a pedaling technique,

as well as other useful related information. One addi-

tional unit was developed dealing with the pedagogical

sequence for introducing each pedaling concept. These

units form a comprehensive and systematic program of study

to help teachers teach their students to utilize the three

pedals of the piano correctly and effectively.

The units for the teaching of each pedaling technique

focus on pedagogical matters, with stylistic and notational

considerations mentioned when appropriate. They describe

the particular stage in a student's development at which he

or she can best be taught each technique.

Format and Content

Each of the first twenty teaching units consists of

the following format: (1) description of the technique, (2)

application, (3) teaching procedures, (4) teaching ex-

amples, and (5) appropriate exercises. Various concepts

are presented within each category according to the nature

of the technique described in that particular unit. Before

students can learn to pedal effectively, they need to

understand: (1) why pedaling is necessary, and (2) how the

mechanism of each pedal operates. The teaching units also

address these considerations.

Each unit begins with a description of the individual

pedaling technique that defines relevant terminology, de-

scribes the mechanical operation of the pedal as it is em-

ployed in the technique, and discusses the effect that the

activation and release of the pedal have upon the dampers.

The section concerned with the application of the

technique describes the function of the technique in

playing the piano and how it is accomplished. Suggestions

for implementing the various pedaling techniques into the

repertoire address the matters of how and when to employ a

technique. By developing a stylistic awareness the student

will be better able to apply each technique in an appro-

priate musical way.

The section on teaching procedures describes the

necessary prerequisite knowledge and skills required for a

student to learn each particular pedaling technique. A

student should possess appropriate physical development,

hand and foot coordination, and the ability to position the

body properly. In addition, students need to have suffi-

cient musical maturity to convey the intent of the music

and a desire to learn. In general, these prerequisite

conditions should be met before a student is taught the

intracacies of piano pedaling techniques.

Some similarities and overlap exist in the teaching

sequence for several of the teaching units, because each

unit was designed to stand on its own for review purposes

by the expert evaluators.

Teaching examples of each technique are described and

presented in an increasing order of difficulty. A step-by-

step process for executing the pedaling technique is pro-

vided for each example.

Additional exercises derived from musical examples are

suggested that may be used to train the foot and develop

specific techniques. Suggestions for contending with limi-

tations imposed by improperly functioning pedal mechanisms

are presented as well.

The twenty-first unit develops a systematic sequence

for implementing the first twenty pedaling units. From a

pedagogical standpoint, it is not always advisable or

practical to introduce the simplest pedaling techniques

first since the student may not encounter some of the tech-

niques until after certain levels of technical mastery have

been achieved.

Together the twenty-one units form a systematic peda-

gogical study of the three pedals of the piano.

Procedures for Developing the Units

The techniques and sequence suggested in the units

are a synthesis of available writings on pedaling and the

examination of the introduction of pedaling in various

piano method books, as well as the result of many years

of experimentation by the researcher. Standard teaching

repertoire was examined to determine when a student will

be most likely to encounter pieces that utilize various

pedaling skills. Exercise books on pedaling were also

examined to determine their effectiveness in aiding the

development of each technique.

Teaching Unit 1: Legato Pedaling

Description of Technique

Legato pedaling is also known as basic pedaling,

syncopated pedaling, or following pedaling. It is the most

fundamental of all pedaling techniques, and it is the one

most commonly used. Its name is derived from the smooth

legato connection of two or more successive notes or

chords. The term "pedaling" is frequently used in a

general sense to refer to this technique.

The damper pedal has three primary functions: (1) to

connect tones that cannot be held by the fingers alone,

(2) to prolong the sound, and (3) to add color. Legato

pedaling is concerned primarily with the first function.

Numerous variations of legato pedaling are possible.

In the simplest and most basic use of this technique legato

pedaling involves the full retention of sound between two

tones or chords. It is accomplished by fully depressing

the damper pedal so that the dampers are completely raised

from the strings. The pedal is released when the second

chord or tones are played, allowing the two notes or chords

to sound connected.

Depressing the pedal in this manner permits the pedal

to descend to its maximum depth which is referred to as

full pedal. Legato pedaling employs the concept of full

pedaling but carries its use one step further by applying

it to the actual connection of tones. Therefore, legato

pedaling differs from full pedal by incorporating the

element of timing. The importance placed on timing in

legato pedaling is reflected in the alternative names for

this technique: syncopated pedaling and following pedaling.

Legato pedaling involves timing the activation and release

of the damper pedal in coordination with depressing the

keys on the piano. This requires timing the (1) descent of

the pedal, (2) release of the pedal, and (3) reactivaton of

the pedal.

The amount of time allowed between depressing the keys

and activation and release of the pedal permits a great

variety of choice. As a result, many shadings of tone

color and effect are possible. These differences are

subtle and their use depends on certain stylistic factors,

as well as the pianist's own preference and skill. Vari-

ations on basic legato pedaling are covered in other units

such as those on legatissimo pedaling, portato pedaling,

and pre-pedaling.

Legato pedaling may be diagrammed as indicated on the

following page. This example illustrates a number of ways

in which the pedal may be used to achieve a legato connec-

tion of the notes. The amount of elapsed time between the

pedal changes is approximate and somewhat flexible.

Example A: Beethoven Variations on a Waltz Theme by

I I *I

S r Z

L_.J L.-_ L.J. L

Employing legato pedaling in this manner will permit

the notes to be connected smoothly and cleanly together

with no blurring from one harmony to the next and with no

break in the continuity of sound.

Application When Playing

Legato pedaling is usually taught before other pedal-

ing techniques are learned. Unfortunately, often it is the

only pedaling technique taught and the only one that is

regularly employed. While it is not easy to execute cor-

rectly, it demands less skill and coordination than many of

the other uses of the damper pedal. For this reason, the

temptation is to use it before the requisite knowledge and

skills for developing good pedaling techniques have been

sufficiently mastered by the student.

Teaching Procedures

Preliminary skills. It is important for the student

to learn correct body alignment and the proper positioning

of the feet in relation to the pedals before the pedals are

used. To position the body properly, adjust the height and

distance of the bench from the keyboard. Ask the student

to do the following:

1. Sit on the front half of the bench with both feet

resting on the floor. Place the right hand on the

keyboard. The forearm should be basically level, and the

elbow should come either to the side of the body or just

slightly in front. When these adjustments have been made,

rest both hands in the lap.

2. Place the ball of the right foot on the damper

pedal and the heel on the floor. The foot should be posi-

tioned directly in line with the damper pedal so that the

heel is not turned to either side.

Ask the student to stand without using the hands or

moving the feet. If this is not possible, adjust the

placement of the left foot. Generally the left foot will

need to be positioned closer to the bench so that the

weight rests a little more on the ball of the foot. A

correct seating position has been attained when the student

can sit and stand comfortably without moving either the

hands or the feet. The body is then free to move in either


Have the student experiment with depressing and

releasing the damper pedal silently. It is important that

the foot maintains contact with the pedal and the heel

rests on the floor throughout. Ask the student to do the


1. Position the right foot on the damper pedal.

2. Slowly depress the pedal by placing weight on the

ball of the foot behind the toes. Keep the heel on the


3. Relax the foot and let the pedal rise. Keep the

toes on the pedal.

Preparatory exercises. The syncopated activation and

release of the damper pedal can be a difficult concept for

the student to grasp all at once. Have the student experi-

ment first with depressing the damper pedal in this manner.

A simple broken chord pattern or hand over hand arpeggio

can be used. Ask the student to

1. Play the first note of the arpeggio and hold it

with the finger.

2. Depress the damper pedal.

3. Continue to play the arpeggio while the damper

pedal remains depressed. Release the pedal at the conclu-

sion of the arpeggio.

When the damper pedal is employed in this manner, the

tones are sustained as long as the pedal remains depressed.

The student is concerned only with activating the pedal and

releasing it when pedaling is no longer desired. Timing is

not a consideration. This preparatory use of the pedal is

sometimes referred to as "direct" pedaling.

One of the more critical elements in training a

pianist to pedal correctly is to train the ear to listen

carefully to the sounds that are produced when the pedal is

used. One exercise in listening and timing the activation

of the damper pedal involves both teacher and student. The

teacher begins by playing a series of chords very slowly

while the student adds the pedal. Ask the student to

1. Depress the damper pedal immediately after the

first chord is played by the teacher.

2. Lift the pedal after the next chord is played to

clear the sound, then redepress the pedal.

3. Continue pedaling in this manner while the teacher

increases the relative tempo of the chord changes.

Teaching procedures for legato pedaling. In order to

connect two tones or chords in a clean legato manner using

the damper pedal, the following procedures are recommended.

Ask the student to

1. Play the first chord. While holding the notes on

the keyboard, fully depress the damper pedal.

2. Play the second chord. While holding the notes on

the keyboard, lift the pedal.

3. Redepress the pedal.

4. Listen to the second chord. The harmony should

now sound clean, without any retention of tones from the

first chord, because the dampers should have completely

stopped the sound of the first chord after the second chord

is played. The chords will sound clean if the damper pedal

is fully released.

5. Repeat the preceding procedures until the student

achieves the coordination between foot and hands and can

also produce a clean connection of the tones.

Before going on to the next step, have the student

practice until the time required between playing the two

chords and pedaling can be shortened. Then ask the student

to do the following:

1. Play the first chord again and catch it with the


2. Play the second chord, and at the same time lift

the pedal. Let the pedal come up to meet the chord.

3. Listen this time not only for a clean sound, but

also for a smooth, unbroken connection between both chords.

While still holding the notes on the keyboard, ask the

student to

4. Depress the pedal once more.

5. Listen again to be sure that the chord sounds

clean. The new change of pedal should not retain any

sounds from the first chord. If the harmony is at all

blurred, this is an indication that the pedal was not fully

released at the time the second chord was played. This

condition does not allow the dampers to be completely

raised from the strings but causes them to remain par-

tially in contact with them. It also does not permit the
sound of the first chord to be completely stopped.

6. Repeat the above five procedures for each new

Teaching Examples
Legato pedaling may be tested in the following


Example B: Schumann Choral from Album for the Young



Example C: Bach Chorale Prelude in F No. 234,
"Gott lebet noch"

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Example D: Tobias Matthay Pedaling Exercise


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I A /_A AA A _A A-

Rhythm of pedal

A more advanced example of the same concept involves

delaying the timing of the damper pedal to avoid blurring

the notes in the right hand. The example below illustrates

this very syncopated use of the pedal to achieve legato


Example E: Handel Sarabande


Variation 2

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Teaching Unit 2: Legatissimo Pedaling

Description of Technique

Legatissimo pedaling, also known as super legato

pedaling, derives its name from the Italian term meaning

that the tones should be very smoothly connected. In this

type of pedaling, the sounds from one chord to the next are

allowed to blur momentarily together before they are

cleared, creating an overlap of sound. This is accom-

plished by delaying the release of the damper pedal between

changes of harmony so that the dampers remain above the

strings as the new harmony is sounded.

Legatissimo pedaling is a type of legato pedaling. By

varying the amount of time between lifting and depressing

the damper pedal, many different effects and shadings of

color can be created. An illustration of approximate

rhythms created by changes of the damper pedal that can

produce nearly identical legato connections of chords is

given below. The different pedal markings produce a

difference in the amount of richness of sound, which is

determined by the amount of time the pedal remains de-

pressed. The longer the pedal is depressed, the fuller the

sound created by the surrounding partial. As the pedal is

released for longer periods of time, the surrounding par-

tials will be progressively diminished and the richness of

sound will decrease.

Approximate rhythms created by changes of the pedal in

using legato pedaling can be shown as follows:

Example A: Beethoven Variations on a Waltz Theme by


r Li r P .

The same principle can be applied to changes of the

pedal in legatissimo pedaling. The difference, however,

is a shift in the emphasis of thinking. Whereas in legato

pedaling the emphasis is placed on depressing the damper

pedal, in legatissimo pedaling the emphasis is placed on

releasing it. Therefore, in a comparison of the two dia-

grams of the Beethoven Variations, it becomes apparent that

the concern for the pianist is not in varying the amount of

time allowed before activating the pedal after a chord is

played, but rather with varying the amount of time that the

damper pedal is allowed to remain depressed after the chord

has been played and before the pedal is released.

Example B: Beethoven Variations on a Waltz Theme by

--AI A A-

Application When Playing

The exact amount of time allowed between changing the

pedal in any form of legato pedaling depends on stylistic

factors and the desire for color in a given passage.

Legatissimo pedaling is often used to portray special

effects such as atmospheric sonority, and smooth, unbroken

transitions of sound. When properly employed, legatissimo

pedaling can create the effect of one harmony growing out

of another. There are no sharp tonal attacks and no breaks

in the continuity of sound.

Although the desired effect is one of continuous

sound, if carried to an extreme, legatissimo pedaling can

create an unmusical blur of sound and obliterate the har-

monies entirely. Careful listening is required to prevent

this from happening and also to regulate the amount of

overlap permitted between the chords.

Teaching Procedures

Preparatory exercises. Because legatissimo pedaling

is derived from legato pedaling, it is necessary for a

student to be thoroughly familiar with the concept of

legato pedaling before this technique can be successfully

taught. Ask the student to do the following:

1. Play a chord on the piano. While holding the

notes fully depress the damper pedal.

2. Play a second chord, and while holding the notes

lift the pedal.

3. Listen to the second chord. The harmony should

sound clean, without any carry-over from the first chord.

The dampers should have completely stopped the sound of the

first chord after the second chord is played. The music

will sound clean if the damper pedal is fully released.

4. Repeat the above procedures until the student is

comfortable with the coordination between foot and hands

and can produce a clean connection of the tones. Before

going on to the next step, have the student practice until

the time required between playing the two chords and

pedaling is reduced.

5. Play the first chord again and catch it with the

pedal. Then play the second chord while lifting the pedal.

Listen not only for a clean sound, but also for a smooth,

unbroken connection between both chords.

6. While still holding the notes on the keyboard,

depress the pedal once more. Listen again to be sure that

the chord sounds clean and the new change of pedal does not

retain any notes of the first chord. If the harmony is at

all blurred, this is an indication that the pedal was not

fully released at the time the second chord was played,

preventing the dampers from being raised completely from

the strings so that the sound of the first chord is


7. Repeat the last two procedures for each new chord

that is to be played using legato pedaling.

Legatissimo pedaling. The procedures for teaching

legatissimo pedaling are similar to those given above,

except that a slight blurring of the harmonies should be

heard. This is due to the momentary delay in lifting the

damper pedal after each new harmony. Although the pedal

release is delayed, it must not be done in a haphazard

manner. Have the student count while learning this

technique. Ask the student to

1. Play the first chord. Then, while holding the

notes, fully depress the damper pedal.

2. Play the second chord and keep the pedal de-

pressed. The resulting blur will be offensive to a

sensitive ear. Clear the pedal while still holding the

notes on the keyboard.

3. Repeat the above procedures while counting so

that the pedal will be released exactly at a predetermined

point. Play the first chord on the first count. On the

second count depress the damper pedal. Continue holding

through the third and fourth counts. At the return of the

first count, play the chord again. Change the pedal on the

second count.

Aside from stylistic and artistic considerations, the

actual time allowed between playing the chord and changing

the pedal is a matter of personal choice. This choice is

influenced by extraneous variables such as the tonal capa-

bilities of the individual piano and the acoustics of the

hall or room.

Teaching Example

One use of this technique is illustrated in the fol-

lowing passage. Legatissimo pedaling is used here in com-

bination with the una corda pedal to create the illusion of

sound floating in the distance. It should seem as if the

tones are suspended in time and arise out of nowhere--with

no beginning and no end. Both the damper pedal and the una

corda pedal should be depressed before the notes are


Example C: Scriabin Sonata No. 1, Op. 6

A .4 _j J' J~ 1 ''
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Ped. IA A A A A A_

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Teaching Unit 3: Pedaling for Rhythmic Effects

Description of Technique

The activation and release of the damper pedal in-

fluences the fullness of the tone that is produced, by

determining the number of partial sounding at any given

moment. Therefore, a change in the basic texture of the

tone occurs when the damper pedal is used. Applying pedal

allows the tone to become richer and a corresponding in-

crease in the dynamic level can be heard. Likewise, when

the pedal is suddenly released, it will cause an abrupt

cessation of the surrounding partial, which diminishes the

sound and makes it less full and rich. Using the pedal for

rhythmic effects is another way to color the sound being


The pedal can be used to project both written and

unwritten rhythms. The amount and type of pedaling varies

according to the purpose for which it is being used. Three

primary uses of the pedal to project rhythm include: (1)

waltz pedal, (2) pedal as a means of accentuation, and (3)

pedal release for emphasis.

Application When Playing

Waltz pedal. The term "waltz" pedal refers to the

type of pedaling that can be applied to pieces related to

dance forms. Here pedaling is used to emphasize an appro-

private beat or rhythmic pulse. It can also help to bring

out the character of the particular dance.

Waltz pedal is often applied to pieces in triple

meter. The damper pedal is usually activated in one of two

ways. Either the pedal is depressed on the first beat and

released on the second beat, or the pedal is depressed on

both the first and third beats but is released in between

on the second beat. The first type of pedaling is commonly

used in waltzes, while the second, for instance, can bring

out the characteristic rhythm of a mazurka. This is not to

imply that other types of pedaling for such pieces do not

exist, but merely to suggest an appropriate way of pedaling


Musical examples. The following musical examples

illustrate both types of waltz pedaling. Suggested pedal

markings are given below each example.

Example A: Chopin Grande Valse Brillante




Example B: Chopin Mazurka in D, Op. 33, No. 2

VII ,^ ^ ~ s. 0 0

Accent pedaling. Pedaling the first beat of the
measure and releasing the pedal on the second provides a
lilt to the rhythm. It can emphasize the importance that
these two beats play in portraying the character of the
dance, and it can help project a subtle rubato between
them. The typical mazurka rhythm, with its characteristic
accent on the first and third beats, requires pedaling both
of these beats.
Pedaling as a means of accentuation, or accent pedal-
ing, is used to give added emphasis to notes by increasing
the number of partial that sound. Pedal is often added to
notes with a written accent or sforzando marking, or to
passages requiring an accented, heavy non-legato touch.
The use of the pedal in these situations depends
partially on a combination of the tempo of the piece, the
harmonic rhythm, and dynamic markings. In a fast tempo it
may not be possible to pedal quickly enough to clear the

notes between harmonic changes, especially if the texture

is thick and the notes lie in a low register. Rapid

changes of harmony can easily be obscured by too much

pedaling, especially in a fast tempo and when the dynamic

level is forte. Accent pedaling should be used cautiously

under these conditions since it can be difficult to damp

the inbetween sounds completely.

In addition, pedaling is often used to accentuate a

syncopated rhythm. Generally, tied syncopated notes jus-

tify some type of accent. After the hammer has struck the

strings, the tone on the piano quickly fades away, regard-

less of whether or not the notes are still held. In pas-

sages where a syncopated rhythm is difficult to project

over an extended period of time, the damper pedal may be

used to sustain the feeling of a regular pulse. When the

pedal is depressed, a change of color occurs in the sound,

and a slight crescendo is heard, due to the sounding of

sympathetic partial as the dampers are raised above the


Pedal release for emphasis. An accent may be achieved

not only by adding pedal for emphasis but also by an exact,

sudden pedal release on a note or chord. This technique is

used only before a rest since a release of the pedal im-

plies that the sound will cease.

Teaching Procedures

Cautions. While applying the damper pedal is not a

difficult task for a student who is already familiar with

the concept of pedaling, several problems are inherent in

rhythmic pedaling. In accent pedaling the dampers are

lifted simultaneously with the notes or chords being

played. This means that the pedal is depressed precisely

as the hands play the notes on the keyboard. This type of

pedaling affords the pianist the rare opportunity to keep

time with the pedal. Therefore, it carries a strong temp-

tation for the foot to hit or stomp the pedal.

Releasing the damper pedal incorrectly can also be

a source of unintended error. When the damper pedal is

suddenly released, the resulting silence resembles an

attack of its own. Frequently, the pedal is released

carelessly and is held over into the succeeding rest,

creating a misplaced accent. In addition, chords that

are played forte may require that the pedal be released

slightly early for the sound to stop completely at the

exact moment of the rest.

Preparatory exercise. All types of accent pedaling

require careful listening to determine when and how much

pedal should be used. Therefore, the first step in learn-

ing this technique involves listening. Experimenting with

different durations of pedaling and pedal release can help

the student gain an understanding of how the pedal is used

in these situations. First ask the student to do the


1. Begin by playing single notes or chords without

using pedal. Listen to the sound as the notes are played

and as the dampers mute the strings when the notes are


2. Play a chord and hold it, then depress the damper


Notice that when the pedal is applied the following

changes occur: (1) Color and richness enhance the tone, and

(2) a slight swelling of sound gives the illusion of a

crescendo. These changes occur because of the added par-

tials sounding when the dampers are fully raised from the

strings. Therefore, the pedal can be useful in giving

added emphasis to accented notes, important harmonies, and

notes that are tied.

Pedal release for emphasis. Ask the student to:

1. Play any chord on the piano and depress the pedal

as the keys are played. The lifting of the dampers should

be simultaneous with the sounding of each chord.

2. Release both the pedal and the hand exactly

together so that the dampers mute the tones at the same

moment the notes are played.

To assure that the timing is exact, it can be useful

to have the student count aloud. Ask the student to count

one measure of 4/4 time and then:

3. Play the chord and depress the pedal on the first

beat; release both the chord and the pedal on the third

beat. Vary the dynamic level of the chords being played.

The release of the pedal and chord should happen very

quickly. Ask the student to notice the accent that occurs

at the moment of rest.

It is easier for the dampers to mute the tones com-

pletely when they are played softly than when they are

played fortissimo. Therefore, loud passages require care-

ful listening and special care in releasing the pedal. It

will be necessary to release the pedal a bit early--an

instant before the beat, to stop the sound precisely on the


Teaching Example

Apply the procedures suggested for pedal release to

the example below. Because of the dramatic nature of this

piece it is not necessary to depress the damper pedal si-

multaneously with each chord. Also because of the nature

of the piece, the chords should not be released too quick-

ly. Releasing the chords too quickly will destroy the

intensely dramatic character of this section. However, it

is important that the silence between each chord be very

rhythmic. The pedal is marked in this example so that the

dampers will mute the sound exactly on the third beat.

Example C: Liszt Sonata in B Minor

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ff pesante

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Teaching Unit 4: Una Corda Pedaling

Description of Technique

Terminology. The left pedal, or una corda pedal, is

known by several names. These include the sordino, the
"muting" pedal, the "shifting" pedal, and the "soft" pedal.

The una corda pedal has two main functions, both of which

are tonal: to enable the pianist to achieve softer dynamic

levels than are possible by finger technique alone, and to

produce a more mellow, less percussive sound.

Activation of the una corda pedal is commonly indi-

cated by one of the following terms: una corda, u.c. (one

string), due corde (two strings), and sordini (mutes).

Other terminology include: une corde, sourdine, la pedale

sourde, petite pedale (French); mit Verschiebung, mit einer

Saite, mit Dampfung (German); and sordino, sul una corda,

and poco a poco una corda (Italian).

The release of the una corda pedal is indicated by one

of the following: tre corde (three strings), tutte corde,

tutte le corde, 3 cordes, ohne Verschiebung, t.c., poco a

poco tre corde, poco a poco tutte le corde, and due corde.

Use of both the una corda pedal and damper pedal

simultaneously is indicated by the following: Ped. 1 and

2, con 2 Pedale, 2 ped., 2 Ped., due Ped., Les deux

pedales, Mit beiden Pedalen, Beide Pedale, 1 due pedali,

Tres envelopp4 de p6dales, and con sord e Ped.

Operation. When the una corda pedal is depressed on a

grand piano, the keyboard and the entire hammer mechanism

shift slightly to the right so that on most notes the ham-

mers strike two strings instead of three. This produces a

decrease in dynamic level as well as a change in tone qual-

ity. In addition, the string that is not struck vibrates

sympathetically as the hammer comes in contact with the

other two strings. This vibration creates partial that

produce a sound completely free from percussion and that

contribute to an overall veiled sonority.

In a properly regulated piano, the shifting of the

hammer mechanism to the right allows the hammers to strike

the strings with a softer, less used portion of the felt.

With use, hammer heads receive impacted grooves that coin-

cide with points of contact with the strings. Unless they

are voiced regularly, hammers can become quite brittle and

produce a harsh tone. Playing between the grooves on the

head of the hammers produces a change in tone color that

softens any harsh effect.

On upright pianos there is no change in tone quality

when the left pedal is depressed, for no shifting action

occurs. The una corda pedal merely decreases the striking

distance of the hammers by moving them one half-inch closer

to the strings. While this can diminish the sound, it also

upsets the tonal and touch control. Consequently, there is

no resemblance between this action and the true function of

the una corda pedal. Its use in this capacity is not

considered here.

The term una corda is somewhat of a misnomer, origi-

nating from piano mechanisms of the late eighteenth and

early nineteenth centuries. On these instruments it was

possible to shift gradually from the una corda position (by

fully depressing the left pedal so that the hammer struck

only one string per note), to due corde (by depressing the

left pedal lightly so that the hammer struck two strings

per note), and finally to tre corde (by releasing the left

pedal entirely, and allowing the hammer to strike all three

strings per note). Beethoven often indicated una corda,

due corde, and tutte corde in his scores.

It is not possible to achieve a true una corda on

today's concert grand pianos. Contemporary instruments

do not shift quite as far to the right when the una corda

pedal is depressed, and the hammers clear only the left

string of each note. On some pianos, such as Bosendorfer

grands, the hammers continue to strike all three strings to

some extent. Thus, tre corde and due corde are possible on

most contemporary grand pianos, but una corda is not.

Applying the una corda pedal to low bass notes pro-

duces a slightly different effect. Bass notes have only

two strings per note while the lowest bass notes have only

one string each. Consequently, their volume is reduced

less by use of the una corda pedal than is the volume of

notes in the upper registers. The change in volume and

tone quality that occurs when the una corda pedal is ap-

plied to bass notes is due mainly to the shifting motion of

the hammers, causing a softer portion of the felt to come

in contact with the strings, and producing a more muted


Application When Playing

Function. The una corda pedal may be used for the

following purposes: (1) to color the tone, (2) to achieve

echo effects, (3) to lengthen a crescendo and diminuendo,

(4) to round-off slurs and phrase endings, (5) to soften an

accompaniment, and (6) to increase the intensity of the


The una corda pedal functions in much the same way as

a string player's mute. It should be used when a muted

sound is desired, and when a change of tone color is

appropriate in the music. One obvious use in achieving a

difference in tone is to use the una corda pedal in

creating a soft echo effect such as in the repetition of a

short phrase. This is very effective when applied within

an already quiet dynamic context. The echo effect may be

extended to include longer sections; for example, the

repeated sections in the various movements of keyboard

suites and partitas may be played with the una corda pedal


It is often said that the una corda pedal should not

be activated during a diminuendo but immediately following,

since a noticeable change of tone color may occur. How-

ever, there are many exceptions to this. One instance

involves using the una corda pedal in combination with the

damper pedal to extend a crescendo and diminuendo. A

pianist may begin a crescendo by starting ppp with the una

corda pedal depressed (but not the damper pedal), increase

the volume gradually to mp where the una corda pedal is

removed, and build to fff with the damper pedal. A gradual

diminuendo can be accomplished the same way by applying the

una corda pedal again near the end of the phrase and ending

ppp as in the beginning with the una corda pedal only.

The una corda pedal can be effective in shaping the

endings of slurs and phrases, especially within an already

soft dynamic area and when the tone quality of the piano is

hard and bright. It may also be used to soften an accom-